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U.S. sees six 'disruptive technologies' by 2025

Top U.S. intelligence official warns of declining U.S. dominance, climate change

September 10, 2008 12:00 PM ET

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

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

In the period leading up to 2025, the U.S. "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 office (download PDF).

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 U.S. may remain the dominant military power, but its nuclear capability will be less important as challenges shift to cyberthreats. The U.S. population will get older, but not to the extent of Western Europe, Japan and China, where the the ratio of young productive people to seniors will begin to approach 1-3. "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 [million] 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.

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