Monday, November 15, 2010

The Future of Tourism

David Hunter Tow, Director of the Future Planet Research Centre, forecasts the Tourism Industry of today will be unrecognizable by 2040/50. The industry currently lacks the foresight and planning required to prepare for a radically different human lifestyle. The majority of operators and investors are still in denial, rushing into short term investments, oblivious to the monumental changes ahead, driven by global climate change – both environmental and social.
Like lemmings they follow the next faddish trend and five-year business plan, destined for annihilation over the cliff of the future.

By 2020- the nature of traditional Tourism and Travel will have radically altered in a variety of ways.
There has already been a reduction in overseas business travel through the alternate use of videoconferencing and this trend will accelerate within the general population as more travelers become aware that air transport contributes 3%-4% of global carbon emissions as well as unnecessary costs. It will also have the effect of increasing the popularity of local destinations in many countries, including exploring local wildernesses and heritage sites, as well as the option of numerous exotic city theme parks. Communities in both urban and country areas with common interests will in the future take advantage of local resources to a much greater degree, creating their own discovery and travel themes independently of the larger operators.

Eco-tourism will continue to boom along with high-risk adventure themes such as foot safaris and survival treks. But tourism will also need to become more eco-friendly and socially responsible, with operators offering a choice of carbon offsets such as tree planting and feral species reduction. As part of a standard package, tourists will be required to contribute to reducing the risk of damage to pristine wildernesses and fragile archaeological sites; encouraged to volunteer their time to remediate the environments they visit and becoming more personally involved with the welfare of local indigenous communities.

The larger resort operators will also need to change their mindset and reject their limited view of the role of tourism in the 21st century. At the moment it is a free-rider mentality; exploiting local natural resources instead of adding real value to their preservation and sustainability. Solar panels, water-saving shower heads and drip-fed golf courses do not improve biodiversity or reduce toxic waste runoff.

By 2030- many ecosystems will have degraded or be seriously at risk due to climate change- coral reefs, coastal wetlands, forests, temperate grasslands, mountain glaciers and river systems. At the same time fifteen percent of animal and plant species will have disappeared or be endangered. Tourists will therefore be banned from most national parks and wildernesses, except under strictly controlled conditions and will rush to visit the last great cultural sites and natural remote environments on earth before they disappear or are permanently closed.

The great Tanzanian Serengeti ecosystem reserve- a vast network of swamps, grasslands and woodlands and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world, will be already at risk from development of a major bisecting highway with an inevitable increase in traffic infrastructure. Following this disastrous trend, most wild animal species will in the future be viewed solely in zoos and theme parks.

By 2040- the massive investment in resort and tourism infrastructure in the traditional coastal and tropical areas of South East Asia, Indonesia, Northern Australia, Africa, the Gulf States and countries surrounding the Mediterranean and Black Seas will be at risk of obsolescence and irrelevance. Many traditional holiday playgrounds will become no-go areas except in air-conditioned skyscrapers, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees centigrade- lethal to humans and exacerbated by extreme weather events and rising sea levels. The remaining tourism infrastructure and assets will be converted to assist local communities manage the inevitability of encroaching degraded environments.

With over 50 percent of the world’s population living in city areas including many mega-cities, major urban and surrounding environments will become the main tourist hubs of the future as many are today; but also offering not only traditional entertainment and cultural experiences, but previously exclusively outdoor physical activities such as surfing, skiing, fishing and golfing- now in managed controlled environments. Most major sporting venues will also be fully enclosed against chaotic weather, with synthetic surfaces. All but a handful of golf courses will be phased out as an unacceptable use of land and water resources, which could otherwise be used for essential urban horticulture and public recreation space.

With accelerating global warming radically altering the planet’s climate patterns, a massive population shift from the tropics to the more temperate areas of the northern hemisphere will be an inevitable outcome. Areas of Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Greenland, Canada, and Russia as well as portions of Antarctica, New Zealand and Tasmania in the south, will host the new outdoor tourist playgrounds.
However there will remain major limitations on exploitation of the planet’s few remaining vast wilderness areas, such as the Russian Taiga.

By 2050 tourism will have fragmented into myriad primarily urban exotic experiences, often transacted in virtual and augmented realities; simulating extraordinarily realistic and personal immersive experiences, involving all the senses. Gradually such lifestyle scenarios will be indistinguishable from the previous natural realities, allowing unlimited generated options, as well as surreal trips into space and under the oceans, back in time to historic events and forward into future cosmic civilisations.

In thirty years time the global Tourism Industry will bear little relationship to that of today’s dominant eco-exploitative model. To survive and adapt to the harsh climatic and social conditions ahead, the current business mantra, with its reliance on a relatively benign planet offering unlimited and free natural assets of utopian forests, fecund reefs, snow-capped mountains and sublime oceans, will need to be discredited and discarded.
Tomorrow’s tourist landscape will be vastly different. Natural assets will be replaced by a reality for future generations, which is largely artificial, manufactured and virtual, but one which could still be immensely exciting if creatively seized.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Future of Food

By 2015- global warming will have a major impact on food production. Dislocation in climate patterns, increasing frequency of droughts and floods plus rising population results in less arable land and rising costs of food production. This leads to increased prices of staple foods such as rice, wheat and maize as well as meat, forcing another 100 million people in developing countries into malnutrition including 10 million children in India alone. This is in addition to the already 1 billion already affected by malnutrition. This has severe flow on effects for the future of developing countries as malnutrition severely impacts the cognitive capacity of the next generation.

Food aid is also under pressure from richer countries, as governments are forced to provide priority for food security to their own populations, particularly following a decade of financial turmoil. Friction is also created as major population countries such as China begin buying up arable land in poorer countries as a hedge against future food shortages.

By 2025- the world population will have grown to more than 7 billion. Global demand for grain and animal production now significantly outstrips supply. To satisfy demand, cereal production needs to increase by 50% and animal production by 90%.

Additional arable land equal to 150 million hectares or a minimum 10% of the 1.5 billion hectares already under cultivation is required to keep pace despite improvements in agricultural management and technology. This is likely to come in the short term from areas such as the Congo and Amazonia, further accelerating the onset of global warming and drought as forests are further fragmented.

This creates global unrest with waves of mass migrations in developing countries to the cities. This accelerates the need to make cities and urban environments more food self sufficient, through use of treated sewage, local community food gardens, based on urban harvested water runoff and solar energy collection.

By 2030- major programs are underway to recover genes from ancestor plant species that originally evolved to cope with drought and salinity, together with a return to original middle eastern and African dry land farming techniques.

Rejection of monoculture agriculture- mixed farming seen as the best solution.

There is recognition that conventional breeding techniques for plant traits such as tolerance to dry conditions, may be too complex and time consuming to achieve within the available urgent timeframes. Genetic modification combined with organic farming provides the only answer, with accelerated cooperative science initiatives to increase crop yield, drought tolerance, nutritional value and disease resistance.

A bright spot is the major shift from grains to tuber crops such as potatoes, which need less land and water than grain and are extremely nutritious, with four times as much complex carbohydrate and better quality proteins than grains.

Animal production as a primary source of protein is now seen as unsustainable, as is large-scale use of arable land for cattle grazing, while poultry remains viable on edges of farmland and cities.

