One of the many challenges of being a futurist is that the statistics and narratives of the present and past are shifting and inaccurate. If you do not know where you are and how you got there then it is very tough to say where you are going.
What is the economic size and wealth of different countries ? What were the accurate statistics for different years in the past ? How do we look at shifting exchange rates ? It is not uncommon for a currency could gain or lose 20% in value from the high to the low in a year. If you are going to purchasing power parity then you are going to estimates and constructed values.
If you are talking about climate or the environment then there is the question of temperature distributions and shifting weather patterns. There are large disagreements about the current and past situations in terms of climate and pollution and the connections to disease, deaths and economics.
There is also the wide variance between different continents, regions, countries, cities, urban/rural, different ethnicities, rich/middle classes and poor.
How resilient is civilization in 2010 ?
Are we talking about Haiti’s resilience, Chile, Beijing, New York City, New Orleans and which sections of those cities ?
How about the resilience of the business operations of IBM, Google, Goldman Sachs or BP ?
How well did different people do in historical crisis ?
Mobility and anticipation were key factors. When the holocaust happened who were those that survived ? Mainly it was those who left years in advance of the event. How about the longer history of Jews in Germany? Who were the chinese who thrived and were successful during the period of 1930-1979 ? Mainly those who were not living in China.
Future Wealth levels, Poverty and Poverty Reduction
If we are going to understand poverty or wealth levels in the future then we need to understand what was the economic history of countries and civilizations and understand macroeconomics.
Here is a look at the progress of reducing global poverty from 1970 to 2006.
There has been significant progress against poverty in Africa.
The long history of differential economic growth rates and the choices and situations which lead to different levels of growth rates needs to be understood to have a proper view of the shifts that are likely to occur in the future
Major Drivers of Variance
Why are the developed countries France, England, Italy, United States, Canada, Australia, Japan etc… developed and why did other countries lag ?
It appears that we are China, India, Brazil and other countries are catching up economically. Will this occur ? I think it will. What does the catchup mean about political systems, policies, technologies, choices and other factors ?
How much and how fast will Africa catchup ?
Will there be a technological or societal shift which will enable developed countries to return to faster growth and which countries would be left behind ? Will the drivers of economic catchup and economic convergence keep more countries in sync as growth goes faster or slower ?
I think it is always possible to totally screw things up or to outperform. Although there are forces keeping country economic growth in sync (like groups of cyclists in the Tour de France). Countries and regions can uniquely find ways to mess things up or to do better than others in their peer group.