Predictions For 2020 to 2100

2020 starts in 26 days. 2020 is a milestone year and those are years when people love to make long-range predictions.

I, Brian Wang of Nextbigfuture, have been tracking global developments for over 40 years. I will make some long-range predictions and review some old predictions. I am a professional futurist and my last large set of predictions was made in 2006 at the nanonews-now website.

Many of the predictions were accurate. Many were for a more distant future and have not happened or not happened yet.

I will review and update some interesting or notable predictions from 156 predictions I made in 2006:
* First 10 petaflop supercomputer predicted for 2012-2013. The Fujitsu K Supercomputer surpassed 10 petaflops in November 2011. It was originally scheduled to activate June 2012.
* Quantum computing 100 qubits 2010-2014. This occurred in 2010 with the 128 qubit D-Wave Quantum Annealing system being sold for $10 million. A prediction I made on Long Now in 2006 was even more precise on the timing and saying it would be commercially sold by Dec 31, 2010.
* Quantum computing 1000 qubits 2015-2020. The 2000 qubit D-Wave Systems were announced in 2016 and the first sale occurred in 2017.
* Other predictions in electronic communications, computing, materials and digital imaging were accurate.
* The nanotechnology predictions mostly have not panned out so far.
* Manned trip to Mars 2021-2026. This surprisingly still has some shot and if it is wrong might only be wrong by as little as four years. SpaceX and Elon Musk are targeting an aspirational 2024 for an unmanned mission and possibly 2026 for a manned mission.
* Mining on asteroids and the moon 2019-2025. Asteroid mining companies were formed but failed. There is activity to possibly begin water mining on the moon. I update this to open up the range from 2020-2040. I think it will happen sooner and possibly by 2025 but the more interesting question is whether large amounts of lunar ice or asteroid ice reduces the costs for activity beyond low-earth orbit. Technically accurate asteroid or moon mining of a thimble of water at an earlier date is not relevant for the world.
* 20+ million people who are millionaires (HNWI 1-5 million). This would be triple 2004 levels in 2018-2020. The latest figures are about 18 million in 2018 and a slight decrease in 2019. If there is good economic performance in 2020, then this would hit 20 million in 2020. I will predict a doubling of millionaires to 40 million by 2033-2045.
* China second-largest economy in straight currency conversion measures 2013-2015. China passed Japan in 2010.
* China largest economy in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms 2009-2012. This happened in 2014.
* MNT-enhanced world imager, MNT mass produces billions of satellite telescopes, large precise mirrors, network to form 1,000,000km telescope, 10-meter resolution at 30 light-years (2040-2050). A NASA NIAC study indicates that inflated mylar spheres could be 40 to 100-meter space telescopes and they could have a 1000 kilometer baseline or more. Building a radio telescope on the moon is being considered for 200,000+ baseline radio telescope by arraying with earth-based telescopes. I now open up the date range for the super telescope arrays to happen between 2020-2080.

Predicting the future is somewhat like batting averages for baseball. If you are not playing t-ball then getting 20-40% accuracy is very good. However, there are different ranges of difficulty. Certain predictions are actually just statements of fact. The US Tricentennial will be 2076. This would only be falsified if the US were to breakup in the next 57 years. Even if one or more states left, there would likely a substantial portion that would continue to call itself the United States. The European Union could lose the UK to Brexit and even lose other members but Germany can lead something called the European Union for a long time.

One lesson learned from the predictions made in 2006 is to have larger date ranges and to sometimes to leave them open-ended.

It is actually time-consuming and difficult to make good and useful predictions. The usefulness of predictions is to be able to identify what is and will be important. It is also having enough information and bounds to understand why it will be important whether something happens or does not happen.

I have to determine how precise to make the prediction. Many futurists and pundits will not put in the effort or avoid any metrics. It then becomes impossible to falsify the prediction. A prediction that cannot be judged as false is not a prediction but a rhetorical opinion or coded statement of some kind of fact. Bounding or making a prediction precise involves analyzing the range of variability and the processes driving trends or possible outcomes.

There is also more interesting questions than just overall population levels. It is important to know where the growth is. The Western US had four times more population from 1950 to 2010. The current trends are for growth over a decade to be 15+% in Texas and Utah and 6-13% in the east and west coast areas.

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

The statistics for world population is the figure below is no longer accurate. The UN now predicts almost 10 billion people in 2050 and 8.5 billion people in 2030. The world population figures are likely inaccurate by a few percent. This is because several fast-growing African nations have purposely avoided new census for political and societal reasons. There is even debate about the world population in 1950 and 1940 and earlier dates. Estimates vary for 1950 from 2.4 to 2.6 billion.

