Community Foresight

This week's community foresight challenge

The next-order impacts of biohacking. Challenge ends Monday, August 31 at midnight ET.

Signals to consider: Genomic Editing, Genetic Screening, Gene Vandalism, Prime Editing, Organoid Development, Super Pigs, Superbugs, Viruses and Phages, Unregulated Pet Cloning, Synthetic Biology, Building Full Chromosomes, Designer Cells, Synthetic Age Reversal

Timeframe: between 10 - 20 years

 

🚨Win a free registration to EmTech MIT! The Future Today Institute is a proud strategic partner of this year's EmTech MIT Conference. If you're already reading our newsletter on emerging tech trends, we know you'd benefit from attending the MIT Tech Review's premier annual event. (In fact, we're EmTech regulars, and we're longtime MIT Tech Review subscribers!) We will select one or more scenarios from each community foresight challenge. Winners will receive a free pass to EmTech in October. 

Write a short, descriptive title for your forecast.
Give us a range of years that apply to this scenario. Example: 2020 - 2022, 2033 - 2035
Write 3 or more sentences describing next-order implications. This isn't a prediction. It is a description of possible outcomes, given what we know to be true today.
Only required if you want attribution.
Not required
Only required if you want attribution.


 

Last week's community foresight challenge: the futures of cyber war and grand strategy

