Expert Forecasts for 2020

• The technological preeminence of the scientifically advanced countries in North America, Western Europe, and Asia Disease is often widespread. Essential resources, such as water and arable land, are frequently misused and rapidly dwindling. In many of these countries, the pervasive use of wood and coal-burning stoves is a major problem, generating indoor air pollution that has severe costs for the health of women and children in particular. The need for clean, cheap energy sources is urgent. With rapidly growing populations, low levels of literacy, and great disparities in wealth and power, these countries also frequently need to promote economic growth and international commerce. Stronger national economies would create jobs and generally improve the standard of living. But because very few countries at this level of S&T capacity are active participants in the global economy and because barriers are so abundant, this goal often takes a backseat to more basic development objectives. cheap solar energy, rural wireless communications, GM crops, filters and catalysts, and cheap autonomous housing—could help them both promote economic development in rural areas and improve public health. Solar energy would provide power for pumping water and irrigat-ing crops, significantly improving agriculture and offering alternatives to subsistence farming (e.g., industrial cooperatives). It would also provide the power to run the filters that purify water supplies and the appliances to store medications. Better and more accessible water, food, and medicine would in turn improve public health. Providing lighting for homes and build-ings and power for computers, solar energy could enable rural populations to participate in cottage industries and educate their children, growing the rural economy. Wireless communications would open the floodgate to economic development in remote areas, facilitating both commerce and education. Access to medical information and records would also significantly improve public health. GM crops would make food both more available and more nutritional, reducing the malnutrition and infant mortality that are so pervasive in these countries. Filters and catalysts would enable local populations to make unfit water sources usable and to clean wastewater for reuse. Cheap self-sufficient housing would provide rural populations with basic energy and shelter at minimal cost. Global diffusion of a technology application does not mean universal diffusion: Not every nation in the world will be able to implement, or even acquire, all technology applications by 2020. The level of direct S&T capacity may be markedly different from one country to another. Within different geographical regions, countries also have considerable differences that play into their ability. These differences may include variations in physical size, natural conditions (e.g., climate), and location (e.g., proximity to oceans and water). The size of the population and demographics (e.g., birthrate) may vary dramatically between countries in a single region. Countries may have very different types of government, economic systems, and levels of economic development. Of 56 illustrative applications that we identified as possible by 2020, 16 appear to have the greatest combined likelihood of being widely available commercially, enjoying a significant market demand, and affecting multiple sectors (e.g., water, food, land, population, governance, social structure, energy, health, economic development, education, defense and conflict, and environment and pollution).