Skip to content

We asked some of the boldest thinkers what the world will be like in 50 years. Here’s what their answers tell us about the future.

Sponsored by
Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Founder, Virgin Group

Branson’s the Virgin Group has grown successful businesses in mobile telephony, travel and transportation, financial services, leisure and entertainment, and health and wellness. In 2004, he established Virgin Unite, a non-profit foundation to create opportunities for a better world.

  • What kinds of companies will be the most important?

    • In another 50 years’ time, I believe the only remaining companies will be the ones that add value to their environs, societies, and the planet. It’s abundantly clear our economic systems will evolve, too. There is little panacea to be had here, but I hope a lot of the disagreements over various economic and political issues today will give way to more space to experiment with new ones in ways that fundamentally avoid the abuse of power and the suffering of the vulnerable. It will be fascinating to see what comes of blockchain and cryptocurrency and how they shape our future.

    More responses to What kinds of companies will be the most important?
  • How will people earn a living?

    • The world is changing fast with the acceleration of AI and other new technology. I believe universal basic income could make sure everyone’s basic needs are met. But I also hope that rather than replacing jobs, more companies will figure out how to use AI to replace repetitive tasks and free up people’s minds to become better creators, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

    More responses to How will people earn a living?
  • How will we communicate with each other?

    • I hope that we still talk face-to-face when it matters—to me, there is no substitute for human connection. Technology is great for keeping in touch across long distances or in different parts of the world, but I would always rather be across the dinner table having a chat with my wife Joan than texting or on the phone. 

      More responses to How will we communicate with each other?
    • What will we eat?

      • I hope our diets will be better for us, for the earth they’re grown in, and for the Earth they’re grown on! People will eat less meat, and far less industrially-farmed meat as safer alternatives get more traction. I believe unconventional food sources will become more conventional, and that nutritious, plant-based food will replace animal products in a lot of ingredient lists.

        I also hope we will grow food in even more sustainable ways, that urban farming will grow, as will more regenerative farming practices that adapt to local ecology, enhance biodiversity, and draw down carbon from the atmosphere.

        More responses to What will we eat?
      • What will we wear?

        More responses to What will we wear?
      • What kinds of stories will we tell?

        More responses to What kinds of stories will we tell?
      • What forms of transportation will we use?

        • Those who are blessed with the ability to walk will be walking more. Cities and towns are becoming more friendly to bikes. This must continue. Buses will become electrifyingly fun to ride. Self-driving cars will become the norm. I’m hopeful that hyperloop routes will expand into more places. As for the skies, I believe we will still fly. But by 2050, the industry will have changed beyond recognition—aviation itself will come under increasing pressure to reach net zero emissions and point-to-point travel could drastically reduce flying time.

          More responses to What forms of transportation will we use?
        • What will our most valuable resource be?

          More responses to What will our most valuable resource be?
        • What will the biggest change to our natural world be?

          • Right now, I believe the changes we will see in the next 50 years could go either way. Either the Earth’s climate, biodiversity, plastic pollution, and other vital signs of planetary health will be well on the road to restoration, or things will have gotten much worse. I believe real progress could be made on most issues in the natural world by 2030, let alone by 2070, if we all come together. To achieve all that the world needs to do, we urgently need governments to treat the climate crisis as seriously as an invasion of their countries and join together to whip it. And while they are focusing on it, they can end deforestation, the loss of species, plastic pollution, and so on. 

            As for the human world, the biggest change I’d like to see in the next 50 years is much more listening. Collaboration, innovation, and creativity are some of humanity’s best traits, and I hope we can use them to solve some of the big issues of our time.

          More responses to What will the biggest change to our natural world be?
        • What’s your best prediction for the world in 50 years?

          • I am an optimist. I predict the world in 50 years will be better than most of us think. This doesn’t mean I think there will be some magic solutions to the world’s problems. Rather, in spite of everything, I know there are a lot of good people out there. I’ve had the honor of getting to see a small fraction of those in action, people who are working hard to leave their loved ones, communities, countries, and the planet in a better condition than they found things. That’s what gives me hope. 

            I also predict that we will cherish this planet much more. The next frontiers of space exploration will remind us how rare and vulnerable we all are, and I have a great deal of hope that our humanity will keep up with our technology.

            More responses to What’s your best prediction for the world in 50 years?