While not all these trends will necessarily last 100 years, they are all long-term developments that are shaping our world. I’ve weighed in on a number of these topics and I hope to write about all of them eventually, so this page can function as an index for readers.
Some trends have both “troubling” and “encouraging” aspects, and your opinion may differ as to which trends belong in which category.
I identify as a “science-fictionalist”; it is the job of the creative class to imagine our way to a brighter future. Politically I lean left (by U.S. standards) or centrist (by global standards), and I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of humanity (though I reject Silicon Valley-style Panglossian techno-utopianism). I have no credentials beyond being an avid, broad reader of both fiction and nonfiction. I think and write about the long-term future of humanity because it interests me, and because so few people (with the exception of science fiction authors and the Long Now Foundation) bother to give it any thought at all.
Zooming out, where are we (humanity), in time? What “age” do we live in? In terms of power, we live in the Corporate Age (preceded by ages dominated by Fascism, The Church, Monarchs, and Warlords respectively). In terms of climate we live during the Anthropocene, a slightly warmer period of the already warm Holocene interglacial (but this will come to an end, in the longer run our enemy is ice). In terms of social/economic organization we are transitioning from the Industrial production of thing to the Programmable replication of things (and services). In terms of nested evolutionary levels we may soon witness the birth of synthanima (fully synthetic personhood). Exciting times.
- the global decline of death by violence, the decline of violent assaults and rape
- increased access to birth control and family planning
- slowing human population growth
- the global increase of literacy
- the growing global ubiquity of knowledge access, computing power, and affordable telephony
- increased civic participation via the internet and connectivity tools
- in general, increasing tolerance of differences in ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation (human identity over tribal identity)
- increased awareness of and concern for issues related to environmentalism, sustainability, economic fairness and opportunity
- the decline of product and service scarcity due to replication and automation
- revenue and job loss due to the decline of product and service scarcity
- increasing cost of potable water, fossil-fuels, and rare elements due to increased demand and the permanent depletion of easily accessible sources
- the loss of habitat for non-generalist (less adaptable) species due to climate change, forest destruction, overfishing, acid rain/coral reef destruction, and pollution
- manipulation of the political process by mega-wealthy elites, democracies morphing into oligarchies or plutocracies
- unchecked corporate power and amoral profiteering, resulting in tax evasion, environmental destruction, worker exploitation, consumer/citizen abuse, resource theft, decisions contrary to public interest, and manslaughter/murder
- growing income and economic opportunity inequality/disparity, and resulting us-them attitudes, reduced social trust and cohesion
- defunding/dismantling/weakening of middle-class institutions, including public schools, community colleges, libraries, and parks
- privatization of services that have proven to be more effective and efficient in the public realm (primarily education, military defense, and healthcare)
- reduced public funding for scientific research and exploration (resulting in slower technological process), and the corruption of scientific research due to chasing “sexy” results and the associated private-sector funding
- physical health decline due to sedentary lifestyles (excessive sitting), sunlight deprivation, social isolation, and consumption of industrialized denatured foods
- mental health decline due to sleep deprivation/excessive artificial light exposure, poor nutrition, substance abuse, separation from nature, overstimulation of dopaminergic (task and reward) brain systems, understimulation of social and kinetic brain subsystems, social isolation/living alone, weakening family bonds, dehumanizing jobs, income inequality, alienation/marginalization, and feelings of powerlessness/victimization
- spiritual crisis due to individualistic, conformist, zero-sum competitive, and/or commercialistic worldviews, lack of life purpose
- the decline of generalism and broad reading among intellectual elites (in favor of the pursuit of specialized knowledge and a focus on task completion and careerism) resulting in naive and simplistic political and social views
- the (likely permanent) decline of human population, sometime in this century, resulting in aging populations, shrinking tax bases, depopulated and blighted cities, a possible failure of a global economic system dependent on perpetual growth
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