gazing is a foolhardy activity - you either say
something mundane or you say something exciting... and wrong.
There are classic examples, like Lincoln Steffens declaration,
"I have seen the future; and it works", after visiting
Bolshevik Russia in 1919. Worse still is when you underestimate
the future, like the researcher who stated in 1949 that,
"computers in the future will weigh no more than 1.5 tons"! Nonetheless, there are certain logical conclusions
that can be drawn from the world we live in today. This article
simply aims to draw those conclusions.
Politics & Economics
The world will be increasingly divided into political and
economic blocks. The most obvious is the European Union, but
similar processes are beginning in Latin America, South-East Asia,
North America, the Islamic World and elsewhere. At the same time,
the world economy will be increasingly dominated by gigantic
corporations existing within and across these blocks.
Furthermore, the world and countries will be increasingly divided
between those rich in information and technology and those who are
not. Those without access to knowledge, skills, information and
technology will increasingly become a world underclass unable
find jobs with a long-term future and uninvited to the expanding
rogue state will probably eventually get hold of
nuclear weapon and use it because of nuclear proliferation.
However, this will not be nuclear Armageddon but an unfortunate
tragedy. We survived Chernobyl and we'll survive that.
In the long-term
religion will continue to decline. As a
political phenomenon, religion has no future because it is
incapable of solving economic needs and wants for the majority of
the people. Base motivations in the long-term are about full stomachs and prosperity, not spiritual salvation.
At the same time ideology seems to be pretty much dead and
buried. As a result, national politics will be increasingly
about identity, effective economic management and corruption.
Single issue groups will continue to grow and they will have an
increasing influence on politics. Since the environment will
continue to deteriorate, environmental and health issues will
continue to be important in national and international politics. A
lot of marketing will be necessary to avoid the "Big Business
vs. the people" scenario revealed by the genetic food war and
In the next few years your life and prosperity will depend on:
a) The success of European
b) The continuing strength of the US econorny.
e) The continued growth of world trade and Internet business.
At the risk of suggesting that Kevin Costner is the great
prophet of our times, we must recognise that water is going to
play an important role in future world politics. First as
sea-levels rise various places will be covered in it. When we
lose the Seychelles and the Maldives this will be sad but hardly
of global importance. We can assume that rich places like London
and the Netherlands will continue to find solutions to rising
sea-levels. However, when Bangladesh - with its
population of over 100 million - disappears, we can expect
severe geopolitical consequences.
On the other hand, drinking water
is going to be increasingly scarce. Two thirds of the world's population will
be short of it
within the lifetimes of most us - that's scary, even if you and
I are not amongst them. The necessity is
the mother of
invention" school of thought presumably assumes that we will
find cheap and efficient way of converting thousands of tons of sea
water into drinking water. Let's hope they're right.
Science will continue to dominate our
lives. More specifically,
biology will become the supreme science. By 2003 at the latest,
they will have decoded the "Book of Life": the human genome.
This will revolutionise medicine. Another ironic side-effect will
be the death of the life-insurance industry. With increased
information about what diseases a person is going to suffer from,
the random element will be taken out of the industry and
will collapse. In ten years time scientists should be ready to
However, space exploration will decline. NASA received so much
money in the 20th. Century because of the Cold War. We will
continue to learn about our universe but by analysing the
information which comes here rather than going out there to get it.
Last January the Financial Times finally declared
global language. You may think this is wishful
English-speakers, more potential readers of the FT) but it does
make sense. English has now gained a critical mass. Not only do
one billion people speak English, not only can you find
English-speakers in every country in the world, not only is it the
language of Internet and business, but it is also considered
everywhere as the necessary second language. Anyone keen
advance professionally - from Japan, Vietnam and China to France
and Russia - is learning English. There will be an increasing
variety of English dialects but the media will probably ensure
that the US-UK standard continues to be considered a model and
that the varieties do not become mutually
incomprehensible. Other major languages will
not disappear. For instance, Spanish is, in fact, growing faster than English.
Minority languages in rich countries
will not disappear, either. What will disappear are rninority
languages in the Third World which cannot effectively resist cultural
The world's population will probably continue growing for the next fifty years. That will mean more
people in our life-times but it is only a problem if there isn't enough
food and water to feed them (there's still enough space to put them
in). Of course, the real problem is that the
extra people will be in poorer countries. The problem continues to
be that they can't afford to eat, not that there isn't food to feed
them. Over half the world's population now live in cities. Ever since
the Romans, those that rule us have known that the most dangerous
scenario possible is that of food shortage
Nevertheless, Malthus's theory may yet be proved wrong, even if it is at the
cost eating genetically-modified food.
One of these days the oil is going to run out. That's not strictly true,
actually. As it becomes
scarcer, exploration will increase and uneconomic deposits will become
profitable for production. But either way, petrol will become
progressively more expensive, Eventually this will kill off that
obsolete piece of technology, the internal combustion engine. It
will also mean the end of cheap air travel and cities will have to
be restructured. On the other hand, in the long-term the death of
the private automobile will have positive environmental
Few things in life are
certain except death. For the Earth that will happen
in 2.5 billion year time
when life will disappear from this planet because the expanding
sun will evaporate all the water. The only conclusion to be drawn from all this
is: Go to the Maldives now while they are
still there and you can still afford the flight!