Alternative 2057 Forecasts for the Economy, Jobs, Health and Healthcare

by Jonathan Peck, President and Senior Futurist
In a previous newsletter, we shared the technology forecasts for 2057 used at the Symposium on Foresight and Creating the Futures We Prefer held on October 5, 2017.  We now offer forecasts on the economy, jobs, health and healthcare for 2057.  Marshal McLuhan noted that “we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”  This dynamic interaction invites complex thinking about what futures we can expect, worry about and aspire to create.  Is this too difficult for people who don’t work as futurists?  Certainly not!  In fact, I recently taught futures to 6th graders after teaching 7th and 8th graders and they quickly grasped the interplay between the technology changes we can anticipate and the jobs they may someday take. 
As before, we invite you, our reader, to consider the forecasts and how they fit with the Aspirational Futures archetypes.  We also invite you to consider the dynamic between these different forecasts.  Our next newsletter will offer forecasts for 2057 on the environment, society and governance, helping you create a more coherent view of our possible and likely futures.

Economy

  • China/Asian economy dominates with Europe and the USA playing a smaller role
  • Global growth continues but slowly due to aging populations, debt, and the lack of new innovations as large as those of the past like electrification and industrial farming
  • Innovation in energy, biotechnology, materials science and other areas drives moderate growth while reducing the environmental impacts of growth
  • The widening gap between the wealthiest and poorest creates a crisis leading to new forms of wealth redistribution
  • The welfare state expands just enough to prevent serious political unrest while the most privileged gain an ever growing proportion of wealth
  • The US debt crisis and Chinese banking crisis create a sustained global depression
  • Growth has been overshooting safe ecological and resource boundaries for decades, and by 2040 that finally leads to a global environmental-economic collapse
  • A major shift occurs in values toward culture-shaping goods and services (entertainment, arts, design) as robotics and automation dominate manufacturing
  • After time for adjustment, a simpler post-collapse life is proving better in many respects: a less sedentary life is healthier, community is stronger, pioneering a more sustainable way of life gives a sense of meaning and purpose
  • “Abundance advances” – low-cost energy production and storage, in-home and in-community production of household goods and much food – lower the cost of living
  • Distributed manufacturing and zero-marginal cost production transform whole sectors of the economy, making goods inexpensive and reducing profitability of the effected sectors
  • Nanotechnology-based molecular manufacturing is rapidly creating a world of universal high-level affluence 

Jobs

  • A major expansion of jobs in areas like healthcare, elder care, teaching, solar installation, small farms and entertainment keeps employment up
  • Automation, robots, AI eliminate all kinds of jobs, white collar as well as blue collar; net loss of 50% of jobs 
  • Full-time jobs go away for almost everyone, with remaining jobs shifted to piece work or consulting in the gig economy, with little or no employee benefits
  • Job deserts spread from cities to suburbs forcing minorities and impoverished people to travel farther and at higher cost to get to jobs that offer minimum wages
  • A Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) is instituted as jobs are eliminated, but it does not solve severe problems of boredom and loss of self-worth and may even worsen them 
  • Work, meaning, and one’s contribution are redefined; while many continue to hold paid jobs, others, living on their GBI, volunteer, care for children and elders, engage in creative pursuits, exchange free services, produce food, meet other local needs
  • New types of work form to promote human development for people of all ages 

Health and Healthcare

  • Cancer is diagnosed at earliest stages and managed effectively with low death rates
  • There are dramatic improvements in the ability to repair tissues and organs through stem cells and regenerative medicine
  • More individualized healthcare includes a predict, prevent or preempt process with diagnostics that can identify susceptibilities and specify action to minimize risks
  • Gene surgeries are used extensively in prenatal phases as well as in children who are at risk for single-gene defect disease
  • There is “Super Healthcare” for some (lab-grown organs, anti-aging treatments, etc.) but  most cannot afford it
  • Affluent people live longer, healthier lives but lifespans decline for many others due to poor diets and rising obesity, sedentary lifestyles, drug use, anxiety and stress
  • New viral pandemics emerge worldwide that increase the death rate by tens of millions of people per year
  • Antibiotic resistant bacteria create outbreaks that make infectious disease a major cause of mortality
  • Children are raised for optimal health and fulfillment of potential with careful attention to the social environment and its effect on development; genetic anomalies are addressed with compassion and respect for life’s variations
  • Assistive technology includes exoskeletons guided by brain implants and robotic assistants that help people live with mobility throughout the elder years
  • Epigenetic knowledge is deployed to re-design social environments and encourage genetic expression that fulfills the health potential of individuals
  • People live longer and are healthier longer as social ills are cured and environments are designed for human flourishing from the earliest stages to the end of life.

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