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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
Ryan Bethencourt

Ryan Bethencourt

Co-founder and CEO, Wild Earth

Ryan Bethencourt is the CEO of Wild Earth, a plant- and biotech-based sustainable pet and human food company. Bethencourt is also a partner at Babel Ventures, a leading Silicon Valley-based consumer biotech venture capital fund.

  • Who will run the world?

    • Africa, Latin America, and Asia will run the world as they’ll have the youngest and largest global populations. Technology acceleration will continue and both the US and the EU will be influential, but the sheer scale of innovation and power will be distributed and lean toward the larger and younger population centers. 

      Perhaps the more interesting question will be: Who will be driving the development of off-world colonies? Both India and China have made incredible progress in a relatively short period of time. Fifty years is a large enough jump in time that the question might be: Who will run the solar system and the emerging colonies scattered throughout it (Mars, Venus, the Moon, maybe even Titan)?

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    • Which country will have the most powerful economy?

      • I believe powerful economies in 50 years will be driven by mega-regions. Without London, the UK is but a shell of itself. The same can be said of California without Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area. I think we’ll measure power based on mega-city region, not countries, especially with the increase in frictionless trade over borders.

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      • What kinds of companies will be the most important?

        • Those which meld technologies that we’re only just starting to comprehend. Melding biotech and tech is only now starting to result in transformations in human medicine (T-cell therapies, regenerative medicine, organogenesis); new foods like slaughter-free meat brewed in bioreactors; and entirely new types of biomaterials like spider’s silk fabrics, which are 10 times stronger than steel.

          This is just the start of the next biotechnological revolution, which is really about reprogramming matter at the material level with biotechnology like CRISPR and other technologies. 

          In 50 years, human lifespans will be transformed; cancer, disease, and physical failure of our cells, tissues, and organs are solvable problems. Within 50 years, many cancers will be easily treatable, organ failure will be a thing of the past thanks to regenerative medicine, and our medical systems will evolve to more proactively screen for emergent infectious diseases and rapidly and automatically develop antibiotics, antivirals, and vaccines to counter them. 

          The human body is a deep, rich pool of information that scientists will be unraveling over the next 50 years (augmented by better computing power). Entrepreneurs will use that information to keep us living longer and healthier through new products and services, surpassing our current 120-year limit. Living several hundred years will be scientific fact rather than today’s science fiction.

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      • What will we eat?

        • Agriculture and food will change more in the next 50 years than they have in the last 10,000 years. We now have the tools to engineer slaughter-free meats and fish. Cell-based meats (sometimes called lab-grown meats) will be commercially available at competitive price points in the next five to 10 years. Expect to see beautifully crafted T-bone steaks made purely from cells, and even more interesting, functional foods that are engineered with both an experiential perspective and also a functional/health perspective.

          Food production technologies will continue to improve, with hydroponic farms like Plenty producing incredible, fresh produce not grown in fields (sparing both the beneficial insects and animals). We’ll also see the continued global rise of genetically engineering plants, fungi, bacteria, and algae to provide tailored, affordable nutrition to all of the world’s 10 billion-plus people. Inexpensive, delicious, and incredibly nutritious foods will be expected and delivered on even the most meager budgets, thanks to technology and biotechnology worldwide. 

          Thankfully, we’ll also see a rewilding of rainforests, savannas, and oceans thanks to the removal of our fishing and farming pressures with the end of animal agriculture (a 10,000-year-old technology that is now unsustainable).

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      • How will we die?

        • We will still die of accidents, suicides, homicides, advanced old age, plus new (and occasionally old) diseases. But death in 50 years will be a very different experience. The reasons why we die today—of cancer, infectious disease, and organ failure—will be, in many ways, treatable. I expect humans to regularly live to 120-plus years of healthy old age, perhaps even exceeding several hundred years of age. But as always, as medicine evolves, new diseases do emerge and new infectious diseases evolve too. 

          Those of us that are lucky enough to see the world in 50 years may have to contend with new exotic diseases and incredibly invasive surgeries to replace old tissues and organs, treat new types of cancer or cell/tissue failures, and have our immune systems rebooted and reprogrammed.

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