Here, building on our work on strategic foresight and global trend analysis inside the U.S. intelligence community and outside government, we envision three alternative worlds in 2030. The intention is not to predict what’s coming next but to highlight the factors that could lead the world in one direction. And thus provide insights that can spur strategists to prepare for possible challenges, plan for potential opportunities, and pursue a brighter future by making prudent decisions in the present. Instead of a crystal ball, we offer portals to different universes.
The scenarios in this forecast are informed by ten significant trends outlined below that are already transforming today’s world. And are likely to shape the world a decade from now.
Humanity is at a critical stage in the transition to a more sustainable planet and society. Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective path forward. Our Future on Earth 2020 aims to tell the story of where we are on our collective journey by connecting the dots between what society is currently experiencing. From fires to food shortages to a rise in populism – with recent developments in the research community.
Technologically, the jump to 2035 will be huge. Some elements of our world will change beyond recognition, while others will stay reassuringly familiar.
It would be tempting to roll out the clichés – food pills, flying cars, and bases on the moon – but the reality will probably be less exciting. The world in 2035 will probably be much like today, but more intelligent and automatic. Some innovations we might not notice, while others will knock us sideways, changing our lives forever.
What it won’t be like: The scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) where Violet Beauregarde has a three-course roast dinner in a stick of chewing gum.
In an article for Time, Ray Kurzweil said: “The next major food revolution will be vertical agriculture with AI-controlled vertical food production. Rather than flat land. Hydroponic plants for fruits and vegetables and in-vitro cloned meat.” This change is already happening. Green Spirit Farms grows kale, spinach, and other greens under LED lights in an old plastics factory near Chicago.
Vertical farming, genetically modified (G.M.) crops and synthetic meat will respond to the growing need for greater food efficiency as populations continue to grow. But there will also be a reluctant realization that we all need to eat a better diet that is more plant-based and less reliant on processed foods. Meatless Mondays are a start. If that doesn’t work, we could be eating insects in 2035. Already popular in parts of Asia, insects are protein-rich, low in fat, and a good source of calcium. Hey, wait to knock a roasted grasshopper until you’ve tried one.
Technologically speaking, it will happen around 2040. Still, Artificial Intelligence will become indispensable to our lives, both as workers and helpers. Billions of robotics and intelligent technologies will provide services from office work to hotel housekeeping to health care. Perhaps even driving cars, powering farms, building homes, delivering everything from personal data and travel directions to legal services, and many other capabilities once the exclusive domain of humans.
As A.I. grows in influence, its uses and ethics will be front and center for society. Unlike a bolt from the blue, it’s easy to see how we got here. Amazon has mastered using customer feedback, software, and data mining to anticipate demand. Chinese firms used pattern recognition algorithms in industrial settings. Now IBM, AT&T, SAP, Amazon, and Alibaba are applying their technology to domestic markets. Even two 20-year-olds today have access to nearly 500 personal data profiles from the IRS. We have passed the Digital Public Library of America milestone, and A.I. is everywhere.
Artificial intelligence: Researchers found that after robots replaced lawyers, 10 million kids had sex last year.
Will AI still feel like machines or less like computers and more like actual humans, in self-aware’ capacity, capable of independent reasoning and acting independently? We need to get used to the cyborg paradigm: something less and less familiar.
More standard features of 2035: With nearly 25 million bots (social bots, pseudo-bot) available on Twitter, Facebook, and text chat platforms such as Telegram, voice will no longer be restricted to a specific language. The rise of virtual personal assistants will let us bypass natural language-based calls to action and even recommend online purchases. Once bots have proven they can become self-aware, we might start having endless conversations with them: the news bots, non-fiction text-answering systems, and virtual chatbots.
