Who’s afraid to forecast? Not an organization shy about making predictions, the World Futurist Society is on the record for important trends over the next 25 years. These are excerpts:

  • Forecast #1: Generation Y will migrate heavily overseas. For the first time, the United States will see a significant proportion of its population emigrate due to overseas opportunities.
  • Forecast #2: Dwindling supplies of water in China will impact the global economy. The result is higher prices for commodities and goods exported from China, so the costs of resource and environmental mismanagement are transferred to the rest of the world.
  • Forecast #3: Workers will increasingly choose more time over more money. The productivity boom in the U.S. economy during the twentieth century created a massive consumer culture–people made more money, so they bought more stuff. Nearly a third of U.S. workers recently polled said they would prefer more time off rather than more hours of paid employment.
  • Forecast #4: We’ll incorporate wireless technology into our thought processing by 2030. In the next 25 years, we’ll learn how to augment our 100 trillion very slow interneuronal connections with high-speed virtual connections via nanorobotics. This will allow us to greatly boost our pattern-recognition abilities, memories, and overall thinking capacity, as well as to directly interface with powerful forms of computer intelligence and to each other.
  • Forecast #5: Children’s “nature deficit disorder” will grow as a health threat. Children today are spending less time in direct contact with nature than did previous generations. The impacts are showing up not only in their lack of physical fitness, but also in the growing prevalence of hyperactivity and attention deficit. Studies show that immersing children in outdoor settings–away from television and video games–fosters more creative mental activity and concentration.
  • Forecast #6: Outlook for Asia: China for the short term, India for the long term. By 2025, both countries will be stronger, wealthier, freer, and more stable than they are today, but India’s unique assets–such as widespread use of English, a democratic government, and relative transparency of its institutions–make it more economically viable farther out.
  • Forecast #7: The robotic workforce will change how bosses value employees. As robots and intelligent software increasingly emulate the knowledge work that humans can do, businesses will “hire” whatever type of mind that can do the work–robotic or human. Future human workers may collaborate with robotic minds on projects for a variety of enterprises, rather than work for a single employer.
  • Forecast #8: The costs of global-warming-related disasters will reach $150 billion per year. The world’s total economic loss from weather-related catastrophes has risen 25% in the last decade. According to the insurance firm Swiss Re, the overall economic costs of catastrophes related to climate change threatens to double to $150 billion per year in a decade. The U.S. insurance industry’s share would be $30-$40 billion annually. However, the size of these estimates also reflects increased growth and higher real-estate prices in coastal communities.
  • Forecast #9: Companies will see the age range of their workers span four generations. Workers over the age of 55 are expected to grow from 14% of the labor force to 19% by 2012. In less than five years, 77 million baby boomers in the United States will begin reaching age 65, the traditional retirement age. As a result, the idea of “retirement” will change significantly.
  • Forecast #10: A rise of disabled Americans will strain public transportation systems. By the year 2025, the number of Americans aged 65 or older will expand from 35 million to more than 65 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Individuals in that age group are more than twice as likely to have a disability as those aged 16 to 65. If that figure remains unchanged, the number of disabled people living in the United States will grow to 24 million over the course of the next 20 years. Rising rates of outpatient care and chronic illness point to an increased demand for public transportation as well as special public transportation services in the coming decades.

The full text is available at: WFS Forecasts for the Next 25 Years (no longer available).

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.