Jay Swartz

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Jay Swartz
Posted almost 2 years ago
Projections for the next 20 years
I posit that every response so far is a potential future state, each with a probability of occurrence. Some futures have higher probability, but random events can bring an unlikely situation into reality and obviate higher probability futures. This is why it's impossible to predict the future in detail; you would have to know of all future chance events that change the probabilities. This said, there are clear trends that influence the probability of what the world will become. While there are many (all of which could radically change the future and as noted above have the potential to render more likely trends moot), I feel there are four interrelated trends that will have the most impact: population growth, water shortages, environmental change, and exponential advances in technology. In 20 years there will be an additional 1.5B people on Earth, bringing the population to 8.5B+. Growth is slowing, but with 7B+ already here, it is inevitable. To provide just the incremental food and shelter will be painful, and in some geographies disastrous. Earth is 71% covered in water, but just 1% is available fresh water, created by the hydrologic cycle. Humanity has been diverting increasing volumes of fresh water from this cycle, resulting in negative impacts in other cycles. Water availability will shape economies and populations. The evidence that emissions from burning fossil fuel and deforestation have changed climates cannot be denied, but humanity will continue to put economic growth ahead of addressing this issue. The unknown is how rapid and severe the changes will be. The accelerating rate of technology advances has the potential to solve some or all of the issues above, but will bring new issues to bear. Barriers to our understanding of all aspects of science are falling at an ever increasing rate. Our expanding command of the physical world will give us ever more control. For example, by 2033 death will no longer be inevitable, for those who can afford it.