What’s so particular about the year 2040?
Before you read these scenarios, you should read the previous sections because otherwise the scenarios presented here may not be fully understood or may be misinterpreted since they take a lot of assumptions made earlier.
My intention has not been to create an unrealistic, overoptimistic assessment of how the European Union or the world in general might be able to cope with various risks and adversities in the future. My aim has rather been to present various, mostly tough choices and possible solutions, so that the world has a better chance in fighting existential risks.
The process may be painful and the path quite meandering at times, but ultimately it may be our best way forward not only to survive as a species but also have a great future. You may wonder what is so specific about selecting 2040 as the date for my scenarios. My assumption stems from the following reason. If the EU wants to survive it must become a federated state by 2030 at the latest. Furthermore, my personal feeling is that if the world survives another 20 years, approximately one generation from now, without any major man-made existential risk materializing, our chances of having a great future will be immensely improved. A possible great future is my preferred fifth scenario, although even in this scenario, Humanity gets through a number of ‘near misses’, almost triggering off an existential risk. That scenario presents the EF around 2040, as the best Welfare State, the world has ever seen. It will be possible because of the EF’s financial and material capabilities in 2040, especially in the context of phenomenal technological progress that would have been achieved by then. I cover scenario five entirely separately in chapter 9 further on. But we may not be so lucky and the world may go through some pretty horrible disasters, including the triggering off some existential risks. That is what I cover in the remaining four scenarios. Although in none of those scenarios Humanity becomes extinct as a species, it shows how the world may find itself on the brink of a complete civilizational catastrophe.
I have already presented plenty of arguments regarding what needs to be done to minimize existential risks. However, for completeness, let me summarize it here. The EU will have to become a federal state mainly because of the economic and social crises within the Eurozone, a political pressure wielded by Russia on the Eastern and Central European countries, and the migration problems, which by 2030 may come to the fore in earnest. Additionally, there is of course an ever increasing risk that some of the existential risks facing the EU, and by extension the whole Humanity, may materialize at the time, when no single country or organization would be able to co-ordinate the rescue action. Therefore, 2030 may be the last year, when the EU federalization could be completed with minimum chaos. After that, it could still be possible but not that likely, and if carried out, it may happen in total chaos and under a pressure coming from soon to materialize one of the existential risks.
The EU evolves broadly in five year cycles around the term of the EU Parliament, the elections of the new EU Commission and the European Council President. The next parliamentary elections are in 2019. Of course, nothing substantial regarding the EU reform can happen by then. The next such opportunity would be 2024. Although in theory is its feasible that part of the EU could be federated by then, in practical terms it may not be achievable. There has to be a minimum reasonable period, during which the people in the EU countries absorb the consequences of such a decision, especially losing the national sovereignty. That’s why, the most realistic way to proceed would be to start the work of the EU Constitutional Convention on the future EU constitution by 2024, and set the date for the formation of the European Federation for 2029 or 2030 – the symbolic date that I have assumed. It would, however, been too early to design the scenarios for 2030, because the first five years of the EF will be very chaotic indeed. Therefore, I have added another five years, another Parliament term, to paint the vision of the EF and the world in 2040.
There are a number of ways of designing scenarios of the future world. For example, there is an excellent document issued by the European Commission: “Global Europe in 2050” (European_Commision, 2012). It is 10 years ahead of my scenario, but contains some interesting conclusions, quite at odds sometimes with what this book is about. In that document the EU Commission Research team built their scenarios (164 pages long) according to a common format that deals in sequence with 6 main dimensions of the future:
- Global demographic and societal challenges
- Energy and natural resource security and efficiency, environment and climate change
- Economy and technology prospects
- Geopolitics and governance: EU frontiers, integration and role on the global scale
- Territorial and mobility dynamics
- Research, education and innovation.
They have produced 3 scenarios, of which summaries I will quote alongside my scenarios to give you some comparison. However, as you will see, their scenarios have different objectives and selection criteria from mine (i.e. what kind of organization could save Humanity from Superintelligence). Therefore, rather than use their approach I had to use a different, less detailed one, focused on my objectives.
The five scenarios that I will present try to answer these four questions:
Scenarios 1 and 2. – What are possible futures? This is a full range of events that could unfold
Scenario 3 – What are plausible futures? This is what I believe is possible but unlikely
Scenario 4 – What are probable futures? This is what is most likely to happen
Scenario 5 – What are preferred futures? This is what we want to happen.
Scenario 5 is my main scenario, which contains variables that are probable or possible, but excludes plausible (conceivable) futures because of their very low probability level.
The further we go into the future, the less we know, especially, as the world has already started to change at almost an exponential rate. Even the 2040 date is a bit too far in the future, about one generation, but for proposing certain solutions, rather than predicting what might happen, it should serve our purpose fairly well.
Before going any further, I need to make one caveat. Please do not expect any in depth justification for the numbers used or choices made in the scenarios, although in most cases I have argued those choices to some degree earlier on this site. As in many other places, I had to make shortcuts and sometimes barely signposting you to the direction of travel. That was the only way in which I could present a fairly complete picture of how to minimize existential risks such as Superintelligence. In this sense, the whole website is one big scenario.
The next four tabs are ‘not so good’ scenarios of the World in 2040, although there are at least a few much more unpleasant, or horrific scenarios, with lower level of probability, which I decided not to include here. The four scenarios will be followed by the fifth scenario. I do not assign any probability to the scenarios, apart from putting them in one of the four categories – possible, plausible, probable and desirable. In all scenarios, when I am presenting my own comments I shall use an italics font.
Next: Scenario 1