Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development

In May of 2010 the Rockefeller Foundation and Global Business Network produced this report outlining world scenarios that could emerge as a result of future technological development. The stated goal of the report was to “explore the many ways in which technology and development could co-evolve — could both push and inhibit each other — in the future, and then to begin to examine what those possible alternative paths may imply for the world’s poor and vulnerable populations.”  What came out of the report was a set of plausible futures each with its own unique set of advantages, disadvantages and challenges.

The first scenario known as “Lock Step”;paints an image of a world ruled by top down government control and authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation.  In this world governments try to control the research, development and proliferation of advanced  technologies for  health, safety and national security reasons.

In the second scenario “Cleaver Together”; the report illustrates how the emergence of highly coordinated citizen based strategies for addressing global issues can come from the work of innovators via collective global action. In this world; cooperation between NGOs corporations and communities drive innovative solutions to problems such as climate change, energy shortages, world hunger and poverty.

In the reports third and darkest scenario “Hack Attack”; we read of a world transformed as governments across the globe weaken, criminals thrive and dangerous technological innovations emerge onto the world stage. In this world natural disasters, climate  change and disease begin to tear away the very fabric of global society. Technically proficient and organized criminal networks conduct massive cyber attacks on critical government systems, banks and vital database systems globally resulting in an “internet overrun with spam and security threats”.

The fourth scenario “Smart Scramble”;  individuals and communities develop  localized, makeshift solutions to a growing set of problems. In this world “the United States lost much of its  presence and credibility on the international stage due to deepening debt, debilitated markets and a distracted government.” This scenario seems closest to the world we live in now, sharply marked by a DIY approach to local, national and transnational problems. Individuals are compelled to create their own innovative solutions by leveraging the technology available to them. Interesting to note; the report mentions how “widespread micro-manufacturing, using 3D printers, enables the fabrication of replacement components for engines and machines, allowing “perpetual maintenance” to compensate for broken trade links.”

You can read the full report here entitled “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development