In the weeks after Election Day, the White House’s new occupant will have a lot to do to prepare to take office. One of the most important priorities is reading to get ready for the job of Commander-in-Chief. One of the go-to resources ought to be the Atlantic Council’s “Global Risks 2035″ report by Dr. Mat Burrows, director of the Strategic Foresight Initiative at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
The report is stark in its assessment of not only the risk of conflict facing the world today but also in its forecast for the disruptive potential of new technologies, demographic trends and geopolitical reordering during the next two decades: “In the four years since Global Trends 2030 was published, the biggest change in the world is the increased risk of major conflict. In 2012, a large-scale US/NATO conflict with Russia or China was close to unthinkable. Now, the post-Cold War security order has broken down, and the consequences are immense, potentially threatening globalization.”
To really capture any senior leader’s attention requires more than white papers or Power Point slides, however. That is why the Global Risks 2035 report includes short stories from the Art of the Future project as “Fictional Interludes” to help officials not just understand but to experience possible tomorrows. To fully consider possible futures featuring super-empowered individuals coalescing into supranational groups with state-like power or game-changing technologies like behavior modeling that can reshape entire generations it is useful to read more broadly — fiction.
The report draws upon futures where space combat pits individuals against superpowers in Alec Meden’s “From A Remove,” Mike Matson’s contest-winning story “Fingers on the Scale” about education and US intelligence operations in 2035, and Ken Liu’s “Article I, Section 8, Clause 11″ about patriotic hackers with letters of marque tipping the balance of digital power to favor the US in the Asia Pacific. None of these tales are far fetched, and like the Global Risks report they pull no punches.