Population Projections, Defense Strategies, and More

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July 5, 2019

Foresight Signal: Global Population Projections

The latest United Nations population report projects the world’s population could grow 26% by mid-century, from 7.7 billion now to 9.7 billion by 2050. This latest projection is about 2% lower than the UN’s 2017 projection of 9.9 billion people in 2050, reflecting a slowing overall population growth rate.

India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country by about 2027, the report projects, and rapid population growth in poor countries will challenge efforts to meet sustainable development goals such as combating hunger and malnutrition.

Yet, growth of working-age populations in some regions (sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean) present opportunities for economic growth. Migration is another major component of population change, with net inflows of migrants in some countries (Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, Serbia, and Ukraine) compensating for population loss due to an excess of deaths over births, the report suggests. [Learn more]

Recommended reading: See also Pew Research Center’s analysis of the UN projections.

Technology’s Role in U.S. Defense Strategy: Event Report

“Progress is simply not fast enough” when it comes to applying new technologies to national defense, said Gen. Paul Selva, outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a conversation June 28 at the Brookings Institution. “That’s not a judgment on the allocation of the budget or the effort. It’s a judgment on the cultural changes required to take advantage of the speed of change that’s happening in the technology sector.”

The hour-long discussion covered satellites and space-launch technology, missile defense versus directed energy, cyber offense and defense, stealth and counter-stealth technologies, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

Selva noted that private-sector investment in technology has surpassed that of the public sector by 10 to 1, the opposite of what had been the case from the 1970s through the 1990s. But because of the acceleration of technological development in China and Russia, for example, the United States is going to “have to incorporate new technologies faster because that pace of change is not going to slow down,” he said.

Ultimately, security depends on human elements such as the assumptions adversaries make about one another, Selva suggested. “In the game of deterrence, your adversary has to believe that you not only have the capacity but you have the will to resist whatever it is they’re going to do and that they can’t win.”

Read more:Event Report: The Future of U.S. Defense Strategy,” Foresight Signals Blog (July 1, 2019).

View video or read transcript of the event.

Recommended reading: To keep up with developments in defense technology, check out technology editor Patrick Tucker’s reporting for Defense One.

Mark Your Calendar: APF Joins WFSF in Mexico

September 9-10, Mexico City. The Association of Professional Futurists will hold a professional development (ProDev) workshop prior to the World Futures Studies Federation’s annual world conference (September 10-13). The ProDev theme is “The Praxis of Professional Futurists: Models, Methods, and Tools.” Three sessions will focus on professional futurists’ work in government, education, health care, and business; networking by sector; and strategic foresight solutions, in which participants team up to work on a case study for a Mexican company. Note, registration is separate for the APF and WFSF events. [Learn more]

Foresight Resources and Publications

  • Opportunity at the Edge: Change, Challenge, and Transformation on the Path to 2025 by Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington (Fast Future Publishing, June 2019). Developed in collaboration with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, this 80-page report describes how, in the next five years, “edge technologies—those which process and analyze user data where people connect to a network—will revolutionize corporate strategies, create more dynamic, responsive, and personalized customer and employee experiences, enable powerful business and revenue models, and even catalyze the growth of entirely new industries.” [Read digital edition]
  • Foresight Talks is the Institute for the Future’s (IFTF) series of free, moderated one-hour webinars highlighting the work and methodology of practicing futurists. IFTF currently has scheduled webinars on the relationship between design and futures thinking, hosted by Stanford University d.school’s designer in residence Lisa Kay Solomon (July 24), and on the foresight work within the U.S. Forest Service, hosted by futurists David Bengston and Jason Crabtree of the USFS Strategic Foresight Group (December 11). [Learn more]
  • The Club of Amsterdam’s The Future Now Show for July/August features Glen Hiemstra, founder of Futurist.com, discussing the value of identifying the preferred scenario among alternatives and the “mystical power” of creating visions of a preferred future. [Learn more or view video]

In Memoriam: Molly Waters

The Federal Foresight Community of Interest reports the passing of futurist Molly Waters, a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, following a motorcycle accident on May 13. She was 37. Following successful tours at sea as commander of two Coast Guard vessels, Neah Bay and Hollyhock, Waters was assigned to the Office of Strategic Analysis, where she helped manage the Evergreen Program and composed many of the vignettes and scenarios it used. Waters also helped build FFCoI in its early years. “She loved her work and will be sorely missed by the entire foresight community,” FFCoI said.

Members of the military and hospital staff paid silent tribute during an honor walk ceremony after Waters was taken off life support at George Washington University Hospital, where she had donated her organs and tissue. [View ceremony]