New intel report sees 'global trends' impacting potential conflicts

By Tony Bertuca / April 8, 2021 at 12:18 PM

The world will be an increasingly contested place in 2040, with many factors contributing to potential inter-nation conflict, according to a new report from the National Intelligence Council.

The report, which is a product of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, identifies key "global trends" the authors use to outline several scenarios for the future, all of which involve some form of strategic competition between the United States and China.

The report also highlights likely global disruptions due to shifting demographics, economics and technology.

"The most certain trends during the next 20 years will be major demographic shifts as global population growth slows and the world rapidly ages," the report states.

Meanwhile, "the physical effects of climate change are likely to intensify during the next two decades, especially in the 2030s."

Several global economic trends, "including rising national debt, a more complex and fragmented trading environment, a shift in trade, and new employment disruptions are likely to shape conditions within and between states."

Technology, meanwhile, "will offer the potential to mitigate problems, such as climate change and disease and to create new challenges, such as job displacement."

The report also notes there may be "unanticipated second- and third-order effects" of the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming decades.

Additionally, the report states that advancements in artificial intelligence will transform warfare.

"AI will confer strong advantages to countries that incorporate AI into their military systems," the report states. "AI will enhance the performance of existing weapons, defenses, and security systems, both physical and cyber, while counter-AI techniques, designed to negate or confuse AI decision-making, also are likely to emerge."

Advancements are also predicted in "conventional and hypersonic weapons; ballistic missile defense; robotics and automated systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance networks; and long-range anti-ship missiles."

The advancements in warfare "almost certainly will further complicate deterrence calculations and could lead to asymmetric retaliation," according to the report. "Leaders might calculate that they need to strike first in a crisis to avoid losing advanced weapons to a surprise attack."