TechCast does extensive consulting to leverage our knowledge base and employ our experts to address strategic problems. Click on the titles below to see summaries of typical projects we have conducted.
IPOS Singapore TechCast conducted training and created a customized website — TechCast-Singapore.
US Director of National Intelligence TechCast conducted a study to forecast technological and commercial capabilities in the field of Human Intelligence.
MIMOS, Ministry of Science, Malaysia MIMOS is a leading research center for emerging technologies, and central to Malaysia’s development plan. A TechCast team conducted a 3-day workshop to help anticipate breakthroughs and guide applications.
US Federal Drug Administration The FDA engaged TechCast in planning a national forecasts and strategy program on medical technologies using participants from the NIH, NSF, and other agencies as well as health care corporations.
US Environmental Protection Agency The EPA asked us to forecast the use of energy-intensive tehcnologies for the National Energy Model. Results showed close agreement in among 2 groups of experts, highlighting the robustness of our rearch method.
Other projects include the Asian Development Bank, Academy of Science Malaysia, King Saud University, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, AMD, Corning, and other corporations.
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Business Executive Robert Chernow
“Professor Halal and his associates have charted the emergence of 85 crucial technologies, complete with the dates when we will feel their impact.” Baltimore Sun
“We found your study on emerging technologies extremely interesting.” Hon. David Watson, Minister of Public Works, Australia
“TechCast is fascinating.” Captain R.B. Laning, US Navy
“I agree with your conclusion that the Technology Revolution will transform civilization.” Wink Sutton, New Zealand Forestry Service
“TechCast is fantastic.” Naoya Sugio Mainichi Shimbun, Tokyo
“We have followed with interest your emerging technologies forecast and are incorporating the findings into our strategic planning.” Dr. Aviva Brecher, U.S. DOT
“TechCast is comprehensive and organized in a very useful fashion.” Betsy Irwin, US Federal Reserve
“TechCast left me very deeply impressed.” Lee Hong Kee, Samsung Corp.
“The site design is outstanding, and the interactive features draw you in, whether you have time or not. A great project.” Michael Michaelis, Michaelis & Associates, Inc.
“I found TechCast very stimulating.” Carl Pistorius, University of Pretoria
Plus many more …
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Asian Development Bank
Australian Broadcasting Service
European Union Research Centre
The Kiplinger Report
State of Nebraska
Reuters TV News Service
Jane’s Defense Weekly – London
Toyo Keizai – Japan
The Tampa Tribune
Economic Times of India
Smart Technologies Inc
University of Wisconsin
Giga Information Corp
Institute for Systems and Innovation
Media/Mente TV- Italy
Mainichi Shimbun -Tokyo
McLean’s Magazine – Canada
Smith Brandon International
The Scourge of Drug Resistance
If antibiotics stop working, medicine will return to the 19th century when people routinely died of a minor cut, burn, or medical procedure. That may be coming as bacterial infections increasingly resist antibiotics and “superbugs” are evolving that can survive all antibiotic treatments. One study noted at the right estimates that by 2050 some 10 million people could die each year and cost the global economy US$60−US$100 trillion. [i]
The reasons include over-prescribing of antibiotics; patients’ failure to take their full prescription, leaving the strongest bugs to breed; and especially the use of low-dose antibiotics to stimulate growth in farm animals. There are no known cures for drug-resistant infections, and few new antibiotics are coming down the pipeline. Other treatments are in the works, but it could be years before they become available.
In the meantime, hospitals lose patients to uncontrollable infections, and periodic outbreaks of drug-resistant disease are becoming a major public health concern. UK chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies calls drug-resistant bacteria a serious global threat. [ii]
The World Health Organization emphasized, “A post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can kill [is] a very real possibility. Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.” [iii]
Trends Driving Resistance
Antibiotic resistance is caused by a number of unsafe health practices and conditions that have encourage this problem. In some countries, antibiotics are available over the counter without a prescription. Farm animals are fed antibiotics to promote growth. Animals in close quarters are an ideal breeding ground. Drug-resistant bugs have been found in pigs, chicken, rabbits, birds, and even pets. Superbugs were once confined to hospitals and nursing homes, but the use widespread air travel have created outbreaks in healthy people. Hotel rooms often test positive for drug-resistant bacteria. Superbugs are found in sewage plants where effluent is treated for use in irrigation and as fertilizer. They survive purification, so even higher levels are found in dewatered sludge used as fertilizer.
