The World in 2025
Is the World prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead?
October 14, 2001
First, there is the more hopeful scenario. It goes like this: Due to the explosive growth of the Internet, globalization was accelerated in all forms. Cyberspace became the medium of human activity, as the city had for the industrial transition. The majority of human waking hours were spent in cyberspace.
Scenario 1: The division between people in 2025 was not exactly along the North-South axis. Instead, it separated those who acted globally through technology — and those who did not.
Falling prices and increasing capacity and the ease of use of microminiaturized computers connected almost everyone to anyone, anywhere, for nearly anything that could be digitalized.
All this international activity translated into increased support for and responsibilities of the UN family of organizations that provide global standards and cooperation for international business.
With easy access to world education and markets, individuals acted like holding companies investing their time in diverse activities, inventing their careers, granting access to others as nations used to grant visas.
Individuals easily switched loyalty from one company to another. Most people had a sense of what they wanted to do and what they had to do to achieve it. Individuals set their own values and used global networks to support those values. Democracy flourished. Developing countries made remarkable progress via tele-education, tele-medicine, e-business partners and tele-citizens in richer areas who assisted their poorer homelands.
The division between people in 2025 was not as much by North-South as by those who acted globally though technology — and those who did not.
Unfortunately, unemployment — particularly in the mega-cities — is still a problem. Although INEDSAT and global public access TV made universal education possible, not everyone benefited.
Global social welfare standards via WTO became necessary to prevent migrations of the poor, and mega-corporation social marketing kept social order.
And here is the dark world of 2025 If you consider the above a rosy scenario, you might want to embrace the following as an alternative outline for the future of humankind:
Scenario 2: The aging population, national debt and pressures on natural resources dramatically curbed improvements in living standards.
Jobs were the problem. Population growth outpaced job growth in most regions. The unemployment and under-employment that was caused by this shortfall produced pressure on economic systems and fostered political unrest.
People with similar interests and complaints found each other around the world through the Internet, compared notes and strategized. They formed communal enclaves — and engaged in on-line bartering.
While the population growth rate diminished from the highs of the mid-20th century, the levels achieved disappointed many demographers who had been expecting a steeper decline.
In some places, the economic differences were small, especially within parts of the newly developing countries that traded within the three trading blocks — the EU, the Americas and the Pacific Rim. In other places, such as Africa, jobs — real jobs — were a precious commodity.
High-tech engineering and “customizing” jobs were created, but the knowledge and competence required for these were very exclusive. Some economists hoped that nanotechnology and biotechnology would provide the catalysts for new growth by 2025, but development in these fields continued to be highly specialized.
The winners in 2025 were the newly developing economies that functioned within viable trading blocs.
The aging of the population, national debt pressures on public spending and entitlements, and pressures on natural resources dramatically curbed improvements in living standards. There was vast discontent, absolutist passions, and an incredible distrust of government. To navigate a career in this turmoil required entrepreneurial, high-tech, nonlinear thinking.
The winners in 2025 were the newly developing economies that functioned within viable trading blocs. But for the advanced industrial nations and for “the rest of the world,” it was a mean world indeed because the economic pie had been discovered to be zero sum.
Jerome C. Glenn
Director of the Millennium Project of the World Federation of UN Associations Jerome Glenn is the Director of the Millennium Project of the World Federation of UN Associations. He was a co-founder of the Millennium Project in 1996, and has helped coordinated the research behind 11 annual “State of the Future” reports. Mr. Glenn has […]