As we approach 2020 it is interesting to retrieve an article from over 20 years ago. In an end of millennium magazine all the forecasts of the future still on the horizon appeared.
Here is what they "saw" at the time, and how many of us today respected the plans. I marked the more or less accurate forecasts for 2020 in green, the more or less wrong ones in red, the “ongoing” ones in blue.
December 30, 1996 - The XNUMXst century will belong to China. Questa sarà l’era delle tigri e dei draghi asiatici.
Quando i banchieri di Bay Street suonano come guru dell’Himalaya, sai che il mondo sta capovolgendo. Benvenuto alla vigilia del 21 ° secolo. Con l’avvicinarsi del prossimo millennio, ormai mancano solo 36 mesi, tutti sono diventati futuristi.
However, as Yogi Berra observed so wisely, "The future is no longer what it once was". While some of the events and trends that will dominate the new millennium are already underway, most go beyond our imagination.
Of what we can identify and plan to continue, some are comforting, some are exhilarating, and many others are nightmare-inducing. The diagnosis of "pre-millennium anxiety" will become commonplace, but at the heart of this anxiety will remain a great, even growing, excitement to be alive.
È un po ‘come i primi giorni dell’universo dopo il big bang, quando i gas si stavano congestionando e le galassie si stavano formando. Nessuno è davvero sicuro di come andrà a finire tutto, e non è ancora chiaro dove sia la Terra.Tony Comper, president of the Bank of Montreal, commenting on the new millennium in 1996
Mentre ci spostiamo nel prossimo secolo, un nuovo modo di vivere prenderà piede. Il 31 dicembre 1999, sentiremo tagliare il flusso delle nostre vite; ciò che verrà dopo sarà molto diverso da ciò che è accaduto prima.
Invece di rimanere fedeli alle virtù civiche della deferenza e dell’abnegazione che ci hanno trattenuto per così tante generazioni, seguiremo un’etica della realizzazione personale che sottolinea l’autosufficienza, l’autonomia e la ricerca di una migliore qualità della vita, piuttosto che uno standard di vita più elevato.
In the next millennium we will love ideas, not heroes, but we will come to rely on the character rather than the personality.
These trends are already in place, but the midnight turn, on December 31, 1999, will provide these new attitudes with the catharsis necessary to establish them as generational values.
Life takes place according to a sequence of markers. Most of the points are personal but public events (some more important than others) become the seedlings of a new collective culture. The birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the D-Day landings in Normandy, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. All, in their own way, have helped define our culture. To that list must now be added the dawn of the new millennium.
Gli ultimi due decenni hanno visto un’accelerazione senza precedenti della storia. In Europa, i confini nazionali che sono stati difesi dagli invasori fin dai tempi di Annibale sono caduti per essere sostituiti con il parlamento europeo e con una mezza dozzina di nuove democrazie.
Ideological boundaries will be deleted, their physical manifestation was the symbolic destruction of the Berlin wall.
Anche il ritmo del cambiamento sta accelerando. La sua velocità farà girare il mondo ancora più velocemente sul suo asse. Nel saggio di Lester R. Brown del 1996, “L’accelerazione della storia”, il presidente del Worldwatch Institute con sede a Washington osservò che le persone nate dal "1950s saw greater population growth in their lifetime than in the previous four million years." The world economy is growing even faster. It grew from $ 4 trillion in 1950 to over $ 20 trillion in 1995. And in just 10 years from 1985 to 1995, it grew by $ 4 trillion, more than since the beginning of civilization until 1950.
Yes, the pace of change in our world is accelerating to the point of threatening to overwhelm the management capacity of political leaders.
Despite the massive political and social changes that we will have to experience in the next century, it is the sudden flashes of progress in science and technology that will most deeply affect our lives.
In the next decade, genetic engineering will begin to approach a miraculous state of grace that will eventually allow us to program much of the life we wish to lead, although the ethical implications of this new science have yet to be decided.
The disease will not be eliminated, but the boundaries of our well-being (or lack thereof) will be foreseeable and medicine will be able to manage foreseeable problems.
