What will life be like in 2050? We share some expert opinion.
It's hard to predict the future but that doesn't stop the world's top experts from trying. With close to nine billion people expected on the planet in 2050, what changes do the experts foresee? How can we meet the challenge of longer lives with more technology and less money? It all depends on having a plan.
The future is already here: data is increasing exponentially and we're close to information overload. Ten years ago it was easy to laugh at the need for an internet-connected fridge. Now fridges, phones and cars are connected to the internet, and soon it's likely that all of our belongings – even our bodies – may be.
Rapid growth in internet usage and connected devices is building a new technologically-immersed world. Tools like Google Wallet and Square Mobile are turning every iPhone into an e-commerce platform. The world's libraries will soon be rolled up into a paper-thin computing device rendering printed books cumbersome and relics of another era. Cloud computing will combine with increased miniaturisation to give us access to petabytes of data, media, music and video without the limits of local storage.
Thankfully, the future is also bringing tools to combat technology fatigue and overload. Experts predict that we'll get better at triaging information, deciding what's relevant, and using increasingly sophisticated tools to sort, store and retrieve the data we need.
Healing, in the form of technology, is also on the way. Noted artificial intelligence (AI) expert and technologist, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that by 2050 humans will transcend their biology and radically extend their lifespan using technological intervention.
If life expectancy keeps improving, we'll need to move toward longer working lives or saving more to fund our longer retirements. For example, to receive a defined lifetime pension of 60% of our salary we need to be contributing 20 – 30% of our salary over a full career, significantly higher than our mandated 9% super contribution.3 To make those numbers stack higher in our favour, it's time to make some small changes now, like contributing a little more to super each week.
We'll also be moving faster. Strict environmental regulations will result in smaller, cheaper, more energy-efficient cars. Futurists predict that cars in the developed world may be computer-controlled, with traffic flow and road management issues handled by advanced networks of artificial intelligence, which may allow for greater speed of travel.1
And if moving quickly through the future isn't enough, we might be able to travel back to the past. In groundbreaking research, scientists have discovered that sub-atomic particles can travel faster than the speed of light. Jeff Forshaw, a professor of particle physics at Britain's Manchester University, says that if the results are confirmed it would mean that "time travel into the past would become possible."2
Future shock or a future to enjoy? The answer depends on how well we plan, and how we use the technology at our fingertips.
1. futuretimeline.net. The World in 2050. 2. Reuters. Faster than light particles may be physics revolution. 23 September 2011. 3. Rice Warner Actuaries. Touchstone: Surviving Longevity. March 2010.