Few aspects of this invariably remarkable world that we set out to chronicle four times a year are more frightening than those that may be generically grouped under the category of The Unknown. At times paralyzing, at times enervating, and often of unparalleled excitement, these twists and turns into the future must be dealt with if we are to assure the survival of our civilization, indeed our very species. Historians can examine the past, while journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, and scholars can treat the present, which is all around us. But the future must, by its very nature, remain Unknown and infinitely challenging. It is the warp and woof, the form and substance of these challenges—how we must and should prepare to deal with them no matter what form they present themselves—that we set out to explore in the Spring issue of World Policy Journal.
With the world gripped by fear of the unknown—the next tragedy, the next crisis, the next terrorist attack, financial or societal meltdown—we’ve asked our panel of global experts, who weigh in from four continents, from Brazil to Ukraine, Bangladesh to Namibia, what their greatest fear is for the future of their nations.
Prolific science fiction author Neal Stephenson has a unique vision for the future. In our Chat Room, he speaks to World Policy Journal about technology, fundamentalist ideologies, climate change, and his upcoming novel Seveneves. Ultimately, Stephenson seeks to resolve a deeply perplexing question: what is our next unknown?
When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared last March, many wondered why search-and-rescue crews could not easily locate a 200-foot wide Boeing 777. The answer revolves around vast stretches of the Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have disappeared—all largely unknown, uncharted, unmapped. So in our Map Room, in collaboration with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, we’ve set out to chart the vast unknown surfaces and depths of this vast watery wilderness.
Jack Devine, a former leader of the CIA’s clandestine service, and Amanda Mattingly, a current colleague of his at the Arkin Group, discuss the unknowns that the international community must confront in the coming years. From IS to Crimea, China to Chile, Russia to Israel, Devine and Mattingly discuss what they view as the growing trends in an increasingly interconnected yet unknown world.
A recent joint-investigation by ProPublica, The New York Times, and a PBS Frontline series revealed that despite a trove of invaluable intelligence data, the United States, Britain, and India failed to unravel the plot that would lead to the deaths of 166 people in the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008. Yet intelligence gleaned from tracking two major figures should have alerted the spy agencies to the impending attack. World Policy Journal traces the anatomy of an intelligence failure and how the relevant agencies failed to communicate and cooperate during multiple stages of the terror attack planning.
Though German physicist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has been talking about climate “tipping points” since the late 1990s, his groundbreaking discovery is only now being perceived as a serious concern, perhaps the ultimate climate threat. Richard Blaustein, a Washington-based environmental journalist, examines how such tipping points appear and argues it is not too late to reverse the mechanism. It is equally essential to learn how to predict them to prevent otherwise irreversible environmental changes.
Since the first tax was levied, there have been tax havens. But surprisingly, some of the popular tax havens are no longer the usual suspects—remote Caribbean islands, for instance. Instead, tomorrow’s havens of choice are more likely to be major cities across the globe—London, New York, and beyond. From Buenos Aires, Andres Knobel of the Tax Justice Network, suggests improved transparency, punishments for non-compliance, and increased participation by the United Nations are essential to taking the right steps to battle this expanding financial fraud.
Scholar and writer Ziauddin Sardar, one of Britain’s most renowned public intellectuals, specializes in Muslim thought and future studies. He talked with World Policy Journal about the great unknowns of Islam, and specifically the future of this religion in a world of pluralities. He argues that we must embrace all religions and no longer treat any one religion as the absolute truth.
In this issue, we are delighted to welcome back our poet-in-residence Eliza Griswold, an extraordinary talent and National Magazine Award winner, whose unique vision of the world illuminates every issue. In her poem “Errata,” Griswold gracefully discerns the roots of our problems in the most basic of errors.
Few imagine what happens to sex workers when they grow old. In Mexico City, Casa Xochiquetzal, a shelter unlike any other, provides them a home to age with dignity. Photographer Bénédicte Desrus and writer Celia Gómez Ramos capture this reality and follow the individual stories of these women in pictures and words.
Blaise Compaoré ruled Burkina Faso for nearly 30 years. In the matter of a weekend, he was removed from power by his own people in a relatively peaceful coup d’état. Damien Glez narrates his own experience of the revolution and examines the rise and fall of this once immovable dictator, as well as what a democratic future in his sub-Saharan African country might look like.
Ponzi schemes have persisted as long as money has existed, with such scams now taking many forms. Fraudsters solicit investments in non-existent projects, and Africa is emerging as a leading fictitious investment landscape. South Africa-based investigative researcher Khadija Sharife explains how these hoaxes continue to work, examining Rendick Haddow, CEO of Capital Organization, and his 30-plus shell entities across the globe.
The Middle East and North Africa have seen a significant increase in HIV cases and AIDS related deaths. However, cultural and religious taboos silence candid dialogue on the subject. At a time when conflict refugees and the financially broken are relying on sex work, the risk for HIV infection is as widespread as ever. Writer and consultant Christopher Reeve analyzes the Tunisian model and suggests that an increase of regional funding and monitoring of HIV/AIDS projects will put the region on track to reaching lofty goals its health ministers signed off on in 2014.
Few economies or societies have been built around the world market price of a single commodity like oil. The power of oil producers threatens energy-dependent countries, but oil is no longer a monopoly and is a limited resource. World Policy Journal editor & publisher David A. Andelman examines the challenges oil producers and importers are facing in the 21st century.