What Will The Next 50 Years Be Like?

I turned fifty this week, basically a great excuse for celebrating life with friends, family, and colleagues. It’s also prompted reflection on what the next fifty years might be like. I thought first about what my Grandmother experienced after she turned 50 in 1967. Everything from the advent of personal computers to the Internet, ATMs to cable TV. She died before the emergence of social media, but I’m confident we would have been Facebook friends. The pace of innovation was fast and she embraced it all.

I then made the mistake of googling “what will 2070 be like?”  The very first video shows a burning hot planet with the words “It’s scary” in brackets.  However, if you dig a little deeper, you can find predictions at reputable sites like NewScientist, the BBC and National Geographic. It’s also fascinating to check out Futuretimeline.net and how a group of experts answered the same set of questions about the future. These seem to be the common themes.

1. Climate change is very real, with most predicting 2 degrees, but some predict 4 degrees. Resource scarcity is driving conflicts and climate related disasters are frequent. In fifty years, water will be the most valuable resource. Carbon pricing is ubiquitous

2. AI will change everything about how we work. The optimists see that as freeing up humans to focus on unimaginable innovation and creativity. Grave concerns exist about the massive social and economic dislocation that will occur. Universal basic income is mentioned frequently as a solution.

3. Diseases are being cured and aging slowed. Cardiovascular disease may be cured by 2040, cervical cancer by 2050. In fifty years, handheld MRI scanners will be available. We will eat mostly plants and most meat will be lab grown.

4.We will live in large cities and and my personal favorite prediction, we will walk, bike or commute by drone. When you get in a car, it will be electric. You will not likely be driving it. High-speed trains reduce the need for short flights. Long flights are electric. In fifty years, space travel is more common, but still expensive. If there is a colony on Mars, it is small and still for professionals only.

5. Most energy will be clean energy, primarily from wind and solar. In fifty years, landfills will be eliminated as all waste has value as an input to new products or as a source of energy.

So how and what should people, particularly my generation and the one right behind me, be doing to prepare for this future? Take a page from my grandmother and be an early adopter and lifelong learner. Try out everything new and commit to learning it, even if you just don’t see a huge benefit today (looking at you Alexa). 

Make investment decisions with climate risk, pricing and the future in mind, whether it is where you put your office, where you buy a home, or what companies you choose to invest in. The experts seem to align that the most important companies will be those that tackle the greatest issues of our time effectively and of course, those that are leading the technology revolution.

Go electric, whether at home or at work. Legislation is already beginning to ban buildings that require fossil-fuels and if you own a building, conversion will likely be necessary. Get your garage ready for EVs at work and at home.

Eat more plants and encourage everyone around you to as well. It’s not just better for the environment, it’s better for your health. If you can live long enough, lots of ills can and will be cured. 

Sign up to go to space. Yes, $250,000 to go on a Virgin Galactic flight is a ridiculous amount of money, but prices will eventually start to drop. You can tell them when you enroll that you will be waiting for the cheap seats. In the interim, it is fun to just read their Mission Updates.

What all of these predictions rely on however is one significant assumption: barring global catastrophe. These predictions assume we don’t bomb or poison each other to oblivion. Hitting four degrees sounds pretty catastrophic to me as well. That’s arguably the most important thing people can do. Stay engaged and fight for a world that is more equitable and more sustainable. The future has the potential to be amazing, but it is up to us to ensure it is.

Quote of the Week:  “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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