What will our world look like in a hundred years? MIT economist Daron Acemoglu asked that question, when he was waiting for his son’s birth. His most recent work examines the political, social and economic trends of the last hundred years, and then extrapolates them into the future.
Acemoglu drew attention to the grim prospects of growing inequality and environmental pollution, but also sees the positive side, for example, advances in health care.
Environmental pollution around the world will grow stronger
Industrialization in China means the possibility of serious deterioration with regards to CO2 emissions and climate change. The only way to slow this process is the mass transition to “clean” energy – the problem is complex and a solution is almost unattainable without reaching an agreement at the international level. Clean energy does not currently have enough market share to guarantee its successful growth and the continued increase in CO2 emissions may have devastating results.
Islamic regimes will fall
Young people in countries like Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia are growing increasingly aware of the power that their governments have over their lives. Expectations of political change among the people will lead to a further strengthening of enthusiasm and response. When change comes in the region, women and minorities will fight for their rights, and stop the use of religion as a means of social control.
Wars may become nonexistent
During the past 60 years, the number of wars, both civil and between nations, has been on the decline, and this trend will continue into the next century. With continued education and international organizations acting to prevent wars, these types of conflicts will become significantly diminished. Institutions such as the UN, facilitate the resolution of disputes between states and can prevent a repeat of something like the Cold War. If to believe Acemoglu, our age has the potential to become one of peace.
People will live longer and healthier lives
New technologies, medicines and vaccines mean that the life expectancy of future children will be higher than that of their parents. Diseases will decline, and the world economy may experience a sharp rise. Progress will be achieved in advanced countries, who will offer their services to overcome the difficulties in the nations of Asia and Africa.
Manual labor will be taken over by robots
Jobs in agriculture, industry and other sectors that use manual labor, such as technology will be gradually reduced. These workers will be displaced by computers and robots. This process may throw billions of unskilled workers into poverty, or provide them with better future jobs that increase their incomes.
The middle class will continue to die out
The benefits of improved technologies will go to the rich. Meanwhile, assuming that Chinese workers will demand higher wages, the demand for cheap labor will rise. Thus, economic growth will become increasingly uneven, and the gap between rich and poor will grow wider than ever.
The world economy will prosper
China will continue its grow, and regions of Asia and Africa will begin to develop, which may lead to improved quality of life. But we can not rely on the fact that all growth will take place in developing countries; to maintain the overall development of regions with high consumption it is important that the U.S. and Europe deal with their current economic problems.
We will have automated cars
Much like in the last century, in the next hundred years we will see a great many technical innovations, the range of which extends from automated cars to improved methods of medical treatment. It is unlikely that we will face a shortage of fresh ideas, so the landscape around us will continue to evolve in as striking a manner as before.
Democracy will lose ground
In the U.S. democracy is on the defensive. The gap between rich and poor is growing, and participation in political decision making requires money. Meanwhile, all over the world, people praise the Chinese authoritarian model. The result may be that the fight for individual rights will cease or will lose all of its gains.