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25th Anniversary series: 2011 – Megachange – the world in 2050

May 27, 2015

The Economist commissioned a report that was published in 2012 – discussing the changes between now and 2050 under the headings of People and Relationships; Heaven and Earth; Economy and business; Knowledge and Progress.

What prompted this?

The editor Daniel Franklin cites population change – the world’s population only reached 1 billion about 1800 but added another billion between 1999 and 2011; technology reaching everyone in that there are more mobile phones than people; and the global rebalancing towards Asia.

He aims to both explore the great trends that are transforming the world, taking a helicopter view, and also to look into the future. While he acknowledges the perils of prediction, citing a British journalist who wrote in 1914 “—- there will be no more wars among the six Great Powers”, he suggests that looking further ahead may be easier than a shorter timeframe. As Nicolas Taleb of “Black Swans” fame says that over the period to 2050 “anything fragile today will have broken”. So we can look for long term patterns as well as the disruptive effect of existing trends.

2012 blog

The book starts with population growth. While this may be subject to new trends in family size and health, the current “best” prediction is 9 billion by 2050.

Overall the authors – this is a book of chapters by a range of authors – paint a picture of progress. They believe that “there is every chance that the world in 2050 will be richer, healthier, more connected, more sustainable, more productive, more innovative, better educated, with less inequality between rich and poor and between men and women, and with more opportunity for billions of people”, though note that many of these will come from wrenching upheaval. As well as revolutions in genomics and health care delivery, disruptive social change can be expected from rapid development in the emerging world and the rise in education and opportunities for women. Reforms of government are predicted to make states smarter and fitter.

This volume (ISBN 978 1 84668 563 7) is an excellent source of analysis of the deep underlying trends which will shape the future and thoughts about the nature and source of disruption.

The second half of our SAMI 25 celebration – looking forward to 2040 – will not attempt to replicate the scope of this book, instead we will have decided that this volume is one that we can springboard from. We will focus on identifying some challenging trends and some implications – to stimulate thought.

Written by SAMI Director, Gill Ringland.

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