Monoculture and irrigation farming is also phased out as unsustainable in terms of inefficient water and land useage.   

World fisheries will also be at risk, with fish traditionally providing 20% of animal protein. All fish, crustacean and sea mammal stocks are severely depleted despite greater conservation controls. The oceans are rapidly becoming too acidic to support sea life including plankton and shellfish. Ocean dead zones, depleted of oxygen, are spreading fast.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization- FAO draws up contingency plans for global food management, planning for relocation of populations from the drying middle to the more habitable northern latitudes.

By 2040- glacial and mountain snow fed sources of water will be in full retreat across the globe. As a result the major river systems in Europe, South America and Asia, providing water to the traditional farming areas of southern Europe, Pakistan, China, India, Afghanistan and Vietnam, begin to dry up.

China’s vast rice fields, providing food for 400 million people and India’s wheat, fruit and vegetable farming locus in the Punjab are severely affected. Most of Africa, the Middle East and Australia are in permanent drought, combined with major depletion of the groundwater aquifers.

Human habitation in the mid-latitudinal belts- 30 degrees north and south of the equator, becomes unsustainable. The only regions with adequate rainfall, guaranteed to support stable food production and human society, are in the high latitudes such as- Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, part of Northern Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica.

Small communities continue to survive in drought areas by building shelters and growing food underground, using still active aquifers and solar energy.

By 2050- global warming is out of control with limits to suitable land for agriculture - contention between retaining forest as a carbon sink and clearing it for agriculture.

Friction reaches flashpoint between the major powers over land, food and water security.
Massive human migrations are occurring globally – from poorer to richer countries and from drier to wetter habitats.
Giant solar energy generating belts become operational across North Africa, Middle east, Southern US and Australia providing power for high density population centers and high intensity farming hubs to feed them.

With the world population reaching 9 billion, an extra 1 billion hectares more land are needed for food production- equal to the landmass of US. At the same time commercial fish and seafood species have collapsed.

It is recognized that only global cooperation beyond national borders can avoid conflict, anarchy and starvation for billions. Global food production, distribution and allocation plans are activated under the auspices of the UN.

Global cooperation in achieving the equitable allocation of land, water, energy and food resources through the advanced communication and knowledge mechanism of intelligent web, becomes the only realistic means of avoiding global anarchy and the disintegration of human civilization.

National boundaries and political hubris become irrelevant when the survival of human life- perhaps the most advanced life-form in the universe - is threatened
All the players have taken their seats around the table- and have placed their bets

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Future of Cars

By 2015 most cars will be powered by electricity from next generation hydrogen cells and longer lasting higher power batteries, using solid polymer electrolytes instead of liquid. These will be capable of being charged rapidly at the new electric vehicle infrastructure power outlets such as traditional fuel stations and garages, enabling simple recharging and replacement of batteries and liquid hydrogen storage.
Computer systems will increasingly control all vehicle functions as standard- including those already in use for navigation, entertainment, collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, anti-collision radar, safety crash protection, stability and automatic parking.

By 2020 in most larger cities, small efficient electric cars including single and dual passenger variations will be available for flexible and inexpensive hire for local transport needs via smart phone managed pickup pools, servicing urban neighbourhoods (Ref Future of Cities).

The major advance however will be in the form of fully automated cars, already being trialled- capable of navigating autonomously and guided by sensor/ processor embedded smart roads and transit corridors; obeying traffic laws and avoiding collisions with other objects and vehicles. They will also be capable of interpreting traffic forecasts and communicating via local networks with other vehicles and public transit corridors to reduce road congestion. In addition they will be responsive to passenger requirements, linked via the wireless Web to their passenger activity profiles- appointment schedules, regular destinations such as schools, child minding, leisure centres etc.

The car of 2020 will also be capable of providing and monitoring in-vehicle entertainment and communication, emergency assistance, scheduling and payment services for power charging, parking and security. Automated transit control will facilitate traffic streaming and congestion management, with specialised car, bus and cycle transit lanes in operation throughout most urban areas.

By 2030 most individual cars will have transformed into autonomous transport pods or capsules for individual and multiple passenger urban use. Pods will link seamlessly to other minimum carbon-emission forms of transport for local neighbourhood and inter-urban movement- light rail, electric cycles, scooters and bicycles. Pod streaming infrastructure will link to smart transport hubs, providing automated fast urban and intercity metro rail/bus transport services.

Pod infrastructure will be particularly valuable in high density areas such as the East Coast of the US which are already feeling the impact of climate change through major blizzards and ice events making it impossible for standard transport vehicles and infrastructure to function. Underground pod systems in such areas as well as those experiencing regular heat waves will be the only practical alternative solution.

By 2040 the car as we know it today will cease to exist in the developed world’s urban areas. In its place will be multi-purpose intelligent transit pods- systems seamlessly linked and customised to individual and community needs. Most ground-based vehicles except for bicycles/scooters will be totally autonomous and humans will become passengers only. All instructions managing human and urban infrastructure interaction such as pick-up/destination location and schedule requirements will be relayed by mobile links and automatically accessed by the pod system via the Intelligent Web 4.0 (Ref Future Web).

Autonomous pod/vehicle networks will then allow the primary role of passenger transportation to transform- merging with information, entertainment and education functions during transit times; providing major leisure and work productivity gains, both in urban and country population centres.

By 2050 3-dimensional multi-level transport systems will be in common use. Such systems will be suspended above the networked transit routes of cities with lower levels restricted to bicycles, scooters and walking. All levels will link with major transport hubs and mass electric rail for super-fast autonomous intercity and new low energy system air travel. The complex navigation, service and logistical decisions involved will be managed by adaptive intelligent software agents, operating via the dedicated and secure virtual networks of the Intelligent Web.

Humans and their transport infrastructure will be seamlessly and permanently inter-woven.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Future of Space Exploration

By 2020- the Constellation moon-landing project will be back on track, allowing humans to return to the moon following the Apollo missions of the 60s and 70s, to begin creating a permanent space colony and base for future galactic exploration. The International Space Station will continue to play a vital test launch, scientific research, communications and training role, supporting future space missions.

India, China and Japan will also have proceeded with their own exploratory missions to the moon and planets, but will increasingly work cooperatively with the US and EU under International Space Treaty protocols administered by the UN. Other middle rank G20 countries such as Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Canada, Australia, UK, Germany, France and South Africa will also be major individual contributors to future space programs. Space exploration will have become a global cooperative enterprise.

The Constellation Orion Space Shuttle replacement will be launched in 2015, supporting the space station and future lunar missions, by providing a means of repair and escape for astronauts if the shuttles are damaged by space junk or solar radiation. Power sources for space vehicles and interstellar probes will routinely combine plutonium nuclear power, solar sail energy, gravity slingshot and ion drive technologies.

The construction and maintenance of future space stations, including the lunar colony, together with its instrumentation maintenance, will be carried out largely autonomously by robots, involving eventually the mining and transportation of local materials.

By 2030- most of the solar system's major objects- its planets, moons and larger asteroids will have been visited by probes and tested for signs of life. In addition, extensive modelling of the sun’s convection dynamics and heliosphere, extending the ICE missions, will be critical to gaining a better understanding of its cyclic impact on global warming. A significant sample of Mars terrain will also have been mapped by the next generation robot explorers, which will finally determine the existence of past and present microbial life on the red planet.

