Security Threats by ‘Non-Human’ Perpetrators Could Shape World by 2040, US Intelligence Report Predicts

Security Threats by ‘Non-Human’ Perpetrators Could Shape World by 2040, US Intelligence Report Predicts

The cover of the report “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World” by the US National Intelligence Council. Photo: NIC

Some of the biggest security threats over the next 20 years, until 2040, could originate with “non-human” factors, i.e. not deliberately caused by human perpetrators, such as “climate change, disease, financial crises, and technology disruptions”, according to a wide-ranging report published on Thursday by the US National Intelligence Council (NIC).

The report on global trends is issued every four years by the National Intelligence Council, a body of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was formed in 1979 to make forecasts for the future.

Besides analysis by the NIC analysts, the report’s latest edition, which is entitled “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”, also draws on interviews with academics, civil society organizations, outside experts, and even high-school students in Washington, D.C.

The 2021 NIC report declares that challenges not stemming from human perpetrators could create “food and water insecurity,” “increase migration” and its destabilizing effects, create “new health challenges,” and decimate biodiversity, the authors wrote.

“[The coronavirus pandemic has] shaken long-held assumptions about resilience and adaptation and created new uncertainties about the economy, governance, geopolitics, and technology,” the report states, as cited by Yahoo News.

It describes the COVID-19 pandemic as the most disruptive global event since World War II.

“These challenges will intersect and cascade, including in ways that are difficult to anticipate,” says the US intelligence report.

“National security will require not only defending against armies and arsenals but also withstanding and adapting to these shared global challenges.”

According to the report’s authors, there are several “alternative scenarios” for global trends that could occur by 2040.

The first one is a “renaissance of democracies” in which the United States and its allies have ushered in a new era of democratic norms and structures, a growing global economy and improved quality of life for people everywhere.

In this future scenario, authoritarian forms of government demonstrated by officials in Russia and China would be unsuccessful as a result of lagging innovation.

The report does note, however, that China has already demonstrated success in technical innovation. It attributes that partly to aggressive intellectual property theft and partly to a broad mobilizing of its society in ways not possible in a democratic country.

The second scenario for the next 20 years, according to the NIC, is a “world adrift” in which the prevailing chaos created by societal divisions, disinformation, slow economic growth, and other factors continue “largely unaddressed.”

This scenario would give China continued opportunities to take advantage of divisions in the West without stimulating it to constructively address challenges as a global leader.

Alternatively, the US and China could enter an era of “competitive coexistence,” in which the countries’ economic futures are intertwined, which would reduce the chances for an outright war.

Another possible scenario, according to the US intelligence analysts could be shaped particularly by regionalization of connectivity, and the formation of different regions or economic and security “blocs”. In those, information would be walled off, and there would be far less global trade. This system could turn many many countries into “failed states.”

In a fifth scenario, the intelligence community predicts the US could be headed for a 2040 in which countries are forced to confront a global tragedy such as a food crisis, ideally spurring a global coalition to mitigate the effects.

Overall, the US National Intelligence Council has predicted that no single superpower would dominate the world, suggesting that the United States and China would need to share responsibilities as they urge the rest of the world to choose sides.

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Ivan Dikov, the founder of, is the author of the book “Got Nukes, Mr. Dictator? You Hold on to Them!“, among other books.