In 2012, the US government put on its futurist hat and published a report entitled “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.”
It’s full of both grim predictions and hopeful insights about the world that humans will inhabit within the next two decades.
One section outlines four mega-trends that are poised to create the greatest impact in the years to come in society, healthcare, government, and resources.
Here’s what we can expect.
Over the next 15 to 20 years, continued giving from groups like the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will lift millions of people out of poverty, the report found, to the extent that the majority of the world's population will no longer be impoverished.
This new wealth will produce millions more empowered individuals that will have the means to add to local and national economies.
The report hedged slightly, however, because more empowered people will also have greater access to lethal weapons and networks, which is 'a capability formerly the monopoly of states.'
Developing countries in Asia will become more prominent world powers compared to North American and European nations.
'China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030,' the report explained. 'In a tectonic shift, the health of the global economy increasingly will be linked to how well the developing world does — more so than the traditional West.'
In other words, having the most money or people won't necessarily keep a country powerful if others are more adept at staying connected to data and resources.
A combination of widespread ageing, falling fertility, and urbanisation will lead to a dramatically different world in 2030.
With an expected 8.3 billion people, human civilisation will be both older and much more focused on city life. Our infrastructure may improve, but our level of innovation and output will slow down without younger workers.
'Ageing countries will face an uphill battle in maintaining their living standards,' the report stated.
It's entirely possible, however, that within the next several decades, humanity will generate more urban construction than it has in the rest of its history.
A growing middle class and gains in empowerment will lead the demand for food to rise by 35%, water by 40%, and energy by 50%, government research suggested.
Regions with extreme weather patterns — like rain-soaked Singapore or muggy Mumbai — will get more extreme due to the effects of climate change. Dry areas such as northern Africa and the US Southwest will feel the effects of diminished precipitation especially hard.
We will still have enough resources to avoid energy scarcity by 2030; however, whether those resources include fracking or renewable forms like solar and wind is yet to be seen.