The future is now. No kidding. Based upon technologies that are being perfected now and forces that are measurable now, futurists have a pretty good idea of the kind of world we’ll be occupying in 2050. We can see about 30 years into the future pretty well without the bother of inventing a time-travel machine.
If you are considering future careers, exploring fruitful long-term investments, thinking about how to prepare for your retirement in 30 years or are just curious about the future, you should take a few minutes to ponder our researched glimpse into 2050. Some of it is exciting and some is scary. As with all new technologies, there’s the potential for unpleasant upheaval. But, hey, it’s cheaper than going to a horror flick or reading some boring academic tome on quantum-everything. So sit back and peruse your very probable future world some 31 years from now. We think it is pretty thrilling, albeit in a rollercoaster kind-of-way.
AI Will be Everywhere. The new personal assistants trotted out by Google, Apple and Amazon are just a small appetizer compared to what we’ll see in 2050. It’s very feasible that computers could gain consciousness by 2025, perhaps as early as 2020. Google’s DeepMind isn’t there yet, but by 2050, it’s possible Google’s best computer mind could be superhuman and, even scarier, self-aware. Will AI spell the end of the human race, as physicist Stephen Hawking warned? We may not be far away from learning the answer to that question.
Computing Power to a Higher Power. Computing power will likely have increased many thousands of times over by 2050. Moore’s Law predicts that elements on an integrated surface doubles every two years. That means in the years between 2010 and 2050, computer processing power will double 20 times if Moore’s law holds true. But the real wild card is quantum computing, that use quantum bits rather than silicon transistors. These could make computing in 2050 several billion times more powerful than today’s devices.
Manufacturing is 3D. 3D printing has made enormous technological advances in recent years, but you’ve seen nothing yet. By 2050, the printers are predicted to transform manufacturing in America. From aerospace engineering to fashion merchandise, 3D printing will be a central part of production. 3-D printed buildings and manufacturing will become commonplace. Even now, a Chinese company named Winsun said it built 10 3D-printed houses in one day — each costing just $5,000. A professor at USC is working on a gigantic 3D printer that can build an entire house, with electrical and plumbing conduits.
Intercity Transport via Hyperloop. A Hyperloop network that would allow people to travel between cities in sealed pods traveling up to 700 miles per hour. In the models, the human propulsion system could transport a commuter from New York City to Washington D.C. in 29 minutes. Other concepts have been floated for plans, including from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Chicago to Cleveland. However, because most of these infrastructure investments are government funded, don’t expect vast Hyperloop networks. You might opt for flying your car, instead.
Drones and Flying Cars For Goods and People. No joke, cars will fly before pigs do. Drone deliveries will become widespread, offering same-day transport of goods and services. You may also see personal drones, whereby individuals will be transported at higher speed than autonomous vehicles. Even more exciting, cars that fly are being developed as we speak. Reportedly, 19 companies are developing flying-car plans. These include legacy manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, and small startups like Kitty Hawk, owned by Google founder Larry Page. And all of these vehicles will be powered by electricity — the internal combustion engine will no longer be able to compete.
Bad Drivers Taken Off The Roads. By 2050, self-driving cars will no longer be a buzzword and ridesharing will be ubiquitous. There’ll be no need (nor economically feasible) to buy your own car. Numerous car companies are developing self-driving cars or features. General Motors, for example, is working on Super Cruise, a highway function meant for wide open roads. BMW is testing out Traffic Jam Assistant that lets cars move through traffic automatically during slow-speed congestion. Tech start-up Sartre is even working on cars that drive each other.
You’ll Talk to Your House More Than Your Friends. American homes will have heat and lights that follow you around Rather than setting the thermostat at one uniform level, or turning on a lamp to light the whole room, American homes of the future will have custom heat and light functioning that’s directed right at you. The idea is that the heat and lighting would follow you around the house, keeping you well-lit and at a comfortable temperature wherever you go. AI will be built into buildings themselves, so you can talk to the building and ask for adjustments in temperature or lighting. All household devices will communicate via voice or computer-assisted commands. The 2050 kitchen will issue online orders, on their own, when they’re in need of replenishing.
