global trends, values, and ethics

Chapter 5

Other Possible Worlds

Indeed, the EU, Russia, and NATO have conducted their own assessments. These studies rival the US report in quality and consideration. Although the otherworldliness of these studies may seem foreign to the US, these worlds may hold some unconsidered truths. This is not to say, however, that these other studies are perfect: they too have biases. In the next sections, the ambitious biases of the EU, the state-centric biases of the Russian report, and conflict-prone biases of NATO will become evident in the following summaries as we continue to build toward a clearer understanding of why these frameworks matter to our future values.

Before we proceed, though, I must note a shortcoming of this study. Unfortunately, one methodological selection bias that I have been unable to mitigate is that I do not consider global trends reports from Asia, Africa, Latin America, or the Middle East. The reason for this is simple: I could not find any such report. My hope is that this study may suggest to policymakers in those lands how they might conduct future global trends analysis, and in turn, how their own studies may in the future improve considerations found here.

At the end of each description of these alternative worlds, I will introduce a number of ethical challenges that each world poses, including identifying who should be the principal actors to manage our values, determining whether values can be forced upon citizens, and questioning how universal our values really are.


The European Union Institute for Security Studies and the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) published its first “Global Trends 2030: Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World” in April 2012.[19] The report covers trends also found in its US counterpart such as the empowerment of individuals due to a rising global middle class, digital information, and the new world of the Internet; demographic challenges of aging and migration; food, water, and energy scarcities due to climate change; and power diffusion toward Asia and today’s middle countries as well as the rise of the importance of soft power. Although there may be emphatic or narrative differences, the American and European drafters seem to be in agreement with these larger general trends. “EU Global Trends 2030” also tells a story that moves from the individual, to the society, to the state, and to the possible future. However, as its subtitle subtlety suggests, there are two important differences between the reports that arise from both traditional and methodological biases.

First, the EU report envisions only one possible future world, namely an Interconnected Polycentric one. Why might this be? I would suggest that traditional European values and biases, although admirable and aspirational toward our four values, led the report to exclude consideration of other possible scenarios. The report’s traditional bias comes to light as the beginning of its second chapter on converging values begins, “The realization that there is ultimately one global community will come about primarily because of the collective realization that people share similar aspirations and difficulties.”[20] Further, in terms of normative scope, the EU report encompasses more topics than the US report. The EU report places a greater focus on a “post-Huntingtonian” global human community that values human development, human security, human rights, democracy, women’s equality, non-conflicting identities, and the earth.[21] Consequently, the EU report’s outlook is more peaceful and Kantian than some of the more conflicted, Hobbesian worlds foreseen by the NIC. On the one hand, this is indeed a better, more desirable world. On the other hand, however, neglecting to consider other worlds may be problematic because we may not be able to cope with alternative worlds that could endanger the values that they—and we—hold dearly.

This one future world most resembles the decentered, best-case Fusion alternative world in the US report. However, unlike the framework of US “Global Trends 2030” the European report does not attempt to design alternative scenarios based on the variability of major and minor trends. The authors are cognoscente to mention that there are a great many uncertainties such as increased risks of intra- and interstate conflict, strains on resources, and potential governance gaps, but EU “Global Trends 2030” does not sketch out in detail the world with much higher resolution of variability. This is not to say that the authors do not write about conflict-ridden events: they discuss, in as great of length as (and sometimes at greater length than) the US report, topics such as great power rivalry between the US and China, pandemics, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear war, cyber attacks, a stalled global economy, increasing regional instabilities, private militaries, and space wars.

However, although a thorough reading of the report would not leave one in the dark about what a polycentric world could look like, that mental picture and operational logic is unclear. Depending on the reader, this opacity may lead to the risk of EU “Global Trends 2030” over-determining a value-rich future while US “Global Trends 2030” may under-determine such. The question of whether or not we can take for granted our values or if we will have to fight for them is the essential project of policy. There is a great difference between what should happen and what will happen.

This is particularly problematic when one considers the other subtle, but consequential difference between the two reports. The methodology of the EU report was similar to the US’s with another key exception. Like the NIC, ESPAS used a mix of in-house and contract-based experts from EU institutions, think tanks, and elsewhere. ESPAS also consulted with academics, think tanks, and policy planning departments at regional conferences across the world. However, unlike the US report, the EU incorporated youth focus groups of 20–30-year-old students, activists, and civil society on questions of identity, future challenges and opportunities for their countries, and political participation on social networks.

