I’m worried about the future. Not mine, since I’m almost 40 and have a kid so it’s pointless and selfish to worry about my future, but the near future of humanity. I feel the world will see some challenging decades ahead. The three big risks are:
- The oil running out. As we run out of fossil fuels, we’ll see an “oil endgame” played out across the world. The seizure of Iraq by the US over the past two decades, as well as ongoing control over the Middle Eastern oil reserves, are mid-game steps along the way. As we get into the endgame, I expect there will be sharp imbalances of power between those that play the endgame well and those who lose out. Overall, I see the US as excessively focused on winning the endgame, as zero-sum, and would rather see a more cooperative plan to bring the world safely over to sustainable energy.
- The top-heavy Western economies. One might title this the crisis of capitalism, but I think that would be inaccurate. The issue is not about the normative system of property that we use in the West but about the emergent distribution of ownership that has resulted over the years. It is top heavy. The major part of western economies is not primarily productive but is a superstructure that concentrates wealth. This doesn’t mean everyone in the superstructure is rich – they might be an ordinary bank clerk, but still fundamentally unproductive. The crisis is that the primarily productive layers are increasingly unable to support the passive consumption of this superstructure, or their occasional abuses such as the recent financial crisis.
- Conflict between the West and Asia over property rights. China, India, Korea, and some other Asian economies already control the world’s means of production. These consist in productive capital, such as factories and industrial techniques, and the exploitable labor of their people. These economies, by being younger, are not as top-heavy as western ones. What prevents, say, China from selling their own Macs and iPhones is a system of intellectual and other property rights organized mainly by the US. I expect the Asian powers to challenge that, either by disobedience or more forcefully. Also, wars are started when a military power such as the US wants to take over an exploitable resource such as Chinese labor from the power that’s currently exploiting it.
So, the future will probably bring forced lifestyle changes, serious economic discomfort at least for us in the west, and possibly a kind of war. A global war may be too destructive to undertake (and I hope it is thus averted) but I think a more limited conflict such as the one that keeps the Middle East under US control may unfold in Asia, to the misery of billions of people.
My short advice to you is stop worrying about terrorism, healthcare, global warming, and other minimal threats and start worrying about these real problems that will jeopardize life in the 21st century.