Visions of the future (2030, to be precise), courtesy of U.S. spies

"3-D printed organs. Brain chips providing superhuman abilities. Megacities, built from scratch. The U.S. intelligence community is taking a look at the world of 2030. And it is very, very sci-fi." Noah Shachtman at Danger Room, on a future-brainstorming thinktank for spies.



  1. Every four or five years, the futurists at the National Intelligence Council take a stab at forecasting what the globe will be like two decades hence…

    Before I get too excited about their latest predictions I think I’d like to review the ones they made 20 years ago.

  2.  In 93 they thought that in 2013 everyone from air-traffic controllers to secretaries would be wearing VR Goggles, full immersion VR body suits would replace Television and we’d all be popping smart drugs on a daily basis.

    1. So, a good question is: why didn’t this happen?

      My guess:
      * 3D representation turned out to be a terrible way to organise and interact with data
      * VR technology was always far too expensive, laggy, inconvenient, and generally inferior to normal tech
      * The internet (and its social iteration) came and started replacing TV instead
      * Those smart drugs don’t exist

      1. Those drugs exist, and could be furthered in a very rapid frame of time, the mistake was in assuming society would somehow abandon all its previous dogmas and accept easy access and research into drugs with very cool effects and very scary implications.

        Amphetamine derivatives are still being discovered, and plenty are still lying in binders that will likely never be made because they’re too fun, or judged as too dangerous/powerful for release.  We just haven’t put any effort there. 

  3. Megacities from scratch?  You’ll have to clean up old Detroit before building Delta City, and how exactly are you going to do that???

  4. “Megacities built from scratch”, built up quick by machines I guess? My optimistic hope is that by 2030 (or a decade or two later) we could be at the point where basically every step in manufacturing goods (aside from designing new ones, and mining the raw materials) can be done by robots, and these robots can also be programmed to manufacture more manufacturing-bots (and build factories where they can “work” along with all needed equipment), so if you have one robot factory it can self-replicate as long as you feed it the necessary materials and energy. Doesn’t seem like such a far-off goal given how much of manufacturing is already done by machines, and how robots’ abilities to navigate real-world environments has improved to the point where we have self-driving cars. But if we could reach this point it seems like we’d be on the verge of a post-scarcity economy where the cost of manufactured goods is not much above cost of raw materials and energy needed to make them, and people could work much less, with something like a guaranteed minimum income that was enough to give everyone a good standard of living (of course trying to give everyone in the world a middle-class lifestyle could potentially make environmental problems even worse, but an era of cheap robot manufacturing could also make it much more feasible to build massive arrays of solar panels and wind turbines and such, and maybe huge numbers of CO2 absorbing machines too).

    1. Even if the tech was available, when was the last time anyone really NEEDED a megacity built from scratch? Who would commission such a thing, and for what purpose? Maybe a manufacturing-based settlement in rural China?

      “We need a huge metropolis right… here! You have until next Thursday.”

      1. I agree, I was really just using the megacity prediction as a jumping-off point to talk about how that level of robotics would probably have much more radical effects on society than just new cities springing up (like post-scarcity and the end of capitalism as we know it).

  5. I had trouble finding a direct link from the NIC webpage (so intelligent, they can’t put their report on their “reports” page) so here is a direct link to a PDF of the report:

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