X Close

UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


What will the world be like in 50 years?

By Jack Ashby, on 6 March 2012

What's around the corner?Last week, our Science Fiction; Science Futures event – organised by the wonderful UCL Science and Technology Studies was based around the concept of how we look at what’s around the corner. It included a fair bit of conversation about failed futures – those things that previous generations predicted would be here by now, like flying cars and invisibility cloaks (though apparently they’re not far off).

At the end of the event we asked the participants to make their own predictions for the world in fifty years time. This is what they said:

Selected Highlights

Grace – Human skills as currency given pressure and inequality in resources. Contact lenses with the web in, filter so that when you see things you’re interested in, stuff e.g. vouchers are overlaid. Two-way with cameras so you can publish what you see! (With an off switch).

Dennis – the end of the traditional nation-state replaced by smaller city-based units connected by multi-layered networks of information, trade and culture, and some federal structure.

Jared – America will be known by its new name, “New China”.

Richard – FLYING CARS. I’m serious. Not within the reach of the average consumer, but researchers at some military installations will have a prototype flying car.

Steve – Central London will be under water.

Michael – Large scientific developments will be accomplished, these changes will bring to question the fundamental nature of what it is to be human, this will in turn lead to social, political unrest due to opposing views on this technology’s implication.

Kieron – Protracted water, wars, mass migration, fusion generation and Katie Price has had loads of work done.

Mike – People will still be moaning about not having jet packs yet.

Pete – Science will have run out of acronyms.

And the full list of responses
Anon – People will still listen to jazz.

Dan – We will have established colonies on other planets.

Chris – Either a world where climate change problems have been just conjointly solved (with Africa as the world’s power house) or a world shattered by war over the last resources.

Amy S – Owning a lot of physical objects will be unfashionable. The internet won’t bear any resemblance to what it is now.

Irena – Climate Change.

James – Traditional industries become more and more service-based as design and manufacturing is revolutionised by ubiquitous 3D printing/rapid photocopying technology in the home. Resource-rich countries in the developing world continue to fail under external influence.

Catherine – Bleak. Small enclaves of well-protected rich people keeping lots of climate change and water war refugees at bay (but maybe more exciting robots?)

Steve – Central London will be under water.

Grem – Greater universal education.

Aubrey – Bombardment of technology, probably unintentionally and intentionally inhibiting, in our daily lives.

Darius – Many large mammals will be extinct in the wild (tigers, great apes …) due to habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, pollution, climate change.

Anon – Continued poor amplification in lecture theatres.

Jeremy – No-one will say “I’m on the bus”.

Adrian – Overcrowded, polluted, deforested, epidemics.

Hugh – Teleporting simple objects.

Elizabeth – More scepticism, less certainty, and more compact mobile phones!

Liam – Cheap (inefficient!) solar panels on all (south facing?) roofs.

Cecilia – There will be a return to a low technology world (children will be given wooden blocks to play with).

Brona – Imagine if we could evolve a new train at will.

Sarah – Growing of spare body parts in labs… or edible steak, at least.

Jane – More extinct species, more disparities in wealth and access to resources. Would like to hope no nuclear weapons and more environmentally friendly urban places.

Sue – Collapse of global transport systems and return to localized economies.

Maria – Artificial Intelligence Revolution.

David – Increasing conflict over land, water, and access to natural resources. Continuous move away from traditional state-led governance.

Robert – We will have switched to 90% clean energy (or it’s all over).

William – If we are still using spectacles they will have hydraulic auto focus lenses with a base line astigmatic correction.

Sven – Much the same as now, except with a new model smartphone.

Imran – More diverse academic panels.

J – We’ll have isolated the Neanderthal gene and bought back the Neanderthals!

Terry – Overcome water needs.

Will – We WILL all be driving round in flying cars.

Colin– Governments will lack the cash to project their authority. I don’t think there will be any breakdown but we’ll have to become much more self-reliant as communities.

Mandy –Children will be even more spoilt and obnoxious than they are today, continuing a trend which (my grandparents assured me) was established long ago.

Natalie – Earth will be overcrowded and then we will be decimated by microorganisms! (Or we’ll meddle with time travel and some paradox will kill us).

Brenda – A large percentage of the world will be living in Europe. Population will have decreased.


Do any of these leave you in a fit of terror? Do you see something else coming? Thanks to all who left responses (and to our volunteer Jenni who typed them up).

One Response to “What will the world be like in 50 years?”

Leave a Reply