Clothing That Works For You! Exoskeleton suit will become commonly used in workplaces…..and elsewhere. Hyundai recently created an exoskeleton suit that can make heavy lifting easier. There will be clothing, like leggings that make it easier to walk and run. Or a Spiderman-like suit made with Polymer gels that can improve strength. The U.S. Defense Department is developing an Iron Man suit; as is Panasonic. The robotic exoskeletons will help people lift exceptionally heavy objects (currently, over 200 pounds) and propel them up hills while walking or running, giving everyday people effective superpowers. By 2050, it could be commonplace then, especially for big businesses, to see labor forces made up of suit-wearing human-robot hybrids. And much of the clothing we wear will be powered by body heat or the sun’s rays.
Blurring of virtual and reality. Telling the difference between real and virtual will be increasingly difficult. Augmented Reality (AR) projected by small body items or even jewelry will replace smartphones. Magic Leap may have such smart items available by 2020. And, watch out for sex robots. They may be the first wide-spread deployment of the AI, virtual, cybernetic merger.
Dead celebrities will return to the silver (or AR projected) screen. Imagine Marilyn Monroe, Tom Cruise, Gregory Peck and Jack Nicholson starring in a film or VR game. It’s highly probable, as entertainment will enter the hyper-real world. Filmmaking, virtual and augmented reality, and computer games will merge their respective skills into an entirely new immersive medium.
Future Foods Will Be Nothing Past Foods. Meat will be largely plant-based and almost indistinguishable from steak-house fare. Other food items will be lab-grown or fabricated. Have you tried either the Impossible or Beyond Burger yet? Those are just the beginning of lab-designed substitutes for the real thing. Insects are being increasing utilized for human food — cricket flour is currently widely available and other insect-sources are likely to follow. (it’s quite tasty, BTW). The company Nonfood currently makes food entirely out of algae. Others are producing food from insects ground into flour and seaweed harvested offshore. Robots will be largely handling food production. Pretty soon we’ll all be eating food that is unlike anything our grandmothers ever made….or imagined.
A Hack-Free Internet. Getting tired of the unending stream of stories about cyber-espionage and ransom hacks? Within 30 years, or less, our Internet will have likely been restructured as a blockchain there is a growing movement—emerging from the blockchain world—to build new internet services that combine the power of modern, centralized services with the community-led ethos of the original internet. In the 2000s, the Internet was run by an open, community-controlled set of protocols. With the emergence of Google, Facebook and others, it because a private, proprietary system. However, in the coming decades, experts expect it to return to an internet governed by an open, community-controlled services, protected by blockchain network technology.
Health and Healthcare
Grow Your Own Organs. As bioengineering technology improves, medical experts predict that American patients will grow new organs rather than rely on donors and transplants for things like livers, kidneys, and even hearts. Researchers are currently developing ways to grow them in labs with universal donor cells and other emerging technology. In the next 10 to 30 years, experts have predicted that organ transplants will become a thing of the past.
An MD in Every Home. As telemedicine advances in both popularity and efficacy, patients will have fewer reasons to go to hospitals in the first place—and when they do, they will often interact with doctors who are not on site, possibly even in different parts of the country. American patients will likely limit hospital visits to emergencies and surgical procedures as self-monitoring and virtual care becomes the norm for day-to-day health care. By the same token, many doctors in the hospitals will use virtual reality and perform telesurgeries. Everyone will wear a fitness watch that monitors our pulse, blood pressure, sleep, exercise and other vitals. It will also watch for falls and call for help if you faint. Bathroom monitors will inspect for nascent skin cancers. Even your toilet will be busy monitoring urine and stool for problems.
