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on December 31, 2012
I have good news and bad news.
First, the GOOD news...I really enjoyed this book. It is an excellent analysis of the current trends in the world, and where they might lead us. Best of all, it is ultimately a hopeful book....we aren't going to be living totalitarian or post-apocalyptic nightmares by 2030.
Now the BAD news. I had a hard time reading this book on my Kindle, and it is available ONLY on Kindle, not in hard-copy. The actual text was no problem, but any kind of chart, graph, or sidebar piece was tiny & washed-out. It looked like someone scanned a hard-copy book and tried to upload it to Kindle. I have a first-generation Kindle...maybe the new models can handle it. The text is so complete that I could get by without charts & sidebars, but they would have been helpful and I missed them.
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on November 1, 2014
Whatever people think about the CIA, the NSA, the DIA, etc., I think most everyone agrees that these agencies are populated with a lot of smart people. Every few years, the NIC (I think that TLA stands for "National Intelligence Council") publishes a non-classified document that gives a view of the state of the world. The document looks at trends & possible scenarios for both the "developed countries" and the "developing countries." It breaks the analysis down more finely than that and does some possible situations for Brazil, Colombia, Russia, India, and many others (as opposed to talking only in general terms about large groupings of countries).

Most notably, the document tries very hard to avoid politicizing the various issues and challenges we face. That, by itself, is pretty refreshing these days. Anyway, I found it interesting and worth reading. And since it's published by a government agency, the price is very reasonable!
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Certainly worth reading, along with other and generally better reports linked below, but a huge disappointment. There is nothing here actually useful to a national or corporate leader, and generally nothing new. To take one small example upfront, the so-called "disruptive technologies" are pedestrian in the extreme. My disruptive technologies are Open Source Everything (OSE) starting with OpenBTS (Base Transceiver Station) -- essentially a free cell phone for every person on the planet from birth -- unlimited clean water from the ocean, and free energy. My most significant concern, apart from the fact that this report persists with all of the flaws I pointed out a year ago, is the continued lack of integrity -- ethics -- a deep commitment to telling the truth about the FACT that government corruption is half the problem, the FACT that half of every US tax dollar is demonstrably spent on fraud, waste, or abuse. Until the National Intelligence Council is capable of telling the truth about our own worst enemy -- us -- it will be nothing more than an over-paid over-hyped largely useless coffee klatch.

Thoughts in passing as I go through this final report:

01 Still oblivious to rest of the world routing around the USA, e.g. CELAC (Community of Latin American States), the Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Haiti joining the African Union, the 57-nation alternative global financial network adopting the Yuan and the Chinese alternative to SWIFT, and so on.

02 Still state-centric, I like the individual empowerment, but the entire report is written from a state-centric point of view and individual empowerment is a virtual footnote. Absent a proper appreciation for the persistent and pervasive corruption of government -- and how a properly managed intelligence community can provide decision-support across Whole of Government strategy, policy, acquisition, and operations -- this report is merely a curiosity, not a game changer. The National Intelligence Council should be producing block-busters that cannot be ignored and that provide the public as well as the President with compelling reasons to get our act together and make specific pro-active decisions in the public interest.

03 "True Cost Economics" not included. I do find a Human Resilience Index (HRI) from Sandia National Laboratories, but as is so typical of the timid reporting and flawed analytics I have come to expect from all US-based "think tanks," there is no connection in this index to the three things that really matter: connectivity to the Internet; the eradication of corruption within governments and corporations; and the availability of free energy.

04 Sees half the big players. The report recognizes China and India as major players, is wrong to sell Russia short, and while they mention in passing, "In addition to China, India, and Brazil, regional players such as Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Turkey will become especially important to the global economy" I would have preferred a report building from the regions instead of projected outward from the USA and China with a minor in India. .And of course BRIC is now BRICS, with South Africa as the new formal member of that demographic powerhouse.