The inclusion of youthful opinion is not trivial. They, after all, are the ones who will have the longest of futures. The NIC’s exclusion of this group may have precluded the US drafters from conceiving of such a similar world community. Focus groups were held in Egypt, Pakistan, Indian, China, the US, Brazil, France, Russia, and Turkey. The liberal character of the EU report then may have stemmed from beyond the researchers’ own personal biases and could be a reflection of technologically interconnected youth from across the world. Although it may be too much to say that perception is all of reality, its reflexive effects arguably have some bearing on future behavior.[22] Quite simply, the way that the youth foresee the future will likely affect what they will do today.

These two biases, traditional and methodological, converge toward a particular problem. Walzer argued that a decentered world—the category to which the Interconnected Polycentric world belongs—offered us the best possibility to achieve our four core values.[23] However, although Walzer’s conceptualization of a decentered world allows us to consider this potential, it is not quite clear what would be the best decentered world that would optimize our values. Note that polycentrism is not necessarily the same as multipolarity. While the former emphasizes many different centers, the latter applies only to the centrality of states. A polycentric world could be a multipolar world that focuses only on states (e.g., the US’s Fusion or Stalled Engines), but it may not necessarily be so. A world with many centers could have some centers that are traditional state powers and others that are multinational corporations, international institutions, or networks of individuals, such as the NIC’s Nonstate World.

Will the future be polycentric or multipolar, and which would we prefer? Whether we strive toward a the US best-case world driven primarily by states in a Fusion world or by civil society and states in an EU-conceived Interconnected Polycentric one will have consequences on how we can today plan ahead for tomorrow. This question will be more fully discussed in the final chapter, but for now, we can say that the US and the EU are not the only actors who will have to cope with this question.

European Union Global Trends 2030:
Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World

Theme Major Trends Ancillary Trends
Empowerment of individuals: A global human community but a growing expectations gap Empowerment of individuals Global rise of the middle class
More education: the cornerstone of knowledge societies
The evolving information age: empowerment but threats to privacy
A universal information revolution: the new world of the Internet
Converging values and demands, but risk of extremism The universal spread of human rights and democracy
Improving women’s rights
More sharing of the earth
An increasingly “post-Huntingtonian” world
Increasing expectations gaps and risks of extremism and nationalism
Demands for political participation but dangers of populism More gender politics
Multiplication of non-conflicting identities
Increasing “development with dignity”
More participatory democracy
Greater human development but inequality, climate change, and scarcity A rising middle class but persistent poverty and inequality Rising wealth in developing economies
A shift of economic gravity to Asia and the developing world
Demographics: aging and slow growth in the West and East Asia
Demographic pressures migration
Ongoing financial instability
Output and greening pressures
Less abject poverty, but persistent poverty and inequality
A greater focus on women and development
Inequality and the hyper-rich
Social challenges in advanced economies
Climate change and scarcities: challenges to human development Climate change and scarcity
Water scarcity
Natural resource scarcity: energy
Other resource scarcities
Delivering the green industrial revolution
Human security: protecting citizens Major conflict trends
Scarcity and strategic interests
Military technology and future conflicts
Regional conflict trends
A polycentric world but a growing governance gap A power shift to Asia but greater uncertainty A world of diffuse power
Soft power
The great powers
Uncertainty for some great powers
Uncertainty for some rising middle powers
Regionalism as a vector of power
Diffusion of power but dangers of fragmentation A world of networks
A world of private actors
A world of cities
Increasing global initiatives but governance gaps Global politics
Charting the future: the governance factor
Governance and responsibility: normative competition and contamination
Reforming global governance: synthesis, resilience, and fairness
Towards governance hubs?


In Russia, the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IWE), one of the countries most preeminent think tanks, produced its first global forecasting report, “Strategic Global Outlook 2030” in 2011.[24] While the IWE’s past reports focused solely on economic concerns, this current effort focused on similar considerations as those found in the US and EU reports. “Strategic Global Outlook 2030” presents only one possible world: a Hierarchal Polycentric one. However, despite its name, this possible world remains state-centric. Thus, in context of our definitions, the foreseen Russian world would better be conceived as a hierarchal multipolar one falling somewhere between Walzer’s decentered and federated categories.