The potential for life to exist on many of the extrasolar planets similar to earth and within a proximity of 30 light years, will also have been determined by the SIM- Space Interferometry Mission; rejuvenated by NASA because of growing public awareness and involvement in extraterrestial life search and contact programs such as SETI. In addition, the prevalence and nature of complex pre-life organic molecules within the solar system and near space will have been extensively mapped to determine its likely origins and nature.

An asteroid and comet defence system will also have been established as a high priority, capable of tracking and eliminating most major threats to Earth. The threat to space missions from space junk and subatomic particle and electromagnetic impact will also be largely eliminated through extensive mapping and sweep technology as well as the use of new graphene-based protective materials.

The private sector’s commercial involvement in space missions will be increasingly significant, eventually surpassing Government investment and NASA’s role as primary project manager. Space tourism will become feasible but remain strictly limited because of the prohibitive energy costs and the ability to realistically replicate such experiences more safely in virtual reality.

By 2040- all navigation and exploration tasks will be automated and managed by the powerful capability of the Intelligent Web 4.0, extended to encompass communication with all spacecraft, exploratory vehicles, telescope observatories, satellites and robots involved in projects and missions across the solar system. This will include the use of intelligent robotic probes, relying on their own decision capability to analyse relevant data and determine items of interest for further exploration.

The nature of dark energy will also have been resolved supported by the $2 billion WFIRST- Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope project, centrepiece of NASA’s next decade development program.

The entire space enterprise will be linked and coordinated via massive e-infrastructure such as the European Grid Environment- EGEE, which integrates networks, grids, middleware, computational resources, data repositories, instruments, and operational support for global virtual science collaborations. A vast amount of data will need to be downloaded, stored and processed by global space programs. EGEE currently has access to more than 20,000 petabytes of storage and 80,000 CPUs. Projects by 2045 will increase this level of data processing by a factor of 100.

Globalisation and cooperation will have reached an advanced stage on earth in the face of the extreme risks to society from global warming. Therefore the risk of conflict between the major powers over sovereignty rights resulting from space exploration will be minimal. As the space program gathers momentum, humans will increasingly see themselves as belonging to one world in this domain- not separate nations.

By 2050- colonisation programs, including Mars and possibly the moons Europa and Titan will be launched, as well as the first interstellar robotic probes. These will be capable of self-replicating and evolving as agents in their own right. This will herald the beginning of second phase of the exploration and colonisation of the galaxy, as Transhumans move beyond their own home solar base and accelerate the search for new knowledge and experiences; including finally linking with other intelligent life forms.

Starships will follow later in the century, transporting the first interstellar robotic explorers; initially powered by nuclear pulse propulsion systems but later by more advanced technologies based on new physics. These will allow the nearest stars to be reached within several decades, with transhuman explorers following, primarily as observers and communicators in non-navigational support roles.

The primary task of exploring galactic space will be carried out instead by autonomous, self-learning, computationally-advanced probes, managed by a vast communications and knowledge network, extending across the galaxy.
This process will proceed exponentially as the ecosystem of smart AI probes replicates throughout the cosmos, with all life eventually becoming co-existent with the universe.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Future of Economics

The recent failure of classical economics to predict and manage the catastrophic failure of the world’s financial system has triggered a re-evaluation of the whole basis of current economic theory, which has been applied to sustain capitalism for the last 100 years.

By the end of the 20th century traditional economics was dominated by the classical paradigm based on notions of rational consumers making rational choices in a simple supply/demand world of finite resources, with prices constrained by decreasing returns; all driving the economy to an optimal equilibrium point.

Twentieth century economists had finally realised their dream of creating a rational, rigorous and well-defined mathematical model for describing the workings of the global economy. This standard model has been applied by business leaders, finance ministers, central bankers and presidential advisers ever since.

Up until recently classical economic theory has appeared to work adequately by a process of trial and error. In times of growth people are generally optimistic and the theory describes reality reasonably well. But in extreme circumstances panic quickly spreads and the theory fails spectacularly, amplified by the performance of the quantitative risk algorithms beloved by hi-tech stock market traders.

Unfortunately such a clockwork model has proved over the last four decades to be seriously out of synch with reality, as global markets have been roiled by a series of disastrous credit, market, liquidity and commodity crises. The predictions of the standard model have failed to match real world outcomes, generated in succession by the Savings and Loan, Asian, Mexican, Dotcom and now GFC bubble disasters.

In this latest incarnation of excess greed debacles, high risk mortgage loans were repackaged many times over into opaque risk financial instruments, such as Collateralised Debt Obligations or CDOs, which ended up through an unregulated banking system in the portfolios of nearly every bank and financial institution around the world. Because of lack of controls, members of the shadow system such as hedge funds and merchant banks borrowed scores of times their own worth in cash. When the CDOs finally failed, the losses rippled through the world economy. The banks stopped lending, leading to further business failures and investors were then forced to sell previously sound stocks causing a stock market crash.

But this crash was far more serious- perhaps even more so than the Great Depression, as it could not be contained within borders as easily or so simply solved by pump priming mass lending and job creation programs. Now we’ve seen the biggest banks, car manufacturers, miners, energy suppliers and national economies toppling like dominoes around the world, under trillions of dollars of debt.

The current global interventions have now staunched the haemorrhaging but not cured the disease.

The stronger economies of China and south east Asia, Brazil and Germany, less affected by the carnage, have bounced back. But the European economy is still fragile, with Greece, Spain and Portugal and other smaller nations struggling to contain debt; while the recent G20 summit in Toronto failed to enforce the rigorous regulation and improved economic governance previously mandated. The US recovery is also weak, with the latest OECD report predicting that the US employment rate will not fall to pre-recession levels before 2013.

In fact a number of interdisciplinary thinkers, starting in the seventies, began to question the credibility of the entire basis of the classical economic model, likening it to a gigantic academic think tank experiment rather than a serious science. And it gradually began to dawn on this group that at a number of the key premises or axioms underpinning the existing model were seriously flawed.

As mentioned, the first is the assumption that humans are rational players in the great game of market roulette. They are not. Behavioural scientists have shown that while people are very good at recognising useful patterns and interpreting ambiguous or incomplete information in their decision-making, they are very poor when it comes to performing complex logical analysis, preferring to follow market leaders or flock according to the latest fashion. This can further amplify distorting trends.

The new theories of behavioural finance argue that during a bubble the rate of buying and selling can become manic, resulting in irrational decisions. Making money actually stimulates investor’s brain reward circuitry, causing them to ignore risk- increasing the difficulty of valuing stocks accurately.

But perhaps the most critically flawed assumption is that an economic system always reaches an ideal equilibrium of its own accord. In other words, the market is capable of benign self-regulation- automatically allocating resources and controlling excesses in an optimum way, best effected with minimum outside interference.

Since the nineteenth century the fundamental principle underpinning economics has therefore been based on the mythology that the economy is a system that moves from one equilibrium point to another, driven by shocks from external disruptions – whether technological, political, financial or cultural- but always eventually coming to rest in a natural equilibrium state.

