8 visionary leaders were asked
for their vision of the world in
Each provided their own
unique views in their discipline.
All share an engaging view of
‘possibilities’ in our future.
The World in 2033: Big
Thinkers and Futurists Share
their Thoughts Published Feb 5,
“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
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.”
Inventor, futurist, best-selling author and director of engineering at Google, Ray Kurzweil
On Global Conflict
“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
Chief geopolitical analyst, Stratfor ; journalist and best-selling author Robert Kaplan
“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.”
President and COO of Khan Academy, Shantanu Sinha
On Space Travel
“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
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.”
President and CEO Virgin Galactic, George Whitesides
On Global Workforce
“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.”
CIO of SAP, Oliver Bussmann (@SAPCIO)
On Religion and the Papacy
“ 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
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.”
CNN and NPR journalist and best-selling author John L Allen, Jr.
On Global Climate
“ 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 models.
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.”
Professor Emeritus, James Madison University and best-selling author G Dedrick (Gene) Robinson, Ph.D. Geology
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…”
Paul G. Brown is a Ph.D. Candidate at Boston College.
Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil is an American author, inventor, futurist, and director of engineering at Google. For
additional insights, go to www.kurzweilai.net
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
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
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 www.VirginGalactic.com.
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
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.
G Dedrick Robinson, Ph.D. Geology, is a Professor Emeritus at James Madison University and the author of
several books, including “Global Warming – Alarmists, Skeptics, and Deniers.” For additional insights, go to
Paul G. Brown is a Ph.D. Candidate at Boston College.