What will our world be like in the next fifteen to twenty years? “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” tell us what policy planners in the US foresaw:

l  The empowerment of the individual at a scale never before experienced will be the most prominent trend of the future. Technological innovations in information, automation, manufacturing, resource management, and health will be the primary causes of this megatrend.

l  The second megatrend will be demographic shifts of a growing global middle class, increased urbanization, more migration, and aging populations across societies.

l  As the world’s population reaches over 8 billion people, a third megatrend will challenge societies to face stresses on the availability of food, water, and energy.

l  The final US-envisioned megatrend will be the diffusion of power between states (e.g., a relative decline of the West and a more powerful China and India) as well as the changing nature of power (i.e., soft power will be more important than military power, and individuals and regional governments will have more of a direct influence in world politics).

Though besides the eyes of the US there are other possible future worlds (for example: Fusion scenarios, the Stalled Engines world, the Gini Out-of-the-Bottle world, the Nonstate world), we can see the same aspects they share.

In general, we believe that people across the globe will be more educated, healthier, more equal in terms of gender, and in one word they will enjoy more human rights. Individuals will be more empowered through the recognition of multiple no conflicting identities at local, national, regional, and global levels. Thus, individuals will be empowered in such a way that they will not only pursue their own self-interestedends, but they will also become global citizens who will be able to share the values of an interconnected community wherein governance within states and of the globe will become more democratic.

However, there are some differences between these possible new worlds.

The nature of power will not change as foreseen by the American planners, and states will be the main actors overseeing a hierarchical world still led by the US, but influenced more in rank order first by the EU and China, second by Russia, and finally by Brazil, India, and today’s other rising middle powers. So that there will be less conflicts.

However, NATO focused on trends that were much more conflict ridden than the other reports. Although some individuals may be empowered, they will represent threats to the state in the form of hackers, terrorists, and criminals. The greatest structural changes in the future will relate to more friction between people, states, regions, ideologies, and worldviews; increasing integration of economies for some parts of developed and middle-income countries, but not the poorest developing countries; and more asymmetry among states, leading to more inequality and conflicts between rich and poor countries and between the poor themselves.


When we pay attention to these possible new worlds, we find that we can derive different trends and worlds due to selection biases, three types of biases: traditional, methodological, and temporal. Because selection bias of trends thus plays a major role in determining what is possible and impossible.

What’s more, trends are only important insofar as they affect the quality of our and our children’s future lives. Although the NIC accounts for individual empowerment, readers are left with only a glancing notion of what will happen to the future of human values. Any prediction that does not take values into consideration is normatively worthless.

To evaluate these possible future worlds, we use four universal values: individual liberty, distributive justice, cultural pluralism, and peace since these values are basic ones that to some degree have been accepted by all peoples in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, specific interpretations of these values that different peoples will hold will vary as will the degree to which one value will be more important compared to another value for one culture compared to another. However, at some basic level, these four values are shared by all people. In this bare sense, definitions of these terms should be simple and intuitive, even if academically debatable. Liberty refers to an individual’s positive and negative freedoms to pursue his or her desires without harming themselves or others and without external intrusion. Distributive justice refers to what we should owe to other people. Pluralism refers to cultural diversity and group identity. Finally, peace is simply the absence of war.

Individual empowerment (liberty) offers a bright future considering that, on the whole, individuals will be richer, healthier, and better fed; that women and men will be more equal; and that basic human senses will be able to be partially restored if lost or even augmented if intact.

Distributive justice will have a brighter future for the poor. The alleviation of poverty will become more realized than ever before in history. As the global middle class grows, the ills of inequality will have less relevance as basic needs are met. Absolute inequality may persist, but there are good chances that the less well off, as a group, will be better off than they have in history.

Peace will also have a promising future: both interstate and intrastate conflict will decline. Wars between nations will not be likely between great powers. And violence within nations will become less prevalent. However, this is not to say that there will be no conflict. Growing tensions among new and old powers will persist as competition over a food, water, and energy nexus becomes more heated as climates shift ecologies.

Cultural pluralism will also thrive. As rising powers ascend, more cultures will have not only a say in world affairs, but also material influence in terms of economics and military capabilities. With this rise in aggregate power, comes the greater likelihood that these nations’ characters will persist and influence others. Further, as transnational networks form, new and old cultural identities will be able to proliferate.


