To mark the year 2001--the true start of the Third Millennium--the editors of The Futurist magazine have selected their annual "top 10" forecasts for the future. These forecasts, included in the 10-page Outlook 2001 report, came from leading scientists, researchers, and scholars whose views of the future have been published in THE FUTURIST during the last year. The Top 10 forecasts, chosen on the basis of their interest, significance, and plausibility, are as follows:
1. The Dow Jones Industrial Average will hit 40,000 by 2016, because of the growing number of people investing in stocks and mutual funds, according to David Elias, author and investment advisor.
2. On the other hand, the U.S. economy may be headed for a period of "deflation" marked by excess supply and falling prices, warns economic consultant A. Gary Shilling.
3. Alone but not lonely: Singleness is on the rise around the world as more people postpone--or forgo--marriage. The trend offers a wide range of opportunities for "single-minded" services such as housecleaning, travel, pet care, bars and restaurants, and financial services. Housing, too, will be affected: Single women now account for 18% of all homebuyers, up from 10% a decade ago.
4. Women may one day be able to take a "career pill" to reset their biological clocks, postponing menopause until age 70. New reproductive technologies will give couples more options during their childbearing years, according to Roger Gosden, author of Designing Babies.
5. By 2030, over half of all U.S. adults will be age 50 or greater, and thus eligible to join the American Association for Retired Persons.
6. Child malnutrition will remain widespread in 2020 unless biotechnology can deliver new varieties of rice and other food plants that either boost nutrition or use water and other resources more efficiently.
7. Leisure-oriented business will dominate the world economy by 2015, accounting for roughly half the U.S. gross national product. Thanks to improvements in productivity that give people more time to play with, "Big Entertainment" will prevail, with media conglomerates that bring hotels, theme parks, transportation, and other related industries.
8. The echo-boom generation, comprising some 80 million people born from 1977 to 1997, will soon wield even more economic power than their parents, the baby boomers. These money-savvy youngsters have already begun saving and investing at an earlier average age than did preceding generations.
9. Gene therapy may one day improve people's learning abilities and reverse the effects of aging on memory. Neurobiologists have added a single gene, NR2B, to mice, increasing their ability to solve problems, learn, and retain information about their environment. As the mice aged, their brains retained the functional capabilities of the juveniles.
10. Workers who become so dependent on their employers for social services may find it increasingly difficult to leave their surrogate corporate families. Some companies are even becoming more tolerant of office romances, despite the escalation of sexual harassment suits.
BONUS FORECASTS: Five Reasons Why War May End (A Brief Trend Analysis)
In the process of selecting the year's most-intriguing forecasts, the editors of THE FUTURIST identified several promising trends that may lead to the end of war:
1. Demography: The graying of societies may mean fewer wars in the future. With proportionally fewer young people to spare, many countries may be less willing to put their youth in harm's way to defend national interests, suggests Peter G. Peterson, former U.S. secretary of commerce.
2. Technology: Future conflicts may be limited to disrupting electronic targets rather than killing humans. Tactics in a cyberwar could include hacking or jamming the enemy's computer and communications systems, using electromagnetic pulse weapons to disengage vehicle engines and other electronic devices, and sending bogus information to disrupt supplies--or even wipe out the enemy's Swiss bank accounts.
3. Economics: Globalization of the economy may reduce the threat of war because multinational corporations, with extensive facilities all over the world, have too much to lose. Even "bloodless" cyberwar would be unacceptable because of the damage it would do to corporations' electronic infrastructure.
4. Society: Telecommunication allows people to work and make friends in multiple locations, including multiple countries. And traditional migrants have increasing political and economic influence both in the countries they leave and in the countries they migrate to. These "transmigrants" are breaking down traditional geopolitical boundaries and forcing nations to resolve problems peacefully.
5. Government: Future world governance will be "multicentered," rather than controlled by a single entity, as nation-states in perpetual conflict wither away. Having several different "regimes" to handle the myriad of world problems, such as the environment, trade, and human rights, will help create a truly global society, according to political scientist Walter Truett Anderson.
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