The World in 2033: Big Thinkers And Futurists Share Their Thoughts

Put yourself back in 1993. Could you have
predicted the success of the web, tablets and
smartphones, privatized space travel, the rise of
terrorism, or the myriad of small changes that
impact how you live today? To do that going
forward and to predict our world in 2033, you need
the voices of the smartest minds on the planet to
spot trends in their areas of discipline and give us
insight into where we are heading. Interviewed,
and quoted directly for this piece are just such a
group of visionaries, leaders, and big thinkers like:
Ray Kurzweil on Technology
Robert Kaplan on Global Conflict
Khan Academy on Education
Virgin Galactic on Space Travel
Oliver Bussmann on The Global Workforce
John Allen on Religion
Dr. Gene Robinson on Global Climate, and
Bonus insights from an aspiring leader
Whether you just read your favorite author, research your area of interest, download the supplemental deck, or view them all together, you will see that these visionaries agree on two things: there will be change – sometime dramatic change –
in our future, and there is . . . hope.
On Technology: Ray Kurzweil
“20 years from now, biotechnology –
reprogramming biology as an information
process – will be in a mature phase. We will
routinely turn off genes that promote disease and
aging such as the fat insulin receptor gene that tells
the fat cells to hold onto excess fat. We will be
able to add genes that protect us from diseases
such as cancer and heart disease. Major killers
such as these will be under control. We will be
growing new organs from stem cells that are
created from our own skin cells. We will be able to
rejuvenate our organs in place by gradually
replacing aging cells that contain genetic errors and
short telomeres with cells containing our own DNA
but without errors and with extended telomeres.
Overall we will be adding more than a year every
year to your own remaining life expectancy, which
will represent a turning point in life extension.
We will be online all the time in virtual / augmented
reality. We won’t be looking at devices such as
tablets and phones. Rather, computer displays will
be fully integrated with real reality. Three-
dimensional pop ups in your visual field of view will
give background information about the people you
see, even a tip that someone just smiled at you
while you weren’t looking. The virtual display can
fully replace your real field of view putting you into
a totally convincing fully immersive virtual
environment. In these virtual environments, you
can be a different person with a different body for
each occasion. Your interactions with the realistic
virtual projections of other people will also be
completely convincing.
Search engines won’t wait for you to ask for
information. They will know you like a friend and
will be aware of your concerns and interests at a
detailed level. So it will pop up periodically and
offer something like “You’ve expressed concern
about Vitamin B12 getting into your cells, here’s
new research from four seconds ago that provides a
new approach to doing that.” You’ll be able to talk
things over with your computer, clarifying your
needs and requests just like you’re talking with a
human assistant.
Artificially intelligent entities will be operating at
human levels meaning they will have the same
ability to get the joke, to be funny, to be sexy, to be
romantic. However, the primary application of this
technology will be to improve our own ability to do
these things.”
Raymond “Ray” Kurzweil is an American author,
inventor, futurist, and director of engineering at
Google. For additional insights, go to
On Global Conflict: Robert D. Kaplan
“In 2033, global conflict will be widespread and
chaotic, but not necessarily more violent. Rather
than the post-Ottoman state system in the Middle
East with hard borders and suffocating central
control, there will be a series of weak states and
sectarian and ethnic regions in tense relationships
with each other. For example, Mosul in Iraq will
have more in common with Damascus in Syria than
with Baghdad, even as Aleppo in Syria has more in
common with Baghdad in Iraq than with Damascus
itself. There will be an independent and
decentralized Kurdistan, a more feisty ethnic Azeri
region in northwestern Iran, even as Jordan and the
West Bank meld together.
In China there will be an ethnic-Han island in the
center and Pacific coast living in reasonable
harmony with virtually independent Inner Mongolia,
Muslim-Turkic Uighurstan, and Tibet. Chinese
Yunnan will be the capital of Southeast Asia. Africa
will have a green revolution, while at the same
time Nigeria pulverizes into several pieces.
In short, the next few decades will see the erosion
of central authority in the former colonial world,
which will be somewhat violent at first, before
settling down into a reasonable harmony.
