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This is a slightly updated version of our 2016 study forecasting the Trump Era.
The original study drew on the expertise of our global network of 150 international thought leaders. We realize that political issues are highly controversial, but the Trump presidency is one of the pivotal developments of our time, and we think it deserves objective research. This report includes a forecast of changes in Federal policies, a forecast of national performance, three alternative scenarios and comments from the respondents.
Based on all this data, here’s quick summary of what we forecast in 2016:
Growing Turbulence and Uncertainty
A striking result is the wide variation in expert estimates. Some are at opposite ends of the scales. We think this reflects powerful drivers of change and widely differing actors are now emerging. This also tells us there is a strong need for sound strategy, especially focusing on planning for crises and contingencies.
Major Change Plus Wild Cards
Our analysis suggests that most of these policies are moderately likely, while some are considered unlikely. The expected social impact is generally considered to be quite damaging. Signs of wild cards are seen in the prospects of an alliance with Russia and the impeachment of Mr. Trump; both are rated to have positive results.
Our thought leaders also estimated various indicators of US national performance. They expect only modest economic growth, with Trump’s approval ratings likely to remain about 40 percent.
US National Policy Changes
We asked our experts to judge the likelihood that the federal government will deport illegal immigrants, impose tariffs or import taxes, curtail trade agreements, repeal the Affordable Care Act, muzzle the EPA, restrict Muslims, partner with Russia, reduce taxes on the wealthy, provoke a war, cancel the Iran nuclear accord, deregulate banks, and even impeach Mr. Trump. Here’s a quick summary of key themes that seem to be emerging from the data:
National Performance Forecasts
This table updates our 2016 forecasts by adding data for July 10, 2020. Note that most forecasts proved reasonably valid, except for the stock market gains.
|2016 Forecast||7/10/20 Actual|
|Average GDP Growth/Year||1.5 %||~ 2 % until virus|
|Trump Approval Rating||39%||~ 40%|
|Increase in Debt||$6.5 Trillion||$5.4 Trillion +|
Following are the forecasts made in 2016. We are considering updating these estimates and adding a fourth forecasting the 2020 election.
Trump Rules Probability = 50%, Impact = -.5 (-10 to +10)
President Trump inherits an economy that is extending its cycle of economic growth. Deregulation and lower taxes further boost business profits and provide gains for his supporters. Trump strengthens his hold on public opinion as a leader who gets things done. This allows him to run the nation like a corporation, treating allies as good team members and punishing enemies. Trump takes credit for successes and blames scapegoats for failures, while protests are smothered under dubious counter-claims and discredited. Congress goes along, encouraging him to dismantle much of the EPA and other disliked programs. By the end of his first term, Trump has transformed the US into a more purely capitalist and authoritarian society, somewhat isolated and in slow decline.
Trump Changes Probability = 27%, Impact = 3
Donald Trump is a brilliant strategist, and when the Congress shifts to Democratic control in 2018, he recognizes that his political survival requires a major change of course. As crises mount, his family and advisers press him to “pivot”’ toward being more traditionally presidential and cooperative. He modifies policies to appease critics, stresses the good progress he has made, and becomes more friendly, while continuing to confuse opponents with doubtful charges. The president is persuaded to yield on issuing incendiary tweets, and some opponents are even mollified by the Trump charm. Congress is pleased to see him appearing more reasonable, and Democrats approve the less controversial parts of his agenda. The US enjoys some prosperity and peace, although with occasional flare ups of political crisis and conflict.
Trump Falls Probability 39%, Impact = -1
The voices of protest become so persistent that they overwhelm Trump’s defenses, making his presidency untenable. The administration suppresses protests with force, causing violence to grow out of control and bringing normal life to a near halt. Enormous political pressures force Congress to work around Trump and assume effective leadership, with support from Vice President Pence and key Republicans. The rest of the world goes on while the US struggles with this constitutional crisis. Global agreements stall, and the world becomes increasingly chaotic. China becomes the dominant world power, with Russia also gaining influence. Trump resigns rather than suffer impeachment, and Congress hands power to President Pence.
Here is a small sample of expert comments. This is only a cursory look over a representative sampling of expert opinion, but it suggests two contrary themes that seem to be emerging: Increased business profit and economic growth—but failed promises, crisis, conflict, and lost support.
- If Trump is anything, he is a populist. And with a one-party Congress, they are likely to achieve some positive ends.”
- “Increased spending on infrastructure projects in the US along with decreased taxes should improve the bottom line.”
- “Trump is pro-business, and profits will be made.”
- “Many of the promises made during the campaign will be abolished, making the followers turn away from him.”
