The World Future Society focuses attention on two major trend areas—Aging and Biotechnology—which span across a wide range of other important trends. As the world marks the remarkable achievement of 1 billion people over age 60 by 2020—and 2.2 million centenarians by 2050—look for incredible challenges in the health-care system, as well as opportunities in the economy. Much of the success of increased longevity is due to biotechnology, which will lead to such breakthroughs as “immortal skin” for burn victims and organ and tissue regeneration.
Read more about the WFS top 10 forecasts for 2002.
1. Future farmers could make more money from the air than the land. One study found that landowners could earn as much as $2,000 a year from one turbine on a quarter acre of land by selling the power to electric utilities. By comparison, corn grown on the same plot would fetch just $100.
2. Automated translation systems may one day allow people to communicate freely with others speaking different languages. Such systems would facilitate more international travel—and could mean the end of foreign-language requirements in college.
3. Natural disasters could become more disastrous as the world’s wetlands dry up. Half of the world’s wetlands disappeared in the twentieth century, and development and other forces could consume another 50% of coastal wetlands by 2080.
4. Schools may solve behavior problems with better nutrition: One school eliminated fights, expulsions, and suicides by offering students healthy foods and not allowing them to fill up on junk foods.
5. Get ready for 1 billion elderly people (age 60 and older) by 2020. Three-fourths of them will be in developing countries.
6. Vaccinations will be easier to swallow, as researchers find ways to genetically modify foods such as lettuce and rice with viral proteins to fight diseases.
7. Water shortages will become more frequent and more severe over the next two decades, particularly in the major cities of the developing world.
8. Time-pressed workers will increasingly seek “power leisure”—pursuits packed with intensive experiences that don’t take up a lot of time.
9. Goodbye textbooks, hello networked learning: Printed and bound textbooks will disappear as more interactive coursework is developed and distributed over the Internet. Students will receive and return homework assignments, and even take tests, online.
10. Fish farming will overtake cattle ranching as a food source by 2010. Aquaculture has been the fastest-growing sector of the world food economy over the past decade, while beef production has stagnated.