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Ask HN: What are pressing issues that will affect humanity this decade?
58 points by oatmealsnap on Feb 5, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments
50 years? 100 years? This year?

10 years:

- Increasing disruption caused by climate change. Extreme weather events, environmental refugees, conflicts over water, famine.

- Antibiotics becoming increasingly ineffective

- Living in a massively connected world. Emergent diseases, trans-national political movements, terrorism, weakened states pushed to the point of collapse.

50 years:

- Severe disruption caused by climate change. Large-scale movement of people and animals from uninhabitable areas, frequent resource conflicts.

- Food shortages caused by habitat depletion. Famine and death. Breakdown of international trade.

- Pressure towards authoritarian government systems as a response to the above. Fascism, militarism, large-scale conflict.

100 years: No idea. Singularity? Aliens arrive?

1) Drought, expensive food, lack of freshwater (e.g. California, Nevada, Pakistan) NASA video on groundwater reserves http://vimeo.com/42607107

2) Big Data takeover by government (citizen profiling) and private sector (financial and health discrimination)

3) Youth-based uprisings changing the political landscape (driven by unemployment)

But I think all these issues will play a wake-up call. Societies will become less self-centered, with less nationalism, less exceptionalism, and with more involvement and cooperation. There is already a rise in positive social activism. Kids are watching less TV and young people don't read newspapers, I love that! Lies are quickly demystified on places like Twitter.

The negative impact will matter mostly on how early people decide to get involved.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desalination ($0.30/gallon in US, not viable)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8moePxHpvok Adam Curtis on "Oh Dear"-ism

> Lies are quickly demystified on places like Twitter.

On the flipside they're also spreading quicker.

This decade: 1. Growing sovereign debt - it's not something democratic states seem to be able to solve. 2. Weakened/collapsing states in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, etc. The Arab Spring showed that revolutions rarely lead to stable, prosperous regimes - more often, you just end up with years or decades of anarchy and instability. 3. Global tilt: the relative decline of America, and it's effect on international geopolitics. Westerners will realise how much their preaching to the rest of the world was dependent on having the biggest army. Russia and China grow increasingly more daring. The BRICs build their alternative world bank (it's a real project, Google it) and an alternative international financial system starts to form.

100 years: 1. Climate change/environmental damage. This won't kill us all, I think, but could majorly lower our quality of life. 2. Overpopulation/mass migrations. Nigeria's population is predicted to be over a billion by the end of this century - an 8-fold increase. India's population growth isn't slowing down either. It does look as though humanity's population will peak at around 9/10 billion - but this will be predominantly within the most unstable regimes. Expect mass movement of refuges, further destabilising governments in advanced economies, fuelling further growth in mass surveillance, etc. 3. The singularity. This one could kill us all. Or it could become the AI philosopher-king that solves all our other problems.

Don't listen to me. Edge.org asks a question to a hundred or so clever people every year, and collects and posts the result. The 2013 question was "What should we be worried about?", and you can see the answers here: http://edge.org/responses/q2013

● Kim Kardashian divorces Kanye West and they fight over their child.

● One of the guys from "One Direction" comes out as gay.

● Kate Middleton's exposed nipple at an event sparks outrage from the Queen.

I think my predictions are a more realistic portrait of the things media and society find important. For those who don't get it: I'm trying to say that "people's ability to know what's important, care about what's important, and change what's important" are the 3 most pressing issues.

3 pressing issues for this decade:

1.) Automation, intelligent agents, and the end of wage labour as a means of redistributing money. Unconditional Basic Incomes will need to be phasing in by the end of the decade, or else we'll be in substantial trouble.

2.) Solar becoming cheaper than petrochemicals, increasingly high-density and fast-charging forms of electricity storage, and the very substantial disruptions (both positive and negative) this will entail. Geopolitically, Copper and Rare Earth Elements become the new oil.