05 Weak on cultural values. There are some elegant turns of phrase and good thought sprinkled throughout the report, and I certainly recommend it for reading at all levels across all mission areas. However ,the report is very weak in thinking that

As non-Western societies continue their economic transformation, the prospect of a retrenchment along religious, ethnic, cultural, and nationalistic lines could fuel dysfunction and fragmentation within societies. (p. 13)

Western "values" in my own mind are seen by the rest of the world as unilateral militarism, predatory capitalism, and virtual colonialism. The NIC does not "get" that -- they still think Normal Rockwell and the Boy Scout oath are "root" for Western values, and I hope they are, but our governments certainly do not represent our values in how they are behaving with extrajudicial killes, drones, the toxification of everything the US military touches, the Fallujah and the mutant babies being especially reprehensible. Until the NIC can connect deeply with how the rest of the world perceives the USA in its neoconservative "because we say so" role, it will not be particularly relevant to thinking about how to do Global Engagement.

06 Pandemics and Our Corruption. I applaud the focus on pandemics, but am dismayed by the inability of the NIC to call a spade a spade. Pandemics are vastly more likely because the US Government, lacking integrity at the behest of two mis-guided political parties, is supporting two major drug industries: the ostensibly illegal industry of heroin, crack cocaine, and related drugs; and the ostensibly legal pharmaceutical industry -- the jury is out on which of these kills, maims, and incapacitates more US citizens each year. Sun Tzu would be the first to point out that no "threat" can be understood or confronted if one does not first understand oneself, and what one is doing that enables that threat to persist. We are our own worst enemy. Until the NIC can say that on page one, it will not be part of the solution.

Ellen Seidman was absolutely right long ago when she pointed out that CIA does not do domestic or comparative analytics. Neither does the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). There is no "report card" for the sanity, efficacy, and return on investment of each of the elements of the US Government, because the entire system is "intelligence-independent." The "system" is based on pushing money along, without regard to requirements, true cost economics, or derived outcomes other than the expenditure of the money (with a 5% kick-back to Congress, never mind the fact that most of what we spend money is is not in the public interest).

It is at this point that I realize the report is missing a conclusion that has never appeared in any prior report. The conclusion I am looking for is one that goes down each element of the US Government, from the Presidency down to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), across all Cabinet Departments and the various "czars," with a full page for each in three columns: 01 implications for your mission area; 02 true costs of what you do now; 03 opportunities for executive leadership.

How cool would it have been for this endeavor to integrate the internal strategic groups (e.g. DEEP BLUE for Navy, the Commander's Advisory Group at each military theater headquarters, their equivalents across the Cabinet) to 01 solicit future-oriented Essential Elements of Information (EEI); 02 appreciate their models of analysis (if any); and 03 conclude with "what this means for USN, or CENTCOM, or Commerce." THAT is the concluding summary of real value to a President that sincerely wants to put in place some changes relevant to our shared future.

07 The section on demographics is most interesting and does include Brazil and Iran. It "assumes" that being old is a negative. I am 60, feel 40, and plan to work another 20 years. If I were in a position to change US policy, my approach to demographics, apart from slamming back on Mexico's policy of subverting the USA with very deliberate government support for illegal immigration, would be to mix continuous learning with multi-generational housing and a phrased shifting of the retirement age out by five, ten, and then fifteen years, coincident with one year sabbaticals [i.e. for every sabbatical in a lifetime, retirement moves out by one year] and much extended quarterly vacations. Of course we must make health a public service, and end the corrupt insanity of subsidizing an illness and a prison-slave industry. No old person should die in a home not their own, and child care should return to the village elders. Internationally, I keep waiting for US "leaders" and the $70 billion a year intelligence community that ostensibly informs them, to discover that creating a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all, is the only sustainable means of stopping mass migrations and tens of millions of displaced persons in poverty creating disease. This may be the single most important strategic threat to the core nature of the United States of America (USA), and there is not a single proponent in the US Government that I know of suggesting that this be a central pillar of our foreign policy.

08 Multiple short-falls in Food Water Energy Nexus. This may be one of the most important sections in this 166 page report, but I find that it is misleading, incomplete, and even ignorant. First off, climate change is part of environmental degradation and mercury and sulfer are more of a problem than carbon, while Acts of Man -- and especially the Army Corps of Engineers -- are responsible for worsening weather. Paving over the wetlands of the Mississippi, for example, and building on flood plains, can be seen now as huge strategic errors. While Climate Change is real, the UN International Panel on Climate Change is dishonest -- its railroad engineer chair from India particularly dishonest -- and no serious global report should include their findings in isolation, oblivious to works with greater intelligence and integrity. The continued corruption of our policies on mega-agriculture including growing inedible grain from fuel and livestock, and our continuing protection of grossly ineffective very corrupt forms of energy productions and distribution, are not addressed in this report. I see nothing in here about the latest developments in successful large scale farming in deserts using traditional methods, or the newest scalable capability to leverage solar power to desalinate sea water and also provide energy for large-scale farming now taking root in Australia I am personally outraged to find this report supporting fracking -- for this alone I would retire the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. For them to not understand the relationship between fracking and earthquakes, and fracking and ground water contamination, is a crystal clear indicator of the ineptitude of the CIA specifically and of inter-agency oblivion generally. These four pages -- 34-38 -- are so corrupt at so many levels that they call into question the intelligence and integrity of the rest of the report and every person in the chain of command that allowed this report to be published as is. Cf. Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Climate Change, Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Environmental Degradation (Other than Emissions), Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Peak Oil, Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Water

