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NELD Workshops

This set of emerging issues was offered to generate discussion about awareness of change, impacts of change, and how evaluating change can help us consider, refine, and articulate our values and worldview.



  • World's population is growing more slowly than expected a decade ago, as a result of aid and family planning programs and educational/economic programs directed at women: steady, continuous fertility declines in every region;

  • Populations in developed countries growing older BUT VIGOROUSLY; heightened understanding of the aging processes creates "active seniors";

  • Bronzing of the population: percentage of "Eurodescended" population declining globally, while percentage of Asian, Pacific, Latin American and African increasing -- Chinese and Arabic among the fastest growing languages studied on U.S. campuses;

  • Increased cultural diversity is celebrated as more immigrants and their descendants retrieving and reviving their origins;

  • "Older parents:" number of 55+ "first-time moms" increasing;

  • "Portfolio careers" increase as more companies use contractual labor - temporary workers now comprise largest percentage of labor force.

Emerging Issues

  • Education shifts to "asynchronous distance leaming;" students become "technonauts," using the Internet and other computer and communications tools to find, exchange and analyze information, collaborating with others in self-organized and scheduled learning teams;

  • Rural towns become new centers for virtual businesses and growing telecommuter populations;

  • "Smart" fabrics mass marketed by 2007: the microprocessor invades our clothes and makes fashion a notion that changes by the moment;

  • By 2020, mental illness will be the world's most debilitating affliction, followed by deaths from road accidents.



  • Communications technologies increasingly international, mobile, interlinked, expert-system-based, personalized and miniaturized;

  • Expanding concept of property rights, to "ownership" of one's genetic resources;

  • Better understanding of biochemical processes of brain and of mind-body interactions;

  • Increased understanding in developmental biology of mechanisms of growth (including organ/skeleton repair/regeneration) and aging.

Emerging Issues

  • Military increasingly engaged in visionary biotech thinking, to anticipate possible use of "stealth microbes" by terrorists - thus military biotechs could become the emergency response for future biotech crises with foodcrops, livestock, or humans;

  • Use of "buckytubes" integrated with first crude nanotechnologies transform both the mining industry and the pharmaceutical industry;

  • "Designer drugs" developed based on personal DNA profiles;

  • Integrated medical devices crop up in "smart toilets" and "life monitors" embedded in contacts and/or jewelry;

  • 3D scanning duplication and taxing of objects cuts tech development exponentially;

  • Use of sonic and nuclear focusing instruments for surgery, enabling destruction of tumors and clots without incisions;

  • Continuing investigation into zero-point energy leads to development of relatively cheap and clean energy source.



  • Electronic purses organizing your financial and other records; ready cash on one plastic card with a smart chip;

  • In US, service jobs constitute 79% of all non-farm jobs; health and business will increase and employ +18 million by the year 2000;

  • Growing job insecurity; downsizing and outsourcing in business continue;

  • Continued growth of information and creation economy: data production and idea generation worth more than industrial production.

Emerging Issues

  • Most US produce genetically engineered by 2004 - unlike Norway, where genetically engineered foods were banned from sale in the late 1990's;

  • Emergence of the "Just in Time Corporation": small companies link via Intemet/Web to form highly adaptive, flexible teams able to bid on projects larger than any of them could attempt individually;

  • Auto companies working to develop and market "self-piloted" cars that will work on a remote basis on highways - Japanese auto makers shooting for 2010, while US auto makers want a working prototype by 2002;

  • Larger companies decentralize using virtual "hotel" offices;

  • Global market rules supersede trade and "local" market rules.



  • End of the "natural:" humans have left nothing on the planet untouched;

  • Erosion of the historical: cultural treasures of humanity increasingly overvisited and damaged by too much human appreciation - increasing with growth of destination and theme tourism;

  • With "precision farming" farmers can customize nutrients, pesticide and water use using GPS and remote sensing systems attached to automated farm equipment;

  • Emergence of global climate change (despite doubters);

  • "Micro-predators": mutating viruses and bacteria immune to antibiotics;

  • "Hypermutation" caused by mutations in genes that themselves control genetic proofreading;

  • 70% of world's water is used for irrigation; since 1950 the amount of irrigated land has tripled.

Emerging Issues

  • Fresh water is to 21't century what oil was to the 1970's - a scarce resource and source of national and international conflict;

  • Korean scientists developed a biodegradable plastic from fibers of genetically engineered aspen trees -- precursor to the bioengineering transformation of the materials industry, creating consumer goods kinder to the environment in both raw materials and trash phases of their life cycles;

  • Coral reefs are the rain forests of the ocean, home to one quarter of all marine species: if current rates of destruction continue, could lose 60% in 20-40 years.



  • Increased demand for representation/sovereignty by subcultures within nations;

  • Increased political use of the Internet and related telecoms/computer networks: pay taxes via Internet, send letters to Congress via Internet, VOTE via Internet?

  • Increased visibility of paramilitary organizations as white, Eurodescended males attempt to maintain perceived roles as top dogs;

  • Globally, community rights increasingly stressed over individual rights.

Emerging Issues

  • US likely to have a new hegemony based on our information systems: a "soft power" over world activities, achieving desired outcomes via attraction rather than strength or ideological conversion;

  • The political gender gap widens with the aging of the population: as electorate ages, politicians who court women will do better;

  • Bill Clinton could have the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court justices, creating a distinctly liberal high court;

  • Political groundswell to incorporate "true cost pricing" policies, which explicitly include environmental and other intangible social costs

> Tools > Scenario Building > Schultz / Manoa Approach | Schwartz / GBN Approach | de Vries / Sociovision Approach

15 February 2003. Email IF.
Copyright © 2003, Wendy L. Schultz
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