We are closer to 2050 than 1990

2050 probably won’t be as terrible, wonderful or even as different as we might imagine

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

We are in fact, closer to 2050 than 1990.

And getting further from 1990 and closer to 2050 by the day.

But why is that so difficult to accept?

It might be because many of us remember (or imagine that we remember) 1990 while 2050 is a far distant land that none of us have seen.

But, mathematically speaking, they are just about equidistant from us in 2022.

One is receding quickly while the other is approaching at a frightening speed.

If you think about what many of us know/remember/idealize about 1990 and compare that to what we know/imagine or fantasize about 2050 you begin to see the problem.

And possibility.

Back in 1990 we barely had email, no one was a “digital native” and cryptocurrency was assumed to be “currency” that had something to do with a “crypt”.

TSA did not exist and the vast majority of Americans saw no reason to have a passport.

But if you picture a typical neighborhood, workplace or even home, not much changed from 1990 to 2022.

Yes, many homes have wifi, and bigger televisions, but in terms of appearance, and most baseline assumptions very little has changed.

2050, on the other hand, for most of us, holds some mythical sense of an urban utopia/dystopia.

Movies and sci-fi in the 2020s – and beyond

Movies, sci-fi novels and pop culture in general have primed us to have stylized visions of the 2020s.

From The Jetsons to Bladerunner to Back to the Future and Soylent Green, films and TV shows, foreign and domestic, have heralded, warned and celebrated the unknowable possibilities of the future – especially the future defined by such strange and ominous sounding numbers.

My educated guess is that perhaps the typical neighborhood, workplace or even home might not look so different, but how we live in them, who lives in them and who can afford them might show a very different reality than the difference between 1990 and 2022.

So, for what it’s worth, here are some of my predictions for the next few decades.

Forecasting is very difficult, especially about the future

2022, if not all of the 2020s, like 1972 (if not all of the 1970s), looks to be defined by inflation.

For those who don’t remember the term, inflation means that costs, for a variety of reasons, or even no reason, rise – continually, sometime dramatically.

Home and business budgets – and forecasts – are thrown into upheaval.

What was affordable one week is not the next.

Saving money is essentially pointless as its value (in proportion to the cost of goods and services) goes down by the day.

Buy that item today because you might not be able to afford it tomorrow is the philosophy almost everyone is forced to live by.

Saving money for that proverbial rainy day is good advice in general – but not during inflation.

Knowing too much of your future is never a good thing. – Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

In the workplace, unemployment is near a record low, with every sign it will continue to fall throughout the coming year – if not longer.

Probably much longer.

Wage growth is surging, particularly where it should have been growing for the past couple of decades – at the bottom of the income scale.

Many people are taking charge of their work-lives – quitting jobs and finding new ones at a record clip.

Inflation, along with near non-stop pandemics, and civil unrest here and abroad, will certainly reframe economic systems that rely, perhaps above all else, on stability.

Many of those movies pursue a high level of stability – usually at a great cost to human dignity and freedom. Some portrayals show the other extreme – chaos and renegade citizens – if not leaders.

Economic inequality – or our inability to address it – will continue to be a defining issue – one that permeates all others for the next many years.

Labor, for the foreseeable future, will be seen as ever more valuable, working from home will become near standard.

Markets will become more intensely local – even as they become more interconnected globally.

New players, new products and new strategies

New products and new technologies open the doors for new participants in the global economy.

We can expect new ideas, products and entirely new approaches to business, trade and financial services.

Africa and South America in particular will be new participants in terms of products and services – and markets.

New laws

Drug laws will catch up with popular opinion – and human nature – which will perhaps mean, for a few years at least, that we will remember that prohibition never works and many drugs – especially those that are non-addictive and may hold significant therapeutic value, like psilocybin, will become as available as many OTC drugs today.

Universal basic income, or local, tailored variations of it, will be common.

Our economies – both personal and international – will be more dependent on whims, trends and extremities of nature.

In essence, and at its most basic, the economy on its way is far from the relative stability of the 1990s.

In that spirit, here are some of my more extreme scenario predictions.

Inflation and corporate speculation in the real estate market will drive housing far beyond the average salary leading to revolution and eventual collapse of the housing market.

Technology, especially artificial intelligence, becomes so intrusive and disruptive that entire communities and industries shut it off.

Our infrastructure, after decades of neglect, collapses, leaving many areas isolated. We, as a society, make the choice to reconnect some and make them high speed, high tech centers. Other areas are neglected and allowed to turn into isolated, near permanent ghettos.

The most advanced economies of the world will emerge with specialized economies with a focus on what could be called micro-markets.

Craft and quality, in every market and at every level will matter far more.

Environmental crisis and entire species (and habitat) collapse will become ever more threatening.

Proposals will be made, and partially followed, to make almost half of the earth something like a nature preserve. This will include the oceans.

In short, some of us will be, in 2050, where current steps, policies and values are taking us, while a few areas will surprise us all.

For a little perspective, consider a conversation in 1990 about what life would look like in the unforeseeable year of 2022.