Some illnesses are more prone to drug resistance. Overall, 23,000 people die each year of antibiotic resistance in the US alone. The US CDC already lists multiple drug-resistant diseases as one of the biggest threats to medicine. The World Health Organization estimates that multi-drug resistant tuberculosis accounts for more than 650,000 deaths annually. [iv]
Infections caused by an antibiotic-resistant strain of E. coli have undergone a dramatic increase since 2008. Scientists recently learned that the deadliest infections, which kill 20 to 40 percent of patients, are caused by the same fast-growing strain of bacteria around the world. Parasites that cause Malaria long ago learned to survive chloroquine and they are becoming resistant to artemisinin, the current drug of choice, and there are few replacements in the pipeline. [v]
New Antibacterials Being Developed
Fortunately, preventive measures are being implemented in various ways. Advances are being made in developing alternatives to antibiotics, but the pace is slow. Only 30 or so drugs are in trials, compared to hundreds under development for cancer. Here are programs underway:
- Making Drugs More Potent Preliminary results show that modifying existing antibiotics, such as vancomycin, can make them up to 25,000 times more potent. [vi]
- Immune Booster Researchers have found a drug that mimics a harmless virus and helps the body fight off antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Mass UV exposure One plan to diminish infection is to massively deploy UV-C lights in operating theatres, food preparation areas, schools and other locations of high risk. UV-C can kill viruses and bacteria but cannot penetrate the skin and is thus less harmful to humans than other forms of UV light. The practical challenges are enormous at a scale to be effective, and prolonged exposure has been shown to damage the eyes. [vii]
- Quantum Dots Scientists have tailored particles 1/20,000th the size of a human hair to kill drug-resistant infections without harm to the patient. The technique is suited to treatment of infected cuts and of systemic infections, which can be especially hard to cure. [viii]
- Phage Therapy Doctors experimented with phage therapy, which uses viruses that naturally destroy bacteria to eliminate an infection. One bacteriophage specifically targets Clostridium difficile, which kills some 14,000 hospital patients in the US each year. Possible improvements include using only selected parts of the phage for therapy and genetically engineering phages to target specific infections.
- New Drug Discoveries Advances are leading to a new generation of drugs that tackle infections resistant to antibiotics. An Australian team’s discovery of the structure of the “masking protein” responsible for the resistance is hailed as a “breakthrough.” [ix]
- World Health Organization WHO has helped all members of the UN to form plans to combat anti-biotic resistance. They recently announced a list of all pathogens posing the greatest threat. [x]
- US Government The US Food and Drug Administration asked drug companies to stop using antibiotics on farm animals, banned triclosan from consumer antiseptic washes, and they have a task force for new drug development. The US Centers for Disease Control has an Antimicrobial Resistance program and response teams. [xi]
- Big Pharma 85 pharmaceutical companies have pledged to work together to combat drug resistance. A major approach is to develop new business models that encourage innovation, like awarding big prizes for new antibiotics.
Most Likely Forecast
One-third of the global population carries drug-resistant germs on their skin or in their nostrils. Outbreaks of Klebsiella, Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli have risen four-fold over 10 years, and resistance is spreading from animals to humans in China. [xii]
In the US alone, 2 million people contract serious drug-resistant infections each year; 23,000 die. Another 25,000 a year die in Europe. Various studies estimate antimicrobial resistance to cost the global economy between $2 trillion and $100 trillion by 2050.
A WHO analysis of 114 countries found “very high” rates of resistant infections across all regions, including “alarming” rates in many parts of the world.
A new WHO initiative Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System (GLASS) has revealed widespread antibiotic resistance levels across the 22 countries. In some countries, as many as 82% of patients with a bloodstream infection had bacteria resistant to at least one of the most commonly used antibiotics. [xiii]
The TechCast Expert Brain Trust estimates a high probability of about 55 percent that superbugs would break out in the few decades, and they think the social impact would be severe.
Drug-resistant superbugs could bring new opportunities for makers of disinfectants and related hardware and services. For example, a company called Xenex Disinfection Services secured $11.3 million in investor funding to make high-powered UV lights used to disinfect whole rooms and are now being deployed by various hospitals. [xiv]
The effects of widespread superbugs would be devastating to health care systems, spread incurable disease, and savage economies. If antibiotic resistance spreads out of control, people will routinely die as they did in previous centuries, of untreatable infections after minor medical procedures and everyday cuts, burns, and scrapes. Medical facilities would be overwhelmed with untreatable patients. Drug-resistant infections cost the US health-care system more than US$20 billion annually, in part because patients require more than 8 million extra hospital days.
