Despite being closer to now than the fall of the Berlin Wall, 2040 feels like a date so far in the future that it would be impossible to predict what it holds for us. However, that hasn’t stopped scientists and researchers around the world from trying, and their predictions paint a fascinating picture of the world of tomorrow.
Here we take a look at some of the more significant predictions for the world in 24 years.
Radically redesigned computers
The Semiconductor Industry Association has warned that if computers keep being designed in the way they are now, with more transistors packed into an integrated circuit every year, the march of Moore’s Law will mean they’ll need more energy than the world can produce by 2040. And given that we’re very unlikely to reduce our reliance on computers in that time, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll instead see a radical redesign of the conventional computer.
Eye-wateringly expensive oil
Oil has been rising in price for some time, but the level it’s set to hit in 2040 makes today’s prices look positively bargain basement. OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has said that it expects oil to cost over $160 a barrel by 2040, driven in part by increased exports from Russia and the surrounding area to the Asia-Pacific region. To put this into context, at the time of writing oil costs just $46.58 a barrel.
If legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin is to be believed, humanity will have established a Martian colony by 2040, with the first visitors to the Red Planet arriving with no intention of coming back. However, he does not expect the first off-Earth colony to be self-sufficient within this timescale. Instead, early colonists would need to survive on regular shipments from the Blue Marble until farming and other similar facilities could be established.
In the UK, regular above-inflation rises in rent will lead to almost 6 million people living in poverty by 2040, according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. And with the total UK population predicted to be around 73 million in 2040, that’s a pretty significant 4.38% of people. The average rent cost is set to almost double in the country in that period, from £132 per week today to equivalent to £250 per week in today’s money by 2040, but wages are not expected to rise at the same rate.
US debt crisis
The Congressional Budget Office has warned that US government debt will climb to 107% of the economy in 2040, up from the already unusually high rate of 74%. The reason for this is largely down to the country’s ageing population, as a greater percentage of the population will be retired, removing their ability to contribute to the economy, and will have greater healthcare needs, putting a strain on the economy.
Drones that can 3D print other drones
If BAE Systems has its way, the drones of 2040 could be equipped with 3D printers that will allow them to make on-the-go repairs and manufacture other smaller drones while in the air. Other capabilities of these futuristic drones could include dissolving if caught by enemies and engaging missiles at the speed of light. The drones could also have the ability to divide into a number of smaller UAVs if required.
A study commissioned by XPat Jobs has found that a significant number of industries will be fully automated by 2040, with the service industry most badly hit. As a result, larger numbers of people will be competing for smaller numbers of jobs, potentially leading to longer working hours and a stagnation in pay. The study speculated that many people could opt to augment themselves to get ahead in this increasingly aggressive working environment.
Widespread water shortages
A report by the World Resource Institute has found that 33 countries will suffer significant water shortages by 2040, with the Middle East worst affected. Among the worst hit will be Qatar, Singapore, Israel and the United Arab emirates, although Spain and Chile will also have problems in this area. The shortages are likely to have a significant impact on the countries’ ability to grow food, and in some cases may impact on the availability of drinking water.
Finding intelligent alien life
Humanity will have found evidence of intelligent alien life by 2040, according to Seth Shostak from the Seti Institute. He believes this leap we made due to a significant increase in the pace that star systems are assessed, as well as improved planet-hunting technology such as the Kepler space telescope. We certainly hope he’s right.
Wholesale societal collapse
The Food System Shock report, produced by the UK-based Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, suggests that if we don’t take serious, significant steps to shore up our global food supplies, civilisation will collapse by 2040 as a result of food shortages. The theory is that growing populations will become increasingly difficult to feed, with traditional agricultural systems becoming increasingly unstable as a result of climate change. The resulting food shortages could lead to civil wars, increased terrorism and general civil unrest, prompting the collapse of civilisation as we know it.