Unless there is a technology-driven economic boom, the world is in for slower growth for the next 10 years. Self-driving and AI will provide some boost in GDP growth but at moderate levels, those only offset an economic slowdown. I think the technology breakthroughs do happen over the next ten to 20 years but they take another few years to scale to world-shaking levels. I will take the time for a more detailed breakdown in a follow-up article.

Asia and China still have relatively solid growth (4-7% per year) but not amazing economic growth (8+%). The growth is also less consistent. However, it is still faster in general than the USA (2-4%) and Europe (0-2%). Asia should still double on a per capita basis relative to the developed countries but it will take 20-35 years.

Asia (not including Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea) moves from $2000-15,000 per capita to $5000-50,000 per capita in 2040-2060. Most of the population of Asia (China, India, ASEAN) will be in the $15,000 to 35,000 per capita range in the 2030-2050 time-frame. This will be in the high South American to Southern European GDP levels.

I will continue this look at predictions in the next article.

52 thoughts on “Predictions For 2020 to 2100”

  1. I literally got notified of this response 2 hours ago, meh. I think my above posts proves that article as a total fraud and adds to the evidence that the push is about control and not the environment.

    If you look at the NOAA page I linked on atmospheric levels of ozone depleting elements, it shows atmospheric levels of CFCs are actually higher or near identical to levels in the 90’s. They banned them in western countries but not worldwide in places like China and India. Overall ozone depleting elements are way up. If the science isn’t backed by a falsifiable hypothesis it is likely wrong and political.

  2. None of which changes the likelihood of the core prediction or the specific possibility I described coming true. Problems like those you describe would be used to justify the ‘Healthy Kids’ bill — “We’ll have more ability to control costs!”

  3. The prediction isn’t that a particular method will work, just that politicians will get desperate and feel the need to “do something”.

    Healthcare coverage for kids is just a very likely approach for them to settle upon.

  4. “some of us have a very strong instinct for reproduction. They are the one that will breed and pass this strong instinct forward.”
    There are bottlenecks in any growth. Carriers of such extremely procreative genes (if there’s such a thing), would most likely become self-defeating, because of growing prices for real estate, loose in economical competition, on education, life expectancy etc. And in the end such branches could be eliminated. So, the math of Malthus far from perfect.

  5. The agression runs both ways. This video is of Steven Scheider facing up to a whole hall full of fairly fired up Australian sceptics, a few weeks before he died of cancer. As he says, he was getting death threats all the time, and his son had got a letter that day asking why he was associating with such a lowlife.

  6. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were calling people names, just that
    . The global warming information that is provided to the general public is often oversimplified to the point where there are obvious holes in the logic
    . Some people respond very aggressively to any questioning at all
    . This pattern matches very well to a scam

  7. In a country where they charge $40 for “skin to skin contact after C-section” (maybe not everywhere, but I’ve seen the bills), I predict it’ll be a total mess if it ever passes.

    US doesn’t need to pay women to have kids. It needs to sort out its bat-sh*t crazy healthcare costs. That’ll have the same financial effect for new mothers with more overall benefit for everyone else. (But I have little faith that’ll happen anytime soon.)

  8. So far we humans have been limiting our own growth. Though for the most part, not intentionally (but in response to socioeconomic factors as discussed elsewhere in this thread).

    That said, nature had its part too.

  9. With an exponent of 0 the curve would be flat.
    Or a negative exponent would let it decrease.
    So, yeah, literally true…

  10. I predict that within 10 years a bill will be introduced to Congress, proposing to effectively pay women to have more children.

    This will be due to panic over Millennials’ birthrate of 1.8 children per woman, combined with continuing immigration panic – creating sufficient bi-partisan support that it may well pass.

    Possibly it will be in the form of government-paid health insurance for all children of US citizens. It’ll be called something wholesome like “Healthy Kids Are Our Future” – who could be against that? It may even cover childbirth expenses for such children.

    It may have a “cost-containment” rider prohibiting hospitals from charging less for services provided to any child NOT covered by this system, lest hospitals inflate costs to the covered children to pay for children not covered.

  11. ‘What IS true is that it used to be 3000 ppm and now it’s hitting lows near 200 ppm. That’s alarming.’
    Atmospheric CO2 cycled regularly between about 180 and 300 parts per million for the last two million years. During which time the planet’s mean temperature rose and fell ~5 C, and humans evolved. If you’re worrying that it’s not 3000 ppm any more, you’re about 450 million years too late. In any case it’s now 411ppm and rising every year.