- “Much of the USA will grow tired of Trump’s antics and rhetoric.”
- “Instability. Promises not kept. Other nations will compete equally with the same tools.”
- “In a post-truth world of lies, Trump has more to live up to than he will actually deliver on.”
- “It is likely we will be entering inflation and a severe recession. Wall Street and Main Street will be continuing their stark separation.“
The report will also include advice for adapting to the Trump Era. Some tentative recommendations include:
- Study trends, expert opinion, and forecasts such as this to prepare for strategic contingencies such as a global depression.
- Develop decentralized organizations of self-supporting units able to cope with hyper-change.
- Search out creative niches that offer opportunities for advantage, such as prospects for modernizing US infrastructure.
Collective Intelligence to Solve the MegaCrisis
William E. Halal, The TechCast Project, George Washington University
Note: This article is a summary of our three-part study covered in the blogs of April 11, April 25 and May 9.
The coronavirus is a stark reminder of the devastating damage that could be inflicted by cyberattacks, superbugs, freak weather and a variety of other threats. These wild cards are in addition to the existential challenge posed by climate change, gross inequality, financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, terrorism and other massive problems collectively called the Global MegaCrisis.
I sense the world is so frightened by recent disasters that people are searching for new solutions. They seem ready to break from the past that is no longer working. Climate change is starting to bite, for instance, and there is a growing consensus that the status quo is no longer sustainable.
I have studied this dilemma for decades, and I think it can be best understood as a transition to the next stage of social evolution. The Knowledge Age that dominated the last two decades is fading into the past as AI automates knowledge, forcing us to move beyond knowledge and develop a global consciousness able to resolve the MegaCrisis.
Yes, I know this is a bold claim, but that is how the shift to a world of knowledge looked 40 years ago. When computers filled rooms, I recall telling people that we were entering a world of personal computers. The typical response was “Why would anyone want a personal computer?”
Just so, today’s post-factual era illustrates how the smart phone, social media, and autocrats like Trump have moved public attention beyond knowledge and into a world of values, emotions and beliefs. Now the challenge is to use these new powers of social media to shape a global consciousness, or face disaster. While this may seem impossible, that is always the case before major upheavals. Nobody thought the USSR would collapse up until its very end.
In fact, the Business Roundtable’s recent announcement that business should move beyond the bottom line to include the interests of all stakeholders is revolutionary. It has now been promulgated by the World Economic Forum and other influential bodies. The gravity of this change is such that business is now being told to help resolve the climate crisis. Larry Fink, who runs the biggest investment firm in the world (Black Rock), directed the companies he owns to help address climate costs in their operations; within days, many firms announced climate plans.
This historic shift in consciousness could make corporations models of cooperation for society at large. In short, I think the world is heading toward some type of historic shift in consciousness, a collective epiphany, a code of global ethics, a spiritual revolution, a political paradigm shift or a new mindset. Without a consciousness based on global unity, cooperation and other essential beliefs, there seems little hope. And with a shift to global consciousness, it all seems possible.
Toward a Global Consciousness
The governing ideas inherited from the industrial past are outdated and heading toward disaster. It is a collapse of today’s reigning “materialist” ideology of Capitalism, economic growth, money, power, self-interest, rationality, knowledge, etc. These values remain valid and useful, of course, but they are now badly limited. Prevailing practices in the US, as the most prominent example, are failing to address the climate crisis, low wage employee welfare, universal health care, women’s rights, political gridlock, aging infrastructure and other social issues that lie beyond sheer economics.
This could become a “Collapse of Capitalism” roughly equivalent to the “Collapse of Communism” in the 1990s, and it stems from the same fatal flaw – failure to adapt to a changing world. Communism could not meet the complex demands of the Information Revolution, and now Capitalism seems to be failing to adapt to a unified globe threatened by pandemics, climate change and the other threats making up the MegaCrisis.
The big question remaining is, “What should be the new vision, values, principles, and policies?” At the risk of appearing pedantic, I integrate what has been learned above and my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge, to outline five principles of what I consider “global consciousness.”
1. Treat the planet and all life forms as sacred. The Fermi Paradox notes that no other civilizations have been detected after decades of SETI searching. This rarity of life reminds us what a miracle plant Earth really is, and that we are responsible for its well-being.
2.Govern the world as a unified whole. Nations remain the major players in this global order, but they should be lightly governed by some type of global institution like the UN and other international bodies. Individuals should continue to be loyal to their nations and local institutions, but they should also accept their role as global citizens.
