The next 100 years
November 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
Over the past several decades, advances in medicine and technology have allowed people to live progressively longer lives. In the future, it is highly likely that this trend will continue; within the next 100 years, I predict that the average lifespan in first-world countries will be at least 100 years. Additionally, I expect the trend of declining birthrates to continue and intensify in first-world countries as women continue to assume nontraditional roles in society. These two combined effects will have meaningful implications for society in the future.
With new, costly medical innovations and an older population, the costs of healthcare will rise enormously. Although some improvements in the future—such as dietary supplements and healthier, genetically-engineered foods—may decrease the cost of healthcare through preventative measures, other improvements will rely on very expensive technologies and procedures. When combined with a large population of elderly people, who need the largest amount of healthcare, this will produce a net rise in the cost of healthcare.
Increasing healthcare costs will force society to confront the question of who should pay for and benefit from these innovations. Ultimately, I believe the issue of healthcare will become a highly divisive class-based struggle in the next 100 years, as the wealthy will be able to utilize new life-extending procedures and cures for things like cancer, while the rest of society cannot afford these solutions. This will create a substantial amount of conflict. Additionally, there will be age-based conflict, as the young must work to support the rising healthcare needs of an aging population. Even if these conflicts are solved politically through the socialization of healthcare, there will still be substantial social conflict as people struggle to finance, legitimatize, and moralize these changes in healthcare. Overall, in the next 100 years, new technologies will transform healthcare and dramatically extend the lifespans of people in privileged countries, but these innovations will also cause a substantial amount of social, political, and moral conflict.