A Special report on Axios entitled “The aging, childless future,” written by Harry Stevens, barely scratches the surface of implications of an aging population. Stevens anticipates a dearth of children, seeing it as a problem. But he looks at it in isolation. Overlay several other trends that are happening simultaneously or are just starting to gather steam, and the future gets murky indeed. The interplay of all the impending changes together with those already underway makes definitive projections very difficult, and bound to miss the mark by a wide margin. That being said, here’s how I see things shaking out.
Digitization has already meant less need for manual labor. AI will mean less need for menial workers. Universal Basic Income (UBI) could reduce the burden on the young to support the elderly. Medicine will continue to lengthen life spans. Climate change will force major migrations from coastal areas and render many areas inhospitable to human habitation. Political disruptions will become more frequent and more intractable. Armed conflicts will be rarer because nobody wins a nuclear holocaust. Cyber-warfare, however, becomes more common and more consequential. The carbon-based energy system will be supplanted by one based largely on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Transportation will be powered by electricity, and eventually by hydrogen. Human dietaries will slowly shift from land- and energy-dependent meat and grain to nontraditional sources, including legumes and algae. Geopolitics will tip away from America and Europe to China and East Asia. Globalized trade will remain central, under somewhat more equitable rules. The dearth of children, far from being a problem, will in time come to be seen as the salvation of humankind’s continued existence on a sustainable planet Earth