3. Collaborate with stakeholders to serve collective needs. Free enterprise is the basis of society, and the good news is that business is on the verge of becoming cooperative. The Business Roundtable announcement that all stakeholders should be treated equally with investors seems an historic breakthrough. This move to a quasi-democratic form of enterprise could set a new standard for collaborative behavior and human values throughout modern societies. One of the benefits from a tragedy like this crisis may be a loss of faith in the status quo and an urge to cooperate. I see it everywhere, and it is a blessing in disguise emerging out of chaos.
4.Embrace diversity as an asset. Rather than becoming a uniform pallid bureaucracy, a unified world should embrace the wondrous diversity of cultures and individuals. Working across such differences poses a challenge, naturally, but differences are also a source of new knowledge, talents and human energy.
5.Celebrate community. Any society needs frequent opportunities to gather together in good spirit, enjoy differences and commonalities, and to simply celebrate the glory of life. The World Olympics Games, for instance, are special because they provide a rare feeling of global community. We could witness a flowering of celebratory events over the coming years to nourish the global soul.
This is only one small study, of course, but I hope it provokes thinking toward a widely held vision for planet Earth at a time of crisis. An historic change in consciousness is hardly done overnight, and the obstacles posed by the status quo are formidable. But the Information Revolution provides a powerful method for shaping consciousness by using the Internet and public media. Think of the explosion of ideas, hatred and forbidden desires released by billions of people blasting into loudspeakers like Facebook and Twitter. Anybody can use the media to shape public opinion instantly, for better or worse.
The task we face is to shape a unified consciousness out of this morass of differences to solve the global crises that loom ahead. Today’s threats to reason is challenging us to counter wrongheaded beliefs and to provide more attractive visions, such as the principles for global consciousness outlined here. I suggest the place to begin is by discussing these ideas as widely as possible, and to shape public opinion roughly along these lines.
A related version has been published in the Journal of Futures Research.
I am pleased to provide this summary of my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge. This is simply a quick outline of the central theme, but the book should come out later this year.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and constructive criticism at Halal@GWU.edu.
The Age of Consciousness Is Here
After flying large aircraft in the Air Force, working on the Apollo Project and a stint in Silicon Valley, I became an academic at UC Berkeley and promptly became fascinated with the revolutionary power of the technology revolution. Although I also study business, economics and the social sciences, I introduced a course on Emerging Technologies in 1980 when information technology began taking off. Soon, a few colleagues and I developed what is arguably the best forecasting system in the world. The project won awards, was featured in a full-page article by The Washington Post, and I was flooded with requests by corporations and governments.
I also began to understand that the real story was not about the technology itself, or even its social fallout. Instead, it seems the technology revolution is driving an unrecognized social upheaval from “knowledge” to “consciousness.” The most striking example is the advent of today’s “post-factual world.”
The post-factual phenomenon forces us to see that the Age of Knowledge, which dominated the last two decades, is receding under today’s flood of smart phones, social media, artificial intelligence and autocrats like Trump. Knowledge is still crucial, but the tech revolution is driving the world beyond knowledge into a new frontier governed by emotions, values, beliefs and higher-order thought. I think this means that an “Age of Consciousness” is here, though one may not like its current form. Whatever one thinks of President Trump, almost all would concede that he is brilliant at creating an alternative reality. He is a master at shaping consciousness.
But why should we be guided by this epidemic of fake news, ignorance and outright lies? Because this eruption of unreasonableness has enveloped the globe, and it provides a clue to the new world of consciousness now being born. It’s like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, and a shot across the bow of ships of state. Politicians in Russia, Turkey, England, and Brazil, to name a few, now take refuge in dismissing criticism as fake news. Authors have called it an “Assault on Intelligence,” “The Death of Truth,” “A World Without Facts,” “The Death of Expertise,” “Truth Decay” and “The Fake News Fallacy.” 
This rule of unreason pervades life today, and numerous examples suggest it is epidemic. The US government, for instance, has been locked in stalemate for decades, even though Congress has more knowledge than it can handle. Emotional issues like abortion, gun control, immigration and the other roadblocks to a sane society have been studied to death, yet gridlock persists because of conflicting values, self-interest, and a hunger for power – consciousness again.
This brutal reality should make it rather obvious that the roots of disorder that plague our time are not rational problems to solve. They involve all the complex, messy, emotional baggage generated by normal people; they hinge on matters of subjective consciousness. The domain of consciousness is where the problems lie, and so it is also where the solutions are to be found.
