Graduate Seminar

Forward Engagement: The Study of Long-range Developments as Factors in Contemporary National Policy Taught 2001 – 2010 and in the fall of 2013, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University.

The objective of this course is to accustom graduate students to thinking in an integrated way about potentially major societal events in the longer-range future, and simultaneously, to consider initiatives that might be taken in the present to better devise public policy for meeting these contingencies. In the real world, issues are far more inter-connected than our specializations suggest, and to filter out these connections imperils our ability to appreciate what is shaping our lives. Therefore, Forward Engagement does not relate only to security issues: it tries to comprehend major developments in the broad categories of defense, economics, science and technology, and governance – and it also strives to understand how these developments interact. This approach will complement the training of students who are preparing for careers in government or who are seriously interested in public policy though enrolled in other specializations.
The course also serves as an adaptive research and analytical organization that learns from and modifies the work of its predecessors.
Student Reports on Forward Engagement:

 Course Syllabi:
 Class Scenarios:
 Final Reports:
 Spring 2001 Syllabus
 Spring 2001 Scenario
  Spring 2001 Report
  Spring 2001 Presentation
 Fall 2001 Syllabus
 Fall 2001 Scenario
  Fall 2001 Report
  Fall 2001 Presentation
 Spring 2002 Syllabus
 Spring 2002 Scenario
  Spring 2002 Report
  Spring 2002 Presentation
 Fall 2002 Syllabus
 Fall 2002 Scenario
  Fall 2002 Report
  Fall 2002 Presentation
 Spring 2003 Syllabus
 Spring 2003 Scenario
  Spring 2003 Report
  Spring 2003 Presentation
 Fall 2003 Syllabus
 Fall 2003 Scenario
  Fall 2003 Report
  Fall 2003 Presentation
 Spring 2004 Syllabus
 Spring 2004 Scenario
  Spring 2004 Report
  Spring 2004 Presentation
 Fall 2004 Syllabus
 Fall 2004 Scenario
  Fall 2004 Report
  Fall 2004 Presentation
 Spring 2005 Syllabus
 Spring 2005 Scenario
  Spring 2005 Report
  Spring 2005 Presentation
 Fall 2005 Syllabus
 Fall 2005 Scenario
  Fall 2005  Report
  Fall 2005 Presentation
 Spring 2006 Syllabus
 Spring 2006 Scenario
  Spring 2006 Report
  Spring 2006 Presentation
 Fall 2006 Syllabus
 Fall 2006 Scenario
  Fall 2006 Report
  Fall 2006 Presentation
 Spring 2007 Syllabus
 Spring 2007 Scenario
  Spring 2007 Report
  Spring 2007 Presentation
 Fall 2007 Syllabus
 Fall 2007 Scenario
  Fall 2007 Report
  Fall 2007 Presentation
 Spring 2008 Syllabus
 Spring 2008 Scenario
  Spring 2008 Report
  Spring 2008 Presentation
 Fall 2008 Syllabus
 Fall 2008 Scenario
  Fall 2008 Report
  Fall 2008 Presentation
 Spring 2009 Syllabus
 Spring 2009 Scenario
  Spring 2009 Report
  Spring 2009 Presentation
 Fall 2009 Syllabus
 Fall 2009 Scenario
  Fall 2009 Report
  Fall 2009 Presentation
 Spring 2010 Syllabus
 Spring 2010 Scenario
  Spring 2010 Report
  Spring 2010 Presentation
 Fall 2013 Syllabus
  Fall 2013 Scenario
   Fall 2013 Report
  Fall 2013 Presentation

Graduate Course Publications:

Creation of a National Commission for Strategic Planning,” Futures Research Quarterly, World Futures Society, Winter 2004

Future Contingencies of Interest (FCIs) identified by Forward Engagement Students include:
Economics FCIs
  • Global Economic shift to Asia
  • Elderly strain the health care system
  • A safe and clean method of destroying spent nuclear fuel
  • Loss of Dollar Dominance
  • Rising Obesity
  • Global Urbanization
  • Regionalization of World Politics
  • The Return of the City-State
  • The End of Government Regulation of Private Industry
  • Anti-Globalization/Isolationism/protectionism
  • US Credit Implodes
  • Economic balance of power shifts to Asia
  • Agricultural resource depletion reaches threshold
  • Confirmation that oil production reaches its peak
Governance / Society FCIs
  • Adoption of global grid computing technology to enable geographically dispersed computing technologies to virtually share data
  • Standing army for the EU
  • Increased Domestic surveillance
  • Colonization of Space
  • Global pandemics intensified by multi-drug resistance, end to effectiveness of antibiotics
  • Internet and Mobile Phones in Developing Countries
  • Multiculturalism and unabsorbed population
  • European instability (inclusive of NATO)
  • Collapse of Multi-lateralism
  • US loses control of the Internet
  • Life expectancy reaches 100 years
  • America Ages, stops senescing
Science and Technology FCIs
  • Advances in molecular biology lead to manipulation abilities
  • Discovery of extraterrestrial life
  • Confirmation of a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) in Physics
  • Emergent Applications of quantum physics (e.g., computing/encryption, teleportation)
  • Computing power rises exponentially
  • Discovery of a large asteroid on a collision course with earth
  • Space exploration leads to successful mining of resources
  • Room-temperature superconductor is discovered
  • Humans attain ability to forecast and manipulate long-term weather patterns
  • End of energy scarcity through alternative energies
  • End of water scarcity via nanotechnology applications
  • Nanotechnology becomes the 21st century “Industrial Revolution”
  • Carbon nanotube composite strength reaches level requisite for space elevator
  • Nuclear Fusion becomes a viable source of energy
  • Hydrogen or electric-powered automobiles become the standard mode of transportation
  • Solar and wind power are increasingly employed as a source of energy
  • Convergence of Nano-Info-Bio + Neuro
  • Pervasive Computing redefines human activity
  • Converging sciences yield understanding of brain operations
  • Artificial Intelligence systems evolve independently of humans; lack of control over intelligent computer systems
  • Robots replace much of work force
  • Neurotechnologies allows for mind-to-mind communication
  • Biological basis for the human soul is discovered
  • Medical advances redefine human life (regenerative body parts, cloning, new strands of human species)
  • Stem Cells are developed for medical purposes
  • Development of a new strain of bacteria/virus that leads to biological weapons being released on a global scale
  • Developed nations reject “western” medicine on a large scale
Defense / Security FCIs
  • Cyberstrikes on critical infrastructure
  • Rise of transnational criminal groups
  • Suicide Attacks become commonplace
  • Proliferation of failed states
  • Revolution in Military Affairs (i.e. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles)
  • Weaponization of Space / space arms race
  • Government attains ability to track all citizens
  • China and India Emerge as Superpowers
  • Global Warming causes drastic climate change
  • Deforestation destroys natural carbon cycle
  • Nuclear/Biological/Chemical (NBC) Attack
  • Iran becomes a regional hegemon
  • Robotic warfare
  • Transnational organized crime
  • Worldwide Infertility resulting from hormone-laden food and water
  • Water Scarcity
  • Israel-Palestine Peace through Science & Technology
  • Computers Pervade our environment
  • Computers pass Turing Test
  • Transnational Corporations become more Powerful than Governments
  • Privatization of war / proliferation of private military corporations
  • Disruption of the Global Maritime Commons


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Posted December 13, 2011 by forwardengagement