My avocation is that of a futurist: the systematic exploration of predictions and possibilities about future human society and how it will emerge from the present. I am a founding member of the US-based Association of Professional Futurists (APF).
Over the past several years, in January of each year I have presented my Pinto Prognostications. In 2015 and 2016, my prognostications were published in my JimPintoBlog and quoted widely elsewhere. (1) (2)
In this blog, I’m extending my prognostications to events that may be forecasted to happen in the next several decades. You should understand that future forecasts are guesses based on trends.
My grandchildren will be in their 40’s and 50’s, and some or all of them may live to see the birth of a new century. What will the world be like for them?
Today (2016) world population is 7.4 billion. In 10 years it is projected to be 8.1 billion, 50 years projection 10 billion, and over 11.2 billion by the end of the century.
Until around 1800 world population was below one billion. The big changes came with the Industrial Revolution – the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930). During the 20th century, population has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. Because of declining growth rates, it will take more than a century to double again. (3)
In the next decades, the world will be more complicated, divided between a broad American sphere of influence, Europe, the Middle East and south Asia, and a Chinese sphere in East Asia and Africa. India will have the largest population within the next decade, and will become a technology and trade powerhouse. Russia will continue its revival. The large, educated populations of Poland, Turkey, Brazil and their neighbors will come into their own. (4)
The European Union might survive in some sense, but European economic, political, and military relations will be governed primarily by limited multilateral relationships. There will be four parts of Europe: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Britain. They will still have to share the same neighborhood, but they won't be as closely connected as they are now.
The most serious threats will be in the area of instability that stretches from Africa to central Asia. Here, most of the world's poorest people live; climate change is wreaking its worst damage; and nuclear weapons are proliferating fast.
Economic growth will be critical to preserving America's power and influence in the world. By deepening partnerships in manufacturing and energy with neighbors on its northern and southern borders, America can compete with growth in Europe, Asia and Africa.
The 20th century was known as The American Century; it will be The Asia century in the 21st. Forecasters predict that within two decades, China will overtake the U.S. to boast the world's largest economic output. However, America's GDP-per- person will remain at least 2 or 3 times that of China.
Energy is critical for the growth, social stability and security of all nations. It is linked to all vital services such as health, food, transportation and commerce and is a key driver of future global business. (5)
Oil reserves are in decline. Although it continues to play an important role in transportation in the 21st century, oil is politically and economically unsustainable as a reliable source of fuel for the future.
Within the next 25 years, global energy demand will outpace supply unless new sources are developed. Clean, renewable energy sources such as solar power, hydrogen and wind will be essential for future productivity.
Energy security will be one of the primary fears in the 21st century, leading to global competition, conflict and the collaboration of nations.
The majority of people will live in cities, which will increasingly become more integrated with nature. It’ll be standard procedure for skyscrapers to have parks and sky gardens, and buildings will be covered with vegetation designed to filter out pollutants and retain air quality. (6)
Housing will become increasingly expensive to the point where buying a house will not be an option for most people. Vehicles will be habitable and function as homes. Parks will cater to this trend by offering washing facilities, catering, supermarkets and entertainment.
All vehicles will use clean energy that will be cheap or even free. Most will be self-self-driven and very reliable with recording of status and diagnostics, and made with everlasting materials.
Personal flying drones will replace cars for travel through skyways. Some drones may even be big enough to carry entire homes around the world for holidays.
Interestingly, there will be less need to move people to go places. People will use virtual reality to create synthesized 3D spaces to conduct business, provide education, and for visits with friends and family.
Doctor visits will no longer be necessary. Nanotechnology will be embedded in people and body scanner results will be forwarded to a health network.
Nanoparticles will make chemotherapy far more effective. By delivering tiny doses right to cancerous cells, the mini messengers will significantly reduce the pain and side effects of today's treatments. People will all be nodes in a network. Health will be constantly monitored via built-in sensors, wearable devices and clothes. (7)
DNA will be recorded at birth and defects will be remedied, altered or adjusted. Physical and mental attributes will be assessed and compared with parents and grandparents, with predictions of likely physical and mental abilities.
There are more than 300,000 centenarians on the globe already – and one has reached the age of 122. I’m sure that at least one of my grandchildren will celebrate a 150th birthday.
Already, in today’s advanced world, it takes only about 8% of the working population to provide all essential needs – food, energy, transport, housing, and basic utilities. With automation, robots, and Artificial Intelligence, the human work force will be reduced to less than 1%, with a large proportion of work related to entertainment, sports and studies related to creative or academic interests.
