National Intelligence Council Peers Into its Crystal Ball

A couple days ago, Wired’s Danger Room blog posted a summary of the latest prognostications of the National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2030. While I think they hit upon many of the potential game-changer technologies, I’m puzzled by a couple of the conclusions highlighted in the Danger Room article.

The bits about turning humans into cyborgs sounds quite plausible in some ways–better sight and hearing, say. But as far as turning humans into six-million-dollar men, I don’t know. I could see exoskeletons coming before implants. And instead of implants, I think the more avatar/remotely-controlled robots might be more likely. It’s just a few generations beyond what we’re already doing on Mars when you think about it.

I thought it was interesting that they talked about the possibility of using biohacking, considering today Wired posted an article about “involuntarily penetrating and coercing the mind” of your enemies. Clausewitz perfected and warped at the same time. Although think about Madison Avenue getting ahold of that technology instead of the military.

I would have liked to have seen the National Intelligence Council say more about 3D printing, but their lack of information reveals how potentially upsetting this technology might be. Imagine insurgents printing up small drones instead of sending suicide bombers. Imagine hackers printing up copyrighted technology on demand. Imagine protective gear or prosthetics printed to fit your body perfectly. Imagine having a rudimentary Star Trek replicator in your house.

I also disagreed with the National Intelligence Council on a few points. I can’t see “instant cities” as Danger Room put it, but I could see mega-cities growing out of slums or where big cities currently do not exist. Or I could see mega-cities growing out of merged cities (say Baltimore to DC becoming one big mega-city).

I also think the Council overlooks environmental concerns and shifting ideas about taxation when they say that increased natural gas production will dominate alternative energy technologies. I think natural gas production energy will increase, but at the same time alternative energy tech does as well. I wouldn’t think one energy source would swamp a variety of sources, particularly in areas where natural gas isn’t as plentiful. But I was glad they saw climate change as real and undeniable.

What do you think of the report? What do you agree or disagree with? What technologies do you think they overlooked?