The new emerging evolutionary paradigm however postulates that economies and markets, as well as the web, enterprises and the human brain, are all forms of complex systems in which agents dynamically interact, process information and adapt their behaviour to a constantly changing environment; never reaching a final stable equilibrium or goal.

In biological evolution, the natural environment selects those systems that are best able to adapt to its infinite variation. In economic evolution, the market is a combination of financial, logistical, cultural, organisational and government regulatory elements, which adapt to and in turn influence a constantly changing ecological, social and business environment.

In essence, economic and financial systems have been fundamentally misclassified. They are not perfect self-regulating systems. They are enormously complex adaptive networks, with topologies that include decision hubs, relationship connections and feedback loops linking multi-agent groups which interact dynamically in response to changes in their environment; not merely through simplified price setting mechanisms, tax and interest rate cuts, liquidity injections or job creation programs. They must be understood and managed at a far deeper level.

Modern evolutionary theorists believe that evolution is a universal phenomenon and that both economic and biological systems are subclasses of a more general and universal class of evolutionary systems. And if economics is an evolutionary system, then it follows there are also general evolutionary laws of economics, which must be understood and harnessed if it is to be effectively managed.

This contradicts much of the standard theory in economics developed over the past one hundred years.

The economic evolutionary ecosystem is now fed by trillions of transactions, interactions and non-linear feedback loops daily. It may in fact have become too complex and interdependent for economists and governments to control or even understand. Therefore, as several eminent complexity theorists have recently stated, it might be on the verge of chaos. Too much or not enough regulation can distort the outcomes further- creating ongoing speculative pricing bubbles or supply and demand distortions.

There is now an urgent need to understand at a much deeper level the genie that modern capitalism has engineered and released. This can only be done by admitting the current crumbling edifice is beyond repair and building a radical new model from the ground up; a system that incorporates the hard sciences of network, evolutionary, behavioural and complexity theory.

Tinkering around the edges with the old reactive tools is not an option anymore.
To have any real chance of harnessing the economic machine of the 21st century for the benefit of all human society, not just the wealthy, it must be modelled at the network level and managed autonomously according to adaptive evolutionary principles.

If a business as usual economic philosophy prevails, it is likely that the resulting ultra-massive waste of resources and social turmoil of a second GFC would be catastrophic for our civilisation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Future of Cyber-Infrastructure for World 2.0

Our future World 2.0 will face enormous challenges from now into the foreseeable future, including global warming, globalisation and social and business hyper-change.

Global Warming will create shortages of food and water and loss of critical ecosystems and species. It will require massive prioritisation and re-allocation of resources on a global scale.

Globalisation will require humans to live and work together cooperatively as one species on one planet- essential for our survival and finally eliminating the enormous destruction and loss of life that wars and conflict inevitably bring.

Social and Business Change will present myriad challenges relating to building and maintaining a cohesive social fabric to provide - democracy and justice, adequate levels of health and education, solutions to urban expansion, crime prevention, transport congestion and food and water security, in a fast changing global environment. This will require adaptation on a vast scale.

It is apparent that in order to meet these challenges, humans must harness the enormous advances in computing and communications technologies to achieve a complete makeover of the world’s Cyber-Infrastructure.

The infrastructure of the new cyber reality now affects every aspect of our civilisation. In tomorrow’s globalised world a dense mesh of super-networks will be required to service society’s needs- the ability to conduct government, business, education, health, research and development at the highest quality standard.

This infrastructure will be co-joined with the intelligent Internet/web, but will require additional innovation to facilitate its operation- a transparent and adaptable heterogeneous network of networks, interoperable at all levels of society.

In the last two decades tremendous progress has been made in the application of high-performance and distributed computer systems including complex software to manage and apply super-clusters, large scale grids, computational clouds and sensor-driven mobile systems. This will continue unabated, making the goal of providing ubiquitous and efficient computing on a worldwide scale possible.

But there’s a long road ahead. It is still difficult to combine multiple disparate systems to perform a single distributed application. Each cluster, grid and cloud provides its own set of access protocols, programming interfaces, security mechanisms and middleware to facilitate access to its resources. Attempting to combine multiple homogeneous software and hardware configurations in a seamless heterogeneous distributed system is still largely beyond our capability.

At the same time tomorrow’s World 2.0 enabling infrastructure, must also be designed to cope with sustainability and security issues.
It is estimated that The ICT industry contributes 2-3% of total Greenhouse Gas emissions, growing 6% per year compounded. If this trend continues, total emissions could triple by 2020. The next generation cyber-architecture therefore needs to be more power-adaptive. Coupled with machine learning this could achieve savings of up to 70 % of total ICT Greenhouse emissions by 2020.

But the world is also grappling with the possibility of cyber-warfare as well as increasingly sophisticated criminal hacking, with an estimated 100 foreign intelligence organisations trying to break into US networks. A global protocol safeguarding cyber privacy rights between nations, combined with greater predictive warning of rogue attacks, is critically needed. The next generation of cyber-infrastructure will therefore have to incorporate autonomous intelligence and resilience in the face of both these challenges.

To meet these targets a lot will ride on future advances in the field of Self-Aware Networks- SANs. Previous blogs have emphasised the emergence of the networked enterprise as the next stage in advanced decision-making. SANs are a key evolutionary step on the path to this goal. Self-aware networks can be wired, wireless or peer-to-peer, allowing individual nodes to discover the presence of other nodes and links as required- largely autonomously. Packets of information can be forwarded to any node without traditional network routing tables, based on reinforcement learning and smart routing algorithms, resulting in reduced response times, traffic densities, noise and energy consumption.
Another major shift towards a networked world has been the rise of Social Networks. These have attracted billions of users for networking applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. These are providing the early social glue for World 2.0, offering pervasive connectivity by processing and sharing multi-media content. Together with smart portable devices, they cater to the user’s every desire, through hundreds of thousands of web applications covering all aspects of social experience– entertainment, lifestyle, finance, health, news, reference and utility management etc.
With increased user mobility, location sharing and a desire to always be connected, there is a growing trend towards personalized networks where body, home, urban and vehicle sensory inputs will be linked in densely connected meshes to intermediate specialised networks supporting healthcare, shopping, banking etc.
The explosion of social networked communities is triggering new interest in collaborative systems in general. Recent research in network science has made a significant contribution to a more profound understanding of collaborative behaviour in business ecosystems. As discussed in previous posts, networked ‘swarm’ behaviour can demonstrate an increase in collective intelligence. Such collective synergy in complex self-organising systems allows ‘smarter’ problem solving as well as greater decision agility. By linking together in strategic and operational networks, enterprises can therefore achieve superior performance than was previously possible.
The key characteristics of the smart business network of the future will be its ability to react rapidly to emerging opportunities or threats, by selecting and linking appropriate business processes. Such networks will be capable of quickly and opportunistically connecting and disconnecting relationship nodes, establishing business rules for participating members on the basis of risk and reward.
This ‘on the fly’ capacity to reconfigure operational rules, will be a crucial dynamic governing the success of tomorrow’s enterprise. CIOs must also learn to span the architectural boundaries between their own networked organisation and the increasingly complex social and economic networked ecosystems in which their organisations are embedded.
In fact the business community is now struggling to keep up with the continuous rate of innovation demanded by its users. Social network solutions have the potential to help meet this demand by shaping the design of future architectures to provide better ways to secure distributed systems.
So what is the future of this new collaborative, densely configured networked world? What we are witnessing is the inter-weaving of a vast number of evolving and increasingly autonomous networks, binding our civilisation in a web of computational nodes and relational connections, spanning personal to global interactions.

