Possible Futures Over One Hundred Years

I just finished another book titled Future Stories authored by David Christian and have added it to my book library. The book focuses on future thinking, exploring the various ways that experts, plants, animals, and even cells manage the future. This visual from the book provides a glimpse of the possible futures explored.

I am a big believer in storytelling as an effective means of understanding complex scenarios. The book does just that. An abstract of the book follows. I highly recommend it.

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The Two Sides Of Population Growth

My last two posts focused on labor shortages and population growth; two critical societal building blocks that converge in ways that shape our future. Continuing with that theme, this recent article looks at these building blocks through the lens of China.

China has edged over a demographic precipice: Its population has begun to shrink. United Nations data published on Monday showed that the long-anticipated tipping point came in the first half of the year; it’s a significant moment for a country whose large population helped transform it into a manufacturing powerhouse

Lili Pike – The end of China’s population boom has arrived. How will the country’s changing demographics shape its future?

According to the referenced United Nations Data, the world’s population is projected to reach 8 billion on 15 November 2022. The report titled World Population Prospects 2022 provides the latest United Nations projections that suggest the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. Another data point from the U.N. report highlights that population growth is driven in part by declining levels of mortality, as reflected in increased levels of life expectancy at birth. Life expectancy reached 72.8 years globally in 2019, increasing 9 years since 1990. Mortality reductions are projected to result in an average longevity of around 77.2 years globally in 2050

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The Looming Labor Shortage

In a post yesterday on population growth, I shared a fascinating visual that looked at the age structure of our population in 2017 versus projections for 2100. The tweet is shared again below, click on arrow in the visual to see the changes.

Population size is important in several ways. Historically, experts worried about societies ability to sustain an ever-growing population. With climate change issues mounting, those concerns remain. However, a scenario where our global populations shrink brings a different set of challenges. As this article on projected labor shortages describes, the growth rate of an economy is determined by two factors: growth in hours worked and growth in productivity. The sustained economic growth of the last 250 years can be attributed to a growing skilled workforce (education played a major role) and major innovations that drove productivity.

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Population Growth

Recent estimates for population growth are at odds with one and other. Where the United Nations sees 11 billion people on the planet by 2100, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation sees growth to 9.7 billion initially and then a decline back to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. Future population sizes underpin future strategies for governments and industries around the world. This article via the World Economic Forum underscores the point. The quick video snippet in the Tweet below is fascinating.

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Living An Extra One Hundred Years

One of the future scenarios that I have focused on for some time is healthy life extension. When I mention to an audience that the first person to live to 200 has already been born – it gets quite the reaction. That scenario is not as far-fetched as people believe. This recent article explored research in the field of senolytics – drugs that work to eliminate cells that degrade tissue function. The drugs are already showing promising results and could become available on the market within the next decade.

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The Impact Of Societal Forces On Our Future

Convergence is a big part of how the future reveals itself. I have written often about convergence across geopolitics, science and technology, and other domains. Even a domain like philosophy is converging in ways that help shape our future. Macro-level forces illuminate possible futures, and forces in the societal domain play a major role in determining that future. This article on population provides a great example.

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The Implications Of Slowing Population Growth

The power lies at the intersections. When I first started using the term “Combinatorial”, people thought I was making words up. Although I would like to take credit for the word, I first came across it when reading The Second Machine Age, a fascinating book by Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson. In a post from 2015, I explored several possible combinations that represented disruptive power. A visual from that post attempted to show how science and technology spawned a number of several scenarios, using two curved lines, one for science and technology, and the other for scenarios. As the building blocks combined across the curves, the world would transform.

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The Future Impact Of Societal Factors

Societal factors are one area of Convergence that is shaping our future. The accelerating progression of science and technology gets a lot of attention, but our various societal issues are a major part of the story. For example, there have been various projections for global population growth during this century. Early projections had the globe exceeding 11 billion people by the close of the century (the world is currently at about 7.8 billion people). The number of people on earth – and where those people live – will have profound implications.

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The Global Fertility Crisis

Bloomberg BusinessWeek recently posted an article describing the Global Fertility Crisis. As we look at the forces likely to shape our future, we spend a lot of time and media cycles analyzing the exponential progression of science and technology. Our Emerging FutureThis powerful force is having a profound impact on society. But the opposite is also true: society is influencing the path of innovation. Societal Factors play as big a role in establishing the path of our emerging future. I placed societal factors in the middle of the visual I use to connect an overwhelming number of dots. The two curves that surround them are the science and technology foundation; and the future scenarios that it spawns. Societal tension happens in both directions; out towards the curves, and in from the curves.

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The Future of Farming

The global population is projected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 – up from 7.6 Billion today. This population growth along with city expansions are having major consequences, driving a lack of growing space and food in many parts of the world. Add to this the concerns of extreme weather events that will disrupt food production, and you have a scenario that forces us to find creative solutions. According to various statistics, 795 million people don’t have enough food; and keeping pace with population growth requires a focused effort on realizing food abundance.

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