approach the end of 2008, it's a good time to look back ... and also to look
ahead. That's what members of the World Future Society do. Each year the
group's magazine, The Futurist, publishes its top forecasts for the
years and decades ahead. This year, the outlook includes changes in technology,
environment and society.
future can be scary. Everything you say and do will be recorded by 2030, says
one forecast. Another predicts new kinds of biological warfare that will be
based on genetically-engineered organisms.
future technologies will also provide solutions to future problems. Climate
change, for example, will reduce the world's supply of fresh water. But Futurist
magazine senior editor Patrick Tucker says there could be new ways to meet the
demand for water.
going to be hearing a lot more about desalination as a means to fight against
these water shortages, and nanotechnology is actually a factor in that,"
says Tucker. "So that's just an example of a technology that you wouldn't
normally associate with the environment will actually help us survive in an
environment that's water-stressed and help civilization continue to thrive in
of the great social trends of recent centuries, urbanization, is projected to increase
in the decades ahead. Tucker explains that urbanization is more than just
people moving to cities.
a broader economic sense, what that really refers to is people moving from an
agricultural economy to a more modern, industrial economy. But without
question, our global economy is going to shift more and more away from an
agricultural economy toward an urban economy. More people will be going toward
urban centers. And that's how you get that 'urbanization will hit 60 percent by
those people will need specialized services, and the futurists say training
will increasingly be done not with books in classrooms, but with
video-game-like simulations that will provide increasingly realistic
simulations of, say, surgery. That means the best training will be available in
that does is it allows people to gain sort of immediate visceral experience in
medical procedures that formerly you would have to go to a big medical campus
to gain access to."
and trucks won't be going away, but the future could see better communications
that reduce the need for travel.
is projected to be not just the world's biggest tourist destination, but also
the biggest source of tourists. In fact, tourism worldwide is expected to
double by 2020. Tucker says it's part of a continuing need to fill leisure
when you have a working economy, you have more people with leisure time, and it
may not seem like this is something that's likely at the moment, but, you know,
ironically, despite perceived loss of time over the past 10 years, the amount
of leisure time people have has stayed roughly the same; we have about 40 hours
of leisure time a week. And that's one of the reasons why travel may be a real
bright economic spot in the future."
may become more religious as a counterweight to dramatic changes in Chinese
society. At the same time, futurists say the Middle East may become more
secular, and religion's appeal will continue to decline in the United States.
could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adopting more
environmentally-friendly practices. More nuclear power plants will come online,
with 1,000 operating by 2025. Alternatives such as wind and solar will
increase, but not as much.
Futurist magazine projects that more consumers will make purchasing
decisions based on ethical factors, including the charitable giving and hiring
practices of the companies from which they buy.
be able to make a much more informed choice about whether consuming that
product in that way really fits in your values," he says.
finally, Futurist editor Patrick Tucker reports that people will be having more
sex. Partly that's a result of women being more free to express their
sexuality. But he says, it's also related to increasing longevity.
longer you live, it's not exactly rocket science: the more time you have for
sex. As we look toward a lifespan of possibly 130 years in the next — which
may be a reasonable lifespan for someone born 30 years from now, you can
imagine 120 years of unrestrained, hopefully safe sexual activity. "
Tucker is senior editor of The Futurist magazine. More of their
projections are online at wfs.org, or get the link from our site,