By 2050 the new World 2.0 cyber-infrastructure will link most individuals, enterprises and communities on the planet. Each will have a role to play in our networked future, as the cells of our brain do- but it will be a future in which the sum of the connected whole will also be an active player.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Evolutionary Thrashing and Social Chaos

Society may be on the cusp of social chaos triggered by ‘Evolutionary Thrashing’, which could result in major social breakdown for many decades.

The ‘evolutionary thrashing’ phenomenon occurs when the rate of change in a system’s environment exceeds its capacity to effectively adapt or evolve, before again being overwhelmed by the next wave of change.

At the biological level this can result in an organism’s inability to reach its optimal potential, making it less fit and more susceptible to extinction. This is currently occurring on the planet at an unprecedented rate. Many species are finding it increasingly difficult to adapt to the continuous changes in their habitat resulting from global warming and human destruction, with a quarter of vertebrate species predicted to become endangered or extinct by 2050.

However the phenomenon of ‘evolutionary thrashing’ is not restricted to biological systems. According to David Tow’s recently published generic evolutionary theory, outlined in his book– The Future of Life: A Unified Theory of Evolution, it can apply equally to social systems, including human society.

In this generic scenario, the same laws and principles of evolution apply to all systems at the quantum information level. Support for this thesis has recently been provided by physicist Wojciech Zurek’s ground-breaking work on Quantum Evolution and Decoherence, analogous to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Such ‘thrashing’ at the human level can therefore lead to ineffective decision-making, social breakdown and eventually chaos, before long-term optimal evolution reasserts itself.

Global warming is a significant primary driver of this process because it has the potential to adversely impact all the planet’s ecosystems, which in turn will affect most aspects of human civilization including its social and democratic institutions.

A high level of ongoing adaptation is therefore required, but if critical social needs cannot be met in response to rapidly changing constraints, dysfunctional outcomes on a global level such as increased conflict, work and lifestyle stress, loss of community cohesion etc, will inevitably result.

But global warming is not the only contributor to social evolutionary thrashing. The second major driver is globalization, which is also occurring at hyper-speed, resulting in the blurring and mixing of cultures, religions and social norms as populations spread across the planet.

This is most apparent for example in the emergence of the major geopolitical blocs such as the EU linking nations in Europe, Asia, America and Africa, together with an increasing number of regional groupings and cross-over trading and political alliances such as APEC. In addition, each of these networks is increasingly coordinating its influence through global decision-making bodies such as the United Nations and more recently the G20.

In order to manage global issues such as climate change, crime and terrorism, disease, natural and man-made disasters, refugee flows and the allocation of key resources such as food, water and energy, global cooperation will be essential. But at the same time, traditional cultural and commercial practices that have evolved sometimes over thousands of years are being swamped in less than a generation- the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms; resulting in racial blowback, which can trigger reactions such as paranoia and conflict.

The third major driver of hyper-change is the information and communication revolution, facilitated by the Internet and Web Mark 2.0 incorporating the new cyber-world of virtual reality, mobile communication, social media and instant information access.

This is beginning to accelerate exponentially, threatening to outpace the capacity of populations of both developed and developing countries to adapt their social and cultural practices relating to democratic, educational, legal, financial and governance processes. With a third of the world’s population, including developing nations, now connected via inexpensive mobile phones and laptops to this infinite resource, the rate of change will become hyper-exponential within the next few decades.

No-one disputes the benefits of this massive egalitarian knowledge gain, providing the potential to deliver quality of life improvements to both poor and rich nations- combating the adverse effects of poverty and climate change. But there is the real risk that such hyper-change will outstrip the capacity of humanity to absorb and utilize it to the best advantage, succumbing to the centrifugal forces that threaten rip the fragile fabric of society apart.

In the space of a generation, the rate of social evolution driven by these three mega-forces- global warming, globalization and knowledge acceleration, each catalyzing the others in a frenzy of complex feedback systems, now threatens to destabilize the foundations of human civilization.
Non-adaptive evolutionary thrashing is likely to reach a critical threshold within the next decade, mirroring the likely point of no return for global warming.
This effectively means that coordination and synchronization of the major practices and protocols for managing the planet will be essential. It will involve the intermeshing of not just trade, but decision-making on all critical social issues.

It will require the rapid creation and strengthening of common frameworks for managing commerce, finance, economics, education, science and technology- including the management of energy, food, water and air quality on a world-wide scale. This has already begun on a regional basis with the strengthening of the European Union and on a global basis since the recent financial melt-down with the creation of the G20.

In other words, it will demand achieving an excruciatingly fine balance between continuing to encourage the creativity, innovation and development that drives our civilization and the risk of social overreach, with the potential to implode it. Only global commitment and good will by all populations on the planet can achieve this resolution.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Life Creates Life

The first artificial life form has been created by human biological life. Humans have crossed the Rubicon of creation by bypassing natural evolution and by designing the first artificial life form, have opened the floodgates of life’s evolutionary future.
Craig Venter and his team were the first scientists to sequence the human genome and have now created the first artificial life-form; a tiny new bacterium or synthetic cell, controlled by human engineered DNA, with its genetic instructions determined by human life.
The scientists have made a synthetic copy of the genome of a bacterium- Mycoplasma mycoides. This man-made genome was then transplanted into a related bacterium- Mycoplasma capricolum. This process “rebooted” the cell so that it was controlled by the synthetic genome, transforming it into another species. The cell has since divided more than a billion times.
The creation of this living organism is the culmination of 15 years of research, costing more than $47 million. But the cost is miniscule in comparison with its glittering potential benefits. It promises a new industry, generating synthetic bacteria capable of cleaning up pollution, producing new forms of green chemicals and fuels, capturing CO2 in designed algae and providing vaccines against disease.

The creation of life has been an ongoing human endeavour for at least 50 years, since Stanley Miller successfully synthesised amino acids, essential for the formation of proteins and life, using simple molecules such as water, ammonia and methane, exposed to an energy source such as ultraviolet radiation.

Since that time a number of paths have been taken by researchers to recreate the genesis of life including-
Resurrecting extinct species- such as the marsupial Tasmanian tiger and Woolly mammoth- extracting still viable DNA and implanting it in related species such as the Tasmanian devil and African elephant. But the notion of resurrecting Einstein or Shakespeare as present-day geniuses is highly doubtful, because evolution is not just a product of genes, but is a dance between genetics and the environment.

Re-engineering current species- reversing evolutionary changes and genetic switches to recreate the previous ancestor; for example producing teeth in chickens as birds related to ancient dinosaurs. The importance of this technique is that it demonstrates life as a continuum, with many of the genes from yeast and fruit flies still existing in modern humans.

Cloning new species- this can be achieved using the technique of hybrid speciation, which involves first mating two closely related species, such as single-cell yeasts. A small percentage of the offspring spontaneously clone themselves and some also change gender, thereby creating a new species of yeast.