Cancer Will Be Eradicated. Researchers in London recently released a study suggesting that by 2050, almost no one under the age of 80 will die of cancer. The improvement will be due to a combination of genetic research, better screening and diagnostic tools, new treatment procedures, and decreasing levels of tobacco smoking. Although the study was conducted in England, the authors noted that the results could be “extrapolated to similar countries with equivalent health care services,” which would include the U.S.
Computers In Your Brain. Advanced prosthetics will lead to cybernetic impacts that will effectively be technology totally merging with the human body. Closer to 2050, computers will be linked to people’s brains so much that they believe they’re living in a virtual world.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk outlined this when he talked about neural lace (wireless brain-computer system) at the Vox Media’s Code Conference in Southern California. With the development of these two technologies, it is likely that experimental cyborgs will be scientifically viable, although perhaps politically controversial.
Forget About It…..Really. Due to the aging baby boomer population, medical experts have predicted that the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease will triple between 2013 and 2050. According to a study published in Neurology, the increase will present immense challenges to the health care system, straining medical and social safety nets.
Diabetes Rampant. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 people in the United States will have Type 2 diabetes by 2050 unless there is a major shift in lifestyle trends. Currently, an estimated 30.3 million Americans have the disease but that cases will more than triple in the next 30 years. On top of those present-day figures, another 84.1 million people currently have prediabetes which usually leads to a Type 2 diagnosis within five years if not treated. While diabetes may become more treatable, it will still divert limited medical resources.
Pandemic Terrorism. We’re not going fear-based on you, but in 2016, Oxford’s Global Priorities Project curated a list of potential future catastrophes that could kill off 10 percent or more of the human population. A man-made pandemic caused by weaponized pathogens was probably the scariest of the bunch. Gene-splicing technologies like CRISPR in the wrong hands could lead to death tolls that make the Spanish Flu (50-100 million dead) look like a common cold.
The U.S. Will No Longer Be Top Economic Dog. Global growth projections for 2050 conducted by auditing giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) suggested that emerging markets may grow twice as fast as the world’s advanced G7 economies, leading to America lagging behind. The company predicted that China will be in first place by 2050 with India in second and the U.S. coming in third. However, those two countries may not enjoy higher quality of life, as population growth strains their abilities to meet domestic demand.
Americans Will Be Poorer. Median incomes for American families are projected to drop over the next few decades, falling by 0.43 percentage points per year between now and 2020, 0.52 points per year between 2020 and 2030, and 0.2 points per year between 2030 and 2040. Although the figures on their own are not staggering, the percentage drops over time will add up significantly. By 2050, an employee who earned $50,000 in 2013 is expected to only bring home $44,000. The number get even worse when you factor in inflation.
Full Time Jobs? Probably Not. The current nature of jobs with salaries and benefits will be largely diminished. Employers in the United States are increasingly moving toward hiring part-time, freelance-based contractors in the emerging “gig economy.” In 2050, it will be standard for people to have two or three jobs at any given time and be continually training themselves to stay up-to-date.
Robots, Not Immigrants, Will Take Low-Paying Jobs. Already, American fast-food restaurants are automating and are expected to be almost completely automated by 2050. Places like McDonald’s will still offer the same menu items but will have self-serve touch screens in place for placing orders and robotic assembly lines in the kitchen that will make your food. A hamburger restaurant in California is already using an early version of a burger-flipping robot that can grill 150 burgers per hour. By 2050, most low-pay, physically demanding and repetitive jobs will be handled by robots.
Global Body Explosion. Global population estimates for 2050 are for almost 10 billion inhabitants – an almost doubling of today’s population. According to a Pew Research Center study, even the American population will explode, going from 329 million in 2018 to 438 million by 2050. This 33% increase is largely due to an an influx of people into the country, as climate change causes mass migrations of people (and insects). In fact, it is estimated that 82% of the growth between 2005 and 2050 will be due to immigrants arriving, and their descendants. In particular, the percentage of Hispanics in America will increase from 18% in 2016 to 29% in 2050, representing an increase of nearly one-third.
