COLUMN: Bon voyage into the future

Columnist ML Burke fills us in on a particular vision of the future circa 2040.

I am on a week-long Canada/New England cruise and felt you, my loyal readers, also deserve a vacation from my usual rants. So this column will take all of us on a journey 25 years into the future to 2040.

In case you are wondering, my source is solid: The BBC News channel in my stateroom. Hey, it’s the BBC and the accents somehow make it even more credible. Fasten your seat belts because here we go…

In 2040 there will be 8.7 billion of us sharing this planet. That’s 2.6 billion more people than we have now. “OMG,” you might shout, “how are we going to feed house, employ and transport all those folks?” Relax my friends, it’s more good news than bad.

We are moving quickly to living in a digital world controlled by computers. Trains, buses, cars and trucks will increasingly be automated and driverless, though cars won’t be flying anytime soon as air traffic controls would be impossible.

There will be huge impacts on employment due to 70 per cent of jobs being done by robots. However, new fields will open in tech sciences and governance.

The delivery of education will change too, as children from kindergarten to grade 6 react well to a teacher on a big screen, whereas students aged 13 and up learn better from live teachers.

Retail will be digitized more than it already is with Internet shopping, but there will be specialized shopping experiences for those who prefer or enjoy the browse factor.

The U.S. Dollar will not be dominant, but will still be a player. The Chinese Yuan will be prevalent, as will newer currencies such as Bitcoin.

Netflix- and YouTube-type applications will dominate our entertainment viewing.

Not only will most of our food will be grown in greenhouses, new foods will be developed using 3D printers. Insects and algae farming will be commonplace, as will growing meats in labs, eliminating the need to raise and slaughter animals.

Delivery of healthcare will change dramatically in that we will be wearing technology that informs us of changes requiring our attention. Science will be able to change our cells at the molecular level, sending good cells to eliminate the diseased ones, and will also be able to extend our lifespan (which does bring up questions of sustainability for an ever-increasing population).

We will be moving away from fossil fuels and toward using renewable energies but, it should be noted, this will take about 100 years to achieve.

Geopolitics will see fewer global treaties and less division of territories within countries. For instance, Canada and the U.S. would retain their federal governments, but provinces, states, municipalities and counties would be eliminated or reduced to advisory committees.

The world will have one overall governing body made up of representatives from all countries, and military defence will rely mostly on drones.

Communication will become a part of us with wearable computers. Language barriers will be eliminated through instant translation. We will be connected to the web all the time, begging the question, “Will Big Brother have too much information?” (This could be good and/or bad.)

Artificial intelligence is another concern as some wonder if computers could become smarter than humans. Others say not, that they will just become a part of us, hopefully making us all smarter.

In terms of economics, with 2.6 billion more people roaming about, China and India will be the big consumers. There will be more jobs in the financial fields and a rise in privately held companies.

And finally, the news we get will be 100 per cent unbiased. (Really?) This is due to everyone being connected and able to verify the interpretation of news stories. Hello truth, goodbye spin and propaganda.

Except for those few questions, I’d say things are looking pretty rosy for the world in 25 years.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

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