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Reader James wants to know what politics will look like in the future given some specific trends we see today. These are:
1. Technology: AI, Internet of Things, Cloud everywhere and implications on privacy, rights, etc. Could envision a coming together of libertarians from the right with the far left.
2. Demographics: rise of the millennials, increasing hispanic participation in politics, etc. and implications to a blue Texas, traditional 'right/left' split, etc. --> could changing demographics (including the aging and dying-off of Fox's demo) lead to a shift of the 'middle' to the left?
3. Religion & Science --> increasing divisions between R & L on the faith v. fact divide, surfacing in things like climate science, evolution, etc. This could get ugly with the rise of the ultra-fundamentalist movements in all religions - Christianity, Islam, etc., and how they see themselves fitting in v modernity.
4. Biosphere/Climate - huge implications of rising sea level on national security given likely refugee crises to come, water rights, loss of land mass, etc.
This is a good question--and futurism is of great interest to The Omnivore--so let's take a look! Let’s jump ahead to, oh, how about 2050!
What Is The Future?
The Future is defined as a set of probabilities for any given set of events of which their intersections (two or more events occurring or not) alter the probability of other events and create possibilities that would not otherwise be possible as the terrain changes. As such, it is nearly impossible to describe. Usually we see things given a percent-chance of occurring or ranges of Possible, Probable, or Unlikely. As such, there isn't "one future"--but rather an infinite number.
Secondly there are trends. Trends are what we see in things like budget and population projections--the bests of these give several lines of High-Values, Average-Values, and Low-Values based on how likely the trend-analyzer thinks the current conditions are to prevail over time.
Finally there are some precepts we can look at. The are "laws" that generally govern how things turn out. For example, here are 14 rules for geopolitics. The Omnivore is especially enamored of #1:
1. Muddle-along rule
On and off for several decades, knowing analysts have forecast state collapse for Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, and other nations. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have been said to be destined for economic ruin, and North Korea for the ash heap of history. Yet they have gone on—often with the help of the global community, but gone on they have. The lesson is that countries tend to muddle along regardless of the trouble, and not collapse.
Using these three tools, The Omnivore will give you the definitive 2050 A.D. Omnivorous Future--because on a blog no one gives you any points for being mealy-mouthed.
The Omnivorous Future (The Omnivorse)
-- The Future (Leonard Cohen)
For a point of reference, in 2050, The Omnivore's 13 year old daughter will be older than The Omnivore is today--and The Omnivore will be older than his parents (but only by a little). For reference, here is what a high tech watch looked like 35 years ago:
First we'll look at the specifics of the Omnivorse and then we'll do its politics!
Technology and AI In The Omnivorse
Technologically speaking, 2050 is an age of wonders.
The Omnivorse 2050 sees a vast number of jobs displaced by AI. There is some migration to other forms of employment and some augmentation of existing jobs--but on the whole, the working middle and upper-middle class bands have been narrowed by efficient AI that reduces their numbers and eliminates some current jobs altogether. Key things we see:
- Fusion Power. Breakthroughs in fusion power in the early 21st century are now "production ready." By 2030 the technology is reliable. By 2050, it is in widespread use. The majority of vehicles are electric.
- Fleets of self-driving "taxis" that bring 'mass-transit' to the suburbs. This transforms many industries like insurance, trucking, traditional taxi services, auto-sales, gas-stations, and so on. It makes low-income commutes from a greater distance possible. Just as computers are now built without floppy drives, 2050 sees high-income houses, shops, and malls built without garages or even significant driveways.
- AI Driven Medicine. Clinics use AI triage at check-in, can perform basic check-ups and prescribe some medication without the need for a human doctor. Healthcare costs are significantly reduced but doctors also have fewer employment possibilities. Pediatricians are one of the last lower-end doctor jobs to dwindle--but by 2050, they have: many mothers are comfortable having their children seen by "a machine."
- Nano, Genetic, and Robotic Treatment. Medical techniques that used to require surgery can be done by ingesting robots. This removes the need for many "routine surgeries" (and limits the need for surgeons). Lifespan for the first world middle and upper class reaches 140 years.
