Ep. 86: Global Trends 2040 (Part 2), with Heather Smith and Katherine Mansted


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By Allan Gyngell and Darren Lim, Allan Gyngell, and Darren Lim. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In the second half of their conversation arising out of the US National Intelligence Council publication “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”, Allan and Darren, along with guests Heather Smith and Katherine Mansted, turn to remaining sections.

Section 2 of the report concerns “emerging dynamics”, and asks how the structural forces outlined in the first section (and discussed in Part 1)—demographics, economics, technology and the environment—interact with other factors at three levels of analysis. Katherine speaks to the level of individuals and society, Heather to the level of the state, and Allan to the level of the international system.

The major theme of this section is greater debate and contestation, and the consequences for the cohesiveness of societies and the resilience of states. The report’s authors see growing pessimism around the world regarding the future, and greater distrust of leaders and institutions. They foresee a growing imbalance between public demands and governments’ ability to deliver on those demands.

Section 3 concludes the report by looking at possible scenarios for the world in 2040. The report’s authors stress these are not intended to be predictions, but to present a broad spectrum of possibilities that explore how various combinations of structural forces and emerging dynamics, along with other uncertainties, could play out. Each discussant offers their take on which of the five scenarios described is most resonant: (i) Renaissance of Democracies; (ii) A World Adrift; (iii) Competitive Coexistence; (iv) Separate Silos; and (v) Tragedy and Mobilisation.

As Katherine astutely observes in her concluding thoughts, it is right and proper to maintain a clear distinction between intelligence and policy. Nevertheless, a publication such as this will leave many wanting more—more actionable and more persuasive policy insights. Navigating a way through the dark clouds on the horizon is not however the role of the intelligence community... but someone will have to do it.

Heather Smith is a Professor at the ANU’s National Security College, following a distinguished career in the Australian public service including serving as Deputy Director-General of ONA, Deputy Secretary of DFAT, and Secretary of the Departments of Communications and of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Katherine Mansted is a Senior Fellow in the Practice of National Security at the ANU’s National Security College, and also the Director of Cyber Intelligence at CyberCX.

We thank Mitchell McIntosh for his help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

“Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”, a publication of the National Intelligence Council, March 2021: https://www.dni.gov/index.php/gt2040-home

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