09 Eastern and Southern Inputs Not in This Report. As I go through the "game changer" portion of the report my sense of sadness increases. For all the global travel at taxpayer expense that the authors of this report did, there is very little in here to suggest they actually talked to anybody other than their normal Westnern "fellow travelers." The report accepts two billion new consumers coming on line, a reasonable proposition, but then assumes they will want Western levels of fraud, waste, and abuse. Evidently no one there has read C. K. Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, or any of the post-Western capitalism and innovation books, all of which point to consumerism in the South and East driving good down toward the $2 price point instead of where we are now in the West, at the $2000 price point.

10 Democratic Deficit Irrelevant -- Legitimacy & Demography Rule. I actually like this section, mostly because it is rooted in the empowerment of individuals with information and communication technologies (ICT), and while I disagree with the authors on the matter of processing -- the world is still in the Stone Age on multi-lingual, near-real-time, geospatially-tagged processing -- there is a great deal of good in this section. Democracy -- faux democracy -- is irrelevant, and as Minister-Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has observed, it is demography, not democracy, that will define the future.

11 Increased Focus on Openness -- Lost Opportunity. The report touches on the increased focus on openness, and dismisses a major opportunity. It is clear that the authors of this report are not broadly read -- they have cherry picked from the usual suspects and they simply do not have a macro picture of the world. The report is pedestrian in its slight definition of openness as transparency, and wastes a major opportunity to focus world leaders across all eight tribes of information (academic, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit) on the dramatic benefits of affordability, integratability, and scaling available from Open Source Everything (OSE). Although the report mentions Do It Your-Self production and 3 D printing, it simply does not reflect a deep appreciation for what is rapidly achievable in the ICT world if a majority make a commitment to OSE.

12 Governance Coalition of the Willing. The authors of the report do not demonstrate a familiiarity with the latest literature on hybrid governance, nor do they appear to understand the role that M4IS2 (multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, multidomain information-sharing and sense-making) will play in harmonizing local to global priorities, policies, expenditures, and interactive operations. Put another way, this report does not anticipate the future of intelligence, as I have, in which shared decision-support moves publics and nations. Cf. 21st Century Intelligence Core References 2.1

13 Potential for Conflict Does Not Discuss 5,000 Secession Movements. The report glosses over the potential for conflict in traditional terms (inter-state and civil war) while avoiding any mention of the fact that there are 5,000 secession movements world-wide, all seeking to overcome imposed artificial boundaries from the colonial era -- 27 of those secessionist movements are in the Americas. This is not a report that understands or portrays the nuances of conflict -- it goes from nuclear to terrorism in one paragraph. Cf. List of active separatist movements in Africa,List of active separatist movements in Asia,List of active separatist movements in Europe,List of active separatist movements in North America,List of active separatist movements in Oceania,List of active separatist movements in South America.

14 Cyber-warfare is over-stated and under-stood. Whether governments like it or not, we are all headed toward an Autonomous Internet that is self-healing. As Mark Bowden documents so well in Worm: The First Digital World War, the $20 billion or more we are spending on the National Security Agency and its 75% corporate vapor-ware house of cards, is irrelevant to national or global cyber-security. Apart from the best Internet nodes being well-defended, the reality is that the smartest and most attentive minds in cyber-security are outside of government. As I wrote in 2010 in Homeland Security Today, the gap between the 64 or so people in the USA actually doing code level cyber-security research, and the tens of billions being spent on beltway bandits with nothing of substance to offer, is huge. My original sounding of the alarm in 1994, to Marty Harris at the National Information Infrastructure, has still not been understood, or we would be putting most of our emphasis on education and on teaching our young to code and program.