FORECAST TITLEFORECAST TYPEYEARS IN THE FUTUREYOUR FORECASTNameYour City, CountrySocial Media HandleYour Organization
Digital strandingPessimistic2025The failure of Brexit deal in late 2020 spurred on the EU to protect the further collapse of the union by spinning up a favourable deal with China for its own 5G network powered by Huawei technology. The rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine and the now mandated global digital health passports to prove immunity for travellers was a bumpy ride to say the least, with both US and UK opting out of EU digital travel standards for security concerns and ratcheting tensions between the West and China. A global AI fuelled cyber attack means certain phones and wearable devices are banned overnight - they have perceived security vulnerabilities in European countries with Chinese backed tech leading to outcry and mass “device dumping” - discarded tech that is virtually worthless beyond borders. Tourists abroad while new standards came into force with the “wrong devices” are left stranded and have to wipe their data before returning home, reschedule flights or face binning their digital tech altogether, undergoing manual COVID testing at the border to prove immunity, something that hasn’t been seen since early 2021.Neil CollmanUK
Demise of the PanopticonNeutral2025In 2025, the world’s autocracies are perfecting the ‘Panopticon’, in which every digital platform, device and app feeds a central AI with rich data on all citizens. The system outputs optimized public policies, predictive censorship and policing, and comprehensive social scoring. It achieves unprecedented levels of national safety and stability in those countries. Meanwhile, the decade long “network influence war” waged against western democracies, which began in 2016, has by now ravaged western social media, political elections and financial markets. The cyberwarriors of the west are regrouping, and now turn their attention to the vulnerabilities of the Panopticon. They are puzzled as to why their adversaries would build a centralized system, with such critical political and social dependencies. In 2025, a maverick, western cyber-general receives authority from her democratically elected government, for a bold network influence counterstrike, against a leading Panopticon country. The campaign opens with a salvo of adversarial AI attacks against the social scoring system and the autonomous censor. As a result, some elites are locked out of the economy and some party propaganda gets deleted, while some dissenters receive unexpected promotions and criticism of the government gets mistakenly amplified. Panopticon defense crew respond by taking elements of the system off-line for forensic inspection, so some of it’s security functions are shifted back to manual work. But the personnel lack experience due to the years of automation. They are no match for the wave of social-engineering attacks against them by deep-fake bots impersonating their superiors, giving false instructions to release political prisoners. Demonstrations begin to crop up, and new quantum network equipment is smuggled in to the country for the opposition to securely message the outside world, free from surveillance. Holograms are also spirited in to help protestors throw off facial-recognition cameras. Geolocation spoofing attacks during demonstrations give additional cover. As the insurgency hits full swing, the ‘great leader’ finds his own embarrassing private data leaked from the Panopticon, just as his digital wallet is drained of crypto-currency. Meanwhile, big data exfiltrated from the Panopticon is mined in the west, to identify promising opposition leadership in the country. The regime survives, but it is shaken. It sues to end the network-influence wars with the west. And it embarks on a reform of governance technologies at home.David ShoreshIsrael
“Reinventing Democracy”Pessimistic2023The COVID-19 pandemic was a major “wake up call” for our society. In additional to the personal toll for some many families, the pandemic created massive economic impact, unemployment and social unrest, which have been deep and widespread even 3 years after the start of the health crisis. Also, the pandemic made very visible the inability of nations and multilateral organizations to collaborate more broadly and effectively. Political tensions continue to be high and have created increased levels of leadership distraction from the needs of their constituents, as well mistrust among national leaders. Such a state of affairs allowed technology-enabled state and non-state actors to continue to try to undermine individual privacy, businesses, as well as democratic institutions (as evidenced in the 2020 USA presidential elections). A recent global poll showed that about 2/3 of the people no longer have confidence in the traditional representative democracy to express their wishes and defend their interests. Competing ideologies are investing heavily to promote alternative governance models. At the same time, citizens are becoming more open to using technology to create “virtual quasi-nation states”, which the UN will be compelled to recognize and provide Assembly seating. Citizens no longer want to be represented solely by their in-country political representatives also given the need to more quickly address issues of global nature / scope. The concept of liquid democracy is being expanded, allowing citizens and their “AI avatars” to vote directly about issues of their interest in both their local and virtual states. Such a model is getting significant traction across the larger society and may become the prevailing one in the near future.Antonio Urquiza