Beneath this tectonic shifting in consciousness is the driving force of artificial intelligence (AI), automating knowledge work and driving us into this new frontier. The rapid advance of AI is probably the most powerful force for change today.Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, said “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on … more profound than fire or electricity.”  The result has left business, government and the public alarmed at the impending crisis in which roughly half of present jobs are eliminated and causing social chaos. AI poses one of the most perplexing questions of our time: what lies beyond knowledge?
As this book will show, everything beyond knowledge is subjective consciousness, and the advance of AI is more evidence that we are moving into this confusing new domain. This historic shift in social evolution is illustrated by the graph below which makes the case vividly. I have struggled with this problem for years, and the result is this accurate plot of what I call the “Life Cycle of Evolution.” The logarithmic time scale is needed to encompass the billions of years at the start of the LCE as well as decades today. Without a log scale, the shape of the LCE would not be recognizable. The curve would simply make a sharp turn up.
In this clarifying light, the next stage of social evolution becomes rather easy to envision. The data show accelerating progress through the earlier stages, and the logical next stage is the culminating birth of an Age of Consciousness, about now in 2020. A global level of consciousness is needed because it is increasingly clear that we are all dependent on one another in this single planet, that we should strive to become global citizens. The inspiration for this concept is provided by the brilliant insight of the Jesuit anthropologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who envisioned the world guided by a web of consciousness that envelops the globe. 
Yes, this is a bold claim. I have earned a good living and a small measure of fame by forecasting change. Publications attest to the accuracy of my forecasts in the 1970s that the Knowledge Age would arrive about 2000.  At that time, I recall telling people that personal computers were coming, only to be greeted with “Why would anyone want a personal computer?”
Yet in 2000, PCs were everywhere, books on knowledge became rife, corporations competed to become “knowledge organizations” and the majority of jobs required working with computers to manage knowledge. I am equally confident that an age of consciousness is here today, and we simply do not yet understand this intriguing new frontier.
Consciousness has been around throughout history, of course, so what is really new? Information and knowledge have also been used in ancient civilization, but the Knowledge Age occurred when information technology matured into the most powerful force on Earth, occupying the bulk of the labor force and our very minds.
In a similar way, consciousness is becoming a powerful technology, although barely understood, and it is changing the world. The most prominent example is public media. Think of the explosion of opinion, hatred and forbidden desires released by billions of people blasting into loudspeakers like Facebook and Twitter. Anybody can use the media to shape public opinion instantly, for better or worse. We are awash with seeing actors, TV stars, politicians, athletes, ordinary people with heart-breaking stories, cute kids doing smart things and influencers like Kim Kardashian.
The challenge is to shape a unified consciousness out of this morass of differences to solve the global crises that loom ahead. As we will see in a moment, today’s threat to reason is challenging us to counter these wrong-headed beliefs and to provide more attractive visions that offer hope. To put it more sharply, we are all shaping consciousness because that is where the action is.
This historic transition also poses enormous threats that must be resolved to avoid disaster and reach global maturity. Climate change, automation of jobs, gross inequality, government gridlock, financial meltdowns, terrorism and more have formed a constellation of end-of-the-world challenges that a colleague and I call the “Global MegaCrisis” or the “Crisis of Global Maturity.  Our studies estimate that roughly 70 percent of the public thinks the present world trajectory is not sustainable. People have deep fears over today’s global crises and failures in governance, and they attribute it to a lack of leadership, vision and cooperation. The World Economic Forum published a report on Global Risks that stops just short of panic. 
The technology revolution will add even greater threats. I draw on my state-of-the-art forecasting system to show how the entire technology revolution is likely to unfold in the years ahead. It shows the vast range of benefits in store, but also the enormous problems of “eating fruit from the biblical tree of knowledge.” Smart cars, for example, will follow a similar path as smart phones. “A car is very much like a cell phone, and that makes it vulnerable to attack from the Internet,” said Jonathan Brossard, a security engineer. Among the AI threats, many are horrified at the prospect of robotic weapons turning on people. Now ponder what could happen when billions of intelligent devices like these are wired together in the Internet of Things?
Even today, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a global disaster, and it has shifted public opinion in favor of social unity and cooperation, the very changes in consciousness proposed in this book. This crisis serves to warn us of the even greater dangers ahead as climate change and the other threats comprising the MegaCrisis hit home in a few years.
This difficult transition can be compared to the transformation every teenager faces when passing through their own crisis of maturity. At some point, the problems become so severe that most teens eventually find the courage to act more wisely and become responsible adults. In a roughly similar way, this is humanity’s challenge to grow into a sustainable civilization. We are being forced to grow up, to develop a responsible global order, or suffer catastrophe.