3.) The collapsing legitimacy of Western Democracy as an institution, as it crumbles under the pressure of crony capitalism and a pervasive surveillance state. Western democracies will look more and more like China, rather than vice versa, prompting increasing Ukraine/Brazil-style unrest throughout the Western world (particularly acute if issue #1 is not dealt with). Many will propose new forms of governance (ala Liquid Democracy) but they won't be implemented within this timeframe.

Top three issues in 50 years:

1.) Climate change impacts will be maximally hitting the fan at this point. A significant migration away from flood- and storm-lashed coastlines. Adaptation measures (eg. seawall construction) will be big business; cowboy geoengineering efforts will be one of the main thing that starts wars.

2.) This will be right around peak population (~9.3 billion). Combined with pervasive automation, standards of living will have risen dramatically, particularly in Asia and Africa. Although technologies will generally be more efficient and ephemeral, the combination of rising population + rising wealth means that peak resource consumption will be right about now. Competition over resources will reach its peak.

3.) Driven in part by the above conflicts, and in part by the dramatically falling cost of spaceflight (~2 orders of magnitude cheaper than than today), it will now make sense to begin importing significant amounts of energy and material from beyond the Earth. The opening of this frontier will entail a host of political, legal, and commercial conflicts.

(#1 and #2 are really the killer issues here. This is the moment when technological civilisation gets has to thread the eye of its needle.)

Top three issues in 100 years:

1.) How to support a sharply ageing and decreasing global population?

2.) How to integrate sentient AIs and highly modified humans into society?

3.) Sovereignty for the small-but-growing off-world colonies?

I politely disagree with all 3 of your pressing issues for this decade.

1) Automation of human jobs has been happening since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It may end up being a serious problem for us, but I see no reason why the next ten years will be so different than the last 50. [Edit: Maybe it was a mistake to mention the industrial revolution. My main point is that why will the automation from 2014-2024 be significantly different than the automation from 2004-2014? I agree that automation will continue, but I am skeptical that we'll hit some breaking point.]

2) Solar is getting cheap, I agree. Nonetheless, there's no way in a mere ten years that we can manufacture TW of solar panels and upgrade the grid to handle them. The grid is extremely capital intensive, and power plants and power lines have lifetimes of ~50 years. Again, I agree with your assessment of the trend, but disagree with the timespan. 10 years from now things will look similar to how they look today.

3) Collapse of Western Democracy because of capitalism and pervasive surveillance? It hasn't happened in the last fifty years; what's different about the next ten?

For 1),

I think the difference is the mechanism of automation. The cotton gin meant the millions cotton pickers were out of cotton picking work, but this was being somewhat offset by increased low-skill, low-intelligence factory work elsewhere. Inventions disrupted and enabled greater individual productivity in single verticals of work: cotton picking, logistics (steam engines), circular saw, etc. These productivity innovations enabled a single person to do the work of dozens or hundreds.

Today, robots are removing the need for a human at all in not just one but effectively every low skill, low intelligence job. We're not far from a world where the great automated farms that feed the majority of the US are run by a few people making sure a swarm of end to end farming machines aren't broken down. This will happen in the next 10 years. Slightly different robots are already automating logistics in warehouses, and soon they'll be driving our commercial trucks. They'll fly our planes, build our buildings, our cars, our electronics. Oh, you say, but someone needs to build the robots. Robots build the robots. They build the robots that build the robots. There will need to be people who design and program and repair the robots, but none of that is low skill or low education; the cotton picker of today couldn't build or design or repair a robot. It's impossible to predict the future, but the nature of accelerating returns suggests that in the next 50 years we will replace almost every low skill job worth automating. Notable exceptions are human facing jobs in the service industry, though I expect innovation will change things pretty wildly there as well. Looking at you, accountants.

The TL;DR: the difference between today and the industrial revolution is that robotics is capable of automating almost any low skill job, rather than enabling greater productivity for humans doing the job.

My main point is why will the automation from 2014-2024 be so qualitatively different than the automation from 2004-2014 such that society will be forced to phase in unconditional basic incomes or else be in substantial trouble? (And to be clear this is the question for nkoren. I agree with everything that you said. :D)

3) Growth curves are curves, not linear. As per 2) changes in efficiencies across the board (end use, production, transmission) along with the point of use for solar means that the grid will be less relevant in the future, not more.

