2050 sounds SO far away; THE FUTURE.
But life comes at ya fast. Remember when you felt like 2020 was so far in the future, it was hard to envision? Or, for you old-schoolers like me, 2000 used to be the FUTURE personified when we looked ahead. (Remember the big Y2K scare?)
Since we’re squarely in the middle of 2019, that means we have “only” 30 years and 6 months until 2050.
To give you an eye-opening parallel, 30 years and 6 months ago was June of 1988 (when I was a sophomore in high school!).
In this ongoing blog series, I’m going to take a close look at what life will most likely look like by mid-century, from demographic changes to (lots) of environmental issues, technology and medical advances that may be our only salvation, SMART cities and yes, flying cars (that are self-driving, of course).
As far back as the Jetsons we thought we had a handle on what the future would look like, but the human stain and the Law of Unintended Consequences always seem to lead us far astray from a Utopian world.
To come up with these bullet points from the future, I did a bunch of research written by a bunch of wicked smart people at MIT, Harvard, the United Nations, Milken Institute, the Smithsonian Foundation, Rockefeller University, Oxford University, Time, World Bank, Popular Science, the World Wildlife Fund, and many more. I also applied some informed conjecture as to which trends, movements, or phenomenon will emerge and continue.
So, if someone uncovers this blog in 2050 and my textual time capsule is spot on, I’ll take all the credit. But if these predictions are far off, don’t blame it on me but the eggheads at Harvard.
Enough chatter already (the English language will be truncated by 20% within 30 years, by the way, with far more emojis and emoticons). Let’s take a look at our world in 2050:
By 2050, the world's population is forecast to reach 9,725,147,000 – or just about 2 billion people more than we have now. For those of you keeping count at home, that's like adding another India and China to our current population.
The slightly good news is that our population growth rates will somewhat level off in the next few decades.
But the bad news is that there will be major consequences to adding an additional 2 out of every 10 people to our already resource-depleted planet.
One of the most significant shifts we've seen over the last fifty years that will continue is urbanization. By 2050, 6.3 billion people will live in cities, or nearly two-thirds of the entire human population, putting the nail in the coffin on the agrarian period of human history.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ran the numbers on what it will take to feed more than 9 billion people and determined that we’ll need to increase our current food production levels by 60% by 2050.
That’s a tall order (and we haven’t even talked about usable water yet). For instance, wheat and rice production across the world has only increased at a rate of less than 1% over the past 20 years.
However, the task isn’t insurmountable. We already have the technology and know-how to fill about 80% of that need for increased food production by 2050 – it's just a matter of implementing it (and getting away from huge private corporations feeding us).
In 2050, the world’s population will look much older than it does today. By that year, it’s expected that one out of every six people on earth will be 65 years or older.
This is due to several factors, but more prominently advances in health and medical care (and less major wars) that are allowing us to live longer, and as well as decreases in fertility rates.
By 2050, some industrialized nations like Germany, Japan, Canada, and, yes, the United States, will have public health campaigns and economic incentives in place that encourage its citizens to have more babies!
By 2050, there will be 2.5 billion cars and automobiles on the roads (or in the air!), a 150% increase over the one billion vehicles we have now.
Let’s do the math: An extra 2 billion people+ 65% of the world living in cities + 1.5 billion more cars = a lot of traffic jams.
The good news is that self-driving cars and semi-private shuttle vehicles will free us up to use that time wisely, with virtual offices, sleeping pods, entertainment centers, and even mini-fridges and coffee makers all standard features in self-driving cars by 2050! Well, maybe not the coffee makers (read below).
Scientists predict that the world’s temperature will increase significantly by 2050. In fact, our world’s average temperature will be 1.89 C to 2.5 C hotter than it is now, with far-reaching and drastic effects.
We’re going to talk about climate change and the environmental Armageddon facing our world ad infinitum over this series of blogs looking at 2050, as it is THE most pressing issue for the human race right now.
Here’s one example of how climate change can hit close to home.
By 2050, coffee will be a high-priced luxury item, not an everyday staple. Due to shifting weather patterns, rainfall levels, temperatures, soil conditions and more, growing coffee will be far more difficult and possible in fewer locations around the world, leading to a run on prices.
Forget your $2 Dunkin Donuts coffee, your $3 Starbucks, or making coffee for even less at home - the average cup of coffee in 2050 may cost about $12 in 2019 prices!
The same can be said for wine, which will be far harder to grow. The change in micro-climates also means that Napa Valley and other areas where conditions are perfect – albeit fragile – for growing grapes right now will be barren of vineyards. Our beloved vino will be extremely rare and the price will shoot up exponentially.
A world without coffee or wine?!
Hell no! We won’t go!
It hasn’t earned mainstream appeal as anything more than a speculative investment…yet…but many of the world’s top economists think that the rise of e-currencies is inevitable. In fact, they anticipate that Bitcoin will finally break out and take over FIAT currencies as soon as the next global economic crisis (which may be only a couple of years away).
Even if it takes a decade or two for Bitcoin to become the preferred method of payment, savings, and investment, by 2050, we’ll think of traditional banks as an archaic token of a bygone era.
Other e-currencies will come and go, but they’re anticipated to make up only about 10% of total use compared to Bitcoin’s domination.
Late in 2018, the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced that we’ve reached a notable milestone where 50% of the world has Internet access.
They anticipate meteoric growth in the coming decade, most of it on mobile devices. But, the ITU also projects that we won’t reach the high-water mark of Universal Access – defined as Internet access for 90% of the world population – until 2050 – or later.
By mid-century, 97.5% of the entire world will be online, or 8 billion people. However, reaching the last 20% (from 70-90%) will prove to be the most challenging jump since the vast majority of internet access (78%) is now in wealthy nations, as opposed to only 32% in developing countries.
This vast disparity in Internet access mirrors a phenomenon called the Great Cognitive Divide, with literacy levels, education levels, job opportunities, modernization, and much more following that same chasm.
This may seem like a random event, but a black pope in 2050 is both a sign of demographic shifts and of huge socio-political significance. For two thousand years (as long as there have been Popes!), the euro-centric Catholic church has tapped their own as Popes. Sure, a few of the early 266 Popes throughout history were from the middle east or Northern Africa, but not African or black in the sense we think of today.
But within 30 years, Africa will hold one of the highest populations of Catholics thanks to Nigeria and other growing countries, spawning the naming of a Pope of color from that continent and a seminal event for inclusion and religious leadership. It might even signal the official end of a post-Colonial era!
In 2000, the United States census allowed people to select more than one category under "Race" for the first time ever. That year, 6.8 million Americans checked more than one box, claiming multi-racialism.
By the 2010 census, that number had increased 30% to 9 million Americans who registered as multiracial.That demographic and racial shift is expected to increase exponentially, jumping 176% between 2018 and 2060.
In fact, by the year 2045, Caucasians will become a minority in the United States for the first time, comprising only 49.7% of the population.
One out of three people under thirty years old will be multi-racial, which will (hopefully) provide an inevitable salve for some of the wounds and racial divides in our nation. But those divides don’t just disappear, as classism will be the new racism.
So…will we have flying cars in 2050?
Of course! That’s like so 2040!
-Norm 2050 :-)