A Future Less Fuzzy

Our U.S. intelligence agencies typically work in a secretive world – and that is of necessity for reasons we can all understand. However, they do communicate with us – and we should listen.

“Global Trends: Paradox of Progress.” Global Trends is a product of the Director of National Intelligence, who has stewardship over the sixteen agencies that comprise the U.S. Intelligence Community. The public facing arm of the Director of National Intelligence is the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which is the center of gravity for midterm and long-term strategic thinking within the United States Intelligence Community. The National Intelligence Council was formed in 1979. The NIC’s goal is to provide policymakers with the best information: unvarnished, unbiased and without regard to whether the analytic judgments conform to current U.S. policy. “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress,” is the sixth report of the series.

The NIC’s Global Trends report begins by acknowledging that peering into the future can be scary and even humbling. One reason for this is that events unfold in complex ways for which our brains are not naturally wired. Global Trends goes on to explain that grasping the future is also complicated by the assumptions we carry around in our heads, often without quite knowing we do.

Unlike the first five reports in the Global Trends series, this 2017 report is divided into two parts. The first looks ahead across a five-year horizon, primarily so it can be immediately relevant and useful to the new U.S. Administration. The second looks out to the long term, spanning several decades. What also makes Global Trends: Paradox of Progress different from previous editions is that it doesn’t feature a future year in the title (the previous report, issued earlier this decade, was titled, Global Trends 2030). As the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council explains, “Longtime readers will note that this edition does not reference a year in the title because we think doing so conveys a false precision.”

This edition of Global Trends revolves around a core argument about how the changing nature of power is increasing stress both within countries and between countries, and bearing on vexing transnational issues. The main section lays out the key trends, explores their implications, and offers up three scenarios to help readers imagine how different choices and developments could play out in very different ways over the next several decades. Two annexes lay out more detail. The first provides five-year forecasts for each region of the world. The second provides more context on the key global trends that bear watching by governmental leaders.

More on “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress” in my next National Security blog post.

Want more now? You can read Global Trends: Paradox of Progress here