Thursday, January 19, 2017

The end is nigh

Following up on the rather morose tone of my last blog post, I am linking to the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends report.  They put this out every four years, in part to help incoming presidents of the US brush up on what's happening in the world (fat chance that Trump can get through more than 2 pages of anything, much less 235 pages from the intelligence agencies he so reviles).  You know that sinking feeling you've had in your gut over the past few months?  You're not alone, and you're not far off the mark.  The report talks of rising internal and international tensions, economic stagnation, sociopathic actors empowered by technology, authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, and general anti-democratic sentiments.  It's all pretty grim, or as the report says, there will be "deep shifts in the global landscape that portend a dark and difficult near future".

I am in a funny place in my life right now.  On the one hand, I am fulfilled professionally, enjoy living where I do, I have a great time with my wife and kids.  I live in a pretty perfect bubble.  But in the meanwhile, I am often very worried and even depressed thinking about the state of the world, particularly the United States, where I don't live anymore and thus can't do much to help in its current travails.  This report only adds to my uneasy sensation.

That said, the final phrase of the executive summary (which is as far as I got or intend to get) gives a note of hope:
The most resilient societies will likely be those that unleash and embrace the full potential of all individuals—whether women and minorities or those battered by recent economic and technological trends. They will be moving with, rather than against, historical currents, making use of the ever-expanding scope of human skill to shape the future. In all societies, even in the bleakest circumstances, there will be those who choose to improve the welfare, happiness, and security of others—employing transformative technologies to do so at scale. While the opposite will be true as well—destructive forces will be empowered as never before—the central puzzle before governments and societies is how to blend individual, collective, and national endowments in a way that yields sustainable security, prosperity, and hope. 

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