In 2000 the CIA produced a report called Global Trends 2015, in which it predicted what the world would be like during the next decade and a half. No, the report did not predict the events of September 11, and nobody blames it for that. But neither did it give any prominence to the atmosphere of hatred that produced September 11. Nor did it predict the radically different ways in which the United States, Western Europe, and the Arab world would perceive international conflict. Indeed, the world it describes doesn't resemble any possible real world. Using the CIA's methodology and analysis, you can neither anticipate the future nor explain the past.
There are no human beings in the world described by the CIA. There are no passions or religious ideals, no dreams or urges, no altruism or malevolence. Instead there are only impersonal forces: technological developments, economic trends, and demographic pressures. Global Trends 2015 is perpetually half right in a way that makes it completely wrong. Yes, technological and environmental trends are important. But if you try to describe them in a void uncomplicated by human volition, you end up in the realm of fantasy.
The report opens with a description of fifteen governmental and nongovernmental conferences and workshops that were involved in preparing it. Reading it, you begin to picture the bureaucratic machinery, homogenizing the insights of hundreds of intelligent people. The heart sinks. Then comes a list of the seven key "drivers" that will shape the world of 2015: demographics, natural resources and environment, science and technology, the global economy and globalization, national and international governance, future conflict, the role of the United States. These drivers fall into two categories: those that can be quantified, and are thus much fussed over by CIA analysts, and those that are so vague as to be meaningless ("future conflict"), and are thus used as receptacles for all those mysterious things that can't be subjected to rational analysis.