1.) Yes, automation has been replacing jobs (and creating new ones) since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The difference is that when it destroyed agricultural jobs, for example, it was relatively easy for workers to transfer to new jobs in factories with relatively little training. If you had reasonable manual dexterity and half a brain, you could make the shift in a few weeks. Today, the new jobs being created require VASTLY more education to enter, making the mobility of labour type much more difficult than in the past. This has actually been a growing problem since the mid 1970s, when industrial robotics began eliminating most factory labour and microcomputers began eliminating most secretarial labour. Not coincidentally, that's the point where wages and productivity gains became completely decoupled, as human labour became less valuable. This trend has been accelerating continuously since then, and will continue to accelerate into the next decade -- at the same time as the difficulty of entering new jobs is moving in the other direction. This has now led to pervasive structural unemployment and underemployment; those problems will continue to become worse. Left unchecked, they are fully capable of destabilising societies.

2.) Yes, the apparatus of the oil industry has a long lifespan and will have tremendous inertia, and I think we're in agreement that the balance of power production will be nowhere close to having shifted by then. However by the end of this decade, the writing will very much be on the wall as far as the petrochemicals are concerned, and energy companies and governments will be much more proactive about scrambling for a position (territory and IP-wise) in the post-oil world than they are today -- even though the actual balance of production will probably take a further 20 years to shift to solar.

3.) What's different about the next 10, relative to the last 50? 50 years ago, the Western Democracies hadn't dropped taxes on the rich to historically low levels, leading to the most extreme wealth inequalities in history; hadn't built a domestic surveillance apparatus surpassing the wildest dreams of the East German Stasi; hadn't militarised their police forces; and (fairly brief Red Scares notwithstanding) were more outwardly-directed in their paranoia, rather than declaring perpetual "wars" (largely upon their own populations) in the names drugs and terrorism and such. All of these are corrosive to democracy, and it's pretty obvious to me that toxicity has reached very unhealthy and ultimately unsustainable levels.

[Edit: Just to be clear, I didn't say that Western Democracy will collapse in this decade; I said that its legitimacy will collapse (arguably is collapsing right now), which is something else. This has both internal repercussions in the nature of the political discourse/conflict, and external repercussions in that Western-style Democracy will less and less be what the rest of world aspires to. Also to be clear: I'm a big fan of Western Democracy -- more than any other form of government around -- I just think that in practice, they've been buggering things up pretty badly for the last decade or two, and consequently are going to have an extremely challenging decade relative to much of the rest of the world.]

Combination of mild temperatures and plenty of water is what makes the most difference towards a better life. Two rules:

1) Heating a room up is easy, cooling it down is hard. High temperatures exponentially decrease the productivity and/or increase the need for energy.

2) It is very hard to purify water and clean water is very scarce. Water is the most important dependency of life.

So my answer would be:

1) Lack of clean water supplies

2) Global warming

3) Disastrous combination of both

That's an interesting point about temperatures, but I don't think that's the main concern we should have about global warming. People living in Arizona don't seem to be significantly worse off than people living in North Dakota. And a few degrees will not change much in terms of heating and A/C. I think the real worry of global warming is what it will do to ecosystems.

Within the limits of where a human can survive outdoors cooling will look like a very linear process. Higher temperatures do make ground sinking that much more attractive.


1. The biggest issue that we're going to encounter this decade onward is continuation of automation of jobs that real people used to have. As computers and machines continue to upend more and more of the labour market, we'll increasingly see an ageing population lose their jobs to robits and then just not have any skills that are relevant in the technocratic labour market.

Along with that, I'm unconvinced that schools (American public schools, at any rate) are doing enough to prepare today's children for tomorrow's economy. Some big names have come out in support of more techno-centric curricula, specifically stressing the importance of learning to code, but I feel that will not be enough.

