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Expert Forecasts for 2020

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, green manufacturing, and hybrid vehicles could enable nations in this group to reduce the use of resources and improve environmental health. Again, the benefits would be the same as for the scientifically lagging countries. In addition, green manufacturing would diminish waste streams, allowing energy, water, and land to be used more efficiently; cut down pollutants in the environment; and reduce the burden on local governments of cleaning up polluted areas. The rural economy is not much different from that of scientifically lagging and developing countries: Rapid economic growth is largely confined to urban areas, and rural and urban populations have great disparities in income, as well as health and education. In China in particular, the income gap is widening. Consequently, for both these nations, promoting rural economic development to reduce rural poverty is a much more pressing concern than it is for countries like Poland and Russia—although they still retain a national focus on promoting overall economic growth. If they can address multiple barriers to implementation, emerging economies, such as China and India in Asia and Brazil and Chile in South America, will be able to use technology applications to support continued economic growth and human development for their populations. Emerging technological powers China and India will have the best opportunity to approach the ability of the scientifically advanced countries to use applications to achieve national goals. The scientifically proficient countries of Eastern Europe, as represented by Poland, appear to be poised next in line behind China and India. In contrast, it looks likely that Russia’s capacity to implement technology applications will continue to deteriorate, with the most advanced of the scientifically developing countries (represented by Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Turkey) potentially overtaking her. • R&D investment: Funding to educate and train scientists, engineers, and technicians; build research laboratories, computer networks, and other facilities; conduct scientific research and develop new technologies; transfer technologies to commercial applications; and enter technology applications into the marketplace.