US sees six 'disruptive technologies' by 2025

Top US intelligence official warns of declining dominance, climate change

In December, the US president-elect will get a report detailing threats to the US and that most likely includes a list of emerging technologies that will have a major impact on the US and the world. This report, called Global Trends 2025, is a forecast prepared by US intelligence agencies.

The report will be a grim assessment, with warnings about economic challenges, an aging work force, climate change and US adversaries, according to emerging details, which most recently surfaced in a speech by Thomas Fingar, deputy director of National Intelligence, the body that oversees all US intelligence agencies. Fingar spoke this month before a gathering of intelligence analysts.

In the period leading up to 2025, the US "will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished over this period of time," said Fingar, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the director of National Intelligence (PDF download).

The "overwhelming dominance that the United States has enjoyed in the international system in military, political, economic, and arguably, cultural arenas is eroding and will erode at an accelerating pace with the partial exception of military," Fingar said.

The US may remain the dominant military power, but its nuclear capability will be less important as challenges shift to cyber threats. It will bear the weight of an aging population and by 2025, the ratio of young productive people to seniors will begin to approach one in three. "That is a pretty heavy burden on economic growth," Fingar said.

The next president will receive a particularly bleak warning about climate change. By 2025, "it is not a good time to live in the Southwest because it runs out of water and looks like the Dust Bowl. It is not a good time to be along the Atlantic seaboard, particularly in the South because of the projected increase and intensity and severity and frequency of severe weather - more hurricanes, more serious storms, and so forth," Fingar said.

Among the climate-related problems Fingar cited are water shortages in "the already unstable Middle East," and in China.

"Think about the difficulty of scrounging up in the international system the food for 17 or 18 million North Koreans, for a few tens of millions on the Horn of Africa. ... you have got one hell of a problem. And that is going to happen. This isn't in the maybe category. This is in the for-real category," Fingar said.

The report is expected to look at disruptive technologies, and a preview of what may be in the report was prepared by the National Intelligence Council in April.

A disruptive technology is defined "as a technology with the potential to causes a noticeable - even if temporary - degradation or enhancement in one of the elements of US national power," the report said. Those elements are geopolitical, military, economic or social cohesion. It identified six technologies that have that potential.

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Patrick Thibodeau

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