When Cyber Sovereignty Becomes A Poison PillCatastrophic2023By the end of 2020, it had become clear that there was no turning back as tensions between the US and China mounted beyond hope of diplomatic repair. Multiple rounds of escalating retaliation meant neither could walk away without losing face. The US' sphere of influence became collateral damage as countries were forced to “pick a side” and many had become too interconnected with Beijing to survive a split. This exacerbated US isolationism that had grown from years of pulling back from alliances and intergovernmental organizations. Expanding restrictions around work and student visas sparked a brain drain as more and more immigrants turned to countries who welcomed them in an effort to compete with Silicon Valley. US researchers were losing access to talent pipelines and opportunities for cross-collaboration, making it harder to compete in the global AI race. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The rise of network virtualization meant telecom systems had become heavily software-based while the internet of things had grown the available attack surface. AI was a crucial factor in cybersecurity defense on this new battlefield. Increasingly half a step behind, critical US networks were more vulnerable to paralyzing attacks they never saw coming.Jennifer Karppinen
Ecosystem Society EconomyIdeal Future2030Cashless Society, richness distribution, improved work life Balance, Increased commitment on sustainable development goals
"A Surveillance Narco-State: ¿Government of the Future?"Catastrophic2026Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs), Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (UAV), Facial Recognition Systems, humanoid robots and other forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, are finally at the reach of Drug Cartels in the world. These criminal groups are so wealthy and powerful now in some developing countries, that they have acquired not only AI technology and weapons from both legal and illegal markets, but now they also possess the scientific knowledge to create and operate AI tech of their own. National governments in developing nations realized very late of this menace, and when they finally noticed in 2023, a war started with drug cartels for the control of power in these countries, resulting in bloody battles and a many citizens' lives lost. Resistance by the state's forces was feisty, but in the end, regretably, useless. The key was that in the past, governments didn't see the signals coming and they remained overconfident on their then bigger human and firepower capacity to repel these criminal groups, and thus never prepared for the fact that AI technology and weaponry, could get into the hands of drug cartels. After the fight, now at the start of 2026, drug lords have just established a "Narco-State", a new order dominated by them that got rid of traditional political institutions and forms of government based on presidencies, parliaments and judicial branches. It must be said that most people in these scattered developing countries in the world where a "Narco-State" has now been established, were so angry at their traditionally corrupt political authorities,and were so tired of violence, poverty and death, that in the decisive stage of the final battle of 2025, they decided that their best choice was to support criminal groups and their allies, in order to finally stop the fighting, reach the peace and realize the promises of economic development, health coverage, end of violence in the streets and financial stability for their families, that they never had before with politicians. The new "Surveillance Narco-State", based on a centralized power by a "Council" of citizens -appointed by drug lords in the different territorial regions that got over their control all allong these countries-, is ironically sustained now by popular support, and relies on an ubiquitous AI technology of surveillance, that allows the new group in power to take an eye -permanently- over every member of the population. There is no need for more fighting. There is no need for more violence, since those using it the most before, now have AI technology at their service. Very oddly -at least for now- peace has finally been granted, and violence and insecurity on the streets, finally erradicated.Mauricio Hernández@maudelfuturo
“A 3D Printer in Every Home”Optimistic20303D technology has evolved fast and it achieved functionality and price points that enabled its widespread adoption within society ("A 3D Printer in Every Home" vision is now reality). A large variety of consumer products (including FOOD) can now be 3D-printed by accessing files in the cloud. Such “food files” can be chosen by their nutritional ingredients and other categorization relevant to the consumer (for example, calorie count, gluten free, allergy information, etc.) and eventually personalized with ingredients that are more compatible with the user’s DNA. 3D technology will eliminate the need for packaging of such products but it will also likely reduce the large amount of food waste we currently incur in our daily habits (which is currently being disposed in landfills and leading to the production of methane and then, creating adverse impact to global warming). Additionally, 3D printing of consumer products will reduce the need for transportation packaging and the carbon footprint of the global supply chain (including the online shopping “last mile”). As technology later evolves, 4D printing also becomes widely available and it helps to increase the variety of products that can be remotely printed by consumers.Antonio Urquiza
Getting Back to NatureOptimistic2025Finally realizing the damage caused by our disposable culture, people spent the early 20s looking to nature for a solution. Most food packaging was converted to edible versions, but over half of household waste still remained. Municipalities had long been strapped for cash and with little remaining room in landfills, drastically raised rates for waste disposal; neighborhoods banded together to find another way. Members of these newly established co-ops started diverting waste to composting stations. These stations were unlike those in traditional community gardens however. Completely automated, recognition software ensures “undesirables” don’t accidentally get mixed in with compostable waste — though there isn’t much that can’t be composted these days. Sensors throughout the compost beds monitor conditions, feeding data into optimization algorithms that then direct a bot crew to rotate material, bioprint needed microbes, and adjust inputs. Rainwater flushes through the beds and is fed into bordering vertical farms, which provide fresh produce for co-op members and schools. It’s become a real source of pride for communities.Jennifer Karppinen
