In many respects, this year’s list of ten trends paints a chaotic picture of the next decade: exacerbating economic upheaval, religious conflict and mass proliferation of weapons hardly constitute a reassuring forecast for the coming years. Fortunately, the list will once again end on a high note; for all the hand-wringing about the obstacles to come, there is even more reason for optimism.When Via Meadia first tackled our tenth trend, “Hope and Change,” we wrote the following:
The flood of change that threatens to overturn the world in the next decade is the instability of a rising tide, not a falling one. New discoveries, new technologies, new ideas are going to transform the lives of billions of people. More people than ever before will have access to information about the world around them and will be able to participate in the cultural and political life of their times. Humanity will be able to provide for its physical needs at a lower cost and with lower impact on the environment. Increasing numbers of people all around the world will escape the limits of absolute poverty and enjoy unprecedented opportunities to build better lives for themselves and their children.
This description is more apt today than when first written. The past two years alone have produced countless reasons to expect that humanity’s future will be brighter and more prosperous than its past, and there is no sign of this trend slowing anytime soon. New systems, technologies, and economic ideas are arriving faster than ever before, and with them come new opportunities to make the world a better place.Everywhere we look, new opportunities are springing up, even from chaotic and disruptive situations. Nowhere is this more visible than in the field of education, where an ossified system with growing costs, declining results, and stifling bureaucracy is slowly giving way to a new system in which online programs and practical training programs provide more extensive and affordable education. The transition has only just begun, and there will be many painful years as students and teachers alike adjust to a rapidly changing educational system. But the end result will be a modernized education system that suits the needs of a new century in ways the current one simply cannot.The benefits of new technology are not limited to education. The disaggregation brought about by the internet may have wreaked havoc on travel agents and newspapers, but it has opened the door to new industries that will serve the needs of a more dynamic market. These are the “jobs of the future” that will keep our economy running, and they will allow more people than ever before to abandon menial labor for more fulfilling careers elsewhere.Even in the field of energy, there is reason for hope. Despite widespread predictions that declining world oil reserves will lead to an era of expensive energy and intense geopolitical conflict, new (and controversial) methods like “fracking” to extract natural gas promise to keep prices down while reducing the danger of military conflict. More discoveries like these will world’s factories humming long past their predicted demise.And these opportunities are not limited to the West. Beijing may worry that rising wages for Chinese workers threaten its position as the world’s low-cost factory, but hundreds of millions of Chinese workers are unlikely to share this anxiety. Similarly, the urbanization and industrialization of Asia and Africa are disruptive forces, but have allowed families who had for generations depended on subsistence farming to find new, more stimulating opportunities in a broader world.Changes in the past two years have given us ample reason for hope, with plenty of headaches as well. There’s no reason that should change in the next ten.