Our editor, D. S. Mills, has a specific take on the political future. Whether you agree with it or not, it's worth a look.
Throughout history, nations have consumed countries like clams. Consider the Greeks, Persians, Spartans, Gauls, Romans, Carthaginians, the T'ang Dynasty of China, the Ottoman Empire. The great Dutch and Spanish expansions. The excursions of the French, the British, the Germans, and the covert empire called America.
As populations, methods of travel and communication have developed and expanded so has the breadth of hegemony and war until the world now seems too small to contain the aspirations of nations. As if globalization has reduced the size of the pie.
For half a century now, a world war has been averted - possibly because the advent of nuclear weapons makes all out conflict self-defeating. Certainly, insurgent groups will gain access to dirty bombs but weapons on the ICBM level are likely to remain in their silos. Or, more effectively, in the launch tubes of Strategic Missile Subs.
This is a fact well regarded by any populous nation that considers world dominance its privilege and right.
Sharia Law? Unlikely.
The current Western fear is the resurgence of Moslem ambition - the expansionism of a religious/political group with 1.6 billion adherents and worldwide influence. Curiously, radical Muslims kill Muslims as well as infidels - a peculiarity encouraged by opposing politicians and despots over centuries - because a nation divided against itself is less of a threat.
Note that whilst Islamic radicals indulge their emotions by scrapping on as many fronts as they can find, China (1.35 billion) has maintained a far less visible strategy.
What most of us still don't see coming!
The Middle Kingdom - a intelligent nation with a coldly practical, mercantile psychology - is quietly buying countries - a far easier way to acquire them than conflict.
It has already acquired much of corruption-ridden Africa, invested in sundry failing South Pacific nations and is currently buying Australia. It excuses its acquisitions with the euphemism "investment".
This clever, low-key policy is, so far, working well. China needs land to feed its people and the wealth that comes from foreign acquisitions which are already being staffed by Chinese nationals, not local workers. China's posturing in the East China Sea is at best a try-on, at worst a diversion. The country is rearming fast but it will be some time before it has the ships and submarines to rival America.
Economies drive the ambitions of nations and nationalism or religious fervour is the usual motivator and excuse. While Islam is fomenting hatred and inciting the greatest equal and opposite reaction it may encounter, China is smartly, covertly, buying the store.
And its plan is likely to prevail. Because violence begets violence. But strategy often succeeds.
The real problem
Endless population expansion simply magnifies the human agony. It's the cause of lack of recourses, lack of space, pollution, destruction of biodiversity and all the other ills we have inflicted on this once beautiful planet. China, you notice, has just given up on this one despite a commendable earlier attempt to address it.
Memo to governments intent on giving foreign aid to other nations: specify that aid will be conditional on them sterilizing a proportion of their populations or practising some other form of mandatory birth control.
This won't happen either.
Yes, we'll eventually slaughter ourselves because of our unchecked fecundity and stupidity. And will nature despair at the failure of its latest and most tragic experiment? Of course not.
In the time-scale of its life, humanity will seem less than a spark. And it will patiently, indifferently, develop something new.