Count Zero In 2030

Cybernetic super-soldiers, augmented reality, terrorist biohackers and 3-D printed organs. The world of 2030 as seen by futurists at the National Intelligence Council seems to me a lot like something Willam Gibson or Bruce Sterling might have written about in the 1980s, or maybe a role-playing game setting. For all it’s hi-tech oooh-aaah-ness, its still more or less a dystopia.

Some of the Council’s predictions may give a few of Washington’s more sensitive politicians a rash. Although the Council does allow for the possibility of a “decisive re-assertion of U.S. power,” the futurists seem pretty well convinced that America is, relatively speaking, on the decline and that China is on the ascent. In fact, the Council believes nation-states in general are losing their oomph, in favor of “megacities [that will] flourish and take the lead in confronting global challenges.” And we’re not necessarily talking New York or Beijing here; some of these megacities could be somehow “built from scratch.”

Unlike some Congressmen, the Council takes climate change as a given. Unlike many in the environmental movement, the futurists believe that the discovery of cheap ways to harvest natural gas are going to relegate renewables to bit-player status in the energy game.

Greater use of natural gas still meaning a greater carbon release use, of course – which is why truly frightening levels of climate change would seem to be unstoppable. And those megacities are likely to look more like Victorian London in terms of income disparity and sheer depth of squalor than anything from Star Trek.

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