Levelling the Playing FieldOptimistic2040To a large extent, people are working very hard to heal the wounds created by increased inequality and to reconcile the society across economic, social and ideological lines. Society is no longer willing to accept that multi-million dollar salaries are being paid to top professional players and starts refusing to buy tickets, watch their games on TV or to purchase the products they promote. Team owners, sponsor companies and broadcasters agree that it is time to “level the playing field” and to use technology to achieve such an objective. Players will then have their brains connected to the cloud (using BCI technology) where all of them have equal and fast access to best practices and data on past games / shots. Nano robots are then a well-known technology and are added to the body of the players, which provide them a similar health condition, as well as physical and mental strengths. Technology has then created conditions for a fair game where fans enjoy the “art and beauty” of the game, rather than a sense of one team beating the other team. Players are then rewarded in more reasonable ways and more people can even aspire to become professional players . There is no more need to score games and what really matters to the audience is the experience of watching creative players, while developing or expanding relationships – in either the physical or virtual domains – with other members of the audience.Antonio Urquiza
Synth BoostingPessimistic2030With synthetic gamers starting to emerge, eSports gamers and fans alike began to question the integrity of the game. Accusations often arose that a synth was being used when someone’s player ranking rose seemingly overnight. One team sparked intense controversy when news broke that it had created a hybrid synth that combined aspects of top gamers with one of its own professional gamers. AI seamlessly took over parts of the game when needed, switching control back and forth between the algorithm and the human gamer. The “interventions” were so well-matched that it made it virtually impossible to tell where the gamer’s play stopped and the algorithm’s began. While the team swore it was experimental only and never used in competition, no one quite knew for sure anymore whether anyone’s play could be trusted to be their own.Jennifer Karppinen
MultiplicityNeutral2030As eSports far surpassed the $1 billion mark, gamers continued to strengthen their own cults of personality to tap into that growth. With streaming at its highest levels, top gamers sought out new revenue streams. The key: synthetic media. With perfectly humanized digital copies of themselves, gamers started selling time to fans. Instead of just watching streaming content, fans were able to immerse themselves in a game where they “teamed up” with their idols. The interactions were so life-like, syngamers were virtually undetectable except, of course, until they ran into themselves in the game. Gamers could be in multiple games at once, earning revenue off of every single cameo at the same time. Run too many instances however and fans lost interest. It’s definitely a fine, synthetic line.Jennifer Karppinen
From one grid to severalNeutral2035As the grid will be more and more stressed and people will work remotely, we will have to develop several networks with different levels of criticality to prevent global blackouts. For example, people controlling hospitals or dams remotely will be "plugged" on a highly secure and reliable grid while street lamps will be linked to a lower level grid. As we don't want to build a second physical grid (pylons, wires, ...) we will develop an energy model that unbundles transport and usage (like the TCP/IP model).Géraud de Lavalhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/gerauddelaval/
Extended EU Energy GridOptimistic2030Inspired by China's 800,000 volt line from a dam in Yunnan Province to Shanghai, and forced to supercharge European integration after the Covid-19 crisis, the EU managed to overcome its internal obstacles and built a SuperSmartGrid, interconnecting it's member states' grids with high-voltage direct current (HVDC). This allows for inexpensive, long-range, high capacity and low loss energy transmission. To enable the EU to transition towards a fully decarbonized electricity system, and becoming less reliant on OPEC, it will reconsider its enlargement criteria to include-- and extend the grid to -- Northern Africa.Andreas Freund, Editor of Future Potentialis (futurepotentialis.com)
In China We TrustNeutral2038China’s expansive investment in green tech and transmission systems made it an early global leader in clean, modular energy solutions. As projects accelerated under its Belt and Road Initiative, China established tremendous leverage through project debt structures and control over critical power infrastructure throughout Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. At the same time, China’s efforts to decrease its own reliance on foreign energy and digital network infrastructure made it less susceptible to punitive economic sanctions over its aggressive expansion tactics. With the rest of the world little able or willing to build a defensive coalition, China faced little pushback even as it declared national control in space with permanent LEO habitats and budding space colonies.Jennifer Karppinen
