ALS Topic 27 - The World in 2054 - Your Predictions

Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 2 February 2019
Venue: · Adelaide
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Note: About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.


Themes for this topic

Art, music, cuisine, technology & science, problem solving strategies/mindsets, education, economics, politics

Focus Questions

1. In 1984, 35 years ago, Isaac Asimov wrote an article describing the world as he thought it might be in 2019. (  ). We could ask how accurate his predictions were. It might be more interesting though for us to predict what the world will be like in 2054. I will be 108 myself (assuming immortality). How about yourself? What sort of world would you expect to find yourself in then?

2. What physical and mental skills do you predict that most people will have LOST by 2054?

3. Despite the daily hysteria of the 24 hour news cycle, a check of the facts shows that populations in most places over the last several centuries have shown a steady increase in life expectancy & general health, wealth, leisure and happiness, while negatives such as insecurity, crime, and war have diminished. Do you expect these positive trends to continue? Why or why not?

4. Geography and the difficulty of travel have more or less isolated most populations until recently. This multiplied differences in ethnicity, language, culture etc. How do you think global mobility will have affected gene pools and languages by 2054?

5. There is now the technical capacity for instant global communication among individuals, interest groups, government and industry. However, many nation states are attempting to restrict this free exchange of information and ideas. What will the situation be like in 2054?

6. Meat has already been made in a petri dish. When most people worldwide can afford to eat meat regularly, the livestock industry will consume more resources than the planet can sustain. So what will we be eating in 2054?

7. Computer programming originally required good math ability and an almost superhuman sustained attention to detail. Generally it still does, but preset 'libraries' of sub-routines have speeded up the predictability and accuracy of the process. To what extent do you expect that, by 2054, AI robots will be cooperating with humans to allow anyone to 'co-author' programs with those robots? If this becomes widespread, what effect will it have on computer & internet based experience?

8. The concept of a 'country' with rigid national borders is pretty new in history (Treaty of Westphalia 1648). Now this rigidity has become extreme, with strictly controlled flows permitted for tourism, study, employment and immigration. How would you have expected the idea of a country (nation state) to have evolved by 2054?

9. Rural to urban migration began in Europe two centuries ago, but has now become dominant everywhere, even in African countries. By 2054 most people worldwide will live in cities. What will be some consequences of this new-in-history pattern of human settlement?

10. Schools and colleges everywhere use curriculums and teaching methods that are overwhelmingly designed to socialize individuals into passive, routine jobs - production lines, office routines, highly regulated service jobs, and so on (in spite of rhetoric about 'creative learning'). In fact, the largest number of individuals prefer this fairly undemanding predictability. So what will education look like in 2054, and will the average individual be able to handle it?


Comments & Extra Reading

Nancy C. Andreasen (June 26, 2014) ”Secrets of the Creative Brain“ The Atlantic @  . [Thor, comment: Where will our average intelligence and creativity be in 2054? Takeaways: a) IQ and creativity in every field from art to physics are unrelated; b) Whatever IQ tests measure has been increasing by 3 points a decade for 100 years - someone with an average IQ [Stanford-Binet scale] 100 years ago would score 70 on today's tests. This means that brains are trainable to get higher scores on what IQ tests measure. In South Korea when I worked there, there were coaching schools promising to do just that. (It also means that so-called racial/cultural differences in IQ probably come down to the different ways in which people's brains have been trained). c) For the first time, average IQ scores have begun to DECLINE. It is thought smart phones may have caused this by making people mentally lazy. d) Big Question: By 2054 A.I. robots will be doing much of what we struggle with now. Will this reduce humans to mental stupidity?]

"The meaning of life in a world without work" The Guardian @ 

John Quiggin (17 January 2019) "Socialist utopia 2050: what could life in Australia be like after the failure of capitalism? - From four-day weeks to unconditional basic income to free education, it’s possible to imagine a future where society’s focus has moved from consumption to quality of life". The Guardian @ 

Wikipedia (2019) "Peace of Westphalia - 1648". Wikipedia @  [The treaty of Wesphalia is generally recognized as the the beginning of modern countries with sovereign rights to non-interference by external powers and procedures for managing diplomatic relations. It followed a disastrous 80 years of European wars in which about 8 million people died]

Nick Van Mead in Dar es Salaam (8 Jan 2019) "How an emerging African megacity cut commutes by two hours a day". The Guardian @  [Thor: African countries are urbanizing at a breakneck pace. By 2054 this region will be making major inputs into world affairs].

Juliana Piskorz (Sun 30 Dec 2018) “Me and my quarter-life crisis: a millennial asks what went wrong”. The Guardian @  [Thor: the self-involvement of millenials. Where will the next generational wave lead?]

John Naughton (20 Jan 2019) “'The goal is to automate us': welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism - Shoshana Zuboff’s new book is a chilling exposé of the business model that underpins the digital world. Observer tech columnist John Naughton explains the importance of Zuboff’s work and asks the author 10 key questions". The Guardian @  [ Thor, comment: This article really is essential reading if you want any understanding of where we are now, let alone where we will be in 2054. Also many of the comments are insightful. For example ...
[from a commenter on the article] => AustinTayschuss - "To add a bit more to my comment - if you read the article they linked above: 

"Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness … These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks. " In other words, if they can influence the 80% then the remaining 20% may eventually follow."