Life Expectancy May Crater. Over the past three hundred years, life expectancy has increased. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the life expectancy of the average American in 2016 would be about 78.8, which has been static for the better part of a decade. By 2050, some people will live longer due to medical advances. According to the MacArthur Research Network on an Aging Society, women by 2050 will live to be 89 to 94, and men will live to be 83 to 86. The Pew Research Center additionally found that one out of every five people in the United States will be age 65 or older by 2050 while 400,000 people or more will be 100 or older. However, higher mortality rates are expected, thus dropping average life expectancy due to the dramatic environmental changes. (see Environment below)
Rise Up Women! Although men outnumbered women in the United States in the mid-1800s, that statistic shifted dramatically during World War II when the draft depleted the American male population. Since then, numbers of women have been outpacing the growth of men. Although the percentage split of 49–51 will remain fairly close in 2050, the number of women in the U.S. will have grown by 7.5 million more than U.S. males.
Minorities Will Be The Majority. It’s already happened in California. By the time 2050 rolls around, the U.S. Census Bureau expect that 53% of the American population will be defined as multiracial or nonwhite. The white population will drop from 67% to 47%. With fertility being the driving force, the change in the racial demographics is expected to occur regardless of immigration policies.
The Majority May Well Be Obese. According to a 2010 study by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the number of Americans considered obese could hit 42% or more by 2050. The figure, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, has already tripled since the 1980s. The silver lining, however, is that once the number hits the 42% mark it is anticipated to level out after that.
And Only A Minority Will Be Married. Marriage rates have been steadily declining since the 1960s and that trend will likely continue in 2050. In 1970, for example, about 60% of Americans were tying the knot. By 2013 it was had dropped to roughly 50% where it’s remained for the better part of the 2010s. United States Census Bureau statistics suggest marriage will drop to a mere 40% by 2050. Fortunately, divorce rates will be shrinking among millennials, especially compared to the boomer generation, which saw major increases in marital separations. In fact, the figure dropped an impressive 18% between 2008 and 2016. Still, figures currently suggest that by 2050, close to 1 in 5 Americans will be divorced, a number that represents over 20% of the population.
Some Areas in the World May Be Unrecognizable. Higher seas, lower humidity, more fires and mass migrations will reshape our world in very undesirable ways. For example, the National Academy of Sciences released a report predicting that by 2050, 30% of lower Manhattan will be below sea level. Additionally, the state will experience heavier storms with massive flooding like Hurricane Sandy becoming commonplace. Sandy-strength storms that occurred just once every 500 years before the 1850s will occur every five years. While New York currently averages two heat waves per summer, by 2050 it will experience an average of six every year, tripling the number of oppressively hot weather snaps. Meanwhile, the number of days over 90 degrees will double. And New York City will hardly be alone in this disturbed climate picture. Vast parts of China, Mumbai in India, most of Bangladesh and Osaka Japan will likely no longer be habitable, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. According to analysis of a recent NCA report, wildfires in California could increase by almost 50% by 2050, engulfing more than 25,000 acres in flames each year. By the end of the century, the average could rise by a staggering 77%.
The Middle-East in the Southwest. A Vox analysis of a recent report by the National Climate Assessment (NCA) showed that almost every U.S. city will experience a temperature increase for both summer and winter averages by 2050, noting that in some places it will be so hot it’s “dangerous to go outside.” According to Climate Central, future temperatures in some regions can best be compared to the Middle East. Las Vegas, for instance, will have summer highs projected at 111 degrees, comparable to temperatures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Phoenix will be like Kuwait City at a scorching 114 degrees.
Mega Droughts Will Be Mega Frequent. The decade-long Dust Bowl drought that plagued big parts of the US during the Great Depression will pale in comparison to the mega-drought –a prolonged drought that lasts two decades or longer — that many climatologists are predicting. There’s an 80% chance it will occur sometime between 2050 and 2099 if greenhouse emissions continue, they predict. The drought would prompt dust storms and wipe out trees and agriculture from California to Iowa, in the U.S. It will also have dramatic impacts upon the Amazon Basin, which is already struggling with prolonged droughts, France’s Rhone Valley and Russia’s wheat belt.
