Outlook 2009: Recent Forecasts from World Future Society for 2009 and Beyond

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

More sex, fewer antidepressants; more religious influence in China, less religious influence in the Middle East and the United States; more truth and transparency online, but a totally recorded real life.

These are just a few of the forecasts in the latest edition of the World Future Society's annual Outlook report, a roundup of the past year's most thought-provoking ideas about the future, culled from news stories and articles appearing in THE FUTURIST.

The forecasts are not "predictions" of what the future will be like, but rather glimpses of what may happen or proposals for preferred futures.

The opinions and ideas offered here are those of their authors or sources cited and do not necessarily represent the views of the World Future Society. For more information, please refer to the original articles cited. Back issues of THE FUTURIST may be ordered using the coupon in this report or online at www.wfs.org/backiss.htm.

As always, your feedback is welcome. Please e-mail your comments to letters@wfs.org.

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INSIDE OUTLOOK

Business and Economics     2
Computers                  2
Demography                 3
Energy                     3
Environment and Resources  4
Health and Medicine        5
Information Society        6
Technology and Science     6
Transportation             7
Values and Society         8
Work and Careers           8
World Affairs              9

BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS

* China will most likely become the world's largest economy within the next three decades. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace believes China's economy will surpass that of the United States by 2035. There are debates about whether India's economic development will ultimately surpass China's, but it is clear that Asia's economies are growing. Overall, workers in Asia are becoming more skilled and educated--Andy Hines, "Consumer Trends in Three Different 'Worlds,'" July-Aug 2008, p. 22; Futurist Update, Aug 2008

* Tourism's future is bright. Tourism is expected to nearly double worldwide, from 842 million international tourist arrivals in 2006 to 1.6 billion in 2020. China will be the greatest source of tourists as well as the most popular tourist destination--Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies, "Trends Shaping Tomorrow's World, Part One," Mar-Apr 2008, p. 43

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* Book publishers may need to hire movie directors. Books are finally going multimedia and digital, and publishers are offering more content online for free. Textbooks will bring together a wide variety of talents to create a multimedia "book." The shift from print to multimedia means that the writers of the future will work with Web designers, software writers, and other professionals to create products. The next step for publishers will be involving the readers in the publishing process, using them to set prices and give input on what to publish--Patrick Tucker, "The 21st-century Writer," July-Aug 2008, p. 25

* Retirees in the United States will increasingly return to the workforce. One-third of Americans who retire are back on the job two years later, and growing numbers of retirees are choosing to start their own businesses. About one in five people, and 40% of seniors, say they plan to continue working until they die, and nearly two-thirds of Americans say they doubt that retirement is possible for the middle class--Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies, "Trends Shaping Tomorrow's World, Part Two," May-June 2008, p. 43

* Wealth trends favor the already-favored. The wealthiest 2% of U.S. families saw their net worth double between 1984 and 2005, from $1.07 million to more than $2.1 million per household. The poorest 5% of U.S. households saw their negative net worth (i.e., more liabilities than assets) grow from $1,000 in 1984 to nearly $9,000 in 2005. Since much of the advantage for the wealthy comes from home equity, the current housing price bubble may slow down these trends in the short term--World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2007, p. …