Saturday, February 10, 2024

The World in 2050: How to Think About the Future…some reflections!


A bold and vital vision of our planet, The World in 2050 is an essential guide for anyone worried about what the future holds. For if we understand how our world is changing, we will be in a better position to secure our future in the decades to come.

Hamish McRae, the author of this book, has built and maintained an estimably high reputation n as an economic and financial commentator over an impressively lengthy period of time. His regular journalism is unfailingly insightful and, therefore, always well worth reading. McRae does, moreover, have past form as a purveyor of longer-term “futurological” thinking insofar as almost thirty years ago he published the ground-breaking “The World in 2020”. This I recall as proving enormously useful in enhancing my thinking about how the global economy and financial system might evolve over the turn of the century and beyond.  Importantly, I feel exactly the same way about McRae’s new magnum opus.

Importantly, this is a book which – like its predecessor – is wholly global in its scope. Far from being focused exclusively upon the outlook for the US or Europe, for instance, it covers each and every region that comprises the jigsaw which collectively comprises the global economy.

McRae’s discussion of these multiple “forces for change” is wide-ranging and fascinating. He then moves on to a wide-ranging deliberation about “how the world will look in 2050”. Throughout, however, he emphasises the critical role of choice. Everything could go well, thereby vindicating faith in sustained human progress. Conversely, much could go wrong, with the world failing to fulfil its potential and dashing the future prospects of so many of the world’s expanding population (the United Nations’ World Population Prospects, which McRae employs, envisages our total population rising from just over 8 billion at present to 10 billion in thirty years’ time). McRae’s concluding chapter – The Big Themes That Will Shape the World Ahead” – focuses constructively upon what might go wrong (ten key issues) and, subsequently, what is likely to go right.

Many of McRae’s conclusions may seem provocative. He is sanguine, for instance, that the US will eventually successfully weather its current political and social discontent. He’s also notably upbeat about the prospects for the UK and Ireland. He’s optimistic that globalisation has yet reached the end of the road, while sceptical that we can avoid another financial crisis (Charles Kindleberger’s “hardy perennial”) and unpersuaded the Euro will survive. Furthermore, he’s strikingly upbeat about the future growth potential of India and Africa.