Death To Coral. Scientists say 90% of the world’s corals will probably be dead by 2050. If carbon dioxide concentrations continue increasing at the current rate, the impact of global warming and ocean acidification could combine to slow coral growth by almost 50%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the U.S., the biggest impact will be to Florida’s coral reefs system which is the third-largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world.
Cities That Touch The Sky. Tall buildings and skyscrapers will become virtual mini-cities as vertical building gets higher and higher. Some futurists even envision building that could reach up to 18 miles high, (a staggering 8,000 stories), although the FAA might object. In these giant cities, giant drones would transport people from floor to floor since elevators would be impractical at those heights. Although places like China and Dubai currently lead the world in terms of building heights, New York-Newark has the highest number of proposed high-rise projects of buildings taller than roughly 500 feet, suggesting that America can anticipate a move toward taller buildings, too. Unfortunately, in places like New York, San Francisco, and Boston, groups of young and mostly single, childless residents have already pushed out the middle class and driven up the cost of living, creating expensive urban playgrounds with few practical resources and an endless supply of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, and other establishments. This privileged cityscape likely proliferate through 2050.
Fossil Fuels Finally Fossilized? From a scientific standpoint, there is little need for fossil fuels to power our lives in 2050. Houses and cars are, even now, capable of being fully renewable. The ability to draw solar energy from areas with more access to sun will increase our reliance on solar power over time. Battery technology will largely control the speed of renewable power integration. Also, keep on an eye on nuclear fusion. China actually hit a huge milestone recently when it was able recreate solar conditions for well over a minute at its nuclear fusion plant.
With An Increased Forecast of Blackouts. Unfortunately, the combination of more extreme weather mixed with increased power usage will lead to a higher frequency of large-scale, citywide blackouts. This increased unreliability may drive people to adopt distributed renewable power. But in places that are crowded and congested, particularly in the northeast, northwest and southwest, the blackouts could be even worse than imagined. Futurists estimate that up to 50% more residents in those regions will find themselves temporarily without power in 2050 due to severe storms.
Go Urban, Young Man! The rural population in the United States has stayed the same for more than a century, hovering around 50 million people (and hitting 60 million in 2016), but the number of city dwellers keeps skyrocketing. The urban population went from around 30 million in 1900—nearly half the amount as country folks—to over 250 million today. By 2050, projections indicate that 5.5 times as many people will live in cities as those living in rural zones. Even though rural areas make up 97% of the country’s land mass, they will house less than 20% of the nation’s population. Throughout the globe, over 70% of the world’s population will be housed in cities.
Newspapers Kaput. Books On the Wane. According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans reported in 2010 that they didn’t believe print newspapers will still exist in 2050. This year, another Pew analysis found that newsroom jobs dropped by 23% between 2008 and 2017, losing 27,000 jobs in less than a decade. Although printed books aren’t anticipated to disappear completely for another 50 to 100 years, it’s inevitable that by 2050, far fewer will remain. The audience is changing: in 2015, half of American adults said they own a tablet or e-reader, and 30% had read an e-book in 2013. It won’t take long for those numbers to increase to 100%
Privacy Also Threatened With Extinction. Our surveillance society sees little indication of abating. Smart Dust – tiny sensors the size of dust molecules – could be tapped to record everything everywhere. Dust is omnipresent and cameras undetectable to the human eye may be easily hidden in that dust cloud. Expect a sizeable increase in air filtration system, but it’s not likely they could keep up.
E-Governance Elected. In smart cities currently, citizens engage with their urban government via digital platforms that enable them to sign contracts, file their taxes, and vote in the national elections. Similar programs in Singapore, Amsterdam and others are on their way to change the way government interacts with citizens they serve.