Instead, we need to be reinvesting in art and creativity (along with more robust rosters of STEM classes) because, as of right now, true and good art cannot really be supplanted by our new machine overlords. I want to live in a future where the artist coming out of university is viewed as a greater boon to society than a CS major, because quite frankly I don't think that making code that can do in a tenth of a second what used to take a flesh'n'bone person ten seconds to do is really super important to humanity.

2. Somewhat related, I think that the gap between the rich and poor is again going to come to a head. Occupy wall street was a bunch of foolish people thinking that being upset would be enough to affect change. I think that the next wave of this sentiment will not be so naive. In my opinion, the way to "fix" this is to start taxing ALL income and capital gains of over $150,000 at 20% scaling up to 35% for when somebody is making more than a half million dollars per annum. That money would be, for real, just given out to the rest of the people, no strings attached. Tying back to my first point: the labour market won't need as many labourers (especially those who can't computer good) but I don't think that we should hold it against the people who were trapped in the wrong time for working. This is, of course, wishful thinking because congress's policies are dictated much more by money than what would be good for the general population.

3. I still don't think that the shit has hit the fan in terms of the Snowden disclosures. I think that the revelation of the shameful acts of US intelligence gathering has irreversibly altered America's place in the world in ways that won't become apparent for a good while yet. I believe that we're starting to get to better grips with what a global communication/data infrastructure means for society as a whole, and a big challenge will be defining, for the global population, what should and should not be done with this technology.

in my opinion, the way to "fix" this is to start taxing ALL income and capital gains of over $150,000 at 20% scaling up to 35% for when somebody is making more than a half million dollars per annum. This would be more trouble than its worth and confuses real wealth with financial wealth. Modern fiat money is essentially a digital currency controlled by the banking system and congress. Its like bitcoin with Congress and the banks authoring the algorithm. It follows that quantity of money is never a problem in a fiat money system, its the algorithm for its creation/allocation that is the problem.

Economics is about maximizing consumption and the goal should be to give all people the opportunity to consume what they need. Real wealth = the goods and services that are produced and consumed in the economy and ultra rich people do not consume very much of it. Yeah, they hoard financial assets -thereby hurting the economy- which tends to reduce circulation of money which leads to reduction of income for everyone else. Yes, this income leak can be solved by taxation and re-distribution. But this is politically painful. Maybe it would be better to give on to Caesar what is Caesear's and let the rich keep their hordes because money sitting in a bank doing nothing is irrelevant. Would be better to focus on distributing wealth to the middle and lower classes on a much larger scale through government spending and reduction of taxes. Proposals 1) Payroll taxes to be paid by Fed for workers. 2) Income or Job Guarantee program with living wage and full benefits. 3) Massive federal infrastructure spending on a WWII like scale. Triple down on the deficit. 4) Regulate, Regulate , Regulate. Get money out of politics. 5) Online/Mobile voting system mandate. 6) De-financialize the economy: Return banking system to pre 1980's model where banks make loans and hold them. Strict controls on financial leverage. No borrowing using financial assets as collateral. 7) Tax rentier income higher than earned income.

scaling up to 35% for when somebody is making more than a half million dollars per annum

And beyond that, scaling up to 80-90 percent above 100 million. If this strikes fear in people's hearts, that would be a feature in my estimate. Moving to Switzerland is always an option. Realistically speaking, the implementation of something like this will be a decades-long project, because money translates directly into political power in the US at this time, so there would be a lot of effective resistance to be overcome for an extended period. But things are what they are, and I'm kind of ok with that.

Your comment notes the problem of the growing gap between the rich and poor. If anything, though, the last 100 years has been closing the gap between the rich and poor. Today, China and India are much richer relative to the US and the UK than they were 100 years ago. Furthermore, I think the world is far more equal in term of consumption choices. The movies that rich people watch are the same movies that you and I watch. The internet that rich people surf is the same internet that you and I surf. The iPhone that rich people carry in their pockets is the same iPhone that you and I carry in our pockets. The incredible scaling from mass manufacturing and digital goods means that many consumption choices are the same for the rich and poor (not all, of course, but more than in the past).