  12. Except for natural selection. My expectation is that some of us have a very strong instinct for reproduction. They are the one that will breed and pass this strong instinct forward.

  13. Population politics limits the usefulness of contraceptive. Each group fighting for majority will try to out breed the other. All this while the Phoenicians sacrifice their children for greater prosperity.

  14. All that is going on is that the exponent isn’t always the same. The only assumption that matters is exponential growth. Nothing else matters. People think it is politics when it is maths. You just can’t have infinite exponential growth in a finite universe.

  15. CO2 was easy to double because the mass of carbon in the atmosphere is, and always has been, a tiny fraction of the amount in limestone rocks, soil, buried hydrocarbons, and the ocean. Levels in the air dropped much lower dozens of times over the last couple of million years without causing a mass extinction – just another ice age. That is small beer compared to a mass extinction.

  16. I was replying to a two line dismissal of global warming theory, so kept it brief. Sure it’s complicated, and where did I call anyone a fascist ? Motivated reasoning, ok – nobody seems to get worked up about dark matter or gravity waves. If somebody’s telling you you shouldn’t drive across town for a baconburger, of course some people get grumpy. Fossils are about 85% of our energy, it needs a good case to ditch them. Nevertheless, I think that case has been made.

  17. I’m just saying that contraceptives do help reduce birthrates, whether they’re an independent factor or not. They’re part of the process. So saying that they “has nothing to do with it” – a quote from your previous post – is at least as wrong.

  18. I made it up myself after looking at the data. 🙂 There are tons of articles about how banning CFCs is repairing the ozone hole and when I saw that CFCs actually increased I was like whaaaat.

    One of the things that got me looking was this:

    The TLDR is pharma companies lobbied the government to have their own off patent products banned due to CFCs so they could repatent them.

  19. Ooh, I haven’t heard this conspiracy theory before.

    What was the motivation behind this trickery? Was it the refrigerator manufacturing companies? Did “Big Kelvinator” realize that everyone already had a fridge and needed to obsolete everything already in the field?

  20. Sorry John,
    But the video you link to is an argument AGAINST the greenhouse effect, which I don’t think you intended.

    If the CO2 already in the atmosphere is enough to absorb all the infrared, then adding a bit more makes no difference. You can’t absorb more than “all”.

    The secret of course is that this isn’t a simple barrier, but a complex set of absorption, re-radiation, and reabsorption as the energy makes it’s way up to the top of the atmosphere.

    But that’s too complex for a 30 second propaganda video, so we get spoonfed something that doesn’t make sense and get called a fascist or something if anyone questions it.

  21. You sir are definitely a product of Government education system with little to no history education.

    1. Where did the government get its educational system from?
    2. Was there similar education available in varying places throughout the US?

    For those who don’t know I will help you out.

    1. The government got the elementary school system from Protestant Reformation in Europe. Higher education is mostly adopted from the Catholic University system. Oh those awful puritanical puritans, so narrow minded wanting to keep everyone oppressed in their religious ideologies foolishly brainwashing people! Oh, but wait, aren’t they teaching boys & girls how to read? Hmm..that doesn’t seem right, that would give them economic mobility, and we all know they wanted to protect the patriarchy!
    2. Small, independent churches, even through mainline denominations could not afford (nor enforce) compulsory widespread education, hence only a small percentage of youth (whose parents had the insight), allowed their children to get an education.
  22. Which circles back to Roseland67’s disingenuous remark that CO2 only increased by 0.012%. While that is indeed the absolute increase (“every X ppm” in your post), the relative increase (“doublings” in your post) matters much more.

  23. It is useful for grasping the magnitude of the “solar energy arriving at the planet”. Nothing more, nothing less. Which is exactly what I intended.

  24. Your oversimplification is so gross as to be completely useless.
    In fact, the surface temperature of a given planet is almost completely determined by two factors: distance from the Sun (aka solar energy arriving at the planet) and atmospheric pressure. The composition of the atmospheres is all but irrelevant.
    This holds true for ALL planets in the solar system, as measured:

  25. Your oversimplification is so gross as to be completely useless. In fact, the surface temperature of a given planet is almost completely determined by two factors: distance from the Sun (aka solar energy arriving at the planet) and atmospheric pressure. The composition of the atmospheres is all but irrelevant. This holds true for ALL planets in the solar system:

  26. As I said, it’s a gross oversimplification that ignores many factors. My point was to demonstrate the amount of energy that’s involved in climate effects.