Geography will be more crucial than ever, even as
technology makes the earth smaller and more
Robert David Kaplan is an American journalist,
(currently a National Correspondent for The Atlantic
magazine), chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor,
and author “The Revenge of Geography.” For
additional insights, go to
On Education: Khan Academy
“Global Access: In twenty years, almost everyone
on the planet will have access to the world’s best
educational materials. Almost every subject will be
available for free online. A child in Mongolia would
be able to learn anything from Algebra to String
Theory to Greek History.
Personalized learning: Students won’t be forced to
learn in a “one-size-fits-all” model with everyone
the same age learning the same thing at once.
Rather, technology will allow the system to adjust
to every student’s needs. A 35-year old would
easily be able to brush up on Trigonometry. A 4th
grader would be able to learn Algebra. Everyone
will be able to focus on their own needs.
Interactive classrooms: Teachers will spend less
time lecturing, and much more time mentoring.
Classrooms will be highly engaging environments
with almost all time spent on valuable human
interactions (e.g., mentorship, peer tutoring) and
more hands-on, cross-disciplinary, project-based
Competency-based credentials: Students will be
able to prove what they know, not by seat-time, but
with competency-based credentials. An out-of-work
40 year old would not need to go back to school and
pile up thousands of dollars of debt before
employers took him seriously. Instead, he would be
able to take an accounting course online for free,
prove what he knows, and get a job.”
Shantanu Sinha is President and COO of Khan
Academy, a not-for-profit with the goal of changing
education for the better by providing a free world-
class education for anyone anywhere. For additional
insights, go to
On Space Travel: Virgin Galactic
“Over the next 20 years, I believe thousands, and
perhaps even millions, of private individuals will
travel to space. Since the dawn of the space age,
just over 500 men and women have been to outer
space. With only a few recent exceptions, these
men and women have all been government
employees, handpicked by space agencies such as
NASA and trained to an enormous degree. Their
missions are worthwhile and worthy of our
gratitude and admiration, but it is critical to realize
that for the overwhelming majority of us,
government space programs are not our ticket to
space. The challenge of sending individuals to
space is being taken up by private companies,
which have both tools and motives those
government agencies may not have. Recently,
several entrepreneurs have started new businesses
expressly designed to tackle this problem.
Such future space travel won’t be enjoyed only by
adventurers. As we progress through the
21st century, spaceflight may become nearly as
common for travelers as taking a plane trip became
for millions across the world during the 20th. The
technology that permits flights into space will also
allow passengers to fly to far-flung places on Earth
in record time. By traveling out of the Earth’s
atmosphere for a small amount of time, a non-stop
trip from New York to Sydney might take two to
three hours instead of the 20-hour, multi-leg trip
required today. Furthermore, I believe air travel will
be more environmentally friendly. Airlines ferrying
passengers on regional routes will run small, short-
hop planes on battery cells.
Now is a fascinating time for the commercial space
industry. It is inspiring to see business leaders from
different sectors applying their best ideas and
practices to the unique challenges of spaceflight.
The next 20 years hold exciting, unexplored
territory for the people of the world.”
George Whitesides is President and CEO of Virgin
Galactic with plans to provide sub-orbital
spaceflights to space tourists, suborbital launches
for space science missions and orbital launches of
small satellites. For additional insights, go to
On The Global Workforce: Oliver Bussmann
“Over the past 20 years we have gone from the
early stages of Internet to a fully connected world.
By 2033, a “born-mobile” workforce will be
constantly connected to both work and home life,
using devices that are wearable – or even
implantable. Collaboration with others around the
world will be as natural as speaking, and physical
workspaces will be strictly optional.
Leadership structures will become increasingly flat,
as roles shift based on each individual’s strengths
and capabilities. Many decisions will become
automated, using increasingly sophisticated
analytical tools, allowing people to focus on
creative endeavors that are uniquely human.”