This book will provide a sophisticated evolutionary perspective that shows how a global consciousness is emerging to resolve these threats and create a mature civilization. More than a theory, chapters will support this view by showing how people are changing their lives, their work, social institutions and global mindset. As seen in the chapter outline, I make a point of fleshing out these concepts with details, evidence, supporting examples and steps to consider.
I will show how consciousness is that inner place where we live our mental lives and it is changing rapidly. People are practicing mindfulness, living with Nature, using psychedelics and other “technologies of consciousness” to develop compassion and other integrative attitudes that improve health and well-being. Personal shifts in consciousness are also underway as many abandon the dogma of religion to use diverse spiritual resources to guide their own “human spirit.” All this work on consciousness is being used to make sense of a confusing new era and to help us to perform our jobs in a slightly crazed, high-tech world.
We will also see that our collective consciousness is shifting to transform the major organs of society that define how we live our public lives – government, business, universities, religions and other institutions. In each case, I will show that a small avant garde is quietly bringing a mature awareness to these varied facets of society. Drawing on numerous examples, we see how government can become lean and responsive, business is turning democratic, education becoming student centered, and religions moving from doctrine to a personal relationship with the spiritual dimension of life.
For instance, the Business Roundtable announcement that firms should serve all stakeholders rather than profit alone is historic. The New York Times called it a “watershed moment … that raises questions about the very nature of capitalism.”  Leading corporations like Whole Foods, IKEA, Nucor Steel, Nortel, and Unilever collaborate with employees, customers, suppliers and governments to solve tough problems and create value for the company and stakeholders. Larry Fink, who runs the biggest investment firm in the world (Black Rock), even directed the companies he owns to help address climate costs in their operations; within days, many firms announced climate abatement plans. 
Corporations are the most powerful institutions in the world. This impending shift to a cooperative form of business could set an example for societies at large, spreading tendrils of collaborative problem-solving throughout the social order.
Following these ideas for institutional change, I discuss methods being used to manage our consciousness in order to cope with the demands of high-tech life. We focus on applying what I have labeled “technologies of consciousness” (ToCs). ToCs are techniques, tools and methods we use to guide our awareness, mood, understanding and other facets of consciousness, or “human spirit.” As we will see, this includes hard technologies (drugs, brain prostheses, virtual reality, etc.); ordinary parts of everyday life (coffee, alcohol, media, etc.); leadership (purpose, cooperation, etc.) and many other tools for guiding consciousness.
A striking example serves as a case in point. A few years ago, the chairman of Aetna defused an audience of angry shareholders by wading into the crowd and asking forgiveness for his mistakes and shaking hands with the critics. Here’s how a board director described the result: “In 15 minutes he changed the mood of that entire room. It was one of the most skillful demonstrations I have ever seen.”  The chairman’s actions illustrate why higher-order forms of consciousness are likely to take off – they are simply more effective.
We briefly look at the use of meditation, prayer and other forms of inner guidance, the healing balm of Nature, and psychotropic drugs that relieve stress and provide insight. For instance, I cite a poignant story of a housewife who uses small doses of marijuana to relieve insomnia and anxiety, allowing her to become a “better mother to her children.” We then summarize evidence showing that managing the mind can instill higher-order values of cooperation, empathy, gratitude and compassion that are essential to a unified globe.
The superior power of higher consciousness provides the key to resolving the MegaCrisis. As shown in the LCE, each stage of evolution has been propelled by revolutions – the Agrarian Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Post-Industrial Revolution and, most recently, the Information Revolution. Now, the world is awaiting a “Mental/Spiritual Revolution” to kick start the Age of Consciousness.
This transition can be explained using the Hegelian dialectic.  In Hegel’s terms, the Information Revolution forms the “thesis” that has been driving the world into a Knowledge Age, while the Global MegaCrisis represents the “antithesis” challenging this status quo. The coming Mental/Spiritual Revolution provides the catalyst to resolve this crisis and create a “synthesis” that becomes the new status quo – a unified global order.
This may seem outrageous, especially at a time when hostilities seem hopeless, and I could be proved wrong as the world descends into disaster. But the evidence outlined throughout this book supports this possibility pretty well. I suspect this transition is a normal but difficult process, and that it probably occurs on countless civilizations throughout the universe.
The main reason this seems optimistic, and even foolhardy, is because we have no experience in global consciousness. Huddled in our small section of a limitless universe, humans have little conception of planetary evolution, much less the transition to a unified world. Our understanding is roughly similar to a naïve person who first witnesses the agony of a human birth or a teen struggling to adulthood. Without previous knowledge, these painful transitions would seem awful, too hard to bear. Yet they are entirely normal and usually successful.
