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World building for 2060

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I'm posting this under sci fi, since sci fi tends to be future-oriented. I want to write an MG book that takes place in North America about 50 years from now (the year 2060). I've been doing a little world-building but I need a LOT more help. What resources or websites should I check into, to get a sense of how people will live their lives at that time?

I'm NOT particularly interested in the political sphere or negative impact from global warming/terrorists/new superbugs. Rather, I'm interested in how ordinary middle class people live their lives: what school would be like, jobs of the future, health care, transportation, etc. Thanks!

#1 - October 04, 2011, 01:12 PM

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This isn't the answer you're looking for, but you might take a look at M.T. Anderson's FEED for ideas about the categories of things you could play around with.
#2 - October 04, 2011, 01:46 PM


Climate change or not, I suspect renewable energy will have crept into our lives by then. I expect to see solar panels on most new public buildings and even residences. Look for windfarms, too, in wind corridors (like Wyoming) and offshore.

Look for computers to be embedded in almost everything we do. We're already there, almost, but it will increase. The distinction between desktop computing and TV will almost certainly disappear. Your computer will be your TV. You can already live like that now with just a few tweaks. Wireless everything.

It's speculative, so consider breakthroughs in voice recognition. Combine that with virtually invisible microphones/cellphones attached or embedded on the side of your head (sticker, jewelry, subcutaneous) and you'll be able to vocally tell your oven to turn on from anywhere in the world just by speaking. But don't look for the disappearance of granular input, like keyboards. Star Trek to the contrary, they will always be with us. Virtual keyboards certainly will exist. I don't know about physical keyboards. Your mouse will evolve, but won't disappear. You will always need a widget that can click exactly one pixel.

I imagine all your finances will easily pull up on one screen, no matter how many lenders or banks or investment brokers you have. In real time, too, so if a credit cardholder buys gas while you're looking at the screen, baubles will start to blink, numbers will update, etc. When the value of your mutual fund changes, that will update in real time too. A line on the screen will continuously your exact worth. Old people will find that disturbing, maybe.

Phones and tablets will probably not get smaller, because of screen size, but versatility will increase a lot just in the next 10 years. Size could go down if someone develops really good holographics, but they'll have to beat LCD and eInk or no one will want it.

All but the poor will have lightning fast internet connections. Hard-wired connections will always be the most robust, but wireless will be cheap. Eventually, the radio bandwidth should get saturated, but you'd need to research that.

It might be hard to tell the difference between Internet, telephone, and TV--physically and conceptually. It's all just data, right? And look at the way Skype is taking off.

Online education is so controversial today it's hard to know where it will go. I think it's safe to say that any scenario will involve what we already call blended learning. Some f2f, some online. Depending on money and politics, it could possibly go very online, especially for older kids. A lot could go corporate, too. Your teacher could be 1000 miles away, teaching kids in 30 different cities. The concept of A school could disappear. Some entity will track all your credits and see if you've met the requirements for graduation. You could possibly buy every class you take from a different school to get exactly the program you want. Or the bureaucracy might kill that idea dead. Course requirements might change in favor of knowledge and skills assessment. If you can do it, you earn the credit, no matter how much time you spent in your seat.

That should be a start. Yes, I'm a geek.
#3 - October 04, 2011, 04:01 PM
« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 04:12 PM by Jeff Carney »

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#4 - October 04, 2011, 05:34 PM
Film school grad. Time traveller. Billy Bragg fan. Canadian/Irish novelist of character-driven fiction from sci-fi to slice of life.

Thank you so much!

Jeff, actually precisely because I'm NOT a geek, I so admire the smart people like you who are! Who take a new gadget and make it do the coolest things, while I'm just trying to master a single basic function. That said, I am looking forward to the future, especially how scientists will use our cells to regenerate tissues that need replacing, target and kill cancer cells as shown recently with leukemia, and how education will be revamped. I expect students doing things by pencil and paper will largely disappear as students input answers directly into a device that gives immediate feedback, prompting tutoring or more practice if needed or allowing you to go on to the next level-- or as you say, taking a class from a teacher thousands of miles away who is say, teaching a course concerning marine biology on an island.

C.K., keep me posted as to when your book is available. Thank you so much for the links! I don't know if I'll set the world in 2060 or 10-15 years sooner, but it does need to have certain elements of the future, and it's hard for me to fill in the rest that would go with it.
#5 - October 05, 2011, 09:23 AM
« Last Edit: October 05, 2011, 09:29 AM by hazelnut »

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My novel EYE OF THE STORM is set in 2050, and world building was great fun for me. When I was working on it, I created a ginormous world-building worksheet that I also shared on my blog, so these links may help you out:

Part I -
Part II -
Part III -

I also interviews Lauren Oliver about her world building in DELIRIUM, which intrigued me - and that's here:

Hope this helps!
#6 - October 05, 2011, 06:49 PM

HIDE AND SEEK -Scholastic '13
WAKE UP MISSING- Walker, Fall '13

Simon Haynes

All my novels are set in the future - a lot further ahead than 2050 though.