Janus Dongye January 2019) " Why do we hear so much about China dominating AI, when (as of 2019) most of the leading AI researchers and research centers are US, UK, or Canadian?" Quora @  [Thor: this is a bit of a reality check for the AI scene. By 2054, who knows?]

Quantumrun [n.d.] "What the world of 2054 will look like | Future Forecast" @  [Thor: a pretty shallow website, but you may find the odd idea]

Christian Owens (January 15, 2019) "Interplanetary Holidays And No Public Services: Six 2019 Predictions For 2054". Forbes magazine @  [ Thor: I'm sensing a "Law of Predictors" here: predictions are apt to say more about the predictors - their personality, illusions, ideologies etc - than they say about the real future]

Brian Wolly (June 29, 2010) "What movies predict for the next forty years". @ 

Australian Government (2015) "Chapter 1: 2015 Intergenerational Report: How will Australia change over the next 40 years?" @  [Thor: This is interesting reading based on the best information available. There is a LOT of it though]

Lizzie Plaugic (Apr 6, 2017) "What the Earth will look like in 2050, according to experts and people who live here", The Verge website @ 

University at Albany (August 8, 2013) "Study predicts an ice-free Arctic by the 2050s" website @ 

Dr Niels Wouters and Professor Frank Vetere (23 July 2018) "HOLDING A BLACK MIRROR UP TO ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - Biometric Mirror is an interactive application that shows how you may be perceived by others. But it’s flawed and teaches us an important lesson about the ethics of AI". University of Melbourne @ 

Erin Handley and Bang Xiao (24 January 2019) "China tests opening up social credit scores to social media platform WeChat with debt map". Australian Broadcasting Commission @  [Thor: Is this the future for all of us? It is an extension of the 'biometric mirror' idea brought to life now, with all its limitations, whose victim is - potentially you : you in the black mirror which reflects back how others see you. Or notably how corporations and the government sees you. In the China case, one pilot version improves your score if you buy nappies (socially responsible person), and knocks you down the score ladder if you play video games (bum). The score can affect what you are allowed to do - e.g. buy fast train or plane tickets]

Wikipedia (2019) "Technological singularity" Wikipedia @  [The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence (ASI) will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.]

Peter Dockrill (13 June 2018) "IQ Scores Are Falling in "Worrying" Reversal of 20th Century Intelligence Boom". ScienceAlert website @ 

William R. Klemm (May 27, 2018) "No, Your IQ Is Not Constant - The implications are profound". Psychology Today website @ 

Brett Frischmann (December 27, 2018) "Is Smart Technology Making Us Dumb?". Scientific American @ 

Jonathan Coopersmith (July 1, 2017) "Is technology making us dumber or smarter? Yes". The Conversation website @ 

Thor May (2012) "The Contest for Competence". Passionate Skeptic website @  [.. If some people don't break the rules sometimes, then a normal society will cease to function. Breaking the wrong rules for the wrong reasons is like breaking legs though. And if everyone breaks the rules, then a society will disintegrate. A paradox? Yes. See how this cake is baked... The vector in play is the scarce resource of competence. .. ]

Tanner Christensen ( January 21, 2013) "The Relationship between IQ and Creativity". Creativesomething website @  [Hint: you don't need a high IQ to be creative] .

Michael Bloomfield (April 12, 2018) "Why Creativity Is Now More Important Than Intelligence". The Creative Age blog @ 

Bee Wilson (27 Jan 2019) "The trouble with fake meat". The Guardian @

Pedro Domingos (2017) "The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World". Available as an ebook or paper book, Amazon @  [Thor: This book is probably the fastest way to get past a cartoon-comic idea of where we might be in 2054. Unfortunately the cartoon -comic level is where most people are right now, including those who thought they had a respectable university education 20 years ago]

Hugo Drochon (18 January 2017) "Why the elites always rule - a review of Pareto's theory of revolving elites". New Statesman @  [Thor: This is relevant to every era, including 2054]

Aditya Chakrabortty (23 Jan 2019) "Panic is on the agenda at Davos – but it’s too little too late" The Guardian @  [Thor, comment: Thinking of the world 35 years ahead encourages us to focus on gee-whizz gadgets. In fact, what happens to the mass of humans is going to be much more important and decisive than any technology. Will human relationships and societies change radically in a generation? 26 billionaires now have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world's population. How sustainable are the systems which generated that? What will your children do about it that you haven't cared to? Slogans and memes won't cut it. The political and ideological dogmas of the past won't cut it. A credible shared direction, not dogma, is needed to turn our churning world cultures towards some common benefit. ]

Thor May (2014) "What will be the dominant ideologies of the 21st Century?". Passionate Skeptic website @  or   @  (PDF. 19,864 readers) [ .. The 20th Century revolved politically around competing interpretations of Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and Fascism. These are all ways to organize the lives of people on a large scale. Are real alternatives or new interpretations likely to emerge in the challenging years ahead? What might they look like? ]

Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


The World in 2054 - Your Predictions (c) Thor May 2019 return to Ddiscussion