The current artificial life-form has been created by manipulating of the code of life– the chemical bases needed to develop artificial chromosomes and therefore novel amino acids, proteins and life.

Producing new life-forms to order by designing novel DNA, is a comparatively recent process. It is a direct consequence of recent successes in sequencing DNA as well as the creation of component genome databases. This facilitates the assembly of genetic buuilding blocks into living systems in the same way that electronic components are combined to manufacture circuits and chips or software modules to create business services.

Flexible and reliable fabrication technology, together with standardised methods and design libraries have enabled a new generation of biological engineers to already create new organisms from biological components from the ground up, providing the basis for the new science of synthetic biology.

Molecular biology has previously largely been applied as a reductive science, but now synthetic biologists are building organic machines from interchangeable DNA parts that work inside living cells- deriving energy, processing information and reproducing.

Concurrently with developments in synthetic biology, another new form of life- Intelligent Software Agents, have been developed by computer scientists, representing artificial life in the form of adaptable evolutionary software programs. These are designed to provide autonomous and cooperative problem-solving support to humans through the application of artificial intelligence- primarily evolutionary, swarm and knowledge-based algorithms.

But the Holy Grail of life’s creation – evolving a living cell from scratch- has yet to be achieved. This is because many separate initial evolutionary processes have to take place first, including the evolution of- cell containment vesicles, an optimal genetic code such as DNA or RNA with the machinery to translate it into amino acids and proteins; the incredibly complex epigenetic processes providing signaling pathways from the cell’s environment and methods to fine tune its basic DNA; plus the machinery of cell replication, development, apoptosis and metabolism etc

In a sense Venter’s achievement has relied heavily on hijacking the machinery of existing cellular operation– much as Einstein did by borrowing Riemann’s mathematical framework for his theory of relativity. In other words he piggy-backed a free ride to life.

But this doesn’t detract in any way from the monumental human achievement in understanding better the enigma of life and creating it afresh in its full glory.

Because of this breakthrough it will now be possible to create not only new bacteria, but eventually the complete spectrum of new life-forms – plants and animals, including perhaps a new species of humans. In other words bringing artificial life from the super-natural to the human-natural realm of creation.

This glittering potential is balanced by unforeseeable risks; a synthetic bacterium With the capacity to mutate and proliferate outside the lab, doing untold damage to the environment by accelerating new disease pathogens and affecting the genetic blueprint of crops and animals including humans. It also will have the capability to be used as a biochemical weapon.

But science’s Pandora’s Box has been opened yet again. Now there are three players in the great game of life- biological, artificial and virtual.
All three will have to learn to co-exist and accommodate with each other; as over time the biological, technological and social barriers dissolve and they eventually merge into a new form- Meta-life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Managing the Planet

The Director of the Future Planet Research Centre, David Hunter Tow, forecasts
an urgent need to harness the full resources and intelligence of the Web to coordinate and manage major programs relating to global warming and survival of the planet- including its life and human civilization.

The cards are now on the table- the climate skeptics bluff has been called. The latest science suggests that of the critical indicators of the health of the planet, at least three have already passed the critical stage and the remainder are perilously close to the abyss.

These include- biodiversity loss, ozone depletion, ocean warming and acidification, land and freshwater over-use and chemical pollution including nitrogen and phosphorous runoff. Most importantly, at current levels of CO2 accumulation, the maximum 2 degree centigrade threshold increase will be breached within twenty years.

In addition, over the past 50 years the world’s population has almost doubled to 8 billion, global consumption of food and fresh water has more than tripled, fossil fuel use has quadrupled and vertebrates have declined by over thirty percent.

It is clear that managing the planet’s outcomes to provide life with a future is the paramount goal that must focus all humanity’s skills, creativity and knowledge, from now into the far future

Up until comparatively recently, managing resources, infrastructure and catastrophes has been largely an ad hoc affair run on a country rather than regional or global basis. This is not surprising considering the evolution of our civilization, which has been based on a largely competitive, winner-take-all model between individuals, organizations, cities and nation-states.

Over the last few decades however a realization has dawned that this is an extremely inefficient and counter-productive approach and totally unsustainable in the modern carbon-induced warming era. This is particularly the case when it comes to managing critical global issues such as climate change, spread of disease, ecosystem protection and major catastrophes- including mega-droughts, oil-spills and earthquakes.

Although still operating in largely fragmented mode, humans are beginning to mobilise cooperatively, creating global research consortiums, trade and business alliances and knowledge exchange networks. But a lot more is needed to ensure our survival- primarily by becoming a lot cleverer in focusing our scientific, technology and social resources.

One of the most significant advances recently announced, w the European FuturIcT project.

This ambitious European Commission funded billion euro enterprise, was designed to simulate the knowledge resources of the entire planet- not just physical but social and economic, mobilising partners from most of the top university research centres in Europe.

The 'Living Earth Simulator' is a major part of this project originally scheduled to be completed by 2022. It will mine economic, technological, environmental and health data to create a model of the entire planet’s dynamics in real time; applying it to solve major problems relating to these areas.

There is now a vital need to better understand the global interrelationships enmeshing the society in which we live and the effect that these have on the planet as a whole. We also need to know how to leverage the benefits of global social systems, while at the same time limiting any downsides they may generate.

Labelled- 'Reality Mining', the plan was to gather information about every aspect of the living planet including its life-forms and use it to simulate the behaviour and evolution of entire ecosystems and economies; helping predict and prevent future potential crises. The Living Earth Simulator was expected to predict for example, potential economic bubbles, impacts of global warming, pandemics and conflicts and how to best mitigate them.

The FuturicT project since cancelled had the potential to nucleate and accelerate this process operating as an essential catalyst and mobiliser for managing our future. But there are many other advanced projects with the potential to complement this grand design and working in parallel to help complete the big picture.

The focus is on preparing for a smarter future for planet earth- creating solutions for managing more efficiently and reliably the world’s infrastructure, energy, food, water and health. This will be achieved through harnessing the immense power of advanced artificial intelligence, mathematical, computing, communication, control and modelling techniques.

Examples of current myriad hi-tech initiatives include-
self-healing software capable of automatically detecting, identifying, and fixing errors in the programs used in complex systems; a ‘central nervous system’ of ‘smart dust’ for the Earth, in which a trillion sensors will be deployed worldwide to monitor ecosystems, detect earthquakes, predict traffic patterns, and study energy use; a system of computerized agents that can manage energy use in the home, designed to optimize individual electricity usage to improve efficiency of the electricity grid; and leveraging the vast cornucopia of freely available services on the web to build mashups to support humanitarian and disaster relief.

As mentioned, game changing projects such as FuturicT are critical, but managing the planet requires much more- in essence coordinating and focusing the entire knowledge base and mind-power of our civilisation.

This should implemented as a world wide public project, in the same manner as the Internet and Web: with each component of the planet’s intellectual mosaic- individuals, research groups, corporations and governments, contributing and mining their knowledge resources- each according to their creative capacity and expertise.

Such a global vision is too fundamentally vital and complex to be funnelled through individual private organisations, politicians or states. It must instead function as a self-organising supra-national entity- evolving eventually as a largely autonomous system.
Managing the planet therefore will involve the massive task of coordinating thousands of techniques, technologies, systems and initiatives to gain the maximum leverage within the timescale available.

