Expert Forecasts for 2020

Countries in the scientifically lagging group tend to be at the bottom of the development ladder. Promoting rural economic development, improving public health, and reducing the use of resources and improving environmental health commonly rank highest on national agendas. As the global technology revolution proceeds, market forces will moderate and vector its course, its technology applications, and their implementation. Predicting the net effect of these forces is predicting the future—wrought with all the difficulties of such predictions. But current technology trends have substantial momentum behind them and will certainly be the focus of continued R&D, consideration, and debate over the next 15 years. By 2020, countries will be applying many of these technologies in some guise or other and the effects will be significant, changing lives across the globe. • Infrastructure: Physical infrastructure at a consistent threshold of quality that can be maintained, upgraded, and expanded over time. What is more, the ability to acquire a technology application does not equal the ability to implement it. Doing research or importing know-how is a necessary initial step. But success-ful implementation also depends on the drivers within a country that encourage technological innovation and the barriers that stand in its way. Such drivers and barriers reflect a country’s institutional, human, and physical capacity;1 its financial resources; and its social, political, and cultural environment. Each of these factors plays a part in determining a nation’s ability to put a new technology application into the hands of users, cause them to embrace it, and support its widespread use over time. • Genetically modified (GM) crops: Genetically engineered foods with improved nutritional value (e.g., through added vitamins and micronutrients), increased production (e.g., by tailoring crops to local conditions), and reduced pesticide use (e.g., by increasing resistance to pests).