The arrival at one future may be due to similar selection biases found in the EU study. The methodological biases of the Russian report are more opaque than the other two reports. All that readers are told is that the report is the product of an interdisciplinary study by a large panel of experts with much experience in researching various global issues. Readers do not know whether these experts are academics, government workers, part of the private sector, members of NGOs, or part of civil society. Although the Russian report mentions now familiar trends such as declining interstate conflict, technological innovation, globalization, and a rising global middle class, the report appears less polished than its US and EU counterparts, and it is unclear how the IWE derived its trends. This may be why some statements appear to be simple unquestionable assertions without elaboration (e.g., “The world economy will face no limitations from consumer demand.”[25] or “By 2030, the world will not suffer from the shortage of energy resources.”[26]).

Hierarchy of a Polycentric World[27]

On the other hand, traditional biases are more apparent. “Strategic Global Outlook 2030” does not see the rise of the individual as a world-changing megatrend nor do demographic changes play much of a role. Instead, increasing globalization, state power diffusions, and increasing demands for state leadership are the key trends of the future.

The US will continue to be on top as the global military, innovative, financial, and economic leader. On the level immediately below the US are the EU and China. The EU will continue to institutionalize a common political and economic identity to form a “collective actor” while China will be an actor with a potential future leadership role. Russia belongs on the next level down with its natural resources, nuclear and military power, and research and development investments. The next level below Russia is occupied by the middle powers of Japan, India, Brazil, and possibly South Africa, Turkey, and South Korea. At the bottom of the pyramid are countries with limited resources, power, and influence on regional and global political and economic processes. Note the absences of individuals and civil society as major actors.

This emphasis on hierarchical state power leads to a peculiar path by which the Russian report implicitly approaches the progress of our future values. The concluding thesis of the report states that Russia should adapt its domestic and foreign strategy to major global trends in order to avoid marginalization, cope with future risks, and exploit new opportunities from globalization.[28] The development of the values depends on the reform of domestic political, social, legal and educational institutions to align with the principles of globalization and “non-destabilizing inequality.” [29]

Note, however, that the impetus for improved values arises due to outside pressures on the Russian state, rather than through some grassroots movement or individual appeal toward the values themselves. Given the hierarchal future envisioned, this should not be a surprise considering Walzer’s category of a federation of nation-states. The benefits of a global federation come at a great cost: this order is most likely to be forced upon states rather than chosen since no state would ideally chose to subjugate itself to another.[30] Economic and militarily powerful states heavily influence what values other states can enjoy. A hierarchical order that prefers peace and economic globalization can lead to positive developments in global values. Less developed states that agree to an ordering may lead to improved material equality. Also, since states agree to an order, they will be less likely to go to war with one another. Thus, the probability for interstate conflict is low. Further, an ordering ensures that each society on a different rung of the global ladder will enjoy a degree of autonomy. Thus, states will enjoy some security over their own cultures. For some peoples, however, it is unclear to what extent intrastate conflict will occur or how the potential for state repression might affect individual liberties and group rights.

In the Russian case, we see how both traditional and methodological biases led to a future world where our values may be improved for citizens, however, these values are arrived at perversely. On one hand, a utilitarian ethical interpretation may see no harm in such a path as long as the values improve in the end. On the other hand, deontological or communitarian accounts might question whether such an end can truly be achieved if values are forced upon from above. This is another open question with no easy answer that we will return to in the final chapter.

