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National Security Research Division


The Global Technology Revolution 2020, In-Depth Analyses

The RAND Corporation National Security Research Division published a report in 2006 titled “The Global Technology Revolution 2020, In-Depth Analyses: Bio/Nano/Materials/Information Trends, Drivers, Barriers, and Social Implications”.1) It was sponsored by and prepared for the National Intelligence Council as consulting contribution to their own 2004 publication titled “Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project Based on Consultations With Nongovernmental Experts Around the World”.2)

While not primarily a pandemic war game, the word “pandemic” appears in the document 316 times (including footnotes).

In addition to the National Intelligence Council, funding was provided by the Intelligence Technology Innovation Center (ITIC) and the U.S. Department of Energy. It is a follow-on report to RAND MR-1307-NIC, The Global Technology Revolution (2001), which was sponsored by the NIC to inform its 2000 document, Global Trends 2015.

Conclusions Reached

The report finds that the the “accelerated pace of technology development” will continue, underlined by “the continuing trend toward globally integrated publications media, Internet connectivity, and scientific conferences, as well as the development and crossfertilization of ever more sensitive and selective instrumentation.”

Notable Contents

Many interesting and noteworthy technologies are mentioned, some directly relevant in the COVID-19 crisis. For now, here is a summary for further investigation at a later date:

  • Artificial tissue and muscle engineering
  • Biometrics as sole ID
  • Biomimetic and function-restoring implants
  • Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) Sensors on ERT
  • CBRN Sensor Network in Cities
  • Cheap autonomous housing
  • Cheap solar energy
  • Chip implants for brain
  • Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
  • Communication devices for ubiquitous information access anywhere, anytime
  • Computational (or “in-silico”) drug discovery and testing
  • Drugs tailored to genetics
  • Electronic transactions
  • Embedded sensors and computational devices in commercial goods
  • Enhanced medical recovery
  • Filters and catalysts for water purification and decontamination
  • Fluorescent quantum dots for medical diagnosis and treatment
  • Genetic modification of insects to control pests and disease vectors
  • Genetic screening
  • Genetic selection of offspring
  • Genetically modified (GM) Animals for research and development (R&D)
  • Genetically modified (GM) crops
  • Green manufacturing
  • Hands-free computer interface
  • High-tech terrorism
  • Hospital robotics
  • Hybrid vehicles
  • Hydrogen vehicles
  • Immunotherapy
  • Implants for tracking and ID
  • Improved diagnostic and surgical methods
  • Improved treatments from data analysis
  • In-silico drug research and development
  • Ingestible radio transmitters
  • Large, searchable databases containing detailed personal and medical data
  • Mass-producible organic electronics, including solar cells
  • Memory-enhancing drugs
  • Military nanotechnologies
  • Military robotics
  • Monitoring and control for disease management
  • Multifunctional cell phones that take digital photographs and receive and transmit electronic mail
  • Nanostructured materials with enhanced properties
  • Personalized medicine and therapies
  • Pervasive undetectable cameras and sophisticated sensor networks
  • Print-to-order books
  • Proxy-bot
  • Quantum computers
  • Quantum-based cryptographic systems for secure information transfer
  • Rapid bioassays using bionanotechnologies
  • Resistant textiles
  • Robotic scientist
  • Rural wireless communications
  • Secure data transfer
  • Secure video monitoring
  • Small and efficient portable power systems
  • Smart fabrics and textiles
  • Smart systems
  • Super soldiers
  • Targeted drug delivery through molecular recognition
  • Therapies based on stem cell R&D
  • Ubiquitous radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging and tracking of commercial products and individuals
  • Unconventional Transport
  • Wearable computers
  • Widespread bundled information and communications technologies, including wireless Internet connectivity
  • Xenotransplantation


  • “Many of the most controversial TAs involve biotechnology—for example, GM crops, GM insects, genetic screening, gene therapy, and genetic selection of offspring. Other TAs spark heated debate because of their potential implications for personal privacy and freedom. These include pervasive sensors, certain uses of RFID implants for tracking and identification of people, chip implants for the brain, and biometrics as sole personal identification. Genetic screening is a biotechnology application that also raises privacy concerns. For example, would individuals with certain genetic characteristics and established links to certain types of disease and illness be denied health insurance or jobs, or face other forms of discrimination?

Nanotechnology for tracking and control

  • “…the growth rate has been achieved by a continual progression to increasingly more-dense complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip fabrication technologies.”
  • “Current commercial fabrication methods are already at the nanoscale, with nominal feature size of 90 nanometers and gate width of 50 nanometers, and approaches to scale down to 10 nanometers feature size are under research.”
  • “However, by 2020, the continued reduction of feature size is likely to require nonconventional and hybrid methods; several different approaches (e.g., based on nanotubes, nanowires, and molecular switches) have been suggested and are being pursued.”
Silberglitt, R., Antón, P. S., Howell, D. R., Wong, A., Gassman, N., Jackson, B. A., Landree, E., Pfleeger, S. L., Newton, E. M., & Wu, F. (2006). The Global Technology Revolution 2020, In-Depth Analyses: Bio/Nano/Materials/Information Trends, Drivers, Barriers, and Social Implications. RAND Corporation.
National Intelligence Council. (2004, December). Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project Based on Consultations with Nongovernmental Experts Around the World. Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
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