Other risks to society for which we’re not prepared
Bacteria will contaminate meat-based burgers. Each year, a billion tons of discarded meat and edible by-products enter the global environment. After meat-based, simulated beef is made using biotechnology, we’ll still need to catch edible, previously edible objects such as mosquitoes. Water won’t flow as well through sewage systems because factories need clean water. Approximately 14 to 18 percent of the water going into a well used for drinking is used to irrigate artificial lawns, fake grass, paved driveways, and roofscapes. We may need to prepare for the effect on water infrastructure if synthetic turf supplants natural grass. Suppose developing nations consume as much food as developed nations, and China and India continue eating plants, fish, berries, and nuts like they did 30 years ago. In that case, it will all have to come from abroad. We’ll need sufficient space to grow all the foods, medicines, and fodder the Earth can sustainably. Every year, 8 million animals die from meat production in the United States alone. This makes 5 to 10 percent of the entire U.S. population eventually kill themselves from eating meat, fish, and poultry. As they adapt to shifting weather patterns and fish distribution, oceans worldwide will begin releasing toxic gases and corrosive salt from warmer, dead water. Every year, 22.5 million animals are processed into usable meats in the United States. A Chinese social networking bot took to playing both foreign policy specialist John Kerry and Donald Trump, causing all sorts of missteps. Societal impacts on women in Latin America. Nigeria will build 10 to 15 floating nuclear power plants by 2025, and atomic growth could continue at an alarming rate for the next few decades. You might not want to hear about our addiction to microSD memory cards, HVAC systems with variable internal temperature control, or most grocery store fruits and vegetables – just for starters. Here are 11 more.
Cryptocurrencies. Market estimates suggest cryptos make up 20 percent of the Internet’s market cap. By 2018 cryptos are estimated to grow to represent between 25 and 30 percent of the global market cap, valued at between US$160 billion and $220 billion. The unprecedented growth of the U.S. dollar is raising concerns that without radical improvements in the money transmission and payment networks or perhaps legal fixes. The government (or anyone with an agenda) could create cryptos and steer them into the market. Questions include:
Will the creation of U.S.’ C’Currencies with anonymous, large settlements raise costs and restrict liquidity?
If virtual currencies aren’t worth having in reserve and wealth preservation concerns exist, which money can, will most widely be traded for future generations?
Didn’t Robert Hansen invent bitcoin in 2009 as a slightly competitive (bioprocessing coin creation) alternate currency and financial innovator? As he tells this argument:
It is nothing but small-fry paranoid nonsense trying to impose stifling regulation on Bitcoin and businesses in that space. There are practical problems with Bitcoin, its risk profiles, immutability, and such, but it still exists. You are trying to clamp down on trading a piece of software code because you don’t understand it! Blockchain.info CEO seems as dubious as me on cryptocurrency-based money.
A robust economic paradigm such as cryptocurrency can be taken for granted or deployed as a medium of exchange. Market Summary Commentary on Macroeconomics Nonperforming student loans represents just one area where overly tight regulation. Combined with markets allowing the suppression of inflationary risk, it hurts an entire generation of youth.
Self-prepared young Americans are among the best spenders in history and self-provisioned on the Internet. They share resources rather than corporations and networks on the margins, leaving these millennials much better positioned than prior generations. Or for a billion years…
Americans today are only 20 to 50 years younger than traditional history textbooks. Actual historical wages are collapsing while retirement security levels stagnate and increase retirement income burdens on individuals while already robbing these generations blind… The planet does not owe trillions of dollars to the bank or megacorp insiders whose reckless, unethical, and secretive (many doing favors for Chinese oligarchs and oligarchy via manufacturing at Walmart). It owes trillions of dollars to “Mother Earth” and most humans on it…. Wall Street globalists and the City of London have grown the finance sector massively as they squeezed wages out of virtually every corner of world trade. Most of that growth went into compensation. One case study of inequality vs. good for nations suggests corporations would rather own corrupt politicians and fight environmental/social laws at taxpayers’ expense… Before dealing with debts (as if economics is merely solved with math), start with cultural issues – personalize consequences in households and relationships.
Our moral bias creates resentment as radical utopians slowly desensitize a population to entitlement practices. Their example doesn’t absolve them, nor by asserting liberty before the law can absolve them and its theft for whom! Free markets prove efficient and efficient in nearly all business transactions within free societies. Societies with fundamental debt levels per capita should be kept poor and thereby reduce the pace of indebted destruction by significantly altering the cultures of almost everyone.
Perhaps limit liberty for foreign and 1st generation non-Indians here…working against current progress and unfortunately good for them: lieutenants…The interests of the unenlightened keep the opportunity base fed; a couple of decades need to evolve this infrastructure before losing everything! Level Davita had no responsibility whatsoever in horse rescue- see photos! as unfortunately cited, social friction sometimes does engender murderous scenarios…When a “social upheaval” as set in violence results and a small body like NYC and the most significant state becomes “unpredictable,” the 1st rule: is a disconnect. On rare occasions, collateral losses from wholesale price inflexibility.
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