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Expert Forecasts for 2020

Generally, a country’s level of S&T capacity links up with indicators of economic and social development. By and large, countries with less S&T capacity also rank lower in the other two areas, while countries with more S&T capacity rank higher.5 Consequently, nations with different levels of S&T capacity often share similar problems and, as a result, tend to prioritize similar objectives. Promoting rural economic development, improving public health, and reducing the use of resources and improving environmental health—all basic development goals—are usually top concerns for countries on the lowest rungs of the development ladder. Countries at Various Levels of Development Prioritize Strengthening the Military capable of implementing relevant sets of applications (sometimes even on par with Russia in the proficient group). But compared with most of the proficient and advanced countries, their level of capacity will still be very low. South Africa will have even less capacity, and Colombia and Indonesia will have little more than that of the scientifically lagging countries. Aging populations and a high standard of living also put improving individual health at the head of the national agenda in many scientifically advanced countries. Enhancing public health is often an objective, too, but usually a much less prominent one, given that these nations have already achieved very effective public health systems and will gain only marginal benefits. Exceptional circumstances, such as a need to provide emergency medical relief should a disaster strike, usually drive this goal. 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.