15 Information Technology as Change Agent - Pedestrian. I am not impressed by any report that focuses on big data processing, social networking, and "smart cities" as the center of gravity for information technology as a change agent. We still do not have an all-source analytic workstation as several of us called for in 1985-1989, we still do not have an Open Source Agency, we still do not have the ability to process more than 5% of what NSA collects, we still do not have the ability to integrate the 80 different databases that comprise the US secret intelligence archipelago, and on and on and on. This is a group that is still focused on the physical manifestations of information technology -- the "system" -- rather than on determining and embedding "true cost" information in every "thing," and making available decision-support tailored to the individual end user at the point of sale or action.

16 Education in the US is Poor. The report says: "Without large-scale improvements in primary and secondary education, future US workers-which have benefited from the world's highest wages-will increasingly bring only mediocre skills to the workplace." However, it devotes less than three paragraphs to the topic, one that Will Durant has pointed out (in Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition)is central to every polity. This reinforces my view that this report is a meandering overview of problems and possibilities, but lacking in structure and lacking in "monetizable" distinctions. If I were commissioning such a report with the intent of demonstrating that CIA/NIC can do something useful, I would have instructed them to start with the ten high-level threats to humanity as identified by LtGen Dr. Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret) and the other members of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenge, and Change; outline three scenarios for each -- resolution, persistence, and worsening, and then segue into exactly what we have to do as a country, region, and planet, across each of the twelve core policies, to eradicate the ten high-level threats and create a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all. These are not just words -- these are outcomes that demand very specific decisions that can only be informed and encouraged by public intelligence about true costs, whole systems relationships, and future cost -- in other words, everything that the secret world refuses to do. I have been championing an Open Source Agency (OSA) for over a decade, and more recently the integration of education, intelligence, and research in order to strip a portion of the secret budget for application to a totally new life long educational paradigm, while bringing relevance and coherence to research. It troubles me that this report offers no tangible foundation for coming together with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and many others, to actually agree on substance.

17 Resource and Health Technologies from the Past. I am trying very hard to avoid a comprehensively negative view on this report -- certainly a report worth doing and worth reading -- but with each passing page I am more disappointed. This is a group that supports genetically modified (GM) crops without regard to the many negatives, and between this and fracking I am starting to look for NASCAR-type logos on the report. This is not a report that is firmly grounded in either very broad reading and understanding, or in the public interst. It is more of a Cliff Notes for Friends of the US Chamber of Commerce, and that makes me unhappy. This also reminds me that the report is devoid of moral and legal prognostications -- GM crops with suicidal seeds and Monsanto's scorched earth approach to putting small farmers out of business are not acknowledged by this group.

18 Four Closing Scenarios. Stalled Engines (US & EU), Fusion (US & China), Gini-Out-of-The Bottle (Pirates Rule), and Nonstate World (NGOs Rule) are all worth reading and further reflection-and I do find the word "hybrid: once, referring to governments and NGOs alone (hence ignoring the other six tribes of intelligence and operations). It is at this point that I realize that Viet-Nam and Indonesia have been been featured in this report as they should have been, and that the roles of Malaysia and Turkey could have been more fully developed. In general, this is a linear report that extrapolates from a government-centric and US-centric starting point. It lacks an analytic model with which to do world-class holistic analytics; it lacks a full appreciation for all of the liberation technologies that are coming online despite fierce opposition from corporations and their captive governments; and above all it lacks an appreciation for the craft of intelligence as a game-changer. This is not a group that has given much thought to public intelligence with inherent integrity.

Report Graphics. I found three worthy of reproduction and offer them in digital form at Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog for the convenience of others.

Page 69. Environmental Water Scarcity Index By Basin: High Stress Belt by 2030

Page 104. Elements of Power of Leading Countries in 2030

Page 112. Comparison of Global GDP Composition in Our 2030 Scenarios

Still More Useful:
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility--Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (Substantially Revised)
The Future of Life

There is SO much more that the US intelligence community could be doing that would be useful. Sad. Very very sad.

Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity & Sustainability
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on March 24, 2013
By focusing on highly predictable trends driven by demographics (which are fairly easy to predict), and first order derivative trends (e.g. water or agricultural land scarcity), the book misses an opportunity to stake claims on more insightful, unexpected trends. The work could have dealt with more scenario-based alternative futures, deeper thinking into underlying trends, and the impact of emerging technologies such as robotics, additive manufacturing etc. There is very little imagination at work here. By focusing on demographic and economic momentum in large emerging markets like India and China, the book almost states the obvious.
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on October 20, 2013
Looks at global trends including aging demographics, technology advancements, global warming, resources constraints, population increases, the dimension centrality of the US, and other trends to project out what the world will be like in 2030. Some of the examined probable futures are optimistic but some are very scary as well.
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on May 19, 2014
The realistic but not flashy approach of showing three scenarios, a high, middle (or mixed) and low outcome approach is used in this book. Proceeding from the known current state of affairs to a future scenario takes both evidence and imagination. If one wants to look honestly at the U.S. federal budget deficit and enormous debt, one can clearly see a trend line that is risky for the US. If such debt continues and various economic/ecological collapses occur, the "Fortress World" scenario of stratification between countries, and within countries (i.e. gated communities) will be more likely. The book also shows the interconnectedness of countries, and how regional problems spread (ie. pollution, crime). Working towards a world with genuine international cooperation and improved prosperity for all, through the long process of ethical statesmanship, is one message I take away from this book.
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on March 29, 2016
If you want to understand why situations are occurring worldwide, nationally, and locally, this book makes sense of what is occurring, the possibilities that lay ahead and the connections that are important on the planet.
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VINE VOICEon January 4, 2013
This is an interesting report, and I have read quite a lot of it.
I think that the predictions are sensible and feasible.

But I find that the conclusions re what we will face in the near future could have been much more useful and understandable with many more concrete examples on how those trends would be experienced. I foiund myself struggling to grasp the implications of these "very global" trends since the writing is so very much soaring in the clouds of high-elevation abstraction.

For example:
If I were to point out that global warming is melting the polar icecaps at a rather alarming rate and give projections. Most people would get it that that would cause a rise in sea levels. But I think that a lot of readers, including me, would want to know what the results would be--like not only changing weather patterns but more specifically what those changes would likely entail. Now the book did commendably predict that wet areas will get wetter and dry areas drier. That's just the sort of thing I'm talking about: Think through the implications at least to a further degree and provide so more concrete predictions.

And the writing/content is quite repetitive. The "Executive Summary" and the "Overview" are long, and the informations is repeated in the main chapters (One...Two...Three) but not a lot is added to the Overview. In other words, it might be a good idea to skip the overview and just go to the main chapters.

An index was not provided, and that could have been very useful is locating desired info. Or at least a more detail table of contents.

In making these critiques, I don't want to sound ungrateful for the work that went into such a comprehensive look at the future. But I do feel much more in the way of implications of the trends, how they could translate into more localized trends, cause and effect, ground-level experience would have made the work much more relevantly useful and relatable.

So, nevertheless, I think this is a useful reference work to scan and have on hand, especially if you want to explore what we all may be facing in the near future. But to make it relevant to you, be prepared to do a lot of thinking on how the mega-trends would work out.

The Executive Summar does begin with "This report is intended to stimulate thinking about the rapid and vast geopolitical changes characterizing the world today and possible global trajectories during the next 15-20 years." And that is certainly fair warning. So if you would like to figure out how these global predictions might affect your personally, your town, your state or country, be prepared to roll up your thinking and research sleeves.

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on November 13, 2013
Policy insights by committee inevitably land in the ballpark of accepted wisdom. They can be quite insightful regarding demographic trends, but blind to social/political and economic shifts. It's always interesting to look back a bit, discovering that Russia experts didn't see the Soviet collapse coming, nor did middle-east experts predict an Arab Spring, nor the sad fate of that brief breathe of hope. The impact of fracking on gas and oil production seems likely to affect projections for Russian and/or Venezuelan stability, and may well prove more disruptive than these committees could have guessed.
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on January 18, 2013
The description of the book intrigued me, so I decided to own the book!! It was much more than I expected, and I am learning a WHOLE LOT more than I realized what the previews spelled out. It's a compilation of the intricate realm of info that makes up how countries are rated in many categories. It's tough reading, but worth the time to piece it all together. Some of their predictions are already coming true, although it is too early for the timetables they actually are writing for. I have it on Kindle, so the diagrams are unreadable, but I can still get the message!!
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