U.S. Power/Prestige Set to Decline Over Next 20 Years (It will Be O.k.)

This is something of a follow-up to my post the other day regarding World War II and the Great Depression.  In that post I made the point that a significant portion of the economic success the U.S. enjoyed from World War II to, well, now, was due to the fact that after WW2 the U.S. still had an economy and functioning  (i.e. not bombed) industry.

We then doubled down in the 80’s [note: this is a great article on how we got to where we are] to keep things going for a while, and again in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq. 

And now the fruits of our labors, or more directly, the fruits of the labors of the other 6,700,000,000 humans on the planet, are being harvested.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A government report released Thursday paints an alarming picture of an unstable future for international relations defined by waning American influence, a fragmentation of political power and intensifying struggles for increasingly scarce natural resources.

The report, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World,” was drafted by the National Intelligence Council to better inform U.S. policymakers — starting with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama — about the factors most likely to shape major international trends and conflicts through the year 2025.

“Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor, the United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm — will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained,” says the report, which is the fourth in a series from the Intelligence Council.

The report argues that the “international system — as constructed following the second World War — will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors.”

 This is precisely what I was getting at in the previous post. 

[The Entire Report Is Available for Download Here…that page is the summary, the report itself is 120 pages long.  Fun reading.]

There are also some good points here, as some of the data the report was relying on has chaged.  For example…

It argues that the world is in the midst of an unprecedented “transfer of global wealth and power” — from West to East — that is being fueled by long-term “increases in oil and commodity prices” along with a gradual shift of manufacturing and certain service industries to Asia.

While the manufacturing aspects haven’t change, the recent global meltdown has absolutely gutted oil prices, which is the single largest factor in this transfer of wealth.

“Despite the recent rise in anti-Americanism, the U.S. probably will continue to be seen as a much-needed regional balancer in the Middle East and Asia,” the report notes.

Luckily, since we acted in a way that the rest of the world endorsed whole-heartedly, the “anti-Americanism” will fade.  Recall folks, after 9/11 everyone loved us.  It was only when we invaded an oil-rich country that hadn’t attacked us and wasn’t a threat to us….and then told everyone they were pussies because they wouldn’t come with us…that the “anti-Americanism” really took off.

Curious how that works, eh?  Actions matter. 

The report predicts that, the recent economic downturn aside, “unprecedented global economic growth” will mean that the demand for basic resources such as food, water and oil “will outstrip easily available supplies” over the next decade.

As an estimated 1.2 billion people are added to the world population over the next 20 years, the demand for food will rise by 50 percent, the report projects.

Umm, I don’t think you can so easily dismiss the “recent economic downturn.”  Part of the reason things like the recent collapse happen is because everything gets too overheated.  When you extrapolate from overheated systems, as this reports most likely does, then the extrapolations are that much more wild.

And if the demand for food goes up, maybe we can stop paying our farming congomerates to not farm.   Making food is something humans, and particularly Americans, have no problems with.

I find it very unikely that such a wide-ranging report would be altered to take into account the current economic crisis.  After having a look at the summary of the 2008 economic crisis on page 10…and how it does’t seem to even affect bullet points underneath it…they just added that section in and haven’t really factored it into the rest of the report.

The section of the crisis does end with something I mentioned in my taped rant…

The crisis has increased calls for a new “Bretton Woods” to better regulate the global economy.  World leaders, however, will be challenged to renovate the IMF and devise a globally transparent and effective set of rules that apply to differing capitalisms and levels of financial institutional development. Failure to construct a new all-embracing architecture could lead countries to seek security through competitive monetary policies and new investment barriers, increasing the potential for market segmentation.

 

 

There was recently a large meeting in Washington, D.C. to talk about doing exactly this.  Not much can be done with a lame-duck leading the free world and beggin people not to give up on cowboy-capitalism.

They re-scheduled the meeting for March, after Obama takes over and the adults are in charge of the U.S. economy again.  Sorry, kids, but cutting taxes and declaring war are two great conservative tastes that taste like shit together.

One quick note….the other RISING powers of the world all have one thing in common…

For the most part, China, India, and Russia are not following the Western liberal model for self-development but instead are using a different model, “state capitalism.”  State capitalism is a loose term used to describe a system of economic management that gives a prominent role to the state. 

Not that I am endorsing such a thing, as both China and India are in a different place developmentally that the U.S.  They are in need of massive infrastructure projects that only a government can provide.  Our interstate highway system and “The Internet” are the kinds of stuff I’m talking about here.

Overall it makes for sober reading, and really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  If you are surprised, now would be a good time to get over it.  Otherwise, a whole bunch of things that happen over the next 20 years are not going to make sense to you.

It’s time to tighten the belts, my fellow ‘Merkins.  Which is a good thing, as belly fat can give you cancer.

I updated the title to mention something that I forgot to talk about in the above article, and that the “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” total missed, and it’s going to change the world more than anything else in history.

It’s why I’m not worried…per se…about many of these issues.  That thing, which the CIA/DOD/NIE/Etc. higher-ups hopefully edited out (I can’t imagine with all the brainpower they got there no one brought up the concept) is called “The Singularity”.

Right now we’re on target for about 2020.  That’s 5 years, or roughly 8-fold, before 2025. 

Why do I say “8-fold?”  Because the computers of 2025 are going to be roughly 8 times as powerful as those of 2020, for the same price, and an eighth the size.

In 2020 the computers will have pretty much the same processing power, information-wise, as our own brains.  That may seem fancifcul now, but have you noticed that it is getting harder and harder to prove you are human on the Internet?

All it used to take was using a service.  Then you had to start jumping through easy hops.  Then the hoops got more difficult.

Sometimes, they are even flaming.

Those little “captchas” and other such tools are basic versions of a “Turing Test.”

There will come a day (probably around 2020), and that day is already called the Singularity, when the robots that roam the internet, and try to use and abuse services, will have the same “intelligence” as your average human being.  The same ability to be witty and sad.  To process and contextualize and remember. 

By 2025, they will have roughly 8 times the capacity of a normal human.

When you consider how very much entwined our world will be with the internet at that time, I think you can see why I began this section with the teaser “, and it’s going to change the world more than anything else in history.”

So the final question becomes, how or why did all those agencies miss it?

[that’s a trick question….guess who has access to the best minds and best tech?  That’s right.  It’ll be coming from our government.  Deep inside, probably.  Or on a lefty-fringe, like the Net itself did.  My hope is that we have made our government, and others, completely transparent by then.   So we can watch it happen.]