But time now is precious. Most current ‘green’ applications are in the early stages- designed to improve energy efficiency by deploying breakthroughs in sustainable technologies such as solar, wind, biofuels, carbon capture etc. But this is just the beginning of the journey. Copenhagen demonstrated that gaining consensus even for the essential task of implementing a global carbon trading system - so vital in generating the momentum to transition from polluting fossil fuels to green power- is difficult to achieve.

Is this a feasible proposition? Yes, but only by applying adaptive, autonomic system technology, capable of responding dynamically and autonomously to changes in the physical and social environment. Such a system will need to include the ability to self-organise and self-optimise its planning and operations – to discover, innovate, simulate, create, predict, apply, learn and continuously gain intelligence- to ensure optimal outcomes.

As mentioned, although projects such as FuturicT project have the potential to kick-start this process, there is only one practical mechanism to ensure the ultimate success of such a gargantuan endeavour- harnessing the intelligence of the Web itself. It must be nurtured and engineered to become self-organising and self-adaptive, in order to reach the goal of managing a sustainable future- essential for us and our planet.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Future of Society

David Hunter Tow, Director of The Future Planet Research Centre, predicts the emergence of a global human superorganism within the next thirty years.

Recent research by a team of scientists from the University of Florida, has shown that insect colonies follow the same evolutionary “rules” as individuals; a finding that suggests insect societies operate like a single “superorganism” in terms of their physiology and life.

The researchers believe that the rules that guide social insect species and group behaviour may also have applicability to other species, including humans and human society.

A process of evolutionary convergence is a major driver governing this process.

Evolutionary convergence occurs when many critical feedback loops allow key knowledge-based processes such as computation and communication, to be optimised or reach convergence very quickly - eventually almost instantaneously from local to global and back to local again. At the same time new knowledge is generated, which continuously triggers change, feedback and problem solving on a continuously accelerated cycle. This has the capacity to create social complexity on a grand scale.

On the business and scientific front, global collaboration is now the norm, encompassing international networks of researchers, project alliances and commercial consortiums and involving diverse countries and cultures. Pluralist political, economic, trade, educational, cultural and environmental systems are also developing on a global basis including institutions such as the UN, WHO, UNESCO, EU, APEC, WTO, NATO, G20 etc. With increasing coverage and frequency of communication mediated by the Web, explosive growth in such social systems is already occurring.

This enmeshment process is now leading to a new phase in life's development, the realisation of a global human entity or intelligence. In other words, the same type of social Superorganism as emerges for insect species. According to Tow, such a global entity will eventually encompass all forms of human existence- biological, artificial and virtual.

Virtual communities will manifest in the form of groups of intelligent software agents- programs which cooperate to perform specific tasks and achieve goals. These are already being deployed within the cyberspace of the Web to solve communication and knowledge-based problems. Their current service capability includes locating, categorising, assessing, computing and negotiating information. More importantly however, they now have the capacity to learn, adapt, mutate and replicate- that is, to evolve in a primitive way.

Intelligent agents are only one example of the prototypes of virtual societies, with the eventual potential to evolve to a level of complexity similar to and symbiotic with our own. Eventually all such communities will merge with biological life throughout the universe. The evolution of society and civilisation, from the emergence of homo sapiens 200,000 years ago, to the sophisticated global society that we experience today will continue to be guided by this accelerating process, leading inevitably to the emergence of a global superorganism structure and intelligence.

The overriding outcome of evolutionary convergence ensures the continuing realisation of individual and social potential through the accumulation of knowledge and complexity. Enhancing the potential at the individual level expands the potential of the group, which in turn enhances the potential of society at large. Benefits at the societal and group level in turn feed back to each individual, so that knowledge gained at all levels is constantly recycled through a diffusion process. And so the cycle repeats endlessly, allowing life to continuously leverage its opportunities and extend its horizons.

This leads to an accelerating convergent process, where each increment of information gained catalyses the generation of all other elements, producing new knowledge at an accelerating rate. Concurrent with this process is the generation of meta-knowledge; a set of guiding principles which are continuously extracted from the base lode of information; designed to ensure that all knowledge contributes to the survival and the realisation of benefits for society at large.

These principles may be termed ethical codes, morality, human rights or principles of social justice. They include the set of modern democratic principles that encode the rights and responsibilities of the individual in relation to the group, such as equality under the law and freedom of speech. These become the rules that set the social and behavioural boundaries of human evolution, formulated through trial and error over eons.

The forces governing such historical outcomes according to this thesis are manifestations of the flow, exchange and refinement of information within a social context. Only at the local level is history therefore contingent. At the global level it is convergent, with the deep undercurrents of evolution guiding its progress.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Future of War

Aggressive wars and conflicts- that is those not waged in direct defence of a nation or region, cause massive destruction to human life and its environment as well as future generations.
Therefore it is morally incumbent on all governments to avoid or minimise the horrendous social and economic consequences.

In addition, wars are not only immoral but also illegal under national and international law. At the Nuremberg trials following the defeat of Nazi Germany, aggressive wars were judged to constitute the worst of international crimes, with prevention the major reason for founding the United Nations.

Methods for managing such conflicts and avoiding escalation between major powers have been greatly bolstered since the end of WW2, with the creation of institutions such as the UN, NATO and later the EU. In addition, new methods of mediation and diplomacy have gradually evolved in which third party nations and groups are involved in the resolution of conflict and peacekeeping processes. Although these methods are far from perfect, there are grounds for optimism that over time, combined with increasing globalisation ensuring the intermeshing of all national interests and cultures, major conflicts between and within states will become impossible to sustain.

Post cold war there have been numerous civil and neighbouring national conflicts, often involving ethnic or separatist groups, creating great suffering and subsequent large flows of refugees. However a study of wars and armed conflict, The Human Security Report: War and Peace in the 21st Century, shows that the number of armed conflicts has fallen by 40% since the end of the Cold War.

So far in the 21st century an average of 20,000 to 30,000 people each year have suffered violent deaths in wars within and between states, compared with more than 200,000 each year through most of the 1990’s. At the same time, the number of people killed in conflicts has been falling continuously since 1950. Terrorism kills comparatively few people compared with wars, genocide and even traffic accidents. This decline is attributed to the post 1992 increase in UN preventative diplomacy and peace keeping missions and also to the rise and effectiveness of NGOs in drawing attention to crimes perpetrated by or with the knowledge of governments.

Also since its establishment, the UN has played a significant role as effective peacemaker, with a positive outcome achieved in 66% of peace missions. There has been a sixfold increase in UN efforts to prevent wars from starting, a four fold increase in UN peacemaking missions to end unresolved conflicts and an eleven fold increase in the number of states made subject to UN sanctions.

There is gradually emerging through the slow painful process of evolutionary trial and error, mechanisms for containing and resolving violent conflicts, involving the combined efforts of the international community- Governments, NGOs, the UN, WTO, IMF, together with regional and local national alliances.
The social forces unleashed by the expansion of technological, economic and political knowledge, have ensured that no nation can remain in isolation for very long. As globalisation accelerates, pressures are placed on all states by their peers to meet minimum standards of human rights as well as good governance. Failure to respond to these pressures can result in a state becoming a pariah- paying the price of reduced trade, financial support and a lower standard of living for its population.

