For our special 100th episode of ThrowForward Thursday, we jump forward a century and imagine 21 scenarios of what life might be like. These are not fanciful science fiction scenarios of flying cars or robot assistants (those will be old news in a century anyway), but rather our team’s best scenarios for realistic but significant change to the way we live and work.
Come with us to imagine a world of free and clean energy, where our understanding of dark matter has helped us to a giant leap forward in science. Marvel with us at the medical advances that have doubled life expectancy, integrated humans and machines, given people the choice of when to end life, but has also changed politics forever – we now have a young/old divide rather than a conservative/progressive one.
We don’t believe that there will be colonies off planet, but there will certainly be scientific bases on the moon and Mars, and maybe even further into space. There won’t be banks or money – not as we know them today. There won’t be cryptocurrency over. In fact, we will have a whole new political and economic system. And maybe – just maybe, if we dare to dream – we can imagine a world without war.
All this and more in just 21 minutes. 21 scenarios for 2123. Imagine tomorrow’s world and start building it today.
Join Graeme Codrington’s Futures Club here.
Welcome to the 100th episode of Throw Forward Thursday, my name’s Graeme Codrington, and for the 10th week in a row, join me as we jump into the future and see what’s going on there. And today I thought because it’s a hundred, let’s go a hundred years into the future and just have a look at some scenarios for the world a century from now.
Now, of course, any Futurist that does something like this has permission to be entirely fanciful because, well, I mean, how many of you are going to be around to check whether I got it right or not? And that’s not what I want to do. This is not just a science fantasy, science fiction dreamscape that I want to present, but I want to identify some very realistic possibilities, some things that I believe will genuinely happen. They might not even take 100 years to get there, but they will have a fundamental change impact on the way that we live and work, and by jumping 100 years into the future, I’m also giving you an invitation to look backwards on our world today and to begin the process of moving towards these scenarios and visions.
If you don’t know by now, I’m an optimistic Futurist. I believe the world is in urgent need of optimism, and that’s what you’re going to hear from me now.
The first scenario, I think, is in 100 years’ time we will have free energy. That’s right. Free energy. Now, free is a big word because I think we will have the technology available to us to produce free and green. I think that clean and green goes along with free energy. It could be something to do with the nuclear fusion reactors that we’re developing, things like ITER and other Tokamak reactors that we’re already seeing in place in our world today. Advances in solar and wind and wave and maybe even some other techniques that we don’t know yet.
One of the big advances, which I suppose is one of my most speculative views, is that there will be a massive scientific breakthrough. If I were to take a guess, in the next 50 to 100 years, it would be around our understanding of dark energy and dark matter. And I think we’ll look back on ourselves and wonder how on earth we were calling it dark energy and dark matter. We just don’t know what it is. It’s a significant chunk of the universe around us, I mean, into the 90% of what makes up the physical world that physicists look at. They just don’t know what they are looking at. They know something has to be there, but they don’t know what it is, Dark energy, dark matter? I think obviously, 100 years from now, we’ll probably know what it is, we’ll understand it and maybe be able to harness it to give us free energy.
I say free, that’s what we are capable of doing. There are going to be business people and economists in the mix and so I’m sure we’ll be paying at least a little bit for it. But anyway, the concept is that the world’s energy problems are saved from a production perspective, a storage perspective, a costing and availability perspective and from an impact on the planet’s perspective. Scenario number one.
Scenario number two has got to do with medical advances, and here again, I think that we are already underway with this. Technologies that feel very recent to us as I record this in 2023, for example, the Nobel Prize from Medicine about two or three years ago, for CRISPR, the technology that allows us to edit our DNA, the massive advances that we’ve taken in recent years in developing vaccines applied to the development of the COVID vaccine, which was controversial, for some people. But I think when they apply that same technology, mRNA approaches and other technologies about to emerge. When they begin to apply that to diseases like Leukaemia and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and Cancer. I think there’ll be less pushback and I think people might say I’ll have one of those, please.
What’s going to happen is in addition to just the medical side of things we’re also going to have the technology side with medical devices, with sensors on and in our bodies that are going to get real-time data and using data analytics and I hesitate to call it AI because I don’t even think AI is needed, I think it’s just big data analytics, is going to give us plenty of insights that will allow us to do a much better job of understanding the human system and being able to improve that system dramatically.
Where AI might come in is what today we call transhumanism which is the integrating of machines into our systems. That might just be sensors, but it could also be replacement parts for the physical parts of our body, which again some people might feel a little bit worried about at the moment. But when you need a heart transplant and there isn’t a human one available well, maybe a mechanical one doesn’t sound so bad then.