- A New Kind of Service Industry. Service Industries still hire people--largely attractive young women--as "friendly faces" who do not perform productive work. These humans serve to 'bolster employment numbers' and to put a "human face" on automated coffee and food preparation.
- Automated Warfare. Robots and drones operate effectively with human commanders--but fewer human operators. Sensor and intel improvements have eliminated much of the over-kill we see today. Smart weapons can deploy high velocity micro-sized "smart-munitions" which are essentially robotic bullets that can effect a surgical killing stroke in the middle of a civilian crowd. Smart units with human components and robotic ground/air weapons systems are capable of Panopticon Operations where they can monitor virtually all activity in an area of operations and strike rapidly and accurate--this makes "asymmetric warfare" a sun-set strategy.
- Virtual Lives. Some citizens are beginning to enjoy virtual-space as a part-time alternative to reality. Instead of going to a job, some of the permanently unemployed might spend 8hrs a day in a VR of the "Mad Men" universe or "Lord of the Rings," enjoying a fidelity that visually is perfect and has some components that provide for other significant sensory experiences. Virtual Sex is satisfying enough to be a real thing. Marriage rates are down. Many use pharmaceuticals to enhance their VR experience making it more life-like or dream-like (and more enticing) as desired.
- Gattaca Babies. Abortion is mostly a thing of the past: contraception is ubiquitous and government provided. Genetic screening allows for healthy semi-designer babies. At 2050 we do not see 'eugenic-style' human augmentation--but we do see family planning, sex selection in some sectors of society, and the end of babies born with most genetic disorders. At 2050 there is societal resistance to this--but as with other abrupt social trends (such as same-sex marriage), the adoption of these techniques by some leads to an avalanche-pattern where to equalize one's offspring's advantages, resistance falls rapidly (Once the Joneses are doing it, you have to too).
- Robot Police. Police are not actually literal robots--but human police use drones, micro-sensors, deployable hyper-intelligent surveillance systems (which can listen for gunshots, instantly determine the direction and location, and then deploy rapidly moving surveillance drones). Similarly, networked cameras and other sensors, can provide police with real time information on threats before they arrive on scene. Finally: conventional violent crime is difficult--cash, as such, no longer exists. Items are generally Identity Tagged, many people carry easy to use devices that can call for help and record a crime in progress. Many drugs are largely legal and borders are far more heavily sealed than today.
- Online Shopping Dominant. Big-Box stores have all but vanished--instead online shopping and robotic delivery is the order of the day. Conventional shopping does exist--but usually for things like clothes and furniture and then, usually, at the higher end.
- Massive Telemetry. Society generates massive--truly massive--amounts of data. Refrigerators know when food goes bad, health and location data streams from our bio-sensors, almost everything is mapped to some kind of matrix. Privacy laws may prevent egregious abuses--but these are designed to prevent consumers from feeling scared. Large organizations know a great deal about us.
The US Demographics of The Omnivorse
The US has ceased to be white-majority. Here's what it looks like.
By 2050, diversity will have happened. A great deal of the impact will depend on how immigration is handled between now and then--but these are the projections . . .
- The US population has increased by about 89 million people (less than a lot of the world though, the global population could top 6bn)
- America is 47% White, 29% Hispanic, 13% Black, and 9% Asian.
- America is on average 9 years older than today. About 25% of the population is between 45 and 64 years of age.
- Populations have clustered into "mega-regions"
The Omnivore Lives In The Purple Peninsula
- The population is fatter and more people are pre-diabetic than today (around 5-10% increase)
- By around 2019 Texas has a larger eligible Hispanic populace than White. There has also been an influx of northern (more Democratic) Whites. The percent of the Hispanic population that votes, however is not a given--much less that they will all and always vote Democrat. Here is the chart for when various states go 'Majority Minority:'
Religion and Science in the Omnivorse
Science (see above) is massively on a roll. What about religion? In the past 35 years religion has become more diverse in America but fundamentalism has also risen (perhaps in "defense" of a religious identity). Similarly, the concept of spirituality has emerged and expanded (in the West). From 1980 to 2015 the "nones" (those who represent as agnostic, atheist, or 'nothing in particular' have increased about 10% from 6 to 16% of the American population. Still, America is quite religious compared to Europe and many other developed western nations. By 2050 ...
