Insights · June 1st, 2022

U.S. Air Force Global Futures Report: Alternative Futures of Geopolitical Competition in a Post-COVID-19 World has develop four overarching, global scenarios that feature transformation, collapse, discipline, and continued growth outcomes.

These global scenarios do not represent the most probable or likely outcomes—rather, the report harnesses emerging weak signals from environmental scanning analysis (that likely seem improbable today) and weaves them into the possible futures of a post-COVID world.

Global Future #1 (Transformation) – 2035 “From Bio-hegemony to Bio Supremacy:” The new “Great Powers” are those states that have achieved superior levels of bio-resiliency vis-à-vis their peer competitors. National bio-data stockpiles, coupled with a new blend of capabilities in artificial intelligence, satellite-based imagery, and unprecedented global connectivity, have raised the premium on fielding networked military forces. Those states that possess bio-resiliency, along with the capability to instantly make information ubiquitous across their security apparatuses, dominate the new competition.

Global Future #2 (Systemic Collapse) – 2035 “The New Warring States Period:” Scholars label the 2030s as the new “warring states” period—referring both to the ancient Chinese conflict era as well as the outbreak of the 21st century’s first continental-scale civil war in China. This marks China’s second civil war in less than 100 years. The most dramatic factor contributing to this new, global instability is the legitimacy crisis wrought by COVID-19. Additionally, a second legitimacy crisis emerges around the “truth narrative” itself. Industrial scale science and medicine—which had doubled life expectancy and nearly ensured food security in the 20th century—are now widely seen as tools for societal manipulation.

Global Future #3 (Discipline) – 2035 “Authoritarian Regionalism:” Severe strains on social order have driven both liberal and authoritarian regimes alike towards highly centralized and restrictive measures. Surveillance regimes are no longer voluntary. Access to basic necessities requires consent and cooperation with real-time bio-surveillance as well as unannounced health checks at home or work. National militaries, and in particular national air forces, often find themselves replacing commercial supply chains and even the oversight of production and local distribution of goods to prevent riots and hoarding.

Global Future #4 (Continued Growth) – 2035 “Endemic Disruption:” States with the capability to maintain data profiles of their populations and the populations of competitors can map and predict the intensity and timeline of each new disease outbreak. This capability has resulted in a kind of stochastic hegemony. While the disease’s mutation cannot be predicted, once an outbreak begins, states with stochastic hegemony can determine when the populations and the armed forces of their competitors will be disrupted and how long they will be vulnerable to attack. The curse and high ground of this ‘rhythmic readiness’ has created instability and enabled territorial incursions, as states know they have a locked in advantage for weeks or even months. The U.S. Air Force benefits significantly from the necessity of a new offset strategy to limit the reliance on troop levels. Less civilian air traffic and greater access to the skies is limited by the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and long term, low-orbit surveillance systems.

Download the report here.

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Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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