The Next 50 Years: Unfolding Trends



Change in modern societies comes both because of sudden, and often catastrophic, events and because of the gradual unfolding of fundamental demographic, social, economic, strategic, and environmental trends. A previous essay by the author assessed the probabilities over the coming five decades of the most important natural and anthropogenic catastrophes with possible global impacts. This essay surveys key socioeconomic trends of the next 50 years. While the ranking and comparative assessments of the importance, intensity, and durability of these trends may be elusive, their historic background, complexity, linkages, and likely consequences can be illuminated by focusing on the long-term futures of six major global actors: the United States, the European Union, the Muslim world, Japan, Russia, and China. This appraisal suggests a likelihood of a world without a dominant power (or a grand alliance) and subject to a potentially worrisome fragmentation.