[i]Washington Post, May 31, 2016
People Uniting the Globe
A growing number of influential people advocate a new global ethics that could unify people under a common set of values and beliefs. Religions are largely based on common moral principles, corporations profess adherence to ethical codes, and most individuals believe in some set of universal values, ethics and morals. This would be highly significant because religion and spirituality are the most powerful forces governing life, irrespective of geography. A system of global ethics could help to unify the world.
Numerous organizations, websites, forums, blogs, and publications are devoted to the message of harmony and peace. Examples include the Institute for Global Ethics and the School of Life, which is a global secular organization dedicated to developing emotional intelligence. Religions for Peace is one of the first organizations to form a large alliance of religious leaders to fight poverty, save nature, and prevent war. The International Association of Religious Freedom is a century-old organization that meets annually to integrate religious thought and practice. The World Council of Religious Leaders announced a “Commitment to Global Peace” intended to counter conflict, poverty, and protect the environment.[i]
Major world leaders, including the United Nations and the Dalai Lama, have shown support for rights and freedoms that should be universally observed. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, declared, “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message of love, compassion, and forgiveness … that should be part of our daily lives. But grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”
Pope Benedict XVI declared that globalization requires a “common code of ethics,” based not only in agreements but in natural law, to combat poverty and ensure peace. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has stated ‘No-one left behind’ is the underlying moral code for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which has been adopted unanimously by 193 Heads of State. [ii]
Developing a broadly accepted ethical code may not be as difficult as it appears. Bioethicist David Resnik identified eight basic ethical principles accepted by most of the world’s societies: [iii]
- Non-maleficence: Do not harm yourself or other people.
- Beneficence: Help yourself and other people.
- Autonomy: Allow rational individuals to make free and informed choices.
- Justice: Treat people fairly: treat equals equally, unequals unequally.
- Utility: Maximize the ratio of benefits to harms for all people.
- Fidelity: Keep your promises and agreements.
- Honesty: Do not lie, defraud, deceive, or mislead.
- Privacy: Respect personal privacy and confidentiality.
Human Nature Poses Obstacles
The greatest obstacle to developing a global ethical code is human nature.Many individuals are determined to find faults in other religions out of the belief that theirs is the one true path to salvation. Politicians, and even some religious leaders, often seek to build their own power by playing on their constituents’ fears about other religions. Illiteracy encourages superstition, narrow mindedness, blind faith, and perhaps even terrorism.
It’s also possible that a common ethical code would constrict individual thoughts and beliefs. It would mean little if not enforced. A universal code might conceivably invite the rise of absolutism on a much wider scale than is now possible. The spread of a global ethical code could inspire opposition by people who feel it threatens their beliefs or positions. This could encourage political instability and growing violence.
Most Likely Forecast
With little to guide a forecast, it is useful to recognize that Bill Halal’s new book, Beyond Knowledge. Bill finds that a “mental/spiritual revolution” to some form of global ethics is almost inevitable if the world hopes to survive the global crises that threaten the planet. A strong majority of the public is fearful that climate change, mass unemployment and other elements of the Global Mega Crisis are heading toward disaster unless the world makes major change in mindset.
TechCast’s experts suggest that 30 percent of the world’s people will adhere to a common set of ethical principles around 2030, and they have high confidence that this will have a very positive social impact. This seems a reasonable forecast but it could also happen earlier.
Strategic Implications: A More Peaceful World
A common global ethics would create the foundation for a functioning world system that contains conflict and promotes well-being.Without a sense of worthy goals and purpose, no community can evolve and survive. Development of a global ethical system may help to provide them.A higher level of global consciousness would make it easier to meet the enormous intersecting crises of climate change, sustainable energy, financial instability, conflict, and war.
[i]Institute for Global Ethics, Sep 4, 2017. School of Life, Sep 4, 2017. Religions for Peace, Sep 4, 2017. International Association of Religious Freedom, Sep 4, 2017.
[ii]Catholic News Agency, Jul 4, 2016. UN, Jan 13, 2016.
