Futurist Glen Hiemstra spoke to about four dozen business leaders, government officials, and community members in Friday Harbor yesterday (April 18, 2013) about what the world will look like in 2050. He doesn't make predictions instead he shares information.
Hiemstra quoted one of his former professors, "If you don't go far enough back in memory or far enough forward in hope, your present world will be impoverished."
Speaking about economic inequaility, he quoted Henry Ford: "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible."
Hiemstra asked, "When did we forget the third part." He cited a glaring example - a CEO of a company making as much in one day as a worker in that company made in a year.
Without changes in public policy and attitudes economic inequality will still exist in 2050.
A population of 9 billion will create challenges for food production.
The arctic ice caps will be gone. One of the sources he referenced was the Snow and Ice Data Center website.
International Tourism will become commonplace. In 1950, 1 in 1,000 people traveled internationally. By 2050, the tourism industry is predicting 1 in 2 will do the same.
As an example of the strides to be made in healthcare, he related the story of 15-year-old Jack Andraka who invented a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that is 168 times faster than what is currently available, 26,000 times less expensive and could be 100% accurate. Part of the story involves Adraka googling on his smart phone during his class.
The different world views between the digital immigrants - those born before 1981 (there was one in the room Thursday) and digital natives was noted by Hiemstra. The natives do not see a separation between online and 'offline', it is all one world. Whereas the immigrants think of the online world as a entirely separate entity.
The baby boomer generation - after displaying a bar graph of San Juan County's demographics, he joked he will use the county instead of Florida as his example from now on- is creating challenges in how healthcare will be provided, how retirement will be handled and how the needs of a 25 percent elderly population will be met.
Regarding retirement, many will be moving back into the model known prior to the most recent one. Instead of retiring with your pension at age 65, you slowed down and continued working "until you dropped".
When asked about the local economy, Hiemstra again stressed he does not make predictions. He said if San Juan County wanted to take advantage of the growing international tourism market, high-end resorts and facilities would be needed. Something he doubted islanders would want to do.
Pursuing high speed broadband, which would benefit the economy, was a more likely scenario for the county according to Hiemstra.