Seth Godin has some great commentary on what traditional schools were designed to do and how they don't fit the changing world:


I'll focus on what I know, just one issue:

We'll run out of food. In about 2025 the global population will start to surpass what can be sustained by the available arable land in the world. We can't use more fertilisers or water (because most crops under intensive cultivation are already close to their theoretical maximum yields). We can't just use more land because it's not suitable for agriculture because of salinity, contamination, substrate or climate.

We are essentially fucked: unless we can increase the maximum yield potential of a whole suite of staple crops by ~50%, or make about 50% more land available for food production, famine starts to become a really big problem. It hasn't been that big of a problem since the mid-1900s. Famine means war, disease, death. Some of the most atrocious things humans have ever done were done because of famine.

There are some promising scientific efforts to raise potential crop yields underway, but as someone working on them I can tell you they probably won't be ready in time without massive changes in science funding or a series of lucky breakthroughs. It's still worth trying really, really hard, because this is the least painful way to prevent disaster.

An alternative is to completely restructure the way we produce food. Vertical farming is attractive if we can find the raw materials to make it happen, but that won't be feasible until people are already starving.

Another alternative is for everyone to stop eating meat. Animals are ~5-10x less efficient to produce in terms of input resources per calorie output than plants. I hope this happens. Cows first, then sheep, then pigs. Wiping out those three would have us covered.

After about 2050 the world population peaks and starts to decrease, then things get easier. But there's a good chance a whole shitload of people die very young, very painfully in the meantime.

That just seems very unlikely.

Forty -five years ago Paul Ehrlich wrote "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

Even if you agree with his central thesis, its fair to say that we're two generations removed from 1970, and we're not seeing what he predicted.

And since 1970, the world hunger situation has almost uniformly improved. Now I certainly don't believe that the Earth has unlimited resources, and there is a finite capacity of arable land, but I think you may be very premature.

Ehrlich wasn't wrong - hundreds of millions of people did die from starvation in the 1970s. Even in the 1990s, more than 100 million people died from starvation. Now ~8 million people die from starvation every year. You're right that the situation has got better since the 1970s, thanks to the Green Revolution and economic improvements. I've laid out why it's going to get worse again.

Max world population will cap at 9,000,000,000 in 2050, not so much more than the 7,000,000,000 we have today. In actual risk of starvation, changing some meat farming to plants would solve supply issues pretty quick.

Worst-case UN estimates are ~13billion, 9billion is best-case and looking increasingly unlikely. I think we'll hit mid-11billion.

Assuming climate change doesn't get the better of a major percentage of our harvests.

Our current rate of climate change is a terrible thing, don't get me wrong.

But as the planet warms, our current(mostly depleted) cropland will produce less while places closer to the poles will start being cultivated for similar crops.

Let's hope it will work out like that.

A warmer world in equilibrium would not be the problem; our main problem is that we are set up for this configuration as stable (location of cities, local knowledge, crops, culture, ..) and it will be hard to adapt on the way to a new equilibrium, because the conditions are constantly changing.

I hope I can put your worries at least partially to rest: as you mention a vegetarian diet for everyone would use about 90% less water and energy to produce.

The problem is corporate welfare: the big meat producers in the USA get $50billion a year in water subsidies -- that must stop.

I don't know enough about food, water, antibiotics etc. but I do know a lot about finance, especially US based finance. Here are the issues that will be hugely pressing and very difficult to solve in the next 10 years.

1) Retiring baby boomers have no savings, retirements and no plan for retirement. Over the next 10 years, a lot of people will be entering retirement age in the US with no plan for surviving. Demand for government services will increase dramatically, many people will be very upset when they find out that they barely have enough money to eat.

2) Student loans should cause a drag on the economy as many, many young Americans will be pressured by paying nearly 10% of their income (which represents a much larger percentage of disposable income). Savings rates will be negatively impacted as well.

These two issues have no known solution and will both be huge underlying issues facing Americans in the next 10 years. They are certain, not hypothetical.

