Back to the Future: World Politics Edition What would leaders from 1985 make of the world in 2015?

  • Publisher: Diplomat
  • Date: October 15, 2012
D Logo

Greg Shtraks in the Diplomat

PhD Candidate Greg Shtraks of the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington recently published his article “Back to the Future: World Politics Edition:What would leaders from 1985 make of the world in 2015?” in the Diplomat. Congratulations Greg!


As you may have heard, October 21, 2015 was the date on which Marty McFly, the protagonist of the Back to the Future trilogy, traveled to the future in order to prevent his son from committing a life-altering crime. The film, released in 1989 but set in 1985, made a series of mostly inaccurate (albeit fun) predictions about the world of 2015.

The makers of Back to the Future, writer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis, were certainly not the only people in 1985 trying to imagine what the world would look like 30 years past the horizon. National leaders, intelligence agencies, and militaries were all gazing into their crystal balls to determine how global geopolitics would evolve. The National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends” reports didn’t begin to be published until 1996, but do provide interesting food for thought about how America’s best thinkers envisioned the world in 2010 and the world in 2015. My purpose, however, is not to describe the predictions made in 1985, but rather to determine whether or not leaders of various countries would have been happy with the way 2015 actually turned out. Would they be satisfied with the structure of the world system and their state’s current position therein?