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July 4, 2015

The Technology the Intelligence Community Is About to Be Worried About

LONDON, ENGLAND - A 3D printer constructs a model human figure in the exhibition '3D: printing the future' in the Science Museum on October 8, 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

A 3D printer constructs a model human figure in the exhibition ‘3D: printing the future’ at London’s Science Museum on Oct. 8, 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Previewing the National Intelligence Council’s next long-range forecast of worldwide trends, chairman Christopher Kojm said on Tuesday that the updated version of its report produced for each incoming president would turn its technological gaze to 3D printing, bioinformatics, technologies related to essential resources and most of all, information technology.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council, Kojm said the upcoming quadrennial “Global Trends” report — which looks approximately 15 years into the future to give the newly elected chief executive a picture of what could soon influence the balance of international power — would definitely focus on at least those four subcategories of technology. Kojm was delivering his remarks in conjunction with a discussion on a new book the Livermore and Los Alamos National Labs produced in collaboration with the Council entitled “Strategic Latency and World Power: How Technology is Changing Our Concepts of Security.”

“We don’t have crystal balls, we don’t really make predictions, and when we do it’s not really very useful or very accurate,” Kojm said. “What we can speak to with great clarity are the drivers and key forces that will shape international behavior, and technology is of course the key to it.”

Information technology, or IT, is “the driving force with respect to change,” Kojm said, emphasizing the word “the.” The digitalization of every other technology demands its place at the front of the list.

Related to that is automation and advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing. The ability for anyone to custom design an item, be it a bicycle or an item of clothing, then click a mouse and send it off to be manufactured, is here now, Kojm noted.  “It simply hasn’t transformed the international system yet, but it will and it will soon,” he said. The “dark side” to that pertains to biological, chemical, nuclear and conventional lethal weapons, he added.

And bioinformatics, which he said gives us the ability to track and replicate protein combinations in long strands of DNA “at enormous speed and at reduced cost and really will transform our ability to improve health,” has great potential. “Its complications will be profound for national power in ways that we are only beginning to appreciate and ascertain now,” Kojm said.

The final category is resource technologies pertaining to the production and transportation of food, energy and water. “Technological improvements to those essential resource for human existence — food, water and energy — will be the point of application of technologies going forward,” Kojm said.

The last Global Trends report was produced in 2012 and was entitled “Global Trends 2030.”

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