So too will our passage to global maturity appear in years to come. The current global order is not sustainable, and I think we should see a rising mental/spiritual revolution, global ethics, universal moral code or something similar about 2025 or so. A functioning global order is then likely to appear about 2050 +/- 10 years. In fact, I am as confident in this forecast as I was in 1970s that the Knowledge Age would arrive about 2000.
A unified global order will still bear the normal human failings, but it will make our current strife look as primitive as the brutal battles between kings’ armies in the feudal ages. This may sound too good to be true, yet I think most people today will live to see the coming of a unified planet and the triumph of human spirit, once again. Then it’s on to the Space Age.
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved. William E . Halal
 Hayden, The Assault on Intelligence (New York: Penguin, 2018) Anne Applebaum, “A world without facts,” Washington Post (May 20, 2018) Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise (New York: Oxford, 2018) Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael Rich, Truth Decay, (Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, 2018) Adrian Chen, “The fake news fallacy,“ The New Yorker (Sep 4, 2017)
 World Economic Forum, Jan 24, 2018.
 The Phenomenon of Man (Harper Perennial Modern Thought, November 4, 2008)
 Halal, “The Post-Industrial Organization,” The Bureaucrat (October 1974)
 Halal and Michael Marien, “Global MegaCrisis: A Survey of Four Scenarios on a Pessimism-Optimism Axis,” Journal of Future Studies (March 2011)
 Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker, and Anders Wujkman, Second Report to the Club of Rome, (New York: Springer Science (Jan 2018). The Global Risks, (Switzerland: World Economic Forum, 2018.
 “Security researcher warns cars can be hacked,” (CSO, Jan 2014)
 New York Post (Jun 15, 2017)
 Sorkin, Op. Cit.
 “Can Corporations Stop Climate Change?” (NewYorkTimes.com, Feb 24, 2020)
 Ben White, “SEC Nominee Donaldson Has History of Calming Investors Fury” (Washington Post, Dec 11, 2002)
 For a modern explanation, see Michael Allen Fox, The Accessible Hegel (Prometheus Books. 2005)
Using brain-computer interfaces, scientists have taught a monkey to “walk” a robot by simply thinking.
Researchers at Duke University trained a monkey (Idoya) to walk on a treadmill, and electrodes were implanted in her brain to capture electronic signals. The signals were translated into computer instructions and sent via high-speed Internet to the lab in Kyoto, Japan, where the robot “Computational Brain” (CB) resides. The monkey could watch the robot on a large monitor and was instructed to control CB through her own walking motion. As Idoya walked, CB also walked at roughly the same pace with minor time delays. The lead scientist, Dr. Migeul Nicolelis, said “We have shown that you can carry brain signals across the planet to control devices in the time scale that a biological system works.”
But that’s just the beginning. The researchers stopped the treadmill, leaving the monkey standing still and continuing to stare at the video of the robot. Whereas before Idoya was merely thinking about its own walking, now it was asked to make the robot walk using its thought alone. For 3 minutes, Idoya “walked” the robot using sheer thought power. The team plans to demonstrate that human thought can operate an exoskeleton (robotic body suit).
TechCast was first to identify this exciting new technology and to define it as “Thought Power.” We forecast that intelligent brain-computer interfaces enabling people to communicate mentally with distant objects and people are likely to arrive commercially in about 1 decade.
After the discovery of CRISPR in bacteria, a cut and paste DNA system used to defend against foreign genetic sequences especially those inserted by viruses, researchers transformed the discovery into a tool called CRISPR/Cas9 that can make precise cuts in the genomes of other organisms as well.
To put this tool to good use, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have proposed a clinical trial where this gene editing technology would remove and alter human T cells that target foreign cells in cancer patients.
Since clinical trials of gene-editing therapies have already taken place and the ethical considerations have already been discussed, the researchers have cleared the first hurdle by winning unanimous approval from the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The proposed two-year trial will treat 18 people with myeloma, sarcoma, or melanoma who have stopped responding to existing treatments at U Penn; the University of California, San Francisco; and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. For the next step, the researchers will need to obtain approval from the ethics review boards at their institutions and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
So far, the testing of the CRISPR/Cas9 system in lab animals has yielded mixed results and worked only on some cancers. However, the researchers have made improvements to the technology and will monitor immune responses and for any off-target cuts in genomes.