- America is sharply religiously polarized between the Nones and the Traditional/Conservative churches.
- Nones have expanded to to roughly 30% of the population, an increase in the rate-of-increase driven by a battle-line around 'tolerance' (gay marriage being the first salvo).
- Christianity is still the world's largest religion and the largest American denomination. Mainline churches are in decline--but conservative churches have maintained a period of growth out to 2025 after which they have more or less 'flat-lined.' This is due to a strategy called The Benedict Option.
- While the polarization is significant in terms of social policies (on which traditional conservatives are on the strongly losing end) there is not a 'shooting-war.' Instead there is an attempt at social partitioning which will allow for societies acceptable to both. The fundamentalists have a higher birthrate--it is projected this may make the score more even by 2100.
- Mainstream religion is at an all-time low and is replaced with spiritual practices mixing things like yoga, Tai Chi, dietary and ethical codes (veganism, environmentalism), and communities in a religious mode.
- Celebration of national secular holidays (the 4th of July and Thanksgiving) have increased greatly in importance. Black Friday is a national holiday.
- Science vs. Religion is no longer an issue. It is simply not a point of discussion for anyone in politics or theology.
The Environment of the Omnivorse
While The Omnivore is sorely tempted to declare that by 2050, Climate Change has gone the way of The Population Bomb, that isn't how it breaks out . . .
- Sea Level rise is approximately 19 inches--a mid-range projection. In the US Miami, New York, and New Orleans have multi-million dollar flood-prevention systems.
- Global temperatures have risen about 2.5 degrees Centigrade.
- While this may have more far-reaching effects on the rest of the world, for the US it means: more hurricanes, deeper droughts, and expanded heat-waves. Click here for a pretty good Weather Channel forecast from 2050.
- While there are water shortages in the US and some food crises elsewhere in the world, by 2050 these show up as economic issues for the United States--and not catastrophic loss of life.
The GeoPolitics of the Omnivorse
Before we can talk too much about US Politics we have to address the general geopolitical situation. For that, we turn to The Next 100 Years, a book by George Friedman of STRATFOR. It predicts that by 2050 we are facing a Third World War involving a Turkey-Japanese alliance which uses a first strike the severely injures America's military capability. America, however, rejects their offered terms, strikes back, and, eventually, turns the balance in its favor. While Friedman himself noted that predicting the future was pretty much impossible, he is working from a set of general precepts and more or less "shows his math."
Leaving aside the specifics, here are some key points about the Omnivorse's geo-political future:
- The 2020s-2030s see widespread instability in the Middle East as oil reserves dwindle and alternate energy sources (nascent fusion, highly effective solar farms, cleaner conventional nuclear power) rise.
- Trends towards religious fundamentalism also drive conflict along with water shortages and crop failures creating destabilizing refugee situations along the pacific rim. Eastern governments look to technological security solutions.
- The US finally gets serious about border security in the late 2020's as improved weapons technology (especially in the biological and small-machine field) make small unit operations abnormally deadly.
- The confluence of aging western populations (requiring a need for younger immigrants) and social pressures around current immigrant populations will have a dramatic impact on Europe. This re-aligns the European Union dramatically into a more unified state economically (a wide-scale social-welfare program and Citizen's Wage) but creates a home for right-wing parties that see other nations as enemies.
The Politics of The United States 2050 (The Omnivorse)
So now we're here. What's it like? What's happened to US Politics in 35 years?
