Megachange: The world in 2050 - A NESTA event | PDD

Megachange: The world in 2050 – A NESTA event


on April 25 2012

I recently attended a talk hosted by NESTA (one of the perks of my internship!) to the launch of the economic publication ‘Megachange: The world in 2050′ -a book  that explores The Economist’s top correspondents’ thoughts and predictions for the world in 40 years.

The speakers touched on a lot of macro trends – how future on earth is going to be wealthier, more connected,  healthier , more sustainable, more innovative, better educated and with less inequality. John Andrews, a Consultant Editor forThe Economist, co-edited Megachange. He provided an overview of the book’s themes before moving the focus over to two contributers of the book: Philip Coggan,  currently  a columnist at The Economist (previously of the FT), and Oliver Morton, The Economist’s  Briefings Editor (formerly the Chief News and Features Editor of Nature -the international scientific journal). Of all the topics discussed at the event, here are three which came across as the most interesting and impactful.

Erratic weather patterns

More extreme weather has been evident for some time now. This trend will continue  and temperatures will continue to blow hot and cold.  However, we don’t know exactly how much the temperature on land nor in the sea will change. An increasing number of people, in China particular are killed annually as a result of erratic weather and subsequent natural disasters.

Image Credit:, Flickr Creative Commons

Mandarin will not become the global language

It seems the country on everybody’s lips these days is China. As China gains more and more economic power globally it has been presumed that Mandarin will overtake English as the ‘global language’. For the speakers at NESTA this will not be the case with John Andrews elaborating on issues that arose as part of the public debate on ‘future languages of the world’. As China’s power grows an increasing amount of people are learning Mandarin outside of China, with it being reported that Mandarin will be taking the place of the  English language  as a mandatory second language on childrens curriculum in Sweden. Although the signs point towards a Mandarin speaking world, the speakers went on to elaborate on China’s lack of support for innovation within the economy, alluding to the China ‘boom’ being fast, furious and short-lived. Another issue around the proliferation of Mandarin relates to the lower use of Hanyu. As China becomes even more global, companies and corporations are using English script to convey their message in Mandarin, in turn stifling the need for Mandarin script for international partners.

Image Credit: Be1dotcom, Flickr Creative Commons

A robotic future

There will be further development in robotic engineering  as people continue to turn to robots to take on an increasing number of tasks that we are reluctant to do – especially those that are complex, boring, unsanitary or high-risk. In the future robots will function as our secretaries; organising us, managing our timetables, setting up our meetings and generally looking after us and telling us where to go. In a decade or so personal robots are predicted to be available to elderly or disabled people, for a (relatively)  small fee of $10,000, making an important contribution to the world’s growing workload (as a result of an increasing population). The speakers at the event spoke about how robots could even have multi-faceted roles within society, scarily alluding to the possibility of a Terminator style world where robots will fight our wars on our behalf.

Chaired by Stian Westlake (Executive Director of Policy&   Research  at NESTA), this event was not only interesting and neatly presented but also provided plenty of food for thought. I am now becoming more convinced of the following:  oil won’t run out (because Coggan said so), less people in the future will be religious (apparently, one of the side-effects of an increasingly richer population.), it is not unlikely for alien life form to have been found (I wonder if they look anything like E.T? Are they green? One-eyed?), and although the population is growing it will probably peak between 9-10 billion – and is unlikely to rise much further. Altogether, the talk left me with an optimistic attitude towards the future changes here on Tellus.