Income inequality may worsen, the report said, sometimes linking it to information inequality.
The report said that the “trust gap” between the informed public who believed in a government solution and the broader public who had deep institutional suspicions was growing.
The problem has been exacerbated by technology. Algorithms, social media, and artificial intelligence have replaced expertise in identifying information that is widely spread, making the public more vulnerable to disinformation.
Maria Langan-Rickhoff, director of the Intelligence Council’s Strategic Future Group, said that positive demographic changes in recent decades, as people moved out of poverty and into the middle class, have created “increased expectations”. But fears of lower incomes around the world are growing, a worrying trend when combined with changes in how information is shared and deepening social divisions.
“These concerns lead people to seek safety from reliable voices, but also from like-minded groups within their communities,” said Ms. Langan-Rickhoff. “Overlay those trends that I’m describing, and you’ll sort of see that recipe for more splits, and more fissures. We think this is likely to continue and maybe worsen.”
These trends could weaken democratic governments over time, the report said.
“At the same time that the population is being increasingly empowered and demanding more, governments are under greater pressure from new challenges and limited resources,” the report said. This widening gap heralds further political upheaval, eroding democracy and expanding roles for alternative governance providers. Over time, these dynamics may open the door to more important shifts in how people are governed.
The Global Trends report often looked at potential future situations. In the 2017 ReportOne example thought of a pandemic plunging the world into economic chaos. It envisioned nationalist politicians eroding alliances, low oil prices causing disaster and more isolating business practices. It also expected a pandemic (albeit in 2023, not 2020), which would restrict travel, cause economic hardship and exacerbate current trends towards isolation.
Gregory F. Treverton, the former head of the National Intelligence Council who helped lead the 2017 effort, said the report discussed the threat of a pandemic for nearly two decades. The 2004 Report He said some experts believed it was “only a matter of time” before a pandemic, he said.