We’re all on the edge of our seats for the US 2016 presidential primaries, and the ratings for the debates are through the roof. Donald Trump is right when he says he is largely responsible for that. But people still care deeply about the issues, and many of those issues being debated now will still be there down the road. But no one has any doubt that a lot will change. So, what will the candidates be debating in 2030?
10) Meat production and Animal Rights.
It’s possible that in the next twenty years, we will witness the large scale growth of in-vitro meat companies. That is, meat grown in a lab for consumption. If our economy, and our palates, can make this transition successfully, animal rights group will begin to target naturally raised meat, for which there will always be a market. If it can be grown in a lab, why kill a living animal? Many groups will likely lobby for legislation preventing the industrial scale (or even boutique) slaughter of animals.
9) Gun Control and 3D Printing.
There’s no speculating with this one. The 3D printing revolution is coming. (One for your home, one for your car, even a travel size printer! Order now! Just $19.95 + shipping and handling.) And people have already printed guns. Printing guns in your home will be a reality, and there will be little law enforcement can do to stop it. Perhaps punishments for illegal possession will become stricter. Maybe tech companies and the government will work together to prevent this on the technical side. But the debate on guns will have to change, and gun control advocates will be hard-pressed for solutions. Perhaps this will propel the discussion on mental health forward.
8) Human Soldiers?
How many times in the Republican debates has “rebuilding the military” been mentioned? But every day, thanks to technology, it seems another war that requires “boots on the ground” is less likely. Sure, there will always be a market for special forces, but maintaining armies with hundreds of thousands of combat troops? With advances in precision weapons, aircraft, and robotics, it just doesn’t seem necessary in the future. How will governments, particularly the more conservative elements, react? What if cutting the military budget does not mean a less powerful deterrent? They won’t go down without a fight, but cutting troop numbers to unprecedented levels seems more like an eventual certainty than a debate.
7) Designer Babies
Abortion? That debate might not disappear anytime soon, but just as a serious is the discussion about so-called “designer babies”– babies whose genes are modified to their parents’ desire. Check this article out (“Excuse me, which shade of blonde did you want?”). Editing genes for disease will likely gain widespread approval, but anything more than that will be a steep uphill battle. But it’s worth noting that where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.
6) Breaking Down Borders – Unification of Countries
If you have time, do a little googling on the concept of merging the USA and Canada into one super country. It’s fascinating as a thought experiment, and there’s even a book on it. But as a reality? Seems rather unlikely, no? It’s no secret that technology is breaking down borders. Local traditions, dialects, and even whole languages are being lost in the onslaught of globalization. The internet is connecting people in ways never thought possible before. Even though the EU always seems on the brink of collapse, most people understand that it’s not going anywhere. Countries, particularly democratic ones, are becoming deeply intertwined. So why wouldn’t two (or ten) countries with similar economies, cultures, and languages take the next step and conglomerate? Many EU countries are already Schengen members and allow open borders. The idea of countries combining is not as far-fetched as it seems. Will it happen? Probably not. At least for a while. But the debate is only just beginning.
5) Climate Engineering
It’s 2080, and the earth has warmed by a few degrees Celsius. Will climate engineering be society’s savior? Today, the science of climate engineering is in it’s infancy. Can removing carbon dioxide or spraying aerosols in the air really affect climate change? Experts disagree. But assuming the predictions for climate change are correct and current behavior does not change, society will have a large problem on its hands. Achieving a consensus on climate change has proven nearly impossible, but in a world where the effects are in plain sight, it will be easier. Tough, but still easier. Forget carbon emissions, climate engineering just might be the debate of the future.
4) Space Exploration
Space travel seems dead. Man walked on the moon almost fifty years ago. Many even ask what the benefit is of manned spaceflight when a robot could do just the same. But there will probably be a space renaissance, and it will only happen when technology makes it economically viable. And that may not be for quite some time. Sorry, but Mars One is not landing people on Martian soil by 2027. But if a renaissance does happen, the political possibilities are endless. Space race? Meteor mineral mining rights? Whatever it will be, it will surely be exciting.
Is there a place in the budget for this? Or this? Government spending on infrastructure, at least in the US, is in a nearly decade-long decline. But the future will bring a slew of new transportation technologies, and governments will have to be prepared. Those that adapt will thrive, and those that don’t will stagnate. Politicians will have to work together to solve this problem, and when it comes to the budget, that certainly won’t be easy.
2) Automation and Basic Income.
Perhaps you have heard that the government of Finland was testing the feasibility of introducing a basic income. A guaranteed basic income is a check every adult receives from the government, simply for being alive. Unlike in a welfare system, there are no conditions to receive it. It is generally assumed that any basic income would replace other government programs, such universal health care, welfare, or in the US, for example, programs like Social Security and SNAP. As jobs are replaced by automation, many economists and futurologists posit that unlike in the past, this technological unemployment is here to stay. With too few jobs to go around, a basic income is the only way many would be able to survive. Implementing a basic income is no simple undertaking, and any new “entitlement” program (especially one of this size) will be fought tooth and nail by the conservative elements of any government. However, it will not simply be a right vs. left debate. Interestingly, a basic income is admired by the libertarian movement for its simplicity, and many on the right who have an appreciation for limited government will find a basic income an appealing solution to unemployment. In fact, even Friedrich Hayek, a fierce advocate of central planning, actually supported a limited version of a basic income. The basic income debate is one that many governments will need to have over the course of the next few decades, or risk having rampant social disorder stemming from mass unemployment. (If economists are correct, it’s possible that the size of a future basic income program will be smaller than what is proposed now in Finland. This would be thanks to increased production, and a reduction in the the price of goods. But if that will happen only time can tell.)
1) Population Control
Ah, that old-time futurists favorite. However much birth rates decline across the developing world, the world’s population will still grow, and still probably top off at around nine billion people. Not to mention the global increase in life expectancies, and new cures to diseases (You probably heard about the new cancer cure that was 90% effective) It’s unclear whether population control will be necessary. In fact, China recently abolished its one child policy, acknowledging it as a failure and a near economic catastrophe. Japan’s population had a net loss of nearly one million people between 2010 and 2015, and robots will likely fill the gaps left by less young people in the workforce. But if population continues to grow exponentially, whether or not to implement population controls will most certainly be one of the most heated debates humanity has ever faced.