The United States is always collapsing in science fiction. The U.S. implodes, explodes, or just declines. But a team of professional futurists sees only four scenarios that could end the U.S.A. — and they've got a chart to prove it.
Slate talks to GBN, a corporate futurist organization, and despite being professional doomsayers, the GBN gang doesn't see the U.S.A. falling apart over 100 years as being that likely. But GBN does see a few crazy out there ideas for how the U.S. could end — including the rise of a new class of genetically modified super-humans, like Khan Noonien Singh, who take over the entire world and crush everybody else beneath their heels. But the four main scenarios GBN sees as being likely are:
- Collapse, due to massive, intractable corruption.
- Friendly breakup, because the U.S. is too big a country to govern properly.
- Global governance, in which U.N.-like institutions become much more powerful to grapple with global crises like climate change.
- Global conquest, in which a Hitler-esque dictator actually conquers the whole world.
Don't believe them? There's a hand-scrawled chart, so it must be true:
It's probably true, though, that a country with oceans on two sides and relatively friendly neighbors, plus a fairly robust democracy, has a good chance of surviving over the next 100 years, as GBN says. On the other hand, predicting anything 100 years out (as the GBN people admit) is basically like throwing darts in the dark, drunk, using your feet. And I suspect that if fuel becomes much more expensive in the coming decades, the huge distances across the United States could become a lot more daunting and regional tensions could get a lot more pronounced. But there's a reason why medium-near-future science fiction is so hard to write.