Russia Strategic Global Outlook 2030

Theme Major Trends Description of Trends
International security A more stable world The world will face less radical changes and shocks than in the previous twenty years
More responsible leadership Globalization of security and development issues will bring about changes in strategic thinking of political elites of leading nations from a “center of power” orientation to one of “responsible leadership”
More coordination of global powers for international peace will prevail over inclinations to conflict Widening usage of “soft” and “smart” powers in foreign policy through financial and economic superiority, science and technological advancements, culture and education, and of ideological influence.
Increasing calls to reform the UN, WTO, IMF, and other organizations
There will be increasing cooperation of global and regional powers in the maintenance of international security with regional integration happening in Europe, the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and to a much lesser extent in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Positive developments in global powers security There will be gradual democratic reforms in China, as well as an increasing number of democratic countries with rising nationalism.
Nuclear nonproliferation between the US and Russia will be maintained at lower levels. Great Britain, France, and China may disarm faster.
Increasing trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific security arrangements NATO will remain the foundation for Trans-Atlantic security with some global dimensions, cooperating with Russia and China in some regions such as Central Asia and Afghanistan.
A new model for Trans-Pacific security will emerge on the basis of military and political cooperation among the US, China, Russia, Japan, and other countries in the region.
Traditional challenges Rising importance of advantages in financial, economic, and natural resources; global interdependence; and manipulation of information to influence public opinion.
New challenges New priorities in the security sphere, included human security; protection of property rights, information security; and habitat safety
Non-traditional threats will be the front line of international military and political cooperation
Economy World economic growth 4–4.5% average annual rate of growth in GDP
Innovation breakthroughs in new materials; bioengineering; human health products and services; energy conservation; humanitarian and social technologies; non-traditional sources of hydrocarbons; and nano-, bio-, info- and cognitive technologies.
China, the US, middle-income countries, the EU, and India will be the main contributors of world economic growth. China will become the world leading consumer market.
Regional integration Integration will progress in the EU. A new level of integration in the Asia-Pacific will take the form of a free trade area of “ASEAN, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea”
Globalization and global economic governance Globalization will go beyond finance toward intellectual pursuits, e.g., skilled labor, art, medicine, education, culture, entertainment.
Financial markets will stabilize as the real economy becomes less dependent on finance.
Improvement in global financial governance with new legitimacy of the IMF and the G-20
Ideology Liberal democratic globalization Globalization based on market and democratic principles will remain the leading ideology.
Global governance Ideologies will be increasingly interconnected with global political social, economic, and cultural trends rather than only the domestic political life of countries
Social sphere Rising inequalities may undermine not only national social systems, but will cause international social problems (migration, demographics, ethnic conflicts, etc.) Growing stratification of the global middle class along with the increase of its population in absolute terms. The poor will represent 20% of the global population whereas 10% will be on the verge of starvation. There will be a rapid increase in the number of millionaires and billionaires in China, India, Brazil, Russia, and other rapidly growing economies.


The US, EU, and Russia are not the only actors studying the future. Multilateral organizations have also engaged in global trends analysis. Although the World Bank, various UN agencies, and other think tanks such as ZIF Centre for International Peace Operations have published their own global trends analyses, these organizations have focused primarily on their own parochial themes of interest such a development or the environment, and few have looked forward years in advance like our previously mentioned studies. However, perhaps the most systematic, comprehensive, and forward-thinking study, despite a limited focus, can be found in NATO’s “Multiple Futures Project: Navigating Towards 2030” report published in 2009.[31] Unlike the Russian and EU visions, but like the US report, NATO envisions four possible worlds. They arrive at these worlds by looking at their own elaborate set of drivers and trends. However, the values in these worlds take on a unique constraint not found in the other reports: concerns over peace and security take precedence over all other values.

Despite NATO’s strong framework, it also has its own selection biases. NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance, hence traditional biases led to the prediction of futures primarily concerned with state security matters. It was concerned specifically with what member states can do to protect their populations, territory, and values. As described in the report’s opening pages, the Multiple Futures Project “focuses on future challenges, on their relative nature and gravity, and on what the Alliance can do today to prepare for tomorrow. It offers insights into the difficult choices associated with managing risk, in order to protect the most vital element of the Alliance, its population.”[32] More so than any of the previously mentioned reports, NATO is concerned with matters of life and death. The choices to go to war, intervene, or do nothing are NATO’s essential policy options. Thus, peace is the value most emphasized in the report, while liberty, distributive justice, and cultural pluralism are of second-order importance. This orientation of preparing for challenges and conflicts raises the question of whether readers are only given the worst, most violent of all possible worlds to deal with rather than others that consider these latter three values on par with peace.

Since the report mentions few specifics about how NATO conducted its study, it is difficult to ascertain how it’s methodological biases led to these particular four futures rather than others. NATO attempted to be open, transparent, and inclusive in its study. It worked with national and international organizations, and conducted a number of workshops internally within the North Atlantic Council and Military Committee with representatives from forty-five nations from more than sixty institutions, with a total of 500 political, military, civil, and economic experts from the public and private sectors.[33] However, NATO left undisclosed which particular states and organizations participated. It was further unclear what was the distribution of people from the military, civil government, nongovernmental, academic, and private sectors.