One world, one nationOptimistic50By 2050, we have demonstrated in several instances our limited ability to address problems that require global cooperation and coordination at institutional levels. In addition to the failure to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent its propagation for several years, challenges like climate change, global peace, etc. remain largely unsolved. At that point, the majority of the world population agrees that such a failure can – to a great extent – be attributed to the individual nation state framework. However and at the same time, society also recognizes the enormous progress that has been done in the technology front. By enabling universal high-speed connectivity, online remote communication and collaboration, real time language translation, augmented reality and other technologies, society at large has been able to develop strong and empathetic relationships at individual and group levels. Society then embarks on a 20-year journey to develop a single nation state model of governance, to be completed by 2070.Antonio Urquiza
Spatial InequalityPessimistic30As a collective society, we have failed to aggressively address the climate change threat and life on Earth has become extremely challenging for a large majority of the population in 2050. In addition to the direct natural disasters led by the experienced 4-5 C temperature increase, its social, geopolitical and economic ramifications create further inequality in the society. However and given the advances in space travel, satellite connectivity and many other technologies, the most affluent segment of the society have built “space communities” capable of offering many of the functions and amenities and comfort that prevailed on Earth early in the 21st century. From these privileged locations, they exercise the same level of power, control and influence that they had when living on Earth.Antonio Urquiza
Bots in SpaceOptimistic100The world population has stabilized at 10 billion. With cheap fusion technology, there is no longer the fight for energy or for water. Politically, we should see territories looking for more autonomy within countries. Africa will be the youngest continent, an ageing Europe and Asian economies will also likely happen. Taking the trend of battery storage over the past 20 years, we should see some cheap, reliable and extremely high density batteries by 2120. This combined with very high levels of robotics - we can send out autonomous mining robots into the Moon, Mars and even the Asteroid belt. Without the human factor, these autonomous bots with sufficiently advanced AI systems will help in bringing resources that will be key to projects back here on Earth. Earth is likely to be the only place where a variety of food can be grown in sufficient quantities - and will likely to remain as a food basket for some time, even if colonies have been made on the Moon and Mars. Robotics will also ensure that humanity is less exposed to the elements while out in space. Robots are likely to do the major amount of colony building in other celestial bodies. When construction begins in space - for transport, for cargo processing, etc, it is likely to use only robots, with humans coming into the picture only after everything is ready and set. Space robots will not be constrained by gravity or volume limitations that are likely issues back on Earth, hence can be built to do most tasks.Salim M. India
Medical PioneersOptimistic2040For off-planet colonists, smart dust has become a personal team of embedded diagnosticians. Tiny sensors capture real time data on the status of bodily functions. Edge computing is used to detect emerging issues and send “orders” to the colonist’s Digital-to-Biological Converter to tweak a nutritional plan or print a medical intervention. Because analysis is done locally, a custom therapeutic can be recommended and synthesized even when communication with Earth isn’t possible. Off-planet environments are notoriously hard on colonists, but early detection means less invasive interventions that keep colonists far healthier than they were even back on Mother Earth.Jennifer Karppinen
The First Space War.Pessimistic2050By the year 2050, two dominant corporate players (one EuroAmerican, one Russo-Chinese) have established succesful colonies in the Moon and Mars, using local resources to sustain their operations. The colonies are staffed by a mixture of robots with powerful AI and humans genetically enhanced with CRISPR to be able to reduce the negative effects of space on the body. Tensions rise among the colonies as they expand towards Mars as they and their backing countries back on Earth stake claims on the most easily accessed mineral resources and astroagriculture locations, and are pressured due to the effects of Climate Change in the mother planet. In this context, small scale sabotages of robots exploring the asteroid field for mining, devolve into open hostilities among the colonies. An attack on one of the research colonies, through the hacking of the AI based climate control, results in the death of many colonizers and the loss of important technology. Very rapidly, space hostilities between the space colonies extend back to Earth, as the corporate stockholders pressure governments, and the First Space War begins.Oscar Ramírez, Ecuadorian Foreign Service Officer @DiploFutura @ozzlama
The First Space War.Pessimistic2050By the year 2050, two dominant corporate players (one EuroAmerican, one Russo-Chinese) have established succesful colonies in the Moon and Mars, using local resources to sustain their operations. The colonies are staffed by a mixture of robots with powerful AI and humans genetically enhanced with CRISPR to be able to reduce the negative effects of space on the body. Tensions rise among the colonies as they expand towards Mars as they and their backing countries back on Earth stake claims on the most easily accessed mineral resources and astroagriculture locations, and are pressured due to the effects of Climate Change in the mother planet. In this context, small scale sabotages of robots exploring the asteroid field for mining, devolve into open hostilities among the colonies. An attack on one of the research colonies, through the hacking of the AI based climate control, results in the death of many colonizers and the loss of important technology. Very rapidly, space hostilities between the space colonies extend back to Earth, as the corporate stockholders pressure governments, and the First Space War begins.Oscar Ramírez, Ecuadorian Foreign Service Officer @DiploFutura @ozzlama