The internet says there is about $1 trillion in outstanding student loans. If you assume that they are repaid fairly quickly, that means something like $2 trillion of payments.

That's enormous, but only in the ballpark of $15,000 per working person in the U.S. Spread it over a decade and it's still not a payment I would wish on anybody for no reason, but entirely manageable (and presumably only a portion of the payment represents an actual economic drag, some people get quite some benefit from schooling).

1. Why would you assume they will be repaid fairly quickly?

2. $15,000 per working person in the US is a massive number of dollars per person. The medium US income is only about $50,000. Even if you spread the number out over 10 years (which would of course also increase the total interest paid), you are talking about $1,500 a year, which would be roughly 100% of people's discretionary income.

3. The number is growing and will continue to grow forever which means that the drag increases overtime, not that it gets paid off.

4. The student loans any individual borrows may individually benefit them relative to others, but there is no reason to believe that the total revenue (salary) grows at the same rate as the drag caused by the increase in debt service on a macro scale.

Its $1 trillion + interest that will drag on the economy for many, many, many years. You can't look at the trees in the forest to rationalize away the problem this huge debt load will have on the economy.

Well, I didn't worry too much about that aspect of it since you had already said 10% of income towards them.

But now you are complaining that $1500 is too much.

The bottom line is that a trillion dollars and growing is a massive drag on the economy. There is no way around it. As the number grows it becomes a bigger and bigger problem. We need to fix our college education system to make it much, much more affordable.

This decade? For America?

1. The continuing deliberation about how much privacy is useful, and for what.

2. The continuing erosion of the middle class.

3. Legacy Rails applications.

1. disappearing democracy due to totalitarian levels of spying everywhere

2. riots over collapsing economies

3. education costs

50yrs Potable water worth more than gold in some countries

100yrs Potable water priceless

Why, exactly, can't we desalinate the oceans, if potable water really becomes an issue?

We will. If you're rich, you'll be able to afford to drink it. Nestle will likely be one of the providers, and there will be others just like them. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=nestle+water+ceo

Desalinated water is cheap enough to drink if you're anywhere above abject poverty, really: much less than $1 per cubic meter in Israel and Singapore, for example. Literally fractions of a cent for a litre. It's everything else we use potable water for that makes desalination expensive.

Bottled water would get more expensive, true. I was more thinking, though, about coastal cities, where the water itself could just be piped up from the ocean, through desalination, and into the grid. (The puzzle, then, isn't so much how to get people drinking water--they can move toward the coasts. It's how to get crops drinking water.)

Over the next 25 years or so

1. The continuing destruction of the worlds Ocean/Aquatic ecosystems. We are far more dependent on free flowing clean water and the ecosystems tied to it than most realize.

2. The coming explosion of biological technology. This could be massively positive or negative depending on how it shakes out.

3. Revolution/Information control wars. Arab Spring, NSA scandals, and groups like Anonymous all seem like a prelude to me. The Internet was a game changer in numerous ways. On the internet real groups of people can have massive power and in part effect real change. A lot of people are starting to see that power and want to control it.

There's plenty of issues to deal with, others have highlighted some that I feel will be important, but what I hope happens in the next minute is we realise the issues will not be fixed by top down design but by the coordinated actions of those at the ground level, i.e. by us. We may not have directly caused the issues, but it's still up to us to fix them.

I feel that what Kapura said about the Occupy movement is partly true, I do believe it did some good in raising awareness, but being pissed off is not that effective in building positive change. The whole street protest thing is, in my opinion, more about what feels right than what works, and it's time for us to be pragmatic.

Awareness building is important, but what's even more important is building a viable alternative to our current system, a viable alternative that doesn't require strongly held political beliefs in order to be compelling. Part (and I should stress only 'part') of that viable alternative will be technology that serves the needs of the many whilst helping us to have a better symbiotic relationship with the world we all live in. Start thinking of what that tech might be like. As Alan Kay said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

In time spans like a decade, what people will think of as most important will be freedom issues (democratic and anti-democratic movements around the world, individual privacy concerns, efforts by religious groups to enforce their preferred societal norms).