This methodological opacity, however, does not mean that the report’s framework was simplistic or lacking in explanation. To the contrary, its framework is perhaps the most systematic of all the global trends reports discussed thus far. In the report, the building blocks are nine drivers of change, which are divided into two different categories: structural and deterministic. Keeping constant and varying the weights of these drivers, NATO then designed four possible futures: Darkside of Exclusivity, Deceptive Stability, Clash of Modernities, and New Powers. The drafters of the report then looked beyond scenarios: they determined three benchmarks and goals that policymakers would value most: the endangerment of people, territorial integrity, and values and ideas. Decisions on global trends only matter to NATO officials insofar as they protect their member states’ domestic populations locally and abroad; secure their national borders; and preserve Western cultural norms, values, and political systems. Finally, given these trends, scenarios, and values, NATO identified so-called “risk conditions” that would influence the three objectives and allow Alliance policymakers to make future decisions.

The structural drivers are friction, integration, and asymmetry. These trends have been influential throughout history for centuries, and for our purposes, they might best be understood as comparable to the NIC’s concept of megatrends. Friction refers to the global distribution of power and the degree to which cooperation and conflict affect decisions at the international level. Integration refers to globalization and economic trade. Asymmetry refers to the wealth and power discrepancy between states. On the other hand, deterministic drivers are those trends that will have the greatest impact on security in the coming decades. The remaining six drivers include changing state capacity, resource allocation, climate change, technology, demographics, and competing ideologies and worldviews.

Note that many of these drivers overlap with the US report’s focus on diffusion of power; demographic patterns; and the food, water, and energy nexus. However, a focus on individual empowerment is noticeably absent as a global trend. Individuals have instead been designated as a “source of threat,” i.e., a risk that could endanger NATO’s people, territory, or values. Why might this be? On the one hand, the answer may be simple. NATO may not see the rise of the individual as a defining feature of the future. Perhaps in the end, technological advancements in NATO’s view may only lead to improved lives for individuals, but such gains will not rival the power of states in this worldview. However, another reason might be that traditional organizational biases that place an emphasis on states as the primary actors might have blinded the researchers from the notion that nonstate actors such as individuals, NGOs, or transnational civil networks could upend conventional thinking.

An identifiable methodological difference between the NATO report and the other studies presented so far is that it considered ideologies and worldviews as a trend rather than an outcome. According to its definition, ideologies and worldviews deal with the alienation of and confrontations among individuals and groups that might arise due to differences in values, religion, and historical geopolitical perspectives. Implicit in this driver is the question of whether global cultural convergence will happen.[34] Will there be one global state or a collection of states that share identical values? Compare this to the envisioned European Interconnected Polycentric world. Although the EU report saw a convergence of shared values as an ultimate trend, most of the worlds in the NATO report are direct challenges to the liberal, post-Huntingtonian international community thought to naturally arise in the EU report. NATO is open to the possibility that in the future, cultures may collide, and divergence could lead to inter- or intrastate conflict. Our shared global values are not forgone: we may have to fight for them—and some of us more than others.

NATO designed four possible worlds by keeping constant and varying the weights of their nine drivers. Their Dark Side of Exclusivity world focused on how detrimental climate change, poor resource allocation, failed economic integration, and conflicting ideologies and worldviews will challenge state sovereignty. This scenario falls into Walzer’s international anarchy category and in part resembles the US Gini Out-of-the Bottle world. No international governance structures will prevent inequality for the poorest. The countries of today’s developed world will best be able to adapt to these challenges while weak and failed states not integrated into the global economy, starved of resources, and maladaptive to climate change will suffer the most. Liberty will be variegated: individuals living in rich countries will enjoy more freedom to pursue their preferences, whereas individuals in poor countries will see no such opportunities. The fight for cultural pluralism and dominance in these developing countries will be fierce. These challenges will lead the developing world to face a proliferation of radical ideologies and spill over of ethnic, religious, and ideological conflicts. While the specter of war may not affect developed countries, the poorer nations will have the least prospects for peace. NATO countries will have to decide whether to intervene to safeguard its own people, territory, and ideas. If these conflicts spill over to neighboring states with such threats as weapons of mass destruction, then intervention would be mandatory. If none of these three values are at risk, then there will be no action. However, if a mix of these values is at stake, member states will have to make difficult decisions on whether to intervene in fragile states.