But it’s also about experiments with people transplanting our consciousness into machines. It’s a little bit more speculative, but 100 years from now, if we understand consciousness and if consciousness simply resides in our neurons and is not some supernatural or spiritual thing in addition to just the physics of our brains, well, then, 100 years from now, we will have been able to create a replacement or at least a clone, a technology clone of ourselves. And it’ll be fascinating to see what happens with consciousness and whether it’s an emergent property or whether you can literally transfer somebody’s consciousness into an artificial or technology-driven device. Possibilities.
What I know for sure, let’s come back to those more realistic and reliable scenarios is we are going to continue to increase longevity. We are going to continue to live longer and by the end of the next 100 years, we probably will have increased average life expectancy by another 30 years at least. I say another 30 years because that’s what we’ve basically done in the last hundred years. Moving average life expectancy from around about 50, which it was 100 years ago, to around about 80, which it is now. And I think we will have pushed it to 110, 120 now.
There are all sorts of things that go with that, including I think a lot more people choosing when they want to die. Birth control gave us the choice of when we want to start life and in 2023 there are a few conservative people still anti that and trying to stop people from having control over when life starts. I disagree with them, but anyway, different topic for another day. I do think we’re going to be having fights over the next hundred years about our ability to end life on our own terms. And I don’t want to use the word suicide because I don’t think it’ll have that connotation to it.
What’s going to happen to society is a few things. So, rapid fire implications here and scenarios. Retirement age, if we are dying at around 130 years old, retirement age is going to have to be somewhere in the 80s or 90s. You better make sure you love your job, or you’d better have a different view of careers. So, here’s a scenario where instead of life being study, get your education, work, get your promotion, retire, have a few relaxed years, it’s over. It might be study, work, take a break, study, work, take a break, study, work, take a break in a sort of 20 to 30-year cycles, which you repeat maybe two or three times.
A whole different view of what life looks like and that would impact when and if people get married and how many children they have and what happens to family units. What I do think we will also have is political parties that are not divided by left and right. This is kind of already faded in 2023, blurry lines there, but let’s maybe call them conservative versus progressive or limited government versus big government. Those are sort of the choices you’ve mainly got for politics at the moment. I think there will be significant places in the world where politics is divided by age and those people who are saying we have to look after the old people. The baby boomers in 2023, the longer they stick around, the more likely the scenario is to happen now where they basically voting to keep their 70, 80 and 90 year old quality of life and protect their nest egg.
It’s a Ponzi scheme. Current retirement plans are basically a pyramid Ponzi scheme, and a lot of young people are going to say I am not being the last idiot into that system, thank you very much. I’m not paying into a system for 40 or 50 years while I work only to discover that the people who weren’t working were the people taking it out and there’s nothing left for me when I need it. So, retirement has to change, retirement funding has to change, we have to move the retirement age and I think politics is going to be impacted by this issue maybe more than anything else.
And then of course we also have to think about the sandwich generations. This maybe isn’t even 100 years from now, I think this is the beginning. The sandwich generation is people who are in their 40s and 50s, who are supposed to be in their prime working and wealth creation phase of life, and in decades and centuries gone past would have just been about at age 50 or 60, about to inherit a little bit of asset base from their parents who pass away.
If those parents are not passing away and those parents start running out of money, and if the kids coming through the system are taking longer to educate themselves and get into the working environment and become financially independent. 40 and 50 year old people become sandwiched between trying to generate wealth, helping their ageing parents and continuing to support their ageing children who are not leaving home. That might not be 100 years from now. Some of you know that reality already,
Okay, all of that medical stuff topped off with one final thought that there’s no doubt in my mind that we will finally in 100 years’ time have a proper healthcare system. By that I mean it’s not a sick care system, which is what we’ve got now. Most of you only go to the doctor when you are already sick. 100 years from now the system will keep us healthy with predictive proactive preventative healthcare. I can’t wait, I hope it’s not 100 years to wait.
Okay. I say I’m an optimistic futurist, but of course, if you’re looking 100 years in the future, a lot of people and the younger you are watching this video, the more likely you are to ask is the world even going to be here in 100 years? Yeah. The ravages of climate change are huge, and they will accelerate in the next few decades and 100 years from now I think we will have stabilised in whatever the new normal looks like. I don’t think the world will be a hellscape, but I think it will be very different from what it is now.
Some areas that are beautiful to live in today are going to be horrible to live in 100 years from now. Some areas we can’t live in today will have made habitable in the future. We’ll have done a whole lot of things to farming, we’ll be farming in the deserts, and we’ll be using genetic modification of crops to do something better. I think we’ll survive, and some parts will more than survive, some parts will thrive as well. But the world is going to look very different and there are some places that are going to be uninhabitable and probably mainly because of heat rather than water, but water is probably second on the list. Lack of water for drinking or too much water from the ocean flooding.
