Celebrating 22 Years of “Seven Revolutions”
By: Scott Aughenbaugh
CSIS is now beginning its 22nd year of providing Seven Revolutions, a roll-up of our research on long-term trends that will fundamentally change the way we work, think, and live in the future. Can you remember the global environment of 1992? The world contained 5.5 billion people, the European Union was brand new, Windows 3.1 was released, the Mosaic web browser was being developed, and there was civil war in Afghanistan. Since that time, the Earth has traveled almost 13 billion miles, and the changes for those of us living on it seem too numerous to count.
It might surprise you, then, that the Seven Revolutions research provided significant insights to those in the 1990s peering into the world of today. The first revolution considered urbanization and “megacities,” which the United Nations now estimates will be home to approximately 6 billion people by 2040. As our research showed then, the shrinking cost of communications paved the way for new modes of learning and for the possibility of much greater access and equality. The future of technology covered changes in material science, bioengineering, and a future of “wearable machines”—all of which play a central role in today’s tech- focused world. In economics, Seven Revolutions pointed to the rise of Asia, with China and India leading the way, well before the BRICs became popular in the early 2000s.
As we think about the coming 22 years, we should expect change across all of our revolutions: population, resources, technology, information, economics, security, and governance. Will the world population expand beyond sustainable capacity? How will the human body adapt to advancing technology? Will the Internet of things, big data, and wearable devices survive a more privacy-concerned public? How will conflict change and adapt to the potential for denial of space-based communications and assets? What is the role of identity in looking at our patterns of community and state organization?
CSIS developed the Seven Revolutions to generate questions and spark dialogue about the future. It continues to serve as a tremendously insightful framework for such questions 22 years later. We are always scanning the horizon to create the most up-to-date, original, and compelling Seven Revolutions presentation we can. Our aim remains the same: to help civil society, corporations, governments, and academic institutions better prepare for human society’s rapidly shifting landscape and develop a more nuanced strategic planning perspective to guide their activities.