The Deceptive Stability world is also similar to the US Gini Out-of-the Bottle world, but leans more toward Walzer’s weak states and institutions category. Inequality, variegated liberty, poor prospects for peace, and fights for cultural dominance in the developing countries are also persistent though relatively less severe features of this world than in the Darkside of Exclusivity. In this scenario, high asymmetry, growing demographics, poor resource allocation, and conflicting ideologies and worldviews will preoccupy resource-rich developed states with domestic concerns due to aging populations, urbanization, and governance gaps, while resource-poor states will confront the world with transnational criminal activities, spill-over conflicts, and uncontrolled migration of their youth. Despite their relative internal stability, but due to their inward focus, liberal democracies will be too distracted with their own domestic concerns to intervene, and their ability to anticipate and shape their external security environments will be more limited.

The Clash of Modernities world may be categorized as an overlapping of Walzer’s international civil society and decentered worlds. In terms of global political form, it is the union of the EU’s Interconnected Polycentric and the US’s Nonstate worlds. However, in terms of political character it is a more fragmented and conflicted world community than the EU and US visions. The character of values in this world principally depends on global networks. Although for NATO, the concept of disconnected networks goes beyond technology and essentially emphasizes political, social, and economic networks, a useful conceptualization of these dangers is captured by the concept of a “balkanized Internet” where differing levels of state control over the globalized Internet will lead to a more fractured collection of networks characterized with differing levels of freedom.[35] In terms of pluralism, networks will define two broad cultural groups: those that belong to modern networks and those that do not. This world focuses on how ideologies and worldviews, demographics, and technology will shape multiple advanced-network societies that can connect with one another and grow mega-cities of wealth and culture.[36] Governance in the developed world is diffuse, multi-layered, and network-centric. Individuals in the developed world network will be at liberty to connect with people, resources, and organizations across the world.

However, there may also be a danger that individual liberty may run wild from the perspective of some of these states. In this view, member states may elect to monitor their own technologically empowered citizens as much as foreign individuals and groups. Today’s Assanges, Mannings, and Snowdens may be a glimpse of the future challenges for states. Such surveillance will challenge how people will weigh the balance between liberty and privacy versus peace and security. These actors’ concerns on the future tradeoff between privacy—a variant of liberty—and security—a variant of peace—warrant mention in order to be as unbiased as possible. In revealing himself to be the whistleblower of National Security Agency surveillance of personal online activity, Edward Snowden explained, “I don’t see myself as a hero because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”[37] Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, in response to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s and Google Ideas head Jared Cohen’s The New Digital Age and concerns over government surveillance argues:

The advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism . . . . But while Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen tell us that the death of privacy will aid governments in “repressive autocracies” in “targeting their citizens,” they also say governments in “open” democracies will see it as “a gift” enabling them to “better respond to citizen and customer concerns.” In reality, the erosion of individual privacy in the West and the attendant centralization of power make abuses inevitable, moving the “good” societies closer to the “bad” ones.[38]

While this review may be unfair to the content the book since both Schmidt and Cohen raise concerns over how connectivity will challenge how we might secure our liberty and privacy, Snowden and Assange are interesting because they claim to pursue universal values through legally questionable, if not outright illegal, ways. In whatever esteem readers may hold these actors, we can see what extremes some—states or individuals—might take to fight for their own vision of the future.

In this balkanized view, privacy concerns will be very different for those in developing countries outside of the modern network. On one hand, the disconnected areas in the developing world that fail to join modern networks will not have the luxury to worry about such privacy concerns because they will not enjoy such a degree of liberty. On the other hand, such powerful surveillance technologies in the hands of tyrannical regimes such as Syria or North Korea could cost some citizens their lives. These areas that are disconnected, segregated, and disassociated are the sources of the most conflict for the developed world since peace and economic fairness cannot be maximized in these countries’ pre-modern networks. Intervention by NATO countries appears more limited in this world, but they will still have to remain vigilant for their own protection in combating transnational organized crime, intellectual piracy, and arms trafficking. Developed states’ foreign policy, including humanitarian action, might entail integrating threatening countries into modern networks.[39]

The New Power Politics scenario is NATO’s variation of Walzer’s decentered world. It most resembles the US’s Stalled Engines world with a more Hobbesian character in that competition and equality among states are driving factors that may lead to conflict. According to NATO’s framework, competing ideologies and worldviews, conflicts over resource allocation, and a lack of economic integration characterize a future of multipolar power politics where absolute wealth grows, but regional powers compete for influence and resources—particularly in ungoverned areas—for their own domestic populations but against others.’ Peace within those regions exists but conflict among regions is less certain. Consequently, both individual liberty and cultural pluralism will be variegated according to region in addition to nation and society. No regional power has a dominant global reach as spheres of influence and ideological supremacy shift. Thus, a tyrannical threat to our values from one nation is not foreseen.

