New worries began in 2004 when Pakistan’s government was taken over by a group of religious fundamentalists, whose agenda included shaking off the effects of American cultural imperialism. Political and religious alliances in the Middle East sprouted, making it clear that any military action would result in a conflagration of the whole region, thus preventing outside involvement. Tensions grew in the Kashmir region, and a nuclear skirmish was narrowly averted thanks to surprise intervention by the Chinese, where the communist party remains in power to this day. Small-scale terrorism began around the world, and even though many of the attacks were attributed to the new extremist regimes, no efforts were taken to displace them.
After the horrific terrorist attacks at the Olympics in 2008, foreign vacation travel all but ceased, and governments started tightening their borders to prevent future attacks. These protectionist tactics crippled the world economy, reducing trade and ending economic cooperation. The United States saw equal gains in defense spending and its homeless populations; homeland defense and military spending reached half of the receding gross domestic product in 2010. To make matters worse, new restrictions were placed on visas for foreign graduate students and on H-1B visas, bringing university science and engineering research programs to a low ebb and strangling small businesses that could not afford to compete for scarce technical personnel.
To some, terrorism and the military actions to combat it were linked with the availability of technology; thus, in 2020 they found themselves fearing technology and those who wielded it as much as they once loved it. For them, economic, political, and religious beliefs have eclipsed a belief in the value of technology, taking away both the demand and the desire to engineer new devices.
Despite efforts worldwide to close borders, a rise in terrorism appeared in the major economic powers—even Japan and Switzerland saw increased activities, driven as much by a desire to attack sources of technology as by a desire to attack the nation itself. Feelings of nationalism reduced international cooperation. Stuck in their own downward economic spiral, many countries eliminated their aid to Africa and South America. Heightened security led to groups curtailing all efforts to distribute better technologies to third world nations, leading to rampant problems with sanitation and water quality. These events sparked more desperate measures to express anger over the divide between affluent and impoverished societies.