In the longer run, the issues that threaten humanity as a whole, rather than as individuals, are as important. Things like: (1) Water/energy availability, both singly and combined. (2) Global climate change. (3) Local environmental quality (air, water, food). Of course, all of these are linked, but when working on solutions it still makes sense to think about them individually.

Water, Water, and Water.

Despite the press we'll be fine for energy and climate.

Energy and water are largely fungible.

I don't think we can trivially turn (fresh) water into energy (yet?), so I wouldn't use that word. It's true that with enough energy, we can generally get some water purified (and distributed).

Fair enough, but if you aren't worried about energy you shouldn't be very worried about water.

The problem is that salt water is not available everywhere. Pumping water everywhere will be a problem.

A problem mostly solved by abundant energy.

There is at least a strong case for that, I agree.

1. The Ocean is broken. http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broke... 2. Rampant deforestation and extinction of several species that we will never see again. 3. Population explosion (in long 50 years) 4. Pollution of air, see and all form of terrestrial water sources.


Water: too much in some places, not enough in other places.

Increased starvation and disease, from drought, mono-cultural industrial production of food from the likes of Monsanto and ADM, and constant and spreading low grade war from national militaries above and local militarized police forces below.

Economic catastrophe caused by revolution or effective dissolution of the United States and other current economic leaders.

Climate, inequality and death/unbalance of ecosystems (and their respective consequences) for 50/100 years. For the near term, economic crash, balkanization of internet and death of IP agreements between countries. Somewhere in the middle the formation or at least becoming more evident of new country blocks and alliances (maybe tied with how internet will get balkanized)

1. The ability of people to not live in fear of their government. Regardless of whether or not there is an actual risk of something unfair happening to a person at the hands of their government, their police, etc., if people live in fear of it, they will become sheltered, paranoid individuals.

2. The ability of people to not live in fear of their community. I think people sequester themselves into Facebook echo chambers because they don't know that there is nothing to fear of people who don't 100% agree with them.

3. The ability of people to not live in fear of themselves. The ability to stop placing faith in the systems that others provide us, to act as a sovereign individual and find ones own path, to take personal "risks" (which, certainly for 1st world citizens, don't much amount to real risk) to be able to do more meaningful, productive work that is more beneficial to our fellow man. We aren't going to solve the worlds problems by listening to our parents and our guidance counselors and going to a "good" college and getting a "good" job. The only way to save the world is to ignore the advice of the people who broke it in the first place.

It's a pretty easy formula. Just eliminate fear.

Hopefully, diseases of the rich -- things like obesity, dementia and old age.

I say "hopefully" because I'm not wholly convinced that many countries will continue to be rich. I really hope so.

Read this: http://www.globalissues.org/

To know what issues we will encounter in the future you need to know what issues exist now.

- Fair natural resource utilization (water, petrol, etc.)

- Increasing political instability in totalitarian regimes

- America will struggle with not having such a high standard of living relative to the rest of the world.

1. Money as the driving force (instead of knowledge)

2. Competitive mentality (instead of collaborative)

3. Collateral damage caused by 1. and 2. (instead of care for our fellow human beings and our environment)

In 10 years time the most popular languages will still include C, C++, Java, C# and friends.

- Global Sovereign Debt / Currency Crisis

- The US Police State

- Increased Chinese, Japanese rivalry/aggression

- Mixing disease consequences for causes and seeing pain killer drugs as a cure.

1. Weather 2. Water availability 3. Antibiotic effectiveness

Politics, politics, politics.

Like the last 50 decades at least...

50 years: global shortage of oil and natural gas

I think your answer is most likely to be correct. Oil won't disappear today or tomorrow, but it's very hard to imagine the technology that needs to be developed so that oil is still cheap and plentiful in 2100. BP has some good reports on this issue (http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/energy-econom...). If we don't solve the energy problem, there is a reasonable chance that humans in 2100 will have a worse standard of living than those today. Seriously.

1. Global warming

2. Lack of privacy

3. Inequality (the 0.1%)

Money, Money, Money

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