  27. I think both Malthus and Empty Planet are wrong from opposite sides of the spectrum. In reality, population changes are slow and adaptive. Technology changes available resource limits. Those affect the economy (prices etc). That in turn affects policy and social drivers. Which finally change birth rates. (Which very slowly affect population trends.)

    If population grows too far, resources become increasingly scarce, which drives a reduction in birth rates (and in extreme cases, an increase in death rates). If population shrinks, resources become relatively less scarce, allowing birth rates to rise again.

    Political and social pressures regulate birth rates further. Just like today there’s public fear of overpopulation, if the population starts shrinking, there’ll be public fear of population collapse. Governments won’t ignore a shrinking population either.

  28. “If all of that energy was absorbed by the atmosphere”?
    You hugely overestimate CO2’s ability to absorb and retain heat.
    You also forget about the oceans.

    In fact, IPCC’s computer models were proven to be very unreliable. In fact, actual warming was far less than what was expected by these models.
    That didn’t stop climate alarmists to preach their religion. They are quite well funded.
    And it didn’t stop legions of useful idiots to be created.

  29. Practically every industry out there is heavily regulated and rules are established on how businesses are able to operate. The business environment that allows for growth wouldn’t even be possible if it weren’t for regulations governing fair competition among companies.

  30. 2020 is setting up to be a year for big breakthroughs in technology. In 2020, we may demonstrate a SSTO flight with Starship. Although there will be little if any payload, it’s an incredible achievement nonetheless.

    Tesla is planning to release their full self driving package that is supposed to be capable of city as well as highway driving. Although it won’t be perfect in every situation, it’s quite a big leap to demonstrate this capability in a production vehicle.

    5g networks are just around the corner. Exaflop computing is close which will allow brain simulation. I expect more breakthroughs in quantum computing and alternative computing architectures as well as gradual improvement in more traditional computation.

    AI will continue to penetrate more deeply into society. RPA and software automation will revolutionize white collar work as much as self driving is in the public eye. Conversational AI will start to make it’s way to everyday interactions. It won’t be long before drive thru’s are automated and customer service calls are entirely handled by AI. I’m also guessing there will be a very impressive demonstration in robotics capable of performing human like actions and movements.

    These are all things that might happen in the year 2020 and would be monumental breakthroughs in technology. Imagine what might happen in 2021 or the year after that… The 2020’s will be a decade of rapid technological progress and societal change unlike anything ever seen before.

  31. UV is a standard thing to tell people so they know what to expect for the day.

    Your own government says it is not a problem

    From the link:

    “While the ozone hole does not directly affect ozone concentrations over New Zealand, when it breaks up in spring it can send ‘plumes’ of ozone-depleted air towards us. This briefly decreases column ozone levels by around 5 percent, about the same amount as normal daily variation (Ajtić et al, 2004).”

  32. I guess the weather forecasts here in New Zealand that tell us the UV danger level for the day are all part of the hoax, are they ?

  33. I’m not in any political party, nor would I trust any of them as a reliable source on climatology – or much else.

  34. Take a look at the book Empty Planet. While the UN is extremely good at making demographic predictions, their assumptions are extremely outdated. It seems more likely we will hit peak population by mid-century and, once the decline begins, there is no end in sight.

  35. It’s fun. Around 2009 I chose to pick a variety of categories and predict where each would be every five years, starting with 2025 until 2100, trying to take in the effects of each advance upon the others.

    2025 (not bad for 2009, but we ain’t there yet)

    • Huge automation in all resource acquisition (farming, mining, construction, refining), manufacturing, and equipment operation.


    • Fully automated transportation (self-driving trucks, with humans only in repair and supervision). Enormous automation in all resource acquisition (farming, mining, construction, refining), manufacturing, and equipment operation.


    • Renewable energy resources able to sustain demand for a bit, buying more time for fusion

    Genetic Reengineering:

    • Gene-editing for medical purposes becomes widespread, resurrection of some extinct species.


    • Supplements, medicines, and treatments that can extend life by 30% or more begin to become commercially available.


    • Direct mind interfaces become suitable for control of any prosthetic, robot parity with human hands achieved, attempts made at human brain emulation .


    • Regeneration of human organs in situ becomes possible on a limited basis. Some organs can be grown for implant from patient’s own cells.

    Space Exploration

    • Asteroids being explored for mining, rapidly falling costs to reach orbit.

