September 19, 2022
A brief vision of 2072 - Societal Degradation, Forced Equilibrium
50 years from now, society will largely resemble the present, but not necessarily in a positive way. The rapid & extreme changes to the natural environment are quickly creating a world where the creature comforts that make up “modern life” today are truly unsustainable. The natural resources (e.g. materials for production of goods and energy) will no longer be available or attainable by vast majorities of the world’s population.
Globalization will have fractured the world back into to something similar to the early 20th century. As the cost of transportation of people & goods will be unaffordable, the global economy will be a distant memory. The nation states who invested in “on-shoring” in the present are likely to be somewhat better off at maintaining modernity for an extended period of time, but dwindling energy reserves will mean that even 50 years from now most people will be living lifestyles that more closely resemble semi-agrarian living, except with access to more information. Local governments will exist to maintain regional peace, as well as take on the role of stewards of maintenance for the infrastructure of today which will be forced to meet the needs of future populations for time well beyond their operating expectancies.
I suspect that the creation & maintenance of access to the internet is likely to become a priority as the world falls apart over the next 50 years. I can imagine the world’s governments making this a priority through the use of satellites, but this will be a race against time before mass manufacturing grinds to a halt. Space travel will be a story that gets told to children, but the story ends with the creation of the satellite information network that replaces the hardwire backbone of the world’s current internet. I think this is what will help hold the world somewhat together and keep groups of people from feeling like they’re all alone. Mass communication will keep the world in touch and the role of government will mostly have dwindled to ensuring the other regions of the world that everyone is suffering the same (and maintaining international peace as a result of this collective suffering).
People will be forced into smaller communities (despite rapid growth in the overall numbers of people), and many nations will be forced to accept vast swaths of outsiders migrating as climate refugees. This will result in pockets of diversity, but ultimately people will fall back to alignment to ethno-nationalist identities. However, as everyone will be collectively suffering compared to the present, the gaps between the haves and have-nots will have greatly decreased, so people waging wars on ways of life will be a memory. When conflict does happen, it’s likely to be more akin to regional disputes over access to what little natural resources are left (e.g. fresh water, renewable energy infrastructure, manufacturing capability, fertile land).
The techno-optimist in me really wants to be wrong, but as I grow older I really believe that we’ve broken the natural environment of the planet beyond repair. The next 50 years are going to be a massive readjustment for everyone everywhere as we are forced to learn to live with extreme weather, scarcity of comfort, and reliance on ourselves and our neighbors to keep each other fed and safe.
Compared to the world of today this could be perceived as negative, and it feels like a nightmare. However, maybe that’s just the perception of someone who can’t imagine living a less-comfortable lifestyle than they’re living today? Perhaps people being forced to sacrifice comfort in the name of equilibrium with the natural environment is what we’ve needed all along? Although the natural environment forcing society toward sustainability feels negative, maybe it’s for the better.