As Hank Greely, a Stanford law professor points out, whoever owns the therapies stand to make a lot of money. Currently there are potential financial conflicts of interest and issues with intellectual property. The Parker Institute, a foundation established by Facebook billionaire Sean Parker, is funding the trials. The trials will utilize methods based upon earlier work by Carl June of U Penn, which genetically modified cancer patients’ immune cells and would create a financial interest in the outcome.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, filed a patent application in 2012. Then, researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard filed a patent application under an expedited review program and were awarded the patent in April 2014. Until recently, the US awarded patents to those who could show that they were the first to invent, rather than the first to file. Then US switched to a first-to-file system, complicating things, and now proper licensing agreements have to be established.
The AI Revolution has created a palpable fear that ”The robots are coming to take your jobs!” Studies conclude that roughly half of present jobs could be lost to automation, even professional work, possibly leading to mass unemployment and social upheavals
TechCast asked our thought leader-experts to forecast the future distribution of jobs across the occupational spectrum for the year 2030. The results below tell a different story that opens the way to a creative society.
Results and Conclusions: Muddling Through
Results are tabulated below and show that the majority of experts believe that a reasonable path can be found through this difficult transition. We call this the “Muddling Through Scenario.” This is a “middle” scenario in which an organic combination of market forces produce new creative jobs and government support offers GMI benefits, containing unemployment to tolerable levels.
TechCast experts collectively judge that humanity will find its way safely through the coming AI/robotics crisis as the world reaches a more fully automated stage of development about 2030. Automation is likely to eliminate about 22% of routine jobs but the loss is likely to be compensated by roughly 8% of workers gaining a guaranteed minimum income (GMI) and roughly 15% finding new jobs in “creative work.”
Expert Survey Results for OECD Nations in 2030 (N = 53)
The Possibility of a Creative Society
This is a modest study, and many complex issues are involved, yet we think this forecast provides useful insights into how the AI issue can be resolved.
We conclude that government support and innovative enterprise could absorb this AI threat and turn it into a new domain of creativity.The adoption of GMI and the growth of new creative jobs are likely to keep unemployment contained at 11 percent or so, which would be bad but not a major crisis. Furthermore, the widespread use of AI should increase the level of knowledge and intelligence to unprecedented levels, fostering a society of creative change and understanding.
The key is to recognize that AI can automate routine knowledge work, but there exists a huge unexplored economic domain beyond knowledge—creativity, entrepreneurship, vision, collaboration, diplomacy, marketing, supervision, and other higher-order functions that are uniquely human. See the figure, “Structure of Consciousness.” Advanced AI may be able to solve tough problems, but it cannot provide vision, purpose, imagination, values, wisdom, and other capabilities that are essential for sound leadership and tough choices.
Intelligent machines are likely to take over routine service and knowledge tasks, but the technology will remain limited and people will always want a real person to provide human contact and handle tough issues. Staff is growing rapidly in universities, hospitals, research institutes, and other advanced settings for these reasons. The service and knowledge work sector could grow to 50−60 percent by 2030.
In the end, rather than diminishing people, the net effect of AI may be to enhance the value of these higher-order talents that are a unique gift to humanity.This conclusion may seem contrary to many who are convinced a disaster looms ahead. We respectfully suggest that, yes, the robots are coming to take your jobs, but more creative work and better support can also foster a more innovative, prosperous and thoughtful civilization.
This article is a short version of the AI and Future Jobs published in Foresight: The journal of future studies, strategic thinking and policy.
The commercialization of space has come into focus as a fact of life recently. Just a few years ago, space commercialization was limited to satellite production, launch, and maintenance. Since 2010 when the US signed the National Space Policy, there has been increasing support of commercial space, and this was boosted in 2013 with the National Space Transportation Policy. To create a true space era, however, two major breakthroughs are needed — big advances in space technology and lower costs.
TechCast covers the six forecasts below on space. These forecasts suggest we should see dramatic gains during the next decade as space tourism and commercialization take off.
In the computer industry, and particularly in microchips and miniaturization, Moore’s law has been dramatically lowering the production costs of advancements in “silicone” based technology. A similar trend is underway in space commercialization. A first step in this direction was taken when NASA opened the space race to visionary entrepreneurs. The “Silicon Era” dominated the past 70 years. In space, the same trend is happening with major investments in scores of companies like Space X, Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences, and Boeing.
For example, the Space Angels Network has funded 23 companies pioneered by entrepreneurs in space technology, from manufacturing satellites to manufacturing better engines for space launches. Mars-One, the controversial enterprise committed to sending people on a one way trip to Mars, is funding its mission through a combination of reality show and crowd-funding. Other companies are planning trips to the Moon, building private space stations, and mining asteroids.
I can’t help but draw parallels and wonder — can the new technological innovations co-evolve to bring space commercialization closer to reality?
