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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.

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Bill Nye

Bill Nye

Science educator and television personality

Bill Nye is an American science educator, comedian, television host, actor, writer, scientist, and former mechanical engineer, best known as the host of the Disney/PBS children's science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–1998).

  • What kinds of companies will be the most important?

    • Agriculture. Two types of companies will be very important. Professional agriculture companies—Pioneer, DuPont, Monsanto (ah! Monsanto!). Yes, companies like Monsanto will be very important. I believe that in the developed world there will be fusion energy. The companies that supply electricity and distribute it, and agricultural companies, will be the big companies in the future.
       
      Information companies, like Amazon and so on, will be important, but, I predict, there will be a lot of competition by then.

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    • What will cause the biggest conflicts?

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    • How will we communicate with each other?

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    • What will we eat?

      • A lot more plants. We will eat plants that provide the same proteins you get now from dairy and meat. Someone is going to figure out how to put B12 in a crop. It will be in mung beans, something akin to that—a legume. That research will be done by big agricultural companies, in my prediction, it will not be done by hippies in a garage. It will be high-tech research that will lead to these developments in agriculture.

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      • How will we die?

        • In the same ways, where you get old and you run out of steam. Cancer will not be the killer that it is now. There will be fewer industrial accidents, but there will still be diseases, especially in the developing world where people don’t have adequate sanitation. People have been dying for a long time. I’m in no hurry, I’m just observing.
           
          I’ve talked about this in my books, but, if you live to be 82 years and seven weeks, you get 30,000 days on Earth. And 82 and seven weeks, you know, is a pretty good run. But at a typical football stadium, there are 70,000 seats. If you sat in a different seat every day, you wouldn’t get halfway around, which just sucks. I can’t even tell you how much that sucks.

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        • What kinds of stories will we tell?

          • We’ll tell the same stories we’ve always told, except the love stories will have to do with meeting online. But it’ll be the same. Humans will be the same. Magical thinking will still be everywhere, people will still believe in crystals and haunted houses and ghosts and all that stuff. But I think fundamentally the world will become more divided—the rich will keep getting richer and the poor will keep getting poorer.

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          • How will we get information?

            • I think it will be on our wristwatches. I think that technology—Google Glass, remember those glasses? That will be figured out. People will be able to put on a pair of sunglasses and read and so on. I think, in the cities, in the developed world, people will not drive. The taxicabs, or the taxi pods, will be automated. In the not-too-distant future, people will say, “You mean you let people drive cars? What? It must have been chaos!” Yes, it kind of was.

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            • What will cities be like?

              • In the developed world, they’ll be cooler than ever. The quality of life in cities in the developed world, like in Tokyo, Paris, London, will be very good. In the developing world, they’ll be worse. In the developed world, there will be taxi pods half as wide as cars that are electric, and people will get around easily. In the developing world, it’ll be even more of a mess than it is now.

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              • Will we have ventured to other planets?

                • I think in 50 years people will have tried to go to Mars. But it’s a fantastically difficult problem. I just like to disabuse people—nobody’s going to be living on Mars. There won’t be villages on Mars. There’s nothing to breathe. You’ll notice that right away. You’ll live in a dome, and then if you want to go outside, you’ll put on a space suit, which is just another dome.
                   
                  You know Sandy the squirrel from Spongebob Squarepants? She’s always got a helmet on, right? Because she’s underwater. If you have the imaginary idea that you will live on Mars and have a village on Mars with playgrounds and sliding boards and fun, happy farms on Mars under domes, you’ll be like Sandy the squirrel—you’ll always be in a dome. And if you think middle school gym locker rooms don’t smell especially good, wait until you spend a year on Mars in a dome.

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                • What will our most valuable resource be?

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                • What will the biggest change to our natural world be?

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                • Will our world be more equal or less equal?

                  • I think it will be less equal. But still, even the people who are poor will be less poor than the extremely poor people are today. There will be less extreme poverty, but the difference between the haves and have-nots will get bigger.

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                  • What technology will bring about the biggest change in society?

                    • Fusion energy. The fusion I’m talking about will be done with boron hydrogen gas. It might be called boron hydride gas. This will not be cold fusion—this will be very, very hot fusion, considerably hotter than the surface of the sun, done here on Earth in magnetic fields. This is where the developed world will have access to this stuff, electricity. The developing world still won’t.

                      I used to say that the US election of 2000 was a turning point for climate change, for humankind. But I’ll say now the election of 2024 will be the big turning point. Historians look back: 2000 was a big event and 2024 will be a big event.

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                    • What’s your best prediction for the world in 50 years?

                      • There will be 10 billion people, but there will be optimism about the future. In 50 years, things will just start to get straightened out.
                         
                        As former government employee Barack Obama remarked, if you couldn’t pick where you were going to be born, but when, this would be the time. As messed up as things seem to be, they’re less messed up than ever in human history. People are less violent than they have ever been, there are fewer wars. Overall, I’m very optimistic about the future. We’ll go through a rough patch in the next 30 years, but in 50, people will just start to be optimistic again.  
                         
                        Also, it’s very reasonable to me that in the next 50 years, people will understand dark matter and dark energy, and we’ll know more about the cosmos and our place within it.
                         
                        My big things are clean water, renewably-produced reliable electricity, and then access to global information, whatever the internet comes to be called. Those three things are going to influence everyone on Earth. The key is to raise the standard of living of girls and women. But in order to do that, we need clean water, renewable electricity, and access to the internet. That’s either very straightforward or impossible for political reasons. If you can do that, you can change the world.

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