Expert Forecasts for 2020

Just as in the lagging and developing countries, cheap solar energy, rural wireless communications, GM crops, filters and catalysts, and cheap autonomous housing could enable those scientifically proficient nations that make it a priority to do so to promote rural economic development. • Social values, public opinion, and politics: Religious beliefs, cultural customs, and social mores that affect how a technology application is perceived within a society; compatibility of a new application with dominant public opinions; and the politics and economics underlying debates about an application. • Infrastructure: Physical infrastructure at a consistent threshold of quality that can be maintained, upgraded, and expanded over time. For these reasons, different countries will vary considerably in their ability to utilize technology applications to solve the problems they confront. To be sure, not all technology applications will require the same level of capacity to acquire and use. But even so, some countries will not be prepared in 15 years to exploit even the least demanding of these applications—even if they can acquire them—whereas other nations will be fully equipped to both obtain and implement the most demanding. The technology applications we identified vary significantly in assessed technical feasibility and implementation feasibility by 2020. Table 1 shows the range of this variation on a matrix of 2020 technical feasibility versus 2020 implementation feasibility for all 56 technology applications. Technical feasibility is defined as the likelihood that the application will be possible on a commercial basis by 2020. Implementation feasibility is the net of all nontechnical barriers and enablers, such as market demand, cost, infrastructure, policies, and regulations.