I'm mostly interested in characters, not the tech, and people will always be a varied and interesting bunch no matter how far you go into the future.

My trick is not to over-describe technology. After all, who spends half a thriller telling you how a cell phone works? Same with science fiction ... ships fly, orbiters exist, and it's the human stories which matter.
#7 - October 06, 2011, 12:44 AM


For a rather extreme optimistic viewpoint of where technology and its effetcs on people's lives will be, go check out Raymond Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near."

It's basically fodder for really awesome sci-fi.

Based on where prosthetics are at now (robotic limbs that can be controlled to do simple functions with thought), and given how people like peircings and tattoos so much now, you can bet your boots that human augmentation is going to be huge in the future.  People getting wireless hookups in their brains, cameras in their eyes, maybe even nanomachine tattoos that are animated.  Imagine a stereotypical chinese dragon tattoo that swims around somebody's body.

You know those chips you can have put into your dog or cat now that animal services can scan if they ever get lost?  That'll probably be applied to humans at some point in the next decade or so.  Run your hand or scan your eye over a over and money gets deducted from your bank account when you buy groceries, or the cops have all your information, or the guy at the bar checks to make sure you are actually 21.

Due to the massive population increase, schools in ghetto areas would be jam-packed, auditorium style rooms where education is grim at best.  Upper class areas would likely have smaller rooms, or be taught entirely online.  Also, some school districts might become entirely privatized.  Pepsi High School.  Sony of America University. 

Overcrowded cities like Tokyo are currently designing ways to expand outwards into the ocean, making "floating cities".  This is a real thing and you can look it up right now.  50-60 years from now, that will probably be a reality.  There may even be "tiered" cities.  A city at sea level, then another city on top of that, and another on top of that, with the poor people living in the shadow beneath the grander, more elevated cities.

Entertainment would shift dramatically.  Look at how much cinema has changed in the last 10 years.  3D Imax?  You know that ride at Disneyland California Adventure?  It simulates hang glinding, and besides sight and sound, also gives the feel of movement and the wind, and even includes artificial smells.  No joke, it's an awesome ride.  In the future, that will be the basic theater experience.  More expensive theaters might be like private Kareoke lounges, but instead of singing, it's a holographic display using foglets (aka Utility Fog: ) to create holograms and maybe even tangible images.

An article I read in Time magazine ages ago predicted that in the next 60-70 years, pure caucasian people would be a very small minority in America, with the majority being a mix of various Asian (Mostly Indian and Chinese) and Central/South American ethnic groups resulting in dark skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed people making up the majority.  This ethnic homogeny would likely spurn young people to radically alter their appearances in ways to stand out more (like they do in Tokyo today, some students going so far as to dye their entire skin a dark brown in an effort to stick out more). So there'd be lots of kids with crazy colored hair, the aforementioned tattoos or body mods, insane clothes (maybe clothing with nanomachines in it so it changes colors/shapes based on your emotions that it detects through changes in heartbeat, eye dilation. perspiration, etc.  The future version of the old "mood ring" )

That's off the top of my head!  i hope that helps! 
#8 - October 18, 2011, 11:46 PM

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This is all so cool. I want to visit that. So please, write me some books I can jump into since I don't see a Tardis anywhere nearby.
#9 - January 25, 2012, 09:41 AM
THE FIRE WISH, Random House Children's, 2014
THE BLIND WISH, Random House Children's, 2015

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Adult science fiction author Charlie Stross just did a fascinating series of posts on what life on Earth might be like in 2032, and in 2092:

On Climate, Energy, Transportation, Population, Politics, Space, Food, Electronics, & the Internet:

On Psychology & Beliefs:

On the Unknowns:

Lots of food for thought!
#10 - January 25, 2012, 10:55 AM
Circus Galacticus
Fortune's Folly
The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle

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All of this makes me think....  :music: In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive....
#11 - January 25, 2012, 12:35 PM
THE FIRE WISH, Random House Children's, 2014
THE BLIND WISH, Random House Children's, 2015

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I'm way late to the party, but these links and suggestions are great!  Thanks, everyone  :grin
#12 - April 17, 2012, 04:35 PM
Twitter @KatieClarkBooks
YA and Children's Author

But of course, it's *your* near future and you can do what you like with it. All these predictions assume no cataclysm that obliterates tech or health care
or a zombie apocalypse or what have you. You can have stuff that happens that stunts growth in one area and has it take off in another...
#13 - April 17, 2012, 04:46 PM


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