However, a potentially more dreadful threat may have dire consequences on our values. In this New Power Politics world, weapons of mass destruction could proliferate across nations and cause a great deal of uncertainty. It is unclear whether the nuclear peace theory of second-strike-induced restraint held by Kenneth Waltz or a global nuclear winter will ensure or endanger our peace, and consequently our liberty, justice, and pluralism.[40] In Walzer’s idealized conception of this type of world, our four values have the most potential for optimization, however, in NATO’s variation we see that our values are not necessarily the best that they could be, existing as more qualified, geospatially contingent, and under constant threat. A bias ensuring peace over all other values may be the main cause of such a suboptimal future.

NATO Multiple Futures Project:
Navigating Towards 2030

Drivers and Sources Major Trends Description of Trends
Structural Friction
(distribution of power)
The degree of ease with which decisions are made at the international level, functions in essence as a relative power meter, ranging from cooperation to confrontation.
The degree to which national and regional economies trade, and their level of functional integration.
(states/political entities)
The relative discrepancy between states in terms of wealth and power, and influences international relations in terms of both development and security.
Deterministic State capacity The distribution and management of power at the state level.
China, the US, middle-income countries, the EU, and India will be the main contributors of world economic growth. China will become the world leading consumer market.
Climate change Any long-term significant change in the “average weather” that may have an impact on international relations.
Use of technology The evolution and availability of technology up to 2030.
(migration and urbanization)
Domestic population trends related to birth, death, age, income, ethnicity, and the other characteristics of a state’s population. It includes migration, urbanization, and external factors.
Competing ideologies and worldviews Alienation and confrontation based on different values, religion, and historic geopolitical perspectives.
Sources of threat Super-empowered individuals Individuals who have overcome constraints, conventions, and rules to wield unique political, economic, intellectual, or cultural influence over people and events.
Extremist nonstate actors Non-sovereign entities expressing extremist values and ideas that exercise significant economic, political, or social power and influence at a national, and in some cases international, level.
Organized crime A structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time, who act in concert with the aim of committing serious crimes or offenses in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.
Rogue states States that act without respect for other states or global norms and rules.
Confrontational powers Those powers that are quick to resort to force or threaten the use of force disproportionately to what is at stake and how it affects their vital interests.
Nature The manner in which the physical world exists and changes of its own accord, such as weather and geology, and the physical forces that shape the world.

I will end this chapter with a particular focus on the value of peace in the developing world, since NATO’s most immediate concern may be peace for its own countries, our unbiased concern is for a plurality of values as well as the abstract individual regardless of chance station.

The NATO report implicitly highlights how interdependent our four values are on one another: an overemphasis on peace, despite its benefits, may limit the potential optimization of our other values. The traditional biases of NATO limit us from considering those people whose values might be left the worst off, since all of NATO’s future worlds leave people in fragile states outside of its fundamental decision-making process. Developed states’ interests will continue to be the primary condition for intervention—as they perhaps always have. In the Deceptive Stability world, developed countries ignore conflict countries at their own peril. The Clash of Modernities world similarly focuses on blocking threats of individuals from affecting affairs within their own borders. The Darkside of Exclusivity world leaves intervention as certain only if NATO’s people, territory, and ideas are at stake, but merely optional when these values are not challenged. However, the most dynamic scenario for fragile states is, ironically, the most competitive one among major powers. A New Power Politics world that has multiple powers competing for influence may lead to proxy conflicts in developing states or to active unilateral intervention by great powers pursing stability in their regional neighborhood. However, for those people in countries that are not new powers, not in those neighborhoods, and not falling within great power interest, there will be fewer opportunities for humanitarian interventions and peacekeeping since no power will take responsibility or assume accountability—in the form of blood and treasure—for the values of other peoples. For example, the present-day humanitarian interventions by NATO in Libya and France in Mali, show that the option to act may be viable even when core matters of state security are not in question, while the now almost three-year-long civil war raging in Syria today in an atmosphere of Western hesitance is a stark reminder of the limits humanitarian values that are supposedly universal.