Do we move to Mars, then? Do we move to the moon? Do we move to Jupiter? whatever, what’s at Io, I think, is one of the moons that they’ve suggested might be worth looking at, filled with water? No, I don’t think so. In 100 years, I think there will be people living off planet, but I think there will all be scientists. I don’t think that there will be a viable colony off planet in 100 years from now. Why? Because the whole point of going to Mars, the whole point of building a base on the moon, is to work out how to live in extreme conditions. And the conditions on Mars are more extreme than any place on Earth. Antarctica, the top of Mount Everest, the bottom of the ocean. So, yeah, let’s send some scientists to live in extreme conditions and see what we learn. But let’s apply that learning to this planet, it’s still easier, cheaper and better to do it here. There’s still no planet B, as they say, not in 100 years from now.
I think 100 years from now, we’re not going to have money. Bold claim. We probably will have money, but it’ll be a world beyond money. Certainly, the money that we know today, and the banking system will have imploded completely and been replaced by, well, honestly, I can’t imagine, because it isn’t cryptocurrencies that are going to replace it. Crypto is necessary, it’s important, it’s interesting, but it’s basically a reaction to the current banking system. So, it’s kind of like putting a terrorist in charge of sorting out a coup. They’re going to fight each other to the death and hopefully, we’ll replace them with something better afterwards.
But the point of talking about this is less about money, an actual currency, and more about a political and economic reality. Maybe the better picture is Star Trek. Star Trek doesn’t have money. I don’t know if you knew this. In Star Wars, there’s always money, and in fact, many of the plots of Star Wars movies are about people trying to make money and find money and get money and repay debts. Whereas in Star Trek, the other alternative science fiction view of the universe, there is no money. Nobody buys or sells anything. And that was deliberate, that was the picture that the Star Trek authors wanted to produce. And it’s one of the core fundamentals of the world they’ve created, which is that there are enough resources for everybody to just take the resources that they want, and nobody hoards or takes more than they need.
Yeah, some people would say it’s a bit of communism. I don’t think it’s intended to be communism or socialism. I think it’s intended to be something beyond our existing systems beyond a democracy, beyond capitalism, beyond socialism, beyond communism. Can we imagine what that is? No, I don’t think we can yet, and I think that’s part of the task of the next hundred years. But I do think it’s going to happen, and I don’t think that the existing capitalist, communist or socialist systems will be the dominant systems in 100 years from now. So, for me, the world beyond money is a shorthand way to say that.
I also think at the same time then, that we will see the end of Nation States as we know them. I’m not saying they won’t be countries at all, but I think two things will happen that will mean countries are way less important. The first is that I think we will see the rise of independent city states, cities in the world that have declared independence from the nations that they’re in. I can see London doing that, I can see New York and San Francisco doing that. I think German culture means that it’s unlikely to probably happen to Berlin and Munich but could happen to Paris. Who knows? In other parts of the world, I could see it possibly happening. Maybe more of a stretch in Asian worlds because of the culture there. But, yeah, maybe Beijing, and Shanghai become independent states rather than being a city in a country. That’ll be fascinating.
On the other side, I see a lot of regional alliances, like we have the EU at the moment, and as I’m recording this with the UK having left the EU, and I think most people in the UK now realising that was a mistake. I think that people are recognising the value of regional connections. As tough as they are to manage, and as difficult as they may be, they are still better than not doing it. And so, we’ll see those two things emerging with the power and value of the country being less important 100 years from now.
And my final prediction is this am I bold enough to predict that in 100 years from now, we might have seen the end of war? Oh, I wish I could. That would be a remarkable prediction, that somehow all of these other things I’ve talked about lead us, as humanity into a space where we don’t have to fight and kill each other anymore. But I don’t know if I’m that brave. Let’s wish rather than predict.
Thank you for joining me. I hope that you enjoyed that as much as I did. Next week, we’re going to pick up these themes again, and for the members of my Futures Club, we’re going to go into one of your exclusive videos looking at the behind the scenes of how did our team come up with this list? How do we develop scenarios like this? What are the tools and techniques that we used to come up with this list and what does it mean for us today? Maybe the most important question.
There’ll be a teaser short promo video for you next week. If you’re not a member of the Futures Club, but why not just get in right now? Sign up at the Link. It’ll be in the show notes as well. Become part of the Futures Club. There’s no risk if you don’t like it, if you don’t get value, we’ll give you your money back at any time, no questions asked.
But for now, think about the future. Live in the present.
I’ll see you next week.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.