It was just a tiny entry on the Yahoo! news page on Tuesday, barely 10 lines long. For the first time in history, China filed more applications for patents (526,412) than did the U.S. (503,582). Moreover, Japan (342,610) overtook Europe (142,793) in patent applications. Hardly worth noting?
If we couple that bit of information with reports released this week from the National Intelligence Council and the Pew Research Center, that little story is an omen to worldwide changes that are now occurring faster than the Industrial Revolution, which converted Western Europe from an agrarian society to the first industrial power within the length of a single lifetime.
According to the 140-page report released Tuesday by the National Intelligence Council (NIC), “We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures.” These futures will be shaped by four “megatrends”: An end to U.S. global dominance; the rising power of individuals against states; a rising middle class (I prefer the term “middle income group”) that challenges governments; and a “Gordian knot” of water, food, and energy shortages.
The council, which consulted or contracted with research institutes, political leaders, academics, and corporate representatives in 14 countries and the European Union, says that 350 years of ascendancy in the West is being reversed, and Asia will emerge as the dominant force in this century, perhaps as early as 2030. That year, Asia will be the world leader in Gross Domestic Product, population size, military spending, and technology investment. A few years earlier, China will surpass the U.S. as the largest overall economy...