Escalating Uncertainties

A Global Crossroads

Threats from Escalating Uncertainty

  • Permanent escalation in global military tensions leads to greater allocation of public funds to defense spending and cuts to entitlement spending.
  • Popular unrest over job losses in the wake of automation leads to a political and regulatory backlash against technology.
  • The merging of policy, finance, and technology cannot keep pace with the negative effects of climate change.
  • Increased nationalism shuts down borders, limiting the migration of workers and adversely impacting both skilled and unskilled labor markets.
  • The use of alternative energy pushes down the price of oil creating civil unrest and halting economic growth in states that rely on hydrocarbon revenues.

Opportunities from Escalating Uncertainty

  • Rapid advancements in solar energy production and storage enables vertical farms to develop in urban areas.
  • Fossil fuel pressures and ESG motivation spur the expanded use of renewable energies and improve technological efficiency at a much faster rate than previously assumed, decelerating the rate of climate change.
  • Transportation technology advances, such as the Hyperloop, allow for much faster field-to-table times, reducing the need for artificial preservatives and allowing for the transportation of fresh food in hours.
  • Climate change opens up new shipping corridors and access to the natural resources of the Arctic.

Technological advancement, industrialization, globalization, the spread of democratic tenets, and the rise of the middle class have created significant benefits for global society, but these forces have also put massive strains on our environment, created a chasm of income disparity, and raised the long-term specter of permanent job loss. We can envision a future where these forces of change go parabolic, making our present concerns seem quaint, heightening uncertainty, and expanding the list of threats and challenges posed to the world’s nations, institutions, and corporations.

We have already seen the shoots of violent extremism and economic and political nationalism as nations react differently to shifting societal realities. As we look forward, we see the potential for two paths – an adherence to the post-war tenets of globalization, inclusion and joint solutions, or a hard turn towards nationalism and isolation in all its forms.

These uncertainties create the opportunity for innovative solutions to global conflicts and resource allocation, but equally increase the potential for a fragmentation of global institutions, military and economic threats, and a chasm between the haves and have-nots.

Unpredictable instability is the new normal.”

- James Clapper
Director of National Intelligence

Here we present the highlights from ‘Escalating Uncertainties: The Beginning of the Beginning’ from Imagine 2025 – Themes, Opportunities & The Law of Accelerating Returns, an examination of the global drivers of parabolic change.


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For additional insight into the forces of change impacting the future, read the full Imagine 2025 report.