In the end, this leaves us with another set of difficult questions. How shared and universal will our values be when we, within capable developed countries, choose not to intervene to protect values for all people regardless of boundaries? On the other hand, in the attempt to protect others, how much would we threaten our own values when it is viewed as supererogatory rather than a matter of duty to place our own lives and livelihoods in danger? Even further, could the future of those in the developing world be brighter than predicted by NATO—might the economic rise of the rest, the decline of inter- and intra-state conflict, and the rising human demand for our values preclude the call for Western intervention across South and Central Asia, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Central Andes, and Central America? Like Walzer, political theorist Andrew Hurrell argues, “a pluralist and multipolar order is actually a morally better system than one in which power is heavily concentrated,”[41] In describing the fall of Western dominance, the decentering of the global world order, and the diffusion of power, Hurrell critiques past Western interpretations of justice for arrogantly focusing on what the rich world owed to distant strangers. This bias led to a form of global justice characterized by paternalism and interventionism rather than mutual respect:[42]

The impact of globalization on emerging states and societies has all too often been conceived in polar—terms incorporation versus exclusion; fusion versus fragmentation; modernizing, liberalizing coalitions versus confessional, nationalist, or Third World-ist counterforces. However, patterns of binary thinking are extremely unhelpful—analytically, normatively, and politically. Instead, we need to understand the relationship between the outside and the inside and to track the processes by which Western ideas of international order and capitalist modernity have been transposed into different national and regional contexts, as well as the mutual constitution of ideas and understanding that result from that interaction.[43]

I am not sure of what the right course of action should or will be, but I believe that the answers to these questions will expose our true biases and values. A more formal consideration of these questions will be raised in the final chapter.

[19] European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS), “Global Trends 2030: Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World,” Paris: Institute for Security Studies, European Union, April 2012, available at www.iss.europa.eu/publications/detail/article/espas-report-global-trends-2030-citizens-in-an-interconnected-and-polycentric-world .

[20] Ibid., p. 39.

[21] A “Huntingtoninan” world refers to a post-Cold War world where the divisions of culture and the fault lines of civilizations determine the battle lines of future conflict. See Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?,” Foreign Affairs 72, No. 3 (Summer 1993): 22–49.

[22] I use the term “reflexivity” generally to refer to the sociological concept developed by a range of thinkers and scholars, including Karl Popper, Thomas Nagel, Anthony Giddens, and Pierre Bourdieu.

[23] Walzer, “Governing the Globe,” p. 50.

[24] Alexander A. Dynkin, “Strategic Global Outlook 2030,” Moscow: Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2011, available at www.imemo.ru/en/publ/2011/forecasts/11001.pdf .

[25] Ibid., p. 29.

[26] Ibid., p. 30.

[27] Adapted from ibid., p. 41.

[28] Ibid., p. 48.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Walzer, “Governing the Globe,” p. 49.

[31] NATO, “Multiple Futures Project: Navigating Towards 2030,” 2009, available at www.iris-france.org/docs/pdf/up_docs_bdd/20090511-112315.pdf .

[32] Ibid., p. 3.

[33] Ibid., pp. 3–4.

[34] For an optimistic assessment, see Kishore Mahbubani, The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World (New York: Public Affairs, 2013).

[35] See Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu, Who Controls the Internet: Illusions of a Borderless World (New York: Oxford University Press 2006).

[36] For a more detailed illustration of networks and how developed states such as the United States can benefit see Anne-Marie Slaughter, “America’s Edge: Power in the Networked Century,” Foreign Affairs 88, No. 1 (January/February 2009): 94–113.

[37] Glenn Greenwald, “Edward Snowden: The Whistleblower Behind the NSA Surveillance Revelations,” The Guardian, June 9, 2013.

[38] Julian Assange, “The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil,’” The New York Times, June 1, 2013.

[39] For possible technology-focused strategies toward integration, see United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Humanitarianism in the Network Age, OCHA Policy and Studies Series (New York: UN, 2013). The report calls for recognizing information as an essential need in humanitarian action. States would have to build their own capacities to ensure that information is open and shared freely and responsibly.

[40] Kenneth Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,” Adelphi Papers, No.171, London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981.

[41] Andrew Hurrell, “Power Transitions, Global Justice, and the Virtues of Pluralism,” Ethics and International Affairs 27, No. 2 (2013): 189–205, p. 196.

[42] Ibid., p. 195.

[43] Ibid., p. 203.

Copyright © 2014 by Thong Nguyen

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Of All Possible Future Worlds: Global Trends, Values, and Ethics by Thong Nguyen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.