The first step when trying to determine the future of terrorism is to decide what that future is that must be avoided. In other words, what situation will develop in the absence of any conscious attempt to alter present trends.
We must not, of course, make the mistake of simply extrapolating present trends blindly, since trends often level off or even reverse themselves. However, such leveling off may take a very long time, as in the case of a population growth which has continued unabated for thousands of years. I shall consider only the next thirty years or so, since forecasting for longer periods is so chancy as to be a waste of time and, moreover, people find it hard to take serious threats which will not materialize in their own probable lifetime.
I shall also exclude from consideration unpredictable catastrophes, or lucky breaks, including major nuclear war, a worldwide pandemic, a drastic change in climate, such as might follow an ice-wave in the Antarctic, or the arrival of little green men with advanced ideas and a supply of antiaggression pills.
The current trend in terrorism is one of increase both in geographic scope, numerical frequency, and intensity—perhaps also in ingenuity and subtlety. If this trend continues we may expect to see increasingly varied threats to society, accompanied by more powerful weapons and tools. Bombs will get smaller and more powerful, poisons and mind-blowing drugs more insidious, psychological techniques for converting or brainwashing the victims more effective, and psychological tortures more agonizing. New targets will be attacked: bridges destroyed, perhaps. Air-traffic control centers are an obvious target.
The most probable reaction to such an escalation of violence and terror will be, I suspect, to try to control it rather than to remove the cause. The police will be given new weapons and new freedom. Control of personal movement (already far more elaborate than even fifty years ago) will become quite rigid; many countries already require identity cards and registration with the police. This could become universal. And since identity cards can be forged, tattooing will be the next step—perhaps with a tattoo which only shows under ultraviolet light or other special conditions. At the same time, defensive measures will be developed further. Already there are enclaves within which people can shop and take recreation, rather secure in the knowledge that guards check all those who come in and out. This is not uncommon in buildings and will be extended to whole areas. In Belfast,