An axis of increasing unity of global governance------ “Governing the Globe,” by Michael Walzer

On one end of the spectrum there is international anarchy: although national governments may rule, governance on coordination, cooperation, and decision making does not exist at a supranational level. This world is the most divided. At the other most united extreme, one world government influences—if not determines—the lives of all people. With the boundaries of possible arrangements delimited, Walzer then offers seven political arrangements in order of increasing centralization: international anarchy, weak states and institutions, international civil society network, decentered world, federation of nation-states, global hegemonic empire, and unified global state.

International anarchy---weak states and institutions---international civil society network---decentered world---federation of nation-states---global hegemonic empire--- unified

global state.



This is the least ideal world in the sense that it is the most similar to the actual world that we live in today. There is some modification of state sovereignty, and there are more global organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, and NATO, but they are still weak in the sense that they draw their powers from states. Pluralism faces challenges here since weak states cannot protect their peoples. There are weak protections for individual rights, and inequality has the potential to be high. The frequency of conflict is less in this arrangement due to better organization and cooperation, but the threat of war remains.


The anarchy of states is mitigated by alternative centers of power such as international civil society, international organizations, and regional unions. These centers contain dense webs of transnational social ties. International organizations are strengthened on top of the institutional structures that exist today. The UN has stronger enforcement capacities and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund regulate the flow of capital and international investment. Regional organizations will play a larger role.

This regime provides the greatest chance for peace, justice, cultural difference, and individual liberty. It presents the least risk of tyranny from other individuals, states, and organizations. This situation can be characterized as having the greatest political possibility in contrast to the guaranteed political success of a unified global state (defined below) or the uncertainty of international anarchy.

This reminds me of Alexandre Kojève’s “Outline of a Doctrine of French Policy”. Kojève called on France government to establish “a Latin country alliance” based on their shared culture. It finally failed even if they shared the similar culture. So if universal values really exist since we have cultural diversity? The NIC expected its publication to be read by a US audience rather than a European, Chinese, or Brazilian one so it tends to value individual liberty over other values (e.g., distributive justice). Would a Russian or Chinese government’s intelligence agency have predicted the same? For us Chinese we may think that the high expectations of empowered, hungry, middle-class individuals may form a governance gap due to the inability of their elected politicians or leaders to deliver public goods. We are one humanity, but seven billion humans. This is the essential challenge of global ethics: how to accommodate the tension between our universal and particular natures.


There would be some room for cultural independence, but only according to the toleration of the hegemon. Empire might lead to one of the most stable regimes, thus a global peace could easily follow because the hegemon would determine it. However, the hegemon would only guarantee peace for some cultural groups. These groups, though, would be considered subjects rather than political participants. Individuals and groups within states would receive no guarantees. There would be no necessary aim at distributive justice, and empire would display the most extreme form of inequality.




It provides us with an Interconnected and Polycentric world which is influenced by traditional European values and biases.

While the multipolar world emphasizes many different centers, the polycentric world applies only to the centrality of states. A polycentric world could be a multipolar world that focuses only on states (e.g., the US’s Fusion or Stalled Engines), but it may not necessarily be so. A world with many centers could have some centers that are traditional state powers and others that are multinational corporations, international institutions, or networks of individuals, such as the NIC’s Nonstate World.



It provides us with a Hierarchal Polycentric world which remains statecentric. It emphasis increasing globalization, state power diffusions, and increasing demands for state leadership are the key trends of the future.

The US will continue to be on top as the global military, innovative, financial, and economic leader. On the level immediately below the US are the EU and China. The EU will continue to institutionalize a common political and economic identity to form a “collective actor” while China will be an actor with a potential future leadership role. Russia belongs on the next level down with its natural resources, nuclear and military power, and research and development investments. The next level below Russia is occupied by the middle powers of Japan, India, Brazil, and possibly South Africa, Turkey, and South Korea. At the bottom of the pyramid are countries with limited resources, power, and influence on regional and global political and economic processes. Note the absences of individuals and civil society as major actors.



It designed four possible futures: Darkside of Exclusivity, Deceptive Stability, Clash of Modernities, and New Powers.It concerns over peace and security take precedence over all other values.


Values:necessary, impossible, or contingent?

Necessity is what is true in all possible worlds.

We can gather from our possible worlds semantics that two values will in general be necessary in 2030: liberty and pluralism (see Table A).

We can also observe that while justice and peace are not guaranteed for all, they are possible in more worlds than not. We can be guardedly optimistic about the future. The prospects for a highly

Pluralism is true in all possible worlds, and liberty, though existent in most worlds is not fully enjoyed by all people—particularly in the developing world. According to our definition pluralism is the only value that is necessary for all people, while the attainment of the other three values is contingent at best. Thus this specific necessity should inform us most of what type of ethics one might consider.

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