    Virtual Reality

    • Virtual reality moves into the work place in a big way.
  36. First, it’s not a matter of believing. Both numbers are correct, they just mean different things:
    400 ppm / 280 ppm = 1.43 = 43% relative increase
    400 ppm – 280 ppm = 120 ppm = 0.012% absolute increase

    Second, I’ll do this in metric, as nature intended:

    Air specific heat capacity is roughly 1000 J/kg*K. Mass of Earth’s atmosphere is ~5.2e18 kg. Total heat capacity of the atmosphere:

    5.2e18 kg * 1000 J/kg*K = 5.2e21 J/K

    Total solar energy flux arriving at Earth is roughly 1.7e17 W. IF all of that was absorbed by the atmosphere, how fast would it heat up by 1 K?

    5.2e21 J / 1.7e17 W = ~30000 sec = ~8.3 hours.
    (a 1 K difference is a 1.8 F difference, more than you asked)

    This is a gross over-simplification ignoring actual absorption coefficients, reflection, absorption and re-emission by land and water, and many other factors. But this does show that heating the atmosphere by 1 K (let alone 1 F), doesn’t take all that much. Just a small shift in the energy balance can have a large overall effect.

  37. John,

    i know that’s what you’ve been told to believe by the political party you’re aligned with, but,
    do the math.
    Atmospheric CO2 has been 280 ppm for millions of years, now it is 400. 400-280 = 120 ppm increase. 120/1,000,000 = .012% increase in co2.

    now let’s do some more math.
    how much heat is requires to raise the atmosphere of earth 1°f? 5.5 quadrillion tons x 2000 lbs/ton x .19 btu/lb°F x 1°F

  38. You got tricked. There was never an ozone problem. It thins out where the sun doesn’t shine and comes right back when it does.

  39. I predict an abundance of food and water and electricity for everyone. Cancer will be more or less cured, and health will be great for all until those reduced telomeres take our lives (except the cryogenically preserved). Global warming will be looked at as a bizarre interlude of “something must have been in the water” and our planet will be perfectly fine. Clean air for all (except the occasional volcano). the economic models will be completely new as we all have access to cheap 3D printers to make anything we need. Including babies using CRISPR tech. Politically, “countries” will cease to exist in the favor of small localized communities (a la Switzerland) as large centralized political systems will no longer be required (demise of representative democracy). “Africa” (probably be called something else) will be the economic driver. China, US and Europe will be empty population-thin nature reserves. American Idol will still be broadcast though run by Indians. the internet will be hardwired into our brains and Google will be considered a human being. Lastly, a virus will eventually kill everyone on the planet.

  40. yes, population growth has a limit, and then it declines. Around the year 2100. It is most certainly NOT exponential, it is logistic. “because it is mathematics”…..

  41. government regulation also abolished slavery enforced human rights and the vote more importantly this gave rise to the middle class safe work and suppressed the abuses of autocrats on workers – unless you have aristocracy in your family the fact you can read is due to gov regulation – and most ‘innovation’ was either/or funded, subsided or developed by government (are you using wifi or a mobile? Gov funded, Teflon, oil mining all subsided ) musk got started with gov grants, same with Rockefeller – don’t be a dup and fall for the capital is king crap – google, Facebook, etc are successful monopolies not competing on a level playing field (market forces being a central tenet) is how they stay successful

  42. ‘…012% increase in a trace gas cannot raise the planets temp 1°f.’
    How about a 45% increase ? That’s for CO2, methane has gone up over 250% and nitrous oxide over 80%. CFCs were only present in parts per trillion, but they were still wrecking the ozone layer. You can see through a foot of glass, but put a micron layer of aluminium on it and you’ve got a telescope mirror.
    Here’s an infrared camera looking through a one metre tube being filled with carbon dioxide. The atmosphere has the equivalent of two metres of CO2 between the surface and space.

  43. Malthus will always be correct because it is mathematics. Exponential growth in population has a limit. All technology did was push the limit a few generation down the road.

  44. “I Predict”
    (really like this game).

    people will realize, after they do the math, that .012% increase in a trace gas cannot raise the planets temp 1°f.

  45. Here’s the thing about projections, I mean predictions. You use the current base of knowledge to make your forecast. There are people working in garages right now who are making stuff that will blow our minds away in 10-20 years. Malthus didn’t know John Deere and fertilizers were coming, otherwise, he may have been correct. I predict that the current appetite for government intrusion and regulation, and people’s appetite to believe government intrusion is good, will be the main roadblocks to a brighter future. Government regulation is, has been, and always will be the major impediment to growth and prosperity. For those so inclined to like government intrusion, I will remind you that greater government control gave us slavery, legal racism, and has caused mass murder to a greater extent than free peoples everywhere have caused. Freedom and liberty are necessary conditions for growth; the antithesis is also true.

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