[iii]“Some Definitions of Key Ethics Concepts“
Will China Collapse Like the USSR?
Although China has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, averaging 10 percent growth in GDP for nearly three decades, it began losing momentum in 2012. As a result of emphasizing manufacturing and exports rather than consumption, poor quality control, and lax banking practices, China is now experiencing a housing bubble, high unemployment, severe pollution, and growing social unrest. These have caused a ripple effect throughout the economy. Could China—once called the next superpower—collapse? James Fallows reports that “China is less free, less open, and more belligerent that it was five years ago, or even ten.” [i]
On the other hand, China is also implementing its “One belt one road” policy that carries forward the growth momentum to establish trading partners around the world. It is cracking down on internal dissent and corruption as well as espousing globalization and a leader in taking steps to reduce global warming. Its leaders plan to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020 and become the dominant developed country by 2035.
Signs of Decline
The signs of trouble in China are serious: slowing growth, mounting risk and debt, poor quality, increasing unemployment, environmental pollution.The central bank chief has recently warned of ‘Sudden, Contagious and Hazardous’ financial risks that the Chinese financial system is facing due to easy credit and high levels of debt. [ii]
More than 13 million tons of crops harvested each year are contaminated with heavy metals, and 22 million acres of farmland are contaminated by pesticides. Although no scientific proof is available, it is suspected that numerous cancer deaths are linked to industrial waste in the food chain. Some 400 cities in northern China suffer water scarcity. More than half the region’s groundwater is so polluted it should not be allowed to contact human skin.[iii]
The existing oversupply of peasant and college-educated manufacturing labor is being worsened by automation. Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer, aims to replace 1 million workers with robots in this decade, and robotics are projected to expand at over 18 percent annually in the coming years. These changes will save money and reduce waste but will eliminate many jobs.
China became the world’s leading car manufacturer with the purchase of Volvo from Ford in 2010. However, to reduce congestion and air pollution, the government is limiting car registrations in Chinese cities, which will further slow economic growth.
The ratio of old to young in China is decreasing from 5 to 1 to 1.6 to 1, making this one of the oldest societies in the world. The preponderance of old people is decreasing savings and economic growth.
But the Chinese economy has great strengths that could withstand crisis. Economists estimate 10 to 20 percent of China’s economy is off the books. Many companies keep three sets of accounting records—one for official purposes, one for investors, and one for themselves. Private consumption in China continues to rise, reflecting the increasing affluence of the households. While growth has moderated in recent years, consumption expenditure per capita continues to grow at nearly 7 percent per annum.[iv]
China is the world’s largest exporter, with the highest revenues in textiles, electronic equipment, agriculture, and chemicals. It is also the world’s second largest importer. Recent estimates suggest the new consumer-led economy could generate 36 trillion renminbi (US$5.6 trillion) of additional GDP by 2030, compared with continuing the present export path.
Five-Year Plans have brought over 500 million people out of poverty since 1980. Large-scale surveys indicate a majority of Chinese people support the government, which has stoked nationalism to promote unity and inhibit dissent. The government also owns much of the land, which has the largest reserves of precious metals in the world.
Most Likely Forecast
There a few guides to estimating a highly uncertain event like the fall of a superpower. The best example is that nobody foresaw the collapse of the USSR. It is clear thatChina’s GDP growth has been below 7 percent recently, with further weakening to 6.4 percent forecasted by 2019. [v]
Such conditions of high uncertainty are exactly where the TechCast system of collective intelligence excels. Pooling the judgment of our Global Brain Trust of experts over this issue produces the following a consensus. They collectively estimate a low probability of China’s collapse over the next few decades, about 15 percent. Of course, that could change as conditions develop, and we could be surprised by a sudden catastrophic tumble anytime. In the event of a China collapse, the impact is thought to be serious, -3 on a ten-point scale.
The cost in world economic growth could be considerable. The economies of China’s largest trading partners—the US, Europe, Korea, Japan, Russia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Peru, and South Africa—would also suffer from lost export revenues.
China has gone from receiving aid to providing needed loans to the US and Europe. An insolvent China would hinder global recovery from future economic downturns, increase the cost of borrowing money, and inhibit the world’s economic growth for years to come.
Regime change would alleviate much of the social unrest by the lower class and emerging educated middle-class dissidents. Economic and political reforms could result in more personal freedoms and democracy within China.