Science and Technology Innovation Program

What Might the World Look Like in 50 Years?

Global Foresight Conference May 20-21, 2002

May 20, 2002

On May 20-21 the Wilson Center's Foresight and Governance Project held a workshop on global foresight with support from NASA. The conference was the first effort in a series designed to stimulate governments and other concerned parties to think about possible goals that could be achieved over a long time period (30-50 years) and with a proactive approach to governance.

In preparation for the conference, a survey of possible goals was conducted involving individuals from federal agencies, industry, academia, and the NGO sector. In addition, the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University coordinated a global survey, which involved 50-100 scholars and public sector officials from a dozen countries in an effort to incorporate the international perspective. Domestically and internationally, more than 200 goals were identified and subsequently winnowed down through a second round of voting to 26 goals. These 26 goals were further narrowed down to the top ten goals by electronic voting that took place during the conference. The following is the list of top ten goals, as selected by the participants in the conference.

1. No human being lacks for access to clean water and food

2. Provide clean and abundant energy

3. Eliminate all major infectious and inherited diseases

4. End slavery globally

5. Provide universal health care for all

6. Eliminate weapons of mass destruction

7. Establish a system of world justice

8. Develop the capability to understand and manage global systems - e.g., the hydrologic cycle, carbon and nitrogen cycles, oceanic circulation patterns, global climate systems, biological communities at all scales - in ranges appropriate to achieving an ethically and rationally designed planet

9. Understand biologic processes at the cellular; organ; organism; and ecological levels

10. Make the world into a truly global organism--meaning that the global infrastructures for energy, computation, communications, transportation, banking, etc, have been (re)engineered to be a). Fully integrated; b). Intelligent and adaptive in the face of shifting demands; c). Self-healing in the face of small- to mid-sized failures (or terrorist attacks); d). Robust and "fail-soft" in the face of rare, catastrophic failures; and e). Possessed of a digital "immune system" that can detect and ward off hackers, terrorists, or other unauthorized assaults

The 26 goals, the top ten, and other items under consideration can be found in the conference proceedings at: http://www.globalforesight.org/agenda2.htm

A number of prominent science fiction writers took part in the conference (either in person or virtually) addressing a variety of long-range issues ranging from the challenges of advances in biology to the impacts of cognitive manipulation on human identity.

This summer, the Foresight and Governance Project will commission several white papers which will examine plausible scenarios for achieving some of the long-term goals identified at the workshop. In the fall the project will hold a follow-up workshop to discuss these scenarios in detail. This workshop will be repeated every two years to reexamine and update the goals and strategies.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact David Rejeski at 202.691.4255 or rejeskidw@wwic.si.edu.

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