Scientists are also developing therapies that block the development of some malignant cells, which may prove to be the best way to beat cancer, AIDS, herpes and other chronic diseases.
Tissue transplants will promote the treatment of diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.
As more human reproduction occurs in test tubes or artificial bellies, sex will become purely a recreational activity.
The most significant scientific discoveries will take place in information technologies, which made the communications revolution possible. Personal computers will accept voice commands and move information on Earth, digitally and via satellite, at the speed of light.
According to Bill Gates, the information revolution provided the platform for the real revolution just around the corner: the reform of a global communications network.
“We will communicate with it through a variety of devices, including some that look like televisions, others like today's personal computers, some will look like phones, and some will be the size and something like the shape of a wallet. And at the center of each one will be a powerful computer, invisibly connected to millions of others ". The effect of this change will be so large, he adds, that the computer will be more than a device: “It will be the passport for a new mediated lifestyle”.
Gates also detailed the characteristics of a virtual reality suit, which would provide between one million and 10 million "contact points" on the body's surface.
Ciò ingannerebbe la pelle più o meno allo stesso modo in cui le fotografie fisse in rapida evoluzione inducono gli occhi a credere che stiano guardando immagini “in movimento”. Il risultato sarebbe percepito come una singola sensazione continua, consentendo agli utenti di sperimentare i loro corpi “virtuali” nel cyberspazio. "It will probably be used first to help people with physical disabilities", Gates predicted.
Over the next decade, the world will gradually be rewired with fiber optic networks that will carry most forms of communication, becoming the 21st century version of the disappeared continental railways.
At the same time, artificial intelligence (an oxymoron for our times, given the scarcity of the real one) will become less and less artificial and getting smarter. Computers will not only learn to think, but also to learn, beyond human guidance.
The microchip will take its rightful place among the four greatest inventions in history: the others are fire, the wheel and hotel room service.
But it is the Internet and its many siblings that will have the most devastating effect on society in the next century. An operational and universal digital information highway (of which the Internet will only occupy one lane) it will destroy much of the personal privacy we now enjoy.
Never since Johannes Gutenberg printed his Mazarin Bible with movable type in 1455 (making possible the mass distribution of the written word) has there been such a profound revolution in communications.
Yet the information superhighway runs in the opposite direction to the Gutenberg revolution. Where cheap and abundant Bibles allowed medieval populations direct access to the word of God, The Internet will allow people to mediate access to Omniscence, or at least its digitized equivalent. The Deus ex machina will be the machine itself, providing its users with a "virtual" reality so credible that it defies the attraction of the "real" reality that surrounds them.
The virtual marketplace will eliminate the need for "real" real estate agents, bank clerks, travel agents, stock brokers, and almost any other service sector worker whose employment is based on simple buy and sell transactions.
These will be much easier to manage at pit stops along the information superhighway, but that raises the more complex legal issue of cyberspace security: how will electronic transactions, which are expected to reach at least $ 100 billion at the start of the new millennium, be taxed and regulated? A group of lawyers who recently discussed the issue decided that the only effective way to maintain legal control of cyberspace could be to punish tax evaders and unethical users with the maximum penalty: banning from the network.
(Perhaps they will be granted a "separate virtual reality", just as British prisoners were once sent to the Australian penal colonies.)
This will be the era of Asian tigers and dragons, the maturation of China as the world's dominant power.
In the meager four years from 1991 to 1995, China's economy grew by a staggering 57%, increasing the per capita income of its 1,2 billion citizens by more than half to about $ 680.
China will become the largest economy in the world as early as the beginning of the 21st century, overtaking the United States as a generator of wealth.
Many of its urban citizens will enjoy higher living standards than the wealthier Americans and Europeans.
The few remaining legacies of communism will be dumped and Greater China will include not only Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, but its powerful and rich diaspora.
Shanghai, whose skyline is already challenging Hong Kong, will emerge as a commercial headquarters for the People's Republic.
As Chinese commercial mandarins dominate world trade, that country's politicians, writers, artists and scientists will be recognized internationally, just like Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Khrushchev during the flowering of the Soviet empire.
