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Peterson predicts hyper-peril and hyper-promise

February 7, 2007
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Erik Peterson

Erik Peterson’s forecast for the future translates into one of simultaneous "hyper-peril" and "hyper-promise." At his "Seven Revolutions" presentation held on Drake’s campus Thursday, Jan. 18, the implication was loud and clear: Today’s leaders must be willing to adapt their strategies to survive in an ever-evolving world.

Peterson is senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a nonpartisan Washington D.C.-based think-tank established in 1962. He presented CSIS’s internationally recognized findings of the seven areas in which global change is expected to be most revolutionary between now and the year 2025: technology, population, resource management, knowledge, economic integration, conflict and governance.

President David Maxwell described Peterson’s forum as a "critical step" in the futures planning process and the broad and international context for Drake’s next strategic plan, which is currently under development.

The presentation outlined key global observations that hinted at what is to come in the coming decades -- for better or worse. Among the CSIS observations and projections:

  • If the current rate of growth continues, nearly 8 billion people will populate the world in the year 2025 – compared to merely 1.5 billion people at the time of Drake’s founding in 1881. And by the year 2050, there will be a higher number of older people than younger people for the first time in history.
  • By the year 2025, water as an available resource will be discussed in much the same way as oil is talked about currently. Likewise, the global demand for oil will explode – by the year 2030, China will rival the United States in terms of millions of barrels of oil imported daily.
  • The achievement of the completion of the Human Genome Project – which maps the 30,000 genes and sequences the three billion chemical base pairs that make up the human genome – signals the expectation for increased scientific advances in the areas of proteomics, genetics and germ-line therapy. With these new advancements, children born now could feasibly live into the 22nd century.
  • Due to the near-instantaneous nature of media, Peterson asserted that the importance now lies not in how we manage information, but how we judge it. "Progressively, we choose our truth," he said, which leads to an environment of reduced decision times, more complex issues, polarized positions and instant pressure.
  • At the current growth rate of aggregate output, the combined economic forces of Brazil, Russia, India and China will overtake the G6 countries by the year 2040.
  • A high probability exists of an event involving weapons of mass destruction taking place over the next 20 years.
  • Some 37,000 nongovernmental organizations were registered in the year 2000, and their impact is becoming increasingly influential in world affairs.