Oliver Bussmann is the CIO for SAP AG, the
German multinational software corporation that
makes enterprise software to manage business
operations and customer relations. For additional
insights, follow Oliver on Twitter @SAPCIO or on
On Religion And The Papacy: John Allen
“First, it will be increasingly led from the global
south, where two-thirds of the 1.1 billion Catholics
on the planet live today, and where three-quarters
will be found by mid-century. Places such as
Mumbai, Manila and Abuja will be to the 21st
century what Paris, Leuven and Milan were to the
16th century – the primary centers of new
intellectual imagination, pastoral leadership, and
political momentum. As that transition unfolds,
Catholicism on the global stage will become
increasingly a church of the poor and a church
committed to the agenda of the developing world,
meaning economic justice, multilateralism, and
opposition to war.
Second, Catholicism in the West will be increasingly
‘evangelical,’ meaning committed to defense of its
traditional identity in an ever more secular milieu.
Once upon a time, Catholicism was the culture-
shaping majority in the West. Today it’s an
embattled subculture, and like other subcultures,
it’s learning to practice a “politics of identity” as an
antidote to assimilation. In Europe and North
America, in other words, Catholicism will not soften
its role in the culture wars, but rather dial it up.”
John L. Allen, Jr. is an American journalist, author of
several books, a senior correspondent for
the National Catholic
Reporter, and vaticanologist of CNN and NPR. For
additional insights, go to his Wikipedia page.
On Global Warming: Gene Robinson
“Twenty years ago, alarmists were already
predicting calamitous effects in the near future
from a warming planet due mainly to petroleum
and coal combustion. The 1990 best-seller Dead
Heat painted a nightmarish picture of our world in
2020-2030 when the temperature would average
six or seven degrees greater. The first IPCC reports
of 1990 and 1995 supported such scary scenarios,
giving them an aura of scientific respectability.
What actually happened is that the mean global
temperature since 1993 increased about 0.2 degree
C through 2012 with most of that occurring in the
record year of 1998, at the peak of a thirty-year
warming trend. Since then, the global temperature
has plateaued with no clear trend up or down.
Because the flattening is at the high point of a
warming trend, each year has to be among the
warmest recorded years, as the media tirelessly
trumpets. What a convenient way to mask the fact
that although CO2 has continued to increase,
temperature has not, in spite of the computer
What, then, can we project for global warming in
2033? Instead of the abrupt warming that alarmists
always say is about to start, my rather cloudy
crystal ball says global temperature is more likely
to continue showing no clear trend or to be at the
beginning of a cooling trend. Alarmists will continue
to blame every severe weather event on climate
change and to oppose all energy projects except
solar and wind. All studies supporting the alarmist
view will continue to be publicized in the liberal
media while all studies reaching conclusions in
opposition will be ignored. Liberal politicians will
still support schemes to tax carbon by trying to
scare people of what will happen without them,
even as the skepticism of ordinary people
continues to increase. Grants will still be doled out
to scientists whose previous results supported the
politically correct view while proposals from
skeptics go unfunded. In short, just as little has
changed with regard to the politicizing of the global
warming theory in the last twenty years, little is
likely to change in the next twenty.”
Dr. Gene D. Robinson is Professor Emeritus at
James Madison University in Virginia and author of
Global Warming: Alarmists, Skeptics & Deniers – A
Geoscientist Looks at the Science of Climate
Change, available at Amazon and most book stores.
He is also the publisher at Moonshine Cove
Publishing, LLC.
Bonus Thoughts From A Future Leader
“In the next two decades I believe my childhood
desire to be Inspector Gadget will finally be
realized. As it is now, our smartphones are
practically glued to our hands. They are almost an
extension of our bodies. People are calling for the
next step in technology to be ‘wearables,’ including
devices such as web-enabled watches and
eyeglasses. But is it really that far of a stretch to
imagine that we’d skip the annoyance of having to
“put on” our technology and instead just “plug in?”
By 2033 I believe that technological devices will be
directly implanted into our bodies. We are already
on the cusp of this with cochlear implants and
pacemakers, and it isn’t a stretch to see where this
could go next. In our future society, the boundaries
between machine and human, ability and disability,
will be blurred. Go Go Gadget…”



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