IN THIS SUMMARY
What will the world look like in the year 2020? Author Robert J. Shapiro believes there will be significant changes caused by globalization, aging societies, and the rise of America as a sole superpower. These developments in the world's major countries are made up of broad and powerful forces that can shift the way people face new technologies, family life, and changing economies. Futurecast helps readers make sense of the global economy and its effect on the 21st century in the next 10-to-15 years. In today's societies, there are four global forces reshaping the near future. These changes are natural, and occur in every facet of life. 1. Aging populations - Due to the baby boom after World War II, many countries now have rapidly aging populations. This affects how rapidly different nations are able to grow and how well they are able to meet the needs of their citizens. 2. Globalization - New information technologies and the advance of complex, worldwide trade and information networks are rapidly interconnecting more countries and leading to greater foreign and domestic competition. 3. Role of the superpower - The fall of the Soviet Union and its European empire has left United States as the sole global military and economic superpower. As a superpower, the United States can provide enormous momentum and security to other nations. 4. Geopolitics - Another force that will shape the next 15 years is the rearrangement of geopolitics, which relates to the influence of geography, demographics, and economic factors on politics and foreign relations. The rise of geopolitics began with the fall of the Soviet Union, and enabled China to break with socialist economics and make rapid progress in world markets. International conflicts are more able to impact world markets because those involved are connected to each other through worldwide networks of trade and information. Rapid modernization enables people to move around the world in search of improved living standards. However, there is a price to pay; the migration of millions of workers across borders produces political conflicts, while the globalization of production and consumption changes the character of large corporations. This makes intellectual capital the most important resource for global companies, widening the gap between skilled workers' incomes and everyone else. The steady shift of manufacturing and service jobs to fast-growing developing countries will leave advanced countries with two options: either raise productivity for the nontradable services they still have or develop new industries by becoming a powerful innovator. Due to the aging population, however, accomplishing these two tasks may prove difficult for many developed nations. For the most part, the combination of globalization and demography make China and the United States stronger than Europe or Japan. While the numbers of elderly people will increase faster in both America and China than in Europe or Japan over the next 15 years, the number of working-age Americans and Chinese will also grow. For the next decade, China and the United States should occupy two poles accommodating the pressures of globalization: China will have hundreds of millions of relatively skilled lower-wage workers producing the goods the entire world wants, and the United States will have many millions more high-wage workers. The combination of globalization and fast-rising healthcare and energy costs will create enormous social and economic stresses over the next 15 years. These rising costs may continue to stunt job and wage gains in advanced countries, affecting the prospects of middle-class families all over the world. The most prosperous advanced countries over the next decade will be those that focus on what advanced economies do best: creating, adopting, and adapting to powerful new technologies and production processes as well as new ways to finance, market, and distribute products.