A variety of techniques from mediation and peace-keeping to trade sanctions and threat of reprisal, are being applied in order to force warring parties to the peace table. These have been applied with mixed success in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kashmir, Northern Ireland and the Sudan, while high-pressure mediation is continuing in more intractable conflict areas such as Palestine, Somalia, The Republic of Congo, North Korea and Burma. There is no doubt that that we are witnessing the evolutionary genesis of globally mediated methods for permanently maintaining peace across the planet.

The principle of mutual support and cooperation between states provides an evolutionary win-win for all stakeholders. As has been demonstrated throughout history, competition for resources can on its own achieve short term gains for the dominant parties; but without cooperation, this will inevitably lead to conflict and war, resulting in loss and eventual for all parties. Support for the floundering economies affected by climate change and conflict in Asia, Africa, Central Asia and South America, will be a crucial test for the international community in the future; demonstrating its capacity for support and cooperation on a global scale.

Since 1945 there have been two major developments in the practice of war and peace; the rise of human rights law in peacetime and the strengthening of international humanitarian law in wartime. The relationship between a government and its citizens is now more transparent because of democracy, with government officials increasingly held responsible for violations of human rights. There is a need in conflicts to make a clear distinction between oppressors and oppressed, between the guilty and the innocent. Nations held captive by dictators and despots should not be doubly punished by collective sanctions and outside violence. Killing innocents to save innocents is an unacceptable moral choice. With hindsight it is clear that In Iraq the Security Council should have sought the option Hussein’s indictment by an international criminal tribunal as a perpetrator of war crimes and should not have imposed sanctions and turned a blind eye to war by the US, which over a decade has cost at least a half a million civilian lives.

A new system of international justice based on the UN Human Rights Charter can also provide a road to post-conflict reconciliation. The new model can contribute to peace and democracy for states emerging from the massive trauma of violent war and genocide.
One approach being implemented is the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. These deal with acts of violence and repression committed by the State that occurred in a country’s recent past. Commissions cannot impose sentences or award damages, but are authorised by the state, lasting about 2 years and then disbanding. There are currently three such commissions in operation; in Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Paraguay, with three new commissions being established in Indonesia, Liberia and Burundi.

It is now clear that most military analyses relating to the future of war are severely skewed and one dimensional, failing to adequately factor in drivers beyond traditional geopolitical and weapons trendlines. These future drivers- primarily globalisation, cyber-culture and global warming are now approaching with the force of a tsunami and will overwhelm all other traditional military drivers by mid-century.

Failing to adequately take their consequences into account is to blindside future reality, with the potential to lead to further irrevocable impacts on a fragile world.

Globalisation involves the interweaving of the cultural, educational, legal, economic, political, and technological protocols of all nations in a dense web of dependencies and relationships. China and the US for example are now joined at the hip despite ideological disparities and are mutually interdependent. The US needs China’s financial reserves to prop up its massive dollar debt, while China needs US markets for a large proportion of its exports. These two superpowers are also indirectly connected by the web of alliance and trade networks of the international community as a whole. They are now both too big, too interconnected and too focussed on trying to improve the quality of life of their own populations to become involved in massive national global wars.

The outstanding template for globalisation is of course the European Union, which now links the economies of 27 nations, that up until a century ago warred continuously, with massive loss of life and potential. Now their populations work together, trade together, marry together and share a common currency. The EU is the third force in an increasingly multi-polar world, counterbalancing both the US and China.

Globalisation is also being accelerated by the Cyber revolution- providing access by all populations to the world’s knowledge base and providing an unstoppable catalyst for democracy, despite short term futile attempts at national censorship. It now mediates civilisation’s social, scientific and commercial progress, with the potential to provide enormous computational and decision power for future global governance.

Simulated war-gaming, involving complex scenario simulations based on holistic social and economic factors, will therefore be increasingly applied to pre-evaluate the potential outcomes of waging war; with the result that military imperatives will play a significantly reduced role in the future.

Cyber warfare will also become increasingly common, used as a proxy for direct weapons-based assault. Recent major attacks on Google as well as 2,500 major companies worldwide, demonstrate the potential for even small groups to wage global economic warfare- hijacking strategic planning data and shutting down critical processes and infrastructure.

But global warming is the biggest challenge, with the greatest potential impact ever faced or ever likely to be faced by our civilisation. By the middle of this century the budgets of all countries, particularly those of the major and middle powers will be focussed on mitigating the disastrous outcomes including- increased frequency and severity of catastrophic events, resulting in massive damage to both the natural and built environment, acidification of oceans, scarcity of food, water and energy, disease pandemics and unprecedented refugee flows.

The stresses on all societies will be enormous, but only through global cooperation will anarchy and conflict will be constrained. This will require planning and allocation of resources on a global scale. The budgets and assets of all major powers including the US, China, India and the EU will need to be synchronised and focussed on avoiding this over-riding threat to the future of humanity. National rivalries will be subsumed and military and weapons programs drastically cut.

A timeline on the evolution of this process is as follows-

By 2020- battlefield strategy will evolve towards one that is increasingly fought in covert form – not through the use of large-scale traditional weaponry as in previous wars, as conventional military values become obsolete. Most attacks will be focused on subduing increasingly integrated terrorist and criminal groups, military juntas and authoritarian regimes as well as minority ehtnic groups.

A high proportion of battlefield operations will be automated, with drones and robots operating remotely and eventually autonomously, using satellite and sensor surveillance and the latest Web based intelligence for decision support. Cyber and economic warfare will also play an increasing role, conducted both by governments and criminal and terrorist groups.

At the same time there will be greater emphasis on a variety of peace-keeping and mediation initiatives, involving a range of alliances between Governments, NGOs and military forces such as the new-look NATO, operating at the local level in cooperation with civilian populations. These strategies will increasingly be applied to support failing and dysfunctional states and establish democratic institutions and are now beginning to be rolled out in Iraq and Afghanistan. This will become the primary template for future military operations.

By 2030- superpower states – US and China, will no longer able to sustain long term conflicts using 20th century arsenals of air, sea and land forces. The US will be forced to abdicate its traditional 20th century role of global military dominance as its resources become spread too thinly and it struggles to maintain quality of life for its population against unsustainable mounting levels of debt.

Similarly China, India and middle power nations will be forced to channel most of their resources to developing infrastructure, capacity and social services. Numerous flashpoints involving quelling local insurgencies and ethnic uprisings will remain. Increasingly the UN and representative government groups such as the present G20 will work together to minimise conflict globally. The EU will be seen as the template for global cooperation and peace-keeping will become the norm for conflict containment.

By 2040 – it is realised by most nations that conflict and wars are increasingly unsupportable. Globalisation continues to accelerate, with the creation of more complex networks of alliances and treaties binding nations and regional groups. At the same time countries start to lose their traditional status, with pressure for more fluid cross border relaxation as in the EU. The mixing of races and nationalities eases pressure for conflict, and provides greater accessibility to global health, education, and knowledge resources.
The reality of climate change, with its increasing frequency of disaster events, forces ideological disparities to play a secondary role.

By 2050- all available global resources are marshalled to overcome the immense problems associated with global warming. The end of wars between nations is in sight.