50 Years From Now

10/29/2005 6:40:47 PM

50 Years From Now

I was speaking to a woman in her 80’s, and it was remarkable hearing about a different age in which she lived through World War II as a young adult. Fifty years from now, I will be over 80 and living in a changed world that will be every bit as different 1950’s were from today.

These are some of the published differences in the makeup of the US and world population. The world will look very different from today! What is shocking is the advancement of third-world and developing countries and the relative decline in Western countries.

  • The top ten most populous countries will consist largely of new countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Bangladesh. The only countries expected to remain on the list will be China, India and a United States; India and China will swap places. European countries will fall out of the list because of the low birth rate; most won’t even make the top twenty.
  • Muslims may eventually outnumber Christians in the planet. By 2050, the Muslims will rise to about 28% of the world’s population versus 20% today while Christians will fall to 30%. The crossover point will occur soon after that due to the higher birthrate of Muslims. The growing proportion of Christians in Africa and South America means that Christianity will become less of a Western religion.
  • Whites will become a minority of the population in the US in a few decades. (Despite this, Congress will probably still mostly be white males.)
  • The Chinese economy will have surpassed the U.S. economy in a few decades; however, the average Americans will still be four times richer than the average Chinese. The advancement of China mirrors the emergence of the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and its eclipsing of the two major economies, Britain and Germany, at the time.

I do think that a country’s population is the best indicator of its long-term potential, so both China and India will do well. Countries with a large population have a significant advantage in that its domestic market is sufficiently large to allow domestic manufacturers to survive and grow without expanding internationally. The US benefited from both a common language/culture and a larger population, compared to its European counterparts. (Language is an important factor, as some economists have pointed out that the world will become increasingly divided into affluent and more advanced Anglosphere—English-speaking countries—and everyone else.)

Globalization is also reducing differences in living standards between countries. One professor noted, that one hundred years ago, differences in living standards between the states of the union were very pronounced like those among countries in the world today, yet, in recent times, these differences became minimal because of the effects of common currency and free trade with the U.S. An UN report predicted that the conditions of poverty, hunger and disease in Africa may be eliminated in fifteen years. While such predictions have occurred repeatedly in the past and proven to be excessively optimistic in the time frame suggested, I do think the conclusion may be inevitable.

Developing countries are also able to leapfrog developed countries in several technologies. The new world is increasing based on information technology, which is far easier for a developing country to catch up in like India and China. Ireland went from one of the poorest countries in Europe to an above-average country in over a decade because of its focus on IT training of its citizens. China, in just over a decade, went from graduating a fraction of the engineers that the US does to a multiple of around five. Wireless technology means that developing countries can forgo the heavy cable investment of richer countries in the US with very inexpensive technology. The lack of IP protection in Asia, particularly India, has given rise to a new crop of pharmaceutical companies, selling patented drugs freely within their native countries without incurring the R&D investments cost of American drug firms.

In software, Microsoft sees eventual challenges in its application and operating systems business from nascent companies in China and India with their low-cost and abundant software engineers. Software will eventually mature over time, allowing these challengers room to catch up. (On the other hand, free software may also mature, leaving no room for budding challengers.) We are not quite there at the point of maturation, because incorporation of AI as a pervasive software technology allows plenty of growth for the foreseeable future and Moore’s law hasn’t matured yet.  But eventually, Microsoft may then have to follow IBM’s transition from a technology to a service company.

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Net Undocumented is a blog about the internals of .NET including Xamarin implementations. Other topics include managed and web languages (C#, C++, Javascript), computer science theory, software engineering and software entrepreneurship.

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