Education will be an integral part of China's industrialization. China already has at least 200 million more high school graduates than North America, and anyone visiting a campus quickly realizes just how significant the Asian presence has become. (Test results reveal that their quality is even more impressive than their quantity).
As these young men and women return home to join the group of previous foreign graduates, Chinese society is set to become increasingly free, its citizens will not be afraid to express their rights and grievances.
Exposure to Western society will increase the demand for political freedoms, but even more so for cars, televisions and appliances.
Growing tensions could become unbearable among most of the largely rural population of China, who lived through a half century of communist rule and remains Maoist, and the new educated urban class, who loves long limousines during the long march.
Over 200 million farmers are expected to be uprooted from their common farms over the next decade by current market reforms and chronic fertilizer shortages.
They are moving to China's overcrowded cities and nobody knows how these internal exiles will make their way to places that are unable to manage their existing growth rates. At the moment, nearly 100 Chinese cities are already exploding with over a million inhabitants.
Meanwhile, demographers agree that Earth's population will increase by nearly 100 million per year in the early part of the next century. Much of this growth will take place in what is now called "the Third World".
If western industrialized democracies only admitted 10% of this growth bubble, that would be equivalent to admitting 200 million people by the year 2020, making industrial powers unrecognizable.
Of the eight billion people expected to live on Earth by 2025, the five billion living in Asia will produce at least a quarter of the world's assets.
According to Riccardo Petrella, until recently the official futurologist of the European Union, a large part of the Asian population at that time will live in 50 cities with 20 million inhabitants each. The environmental and social problems this will cause are beyond belief.
Petrella, whose official title was Head of the Futures Assessment in Science and Technology (FAST) program at EU headquarters in Brussels, makes some brutal predictions.
Visualizza un mondo dominato da “una gerarchia di 30 città-regioni collegate più l’una all’altra che agli hinterland territoriali a cui un tempo lo stato-nazione li legava. Questo ricco arcipelago di regioni urbane (con popolazioni più o meno gestibili da 8 a 12 milioni) sarà gestito da alleanze tra la classe mercantile globale e i governi metropolitani la cui funzione principale sarà quella di sostenere la competitività internazionale delle aziende globali che ospitano”.
The scariest aspect of Petrella's vision is that beyond the walls of these rich "islands", he envisions what he calls "plains of poverty", where "citizens exiled from free trade and unemployment try to survive in settlements. megaurbans of 20 million or more people, full of violence and degradation.
“Che le classi emarginate si trasformino in criminalità (traffico di droga, bambini, organi di trapianto e immigrati illegali) è ovvio. Ma poiché queste classi oppresse avranno accesso alla CNN, avranno una finestra mediatica sulle città-stato prosperose della porta accanto, proprio come le immagini televisive della vita nell’Occidente decadente hanno aiutato a convincere i residenti di Berlino est a rompere il muro.”
Even if this bleak scenario proves extremely exaggerated, the gulf between rich and poor is bound to grow even more in the next millennium. At present, according to UN data, 358 billionaires in the world control more wealth than 45% of the earth's population.
As this imbalance becomes greater, social unrest will increase. In response, the upper classes may share their wealth, but its members are more likely to retreat behind enclaves of guarded and fenced fortresses. There they will live in perpetual security (and fear).
The climate of fear will fuel another growing industry: personal safety. Along with day-to-day defenses such as watchtowers, dogs, and armed response teams, the security industry will expand into sophisticated aerial surveillance. The most advanced gadgets will include satellite images and helicopters with infrared cameras capable of detecting the heat of a lit cigarette. Il terreno di prova per tale equipaggiamento è il dipartimento di polizia di Los Angeles, che gestisce già quattro elicotteri Aerospatiale con proiettori in grado di trasformare la notte in giorno e una flotta di velivoli che possono trasportare le squadre SWAT in azione a un attimo di preavviso. È solo una questione di tempo, nel mondo aziendale di domani, prima che tali servizi vengano privatizzati e offerti ai migliori offerenti.
