First Click: 2050 is the new Y2K

June 12th, 2015

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Predicting the future is hard. In 2011, analysts at both IDC and Gartner predicted Windows Mobile and BlackBerry would together hold between 30 and 36 percent of the smartphone marketshare by the year 2015 (it’s actually around 3 percent). And that’s just a four-year forecast — imagine the margin of error when trying to predict events 50 years into the future.

In the 1950 and 60s, the futurists at Popular Science magazine were positive that jetpacks would propel us between floating cities by the year 2000. Wrong — so very, very wrong. But like a disappointed doomsayer who awakens to the light of a new day, futurologists have just shifted the date forward to 2050 — a year that’s far enough away to feel futuristic but still within reach of the generation that’ll inherit the Earth

A new study made headlines just a few days ago by laying out a 50-state strategy that would break the US’s addiction to oil by — you guessed it — 2050. Great, I hope it happens. But 2050 is going to be a very busy year.

It’s the year by which most Americans will physically resemble the melting pot metaphor they like to use.

It’s the year that robots finally beat humans at soccer and probably the Olympics — just not the 2050 Sochi Winter games because there won’t be any snow.

It’s the year most of us will have to become vegetarian in order to feed the world’s 9 billion people, only it’ll be a lot less fun without hamburgers.

It’s the year that Tesco in the UK will be a zero carbon retailer and Denmark, like the US, will operate on 100 percent renewable energy.

It’s the year that the costs required to stabilize Iraq will finally peak. Costs that can hopefully be paid by the world’s wealthiest people who now live in Asia.

It's the year that flight times from Europe to Australia will be cut from 22 hours to just 90 minutes, but won’t be worth it because the Great Barrier Reef will be "pretty ugly" by then.

But we’ll still have a space elevator to marvel at.

The US will be on fire, Hawaii will be consumed by a giant hurricane, one-in-three people will live in a slum, and we’ll all have Alzheimers. But at least the long wait for Avatar 3 will be over.

2050 is also the date of the singularity — the moment in time when humanity is plunged into irreversible change thanks to advances in artificial intelligence.

So if the future does actually arrive in 2050 it doesn't look like we'll have much of a future anyway.

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