Robots will be common, deployed for mundane chores as well as dangerous tasks normally undertaken by humans. Houses, cars, furniture, utensils, pets, and possessions will be networked. Every individual will each be the center of a personal mini-universe that operates as part of a system.
Religion & Marriage
With regard to those who actively attend churches, religion is already on the decline. Churches will have online services for followers, with changes to accommodate those who have religious beliefs as well as those who are active with helping people in need. There will also be more religious tolerance as people become more globalized.
Marriage is on the decline and cohabitation is already quite common. Marriage is likely to be a matter of choice for the sake of the ceremonial rather than legal status. Laws will be changed to accommodate cohabiting couples, and even allow legal status for bigamous relationships. Women will have more choices to conceive without the direct help from men, and the law will have resolved the various moral issues relating to stored eggs and sperm.
Wars & Conflict
In the future, wars will involve not only land and sea, but space. Because the moon is essentially a massive plot of undeveloped land over which nobody has legal ownership, moon bases will play a crucial role in future global conflicts. Moon bases will serve both to defend against attacks from other nations and to launch offensives. (8)
The military will increasingly be involved in aspects of Space Travel, Search & Rescue, Terrorism, and Weapons development, with associated peaceful applications, such as drones and cyber security. It will be seen as a government resource that trains and tests people and develops systems that can be applied to a range of social requirements.
Law & Government
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ideally suited for Law. Most contracts will be written and checked by computers, with evidence presented in courts based on forensic details. Lie detectors will analyze body changes, facial expressions, brain activity, speech variations, and the like to distinguish between lies and truth. This will be improved to the point where courts will not be required in the majority of cases. Today’s type of Courts will become obsolete.
Petty crime will almost disappear because houses will be very secure with automatic locks and visual coverage. Anything that can be digitally marked will be traceable. Items that now have a value (watches, computer equipment, etc.) will be cheap, disposable items in the future.
Criminals with psychological problems are likely to be detected before that take up crime. Everyone’s behavior, social contacts, medical condition, intellectual pursuits, etc. will be interlinked and correlated. Social patterns will show up early. There will be legal alternatives to drugs that are readily available.
Traditional banks will be obsolete when cyber currency eliminates the need for actual money to be exchanged. Bartering is essentially based on matching needs at agreed values. Eye scanning and other non-contact identity checking will be common. Electronic transaction processing will automatically adjust net worth.
Towering mega structures will be built with carbon nanotubes and diamond nano threads, dwarfing today's skyscrapers. Just as we build up, we will also dig down – huge structures will tunnel 25 stories deep, or more. Underwater cities with use water itself to create breathable atmospheres and generate hydrogen fuel in the process. (9)
Bridges will repair themselves with self-healing concrete and new composites laced with microfibers that bend without breaking. Hairline fractures will mend themselves within days when calcium ions in the mix react with rainwater and carbon dioxide to create a calcium carbonate patch.
3D printing will enable the building of houses and other structures from recyclable materials, with flexible walls. For entertaining visitors, gourmet food tailored to personal needs will be downloaded for 3D printing in minutes. Most objects will be sculpted inside a 3D printer.
The last few years have already brought widespread recognition that sophisticated Artificial Intelligence will soon be able to outthink the smartest humans in every domain, including common sense reasoning and social skills. Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and others warn of the rise of super intelligent machines. Disagreeing with that viewpoint, Ray Kurzweil depicts a technological utopia bringing about the end of disease, poverty and resource scarcity.
Power will be in the knowledge and the ability to integrate and exploit the new capabilities provided by technology and adapt to new environments and opportunities. The human adventure will continue as the remaining frontiers and limits of human thought are explored. But will people be happy?
- JimPinto Blog Future Prognostications 2016: http://goo.gl/At7NUC
- JimPinto Blog Future Prognostications 2015: http://goo.gl/1xvPq2
- World Population Trends: http://goo.gl/5C43d7
- The Next 100 Years – George Friedman Book: https://goo.gl/JvZ9KG
- Six Key Trends Shaping the Energy Future: http://goo.gl/1zY6Xz
- 110 Predictions For the Next 110 Years: http://goo.gl/pc7UDp
- 20 predictions for the next 25 years: http://goo.gl/JbFKN6
- What will the world look like 50 years from now? https://goo.gl/dB4fB2
- What Will The World Be Like in 50 Years? http://goo.gl/UMlVF7
- The Problem of AI Consciousness: http://goo.gl/ii7owc