Expert Forecasts for 2020

Scientifically proficient and advanced countries with more power and more money can better afford to make these goals high priorities. 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. Outside the capital, infrastructure is typically poor. Provincial areas commonly lack cheap and stable electricity, a clean and dependable water supply, basic health services, good roads, and schools. As a result, urban populations in many of these nations are growing rapidly as people flock to the cities in hope of better economic opportunities. Consequently, promoting rural economic development is usually a top concern, to reduce rural poverty, soothe discontent, and slow urban migration. Russia, in contrast, has no more capacity than the most capable of the scientifically developing nations. The scientifically proficient countries will be moderately capable of implementing the applications that would improve individual health. Implementation capacity will still be substantial but somewhat less for strengthening the military and warfighters and increasing homeland security and public safety. As much as these countries may need to achieve this goal, promoting economic growth and international commerce will be the most challenging of all. We based its assessment on rough qualitative estimates of the size of the market for the application in 2020 and whether or not it raises significant public policy issues. The numbers in parentheses are the number of sectors that the technology can affect, and the designation global (G) or moderated (M) indicates our estimate, based on both the technical foresights and our discussions with RAND regional experts, of whether the application will be diffused globally in 2020 or will be moderated in its diffusion (i.e., restricted by market, business sector, country, or region).