Anamaria Berea, PhD, is on the faculty at the Smith School of Business, U. Maryland and a TechCast Expert.
One of TechCast’s Social Trends is quickly becoming the status quo.
After centuries of euphoria and medical use, marijuana in early 20th-century America entered decades of “just say no” and mass imprisonment for its use. Today, legal pot finally seems to have returned.
As of 2019, 30 states in the US now accept some form of legal use. Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, Columbia, and the Netherlands have legalized or decriminalized possession of marijuana. The Czech Republic, Portugal, and Uruguay have extended legalization to “hard” drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Much like the ending of alcohol prohibition in the 1930s, it nally became evident that laws against marijuana failed to discourage consumption, and the harm resulting from them was overwhelming. Criminalization of pot and other drugs created a global black market worth US$300 billion/year and cost about US$1 trillion in police activity over four decades. American prisons are home to 1.6 million people, half of whom have been convicted of either selling or using drugs. And, despite frequent suggestions that legalization would cause rampant drug abuse, only 6.5 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds now use marijuana, the lowest proportion since 1994.
In a letter to the UN, more than 1,000 world leaders including 27 US Congressmen and six Senators said the global war on drugs has been a “disaster” and called for change.
They have been joined by the United Methodist, the World Health Organization, the New York Times; countless physicians, judges, and police o cials; and the majority of citizens in modern nations.
TechCast’s Social Trends forecast roughly 30 strategic movements in politics, business, medicine, lifestyles, and almost anything else leaders and planners should be thinking of, and we have forecast the arrival of Legal Pot for some years. Our latest results suggest that a third of G20 nations are likely to legalize marijuana use shortly after 2020, creating a global market of about US$30 billion per year; this seems modest compared to the black market of US$300 billion.
This signals that more lenient drug policies could become the norm. Our experts believe the social impact is likely to be moderately positive, although this will require new policies in most institutions. Social hostesses now plan their dinner parties to accommodate vape pens with more than fruity avors or infuse a little Pineapple Express in the hors d’oeuvres.
The result should be a significant improvement in medical treatment of drug use, reduced crime, fewer prisoners, saved cost of police work, tax income for states, and greater tolerance of lifestyle differences. Who knows? Legal pot might do a lot to improve everybody’s mood, and maybe even ease today’s dismal world situation.
TechCast has been forecasting the possibility that corporations will become quasi-democratic by pursuing the interests of their employees, customers, partners and communities in addition to shareholders. Now that the US Business Roundtable has broadened the role of corporations to include all stakeholders, the time is right to claim that the concept of democratic enterprise has arrived.
Alan Murray, chief editor of Fortune magazine, recently noted our economic system is stalled by stifling income inequality, loss of jobs to global trade, a new acceptance of socialism and the failure of democratic governments:
“…an ever growing group of business leaders believe they must take up the mantle to address social problems into the core of their business … Companies are moving beyond fuzzy notions like sustainability and corporate citizenship to making meaningful social impact central to how they compete.” (Fortune, Sep 1, 2016)
Murray cited Michael’s Porter’s concept of “shared value” as a guiding principle, but he could just as easily have noted the growing interest in collaboration, conscious capitalism, or what TechCast calls democratic enterprise. These and related ideas are now practiced widely among progressive companies and taught in the curriculum of 500 business schools around the world. We have been forecasting the widespread adoption of a quasi-democratic form of business as a wild card at TechCast, and our experts assigned it’s arrival a modest 35 percent probability, although they also think it should have a large positive social impact of + 4.
Shared value is but a small step in this direction, yet it marks a critical divide in business that could be truly revolutionary. By simply recognizing the economic reality that employees, customers, the public and other stakeholders are essential to business success, corporations could enter the modern world as engines of both social progress as well as financial gain. Moving from a profit-centric to a human-centric model of enterprise would be roughly comparable to the shift from an Earth-centric view of the universe to Copernicus’s understanding that planets revolve around the Sun.
The impacts of such a historic change are so vast they defy analysis, but a few big advantages stand out. The dominance of money in economic affairs would yield to a more balanced concern that includes the people involved. Business leaders could assume their rightful place as social heroes instead of pariahs. Governments could hand off much of their responsibility for the social welfare to this new form of self-regulating business ecosystem.
These are powerful forces for creating a new form of political economy that is badly needed. But the greatest change is the realization by business leaders that combining profit and social needs is not only possible but also a competitive necessity. Here’s how Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, described it: “We don’t have a long-term business if we don’t address the inequities.”
For more, see our original wild card forecast on Democratic Enterprise.