If all of this wasn't frightening enough, seismologists predict that Tokyo and Los Angeles, both built on geographic faults, are likely to be razed to the ground in the first half of the next century.
Il motore della crescita economica una volta era alimentato dal petrolio; nel prossimo millennio, il prezioso combustibile sarà l’acqua.
According to the World Bank, chronic water shortages affect 80 nations and 40% of the world population. The demand for water doubles every two decades and much of it is not where it is needed most. The main sparks of war for water will be the demands for fresh water from the Jordan, Mekong, Ganges, Indo, Tigris, Nile, Zambezi, Danube and Rio Grande rivers. Indeed, in a little-noticed watershed, the government of Mexico made an unusual loan application in May 1995 to the United States. Unlike the widely publicized loans following the previous year's Peso crisis, the demand was not for dollars but for water: about 100 million cubic meters. It was a chilling indicator of things to come.
Business in the 21st century will flourish, as free enterprise adapts to its global playground and takes the place of an exhausted and largely failed public sector.
In addition to taking all possible profits, the main obsession of multinationals will be how to minimize their taxes.
With governments repressing tax havens, companies will flee to a sort of promised land in the next millennium, a tax-free Shangri-La of their own invention. How governments will impose taxes on businesses whose owners live in one country, build a factory in another, sell their products in a third and invest their profits in a quarter, without claiming corporate residence in any of them ?
Carl Gerstacker, former president of Dow Chemical, had once fantasized about buying "an island owned by no nation" that would serve as "truly neutral ground" so that people could “operare in America come cittadini statunitensi, in Giappone come giapponesi e in Brasile come brasiliani. “
Outsourcing and co-sourcing will be on the agenda.
L’azienda verticale seguirà il destino dell’uccello Dodo, poiché le aziende frammenteranno le loro operazioni e condivideranno le risorse con i loro concorrenti. I patti tra le banche per condividere i costi di sviluppo dell’elettronica bancaria sono un buon esempio. I cicli di vita dei nuovi prodotti diventeranno così brevi che non ci sarà tempo per la maggior parte dei nuovi articoli fabbricati dalle aziende che li hanno sviluppati. Invece, le aziende che raggiungono scoperte tecnologiche li autorizzeranno, anche ai loro più accaniti rivali, e raccoglieranno le royalties.
The average life of new consumer electronic products will be reduced to 60 days.
A curious new phenomenon known as the "bimodal factor" will kick off in the next millennium, prompting very large and very small companies to thrive, while medium-sized companies disappear.
The search for jobs will become even more desperate in the next millennium, and we will realize that the era of work for life is truly over.
By the new millennium, most citizens will be overworked or underemployed, with millions of "involuntary entrepreneurs" working in their shared homes or offices.
The workforce will be further distorted as the traditional demographic balance is reversed. In several countries there will be more retirees than children as early as 2020.
In una drammatica inversione della I Rivoluzione industriale, che ha spinto una società di artigianato nell’era delle macchine, le persone saranno nuovamente respinte sui loro talenti e risorse individuali. Quella transizione sarà esaltante, energizzante e dura. Persino lavorare a casa subirà delle pressioni, poiché gli imprenditori del Terzo mondo, facendo click su computer e modem accesi, si offrono di completare incarichi freelance a una frazione delle tariffe correnti.
Più ci avviciniamo al 2000, più chiaro sarà che il cambiamento è diventato l’unica costante della nostra vita. Il marcatore millenario ci concederà un momento per concentrarci sul futuro e assimilare il passato, per trovare un significato in ciò che siamo stati, così possiamo decidere dove siamo diretti.
Surviving the pressures of the next millennium will require great inner strength. The sense of individual vulnerability can only be reduced by strengthening our spiritual resources. The indispensable lesson we must learn, on the cusp of the 21st century, is to remain open to new experiences, so that instead of worrying about the details of an unpredictable future, we allow our lives to unfold with hope and euphoria.
Only by claiming our future (and that of our families and communities) will the human spirit prevail in the next millennium.
In that clear midnight, in three years, we could share a moment of mutual understanding.