In the realm of futures studies, there are few certainties indeed. Those that exist will likely exist for all time. A few of them follow.
- Only the existence of something can cause something else to exist (These two should be related.)
- Logical procedures and the resultant Mathematical formulas
- There will always be change in the universe.
- Universal laws (entropy will always increase)
- Human nature will remain constant (though this can be interpreted in many different ways)
- The farther we predict the future, the more uncertainty is involved.
In scenario planning relative certainties are often thought of as assumptions. Those statements about the future that are very likely to occur and hence they can be written in any scenario. They also do not represent variables or unknowns about the future so they are not typically adjusted to one extreme or the other to enrich a set of strategic planning scenarios.
This page contains a list of "Relative Certainties" for strategic planning scenarios out to 2020. For purposes of this page, these relative certainties are presented in two tiers. The first tier (thirteen) is composed of the most important items for the future out to 2020. They are not listed in any specific order. The second tier (ten) is another set of certainties, but of lesser importance.
The original thirteen certainties were extracted from the National Intelligence Council 2020 project -- "Mapping the Global Future." Please feel free to edit either tier, and move an item from one tier to another. If you do elect to edit the first tier, please post the rational for your change in the discussion section of this page and provide references, or supporting material to explain or justify your suggested changes.
First Tier, out to 2020
- Globalization is largely irreversible, but likely to become less Westernized.
- World economy will be substantially larger.
- Increasing number of global firms will facilitate the spread of new technologies.
- Rise of Asia will occur and possibly the advent of new economic middle-weights.
- Established powers will have increasingly aging populations.
- Energy supplies “in the ground‿ are sufficient to meet global demand.
- Power of nonstate actors is growing.
- Political Islam will remain a potent force.
- Some states will see improved WMD capabilities.
- An arc of instability will span from the Middle East, Asia, to Africa.
- Great power conflict escalating into total war is unlikely.
- Environmental and ethical issues will come even more to the fore.
- US will remain the single most powerful actor economically, technologically, militarily.
Second Tier, out to 2020
- World population will be between 7 and 9 billion people.
- Technological advances will maintain the present rate or advance slightly faster
- No new source of energy will be found, the world will continue to be fossil fuel driven
- World economic growth will be between 1.5% and 4% but variations among nations will continue to exist.
- No major anti-US alliances will be formed, but NATO as an institution will be changed, and less likely to be used for coalition planning.
- States will have increased reliance—especially at the end of the period—in bilateral alliance relationships.
- War on Al Qaeda will wane through the time period, but other terrorist threats will remain or emerge.
- Oil prices will remain at their recent prices of $40 to 50 per barrel—adjusted for inflation.
- There is at least a moderate probability of another Major Theater War involving the United States in the time frame.
- There will be discontinuous growth rates – some regions will grow, others will remain stagnant, income inequality will increase.