Last week, I and some 200 other attendees of the Global Trends 2030: U.S. Leadership in a Post-Western World conference got a thought-provoking look at the current “megatrends” leading to four possible futures for the world some 10 to 15 years from now. Cutting across all of them is the disruptive influence of emerging technologies—which was the theme of the panel I moderated at the event, held at Newseum in Washington, D.C., on December 10 and 11.

The main subjects of the conference were the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” report, which was released with the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative’s companion opus, “Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World.” The conference brought together policy leaders, technology experts, business leaders and futurists for an expansive discussion of how the U.S. should respond to global trends. "If we're wise and steady," we can navigate current transition to a better world, said Chuck Hagel, chair of the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. Senator, during his opening remarks.

The 2030 report dubs the four futures: Stalled Engines (the U.S. draws inward and globilization falters); Fusion (China and the U.S. collaborate broadly, leading to greater global cooperation); Gini-Out-of-the-Bottle (inequalities increase disruptive social tensions and the U.S. is no longer “global policeman”); and Nonstate World (with emerging technologies, nonstate actors take the lead in confronting global challenges).

"How the U.S. turns out will affect all the other game changers," said Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, referring to the broad trends identified in the report, such as a crisis-prone global economy and the impacts of emerging technologies. But, he added, "At the same time, tech center of gravity—innovation and so on—is moving away from the U.S. as we speak." Ultimately, he warned, "The U.S. will either dynamically shape trends thru 2030 or be unfavorably shaped by them." Other factors in that shaping will include collaborating with other nations and the economy.

In the panel I moderated, “Emerging Technologies that Could Change Our Future,” we explored several themes that brought home the yin and yang of any technology: how it can be both a tool for our benefit or detriment.

As you’ll see in the video below, panelist Mikael Hagstrom, executive vice president, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific for SAS, kicks us off with some thoughts on the need for governance for digital assets. Paul Saffo, managing director of Foresight, Discern Analytics; Senior Fellow, Strategic Foresight Initiative, The Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council, identifies the problem of new technologies that increase wealth without creating many jobs. And Gen. James E. Cartwright, Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies, talks about how moving knowledge around is key to success in many venues—from military engagements to the kinds of man-machine interfaces in advanced prosthetics. Along the way, we touched on the force of social media; the potential of additive, or 3-D printing for manufacturing; robotics and automation; remote operation of devices; and even transferring knowledge stored on a chip from one brain to another. All three men were incredibly articulate about these complex issues, and I hope you enjoy the discussion.