Election 2052: Democratic Party Brajamani (Braji) Shukta, Brajamani (Braji) vs. Constitution Party Palin, Bristol
Keep your pants on: She has a Ph.D. in Geo-Politics and Law from Princeton. The election is the Governor of California,66 year old Braji Shukta, (American born, Indian descent) against 59 year old Bristol Palin, Senator for Arizona. The polling aggregates using bio-metric and facial recognition algorithms to test conscious and sub-conscious reactions in massive polling samples (debate watchers allow access to their Smart TV’s sensor input for tracking purposes only) show a head-to-head match-up. Here they are on the Issues (listed both in 2050 and what we would see today):
|The Economy||Improving the standard of living.||Increase ‘Service Wages’ for all Americans, paid for with tariffs imposed on countries that trade with East Bloc nations.||Government subsidies of Skilled Labor only. Provide war-time offer of National Service to supplement standard Service Wages.|
|Health Care||Access for NEET (Population Not in Education, Employment, or Training)||Federal program to open 300 automated PublicCare Clinics to improve access and reduce wait times.||Corporate Earned Income Tax Breaks for providing training programs to allow paid use of clinics.|
|Partisanship (In Congress)||NONE||Archaic||Archaic|
|War on Drugs||Border concerns with Mexico Pharma-Cartels||Trade agreement with government that includes triggers for sanctions if drugs on restricted list are caught moving cross-border.||Improved military presence on border with increased defense spending. Impose sanctions immediately to remove when restricted substances are no longer prevalent.|
|Voter ID Laws||NONE||Archaic||Archaic|
|Climate Change||How does US respond to developing nation’s climate change risks?||Federal aid program for fusion plants, electrical grid enhancements, improvements in infrastructure.||Corporate tax breaks for private investment with ecological impacts. Sanctions for nations that refuse to meet International Accords.|
|Foreign Policy||The War.||Provide aid packages to allies that break away from East Bloc alliance.||Increased defense spending. Deploy Orbital Weapon System in contravention of UN Ordinances.|
How’d We Get Here? . . . The ‘Constitution Party’!??
The above might look kind of familiar—it ought to: 35 years isn’t that long a time. Of course to them, our current politics will look as quaint as 18th century politics do today. Let’s look at how this happened.
The GOP: A Fragile Collation
The GOP was always a “three-legged stool” of Fiscal Hawks, Foreign Policy Hawks, and Social Conservatives. The collapse of Same Sex Marriage opposition in the early 21st century (even among young Republicans) presaged a general retreat from politics by conservative churches and socially liberal politics by the United States spiritual movements. By 2023 Arizona was majority-minority and by 2038, that majority was eligible to vote. Improvements in 1-to-1 communication using smart-phones made it possible for campaigns to turn out less enthusiastic voters, giving them buttons to push to requests rides, GPS directions to polling places, estimated wait times, instant communication with translators, and flash-alerts about issues that concerned them.
The GOP had damaged its brand badly with Blacks and Hispanics in the Twenty-Teens and was unable to recover by the Mid Twenty-Twenties when Georgia almost went Blue (the GOP candidate declared on election day that “Minorities are voting in droves” and the final polling left GA a still-Red state—but it was a close thing, a black-eye for the party on the national level, and widely seen as an irrefutable harbinger of things to come). Furthermore, while the average age of the GOP was about 2 years older than Democrats in 2012, the most conservative core—the ‘Silent Generation’—was pushing 80 by the mid 2020’s. Facing a literal die-off of the hard-right flank, a rising minority influence, and an Electoral College advantage that had only gotten worse since 2016, the GOP did the only thing it could: it Re-Branded.
The Constitution Party
The Constitution Party was a re-launch of the Republicans in 2029 after President Clinton (Chelsea) defeated Governor Cruz in a battle that, in the dying words of Karl Rove “Should have been un-loseable” for the GOP. The Constitution Party accepted a path to citizenship so long as it came with national service (if under 22 years of age) and 4 years of regular tax audits, moved to legalize several drugs with less dangerous social and medical footprints than alcohol (which included a surprising number of opiate like substances), simplify the tax code, and institute a National Service Initiative which would confer a free education and government-provided medical insurance plan for life once completed. They also pledged a strong national defense and a hands-off international presence so long as certain specific (and very well specified) red-lines were not crossed.
The Constitution Party acknowledged global warming—but was still pro-business. They abstained from all social issues save abortion (with a 20-week limit—in the case of rape, the court would grant an exception without question—but a cold case would be added to the FBI’s Criminological Logic Engine Cold-Case file for tracking). The Constitution party held an absolute position on the 2nd Amendment (from whence it took its name): the right to bear arms would not be restricted further than already restricted. Members pledged they would resign rather than bend on that.
The Constitution Party members were also required to furnish a personal bond with a legal agency of good reputation. If it was determined by the council that they had reneged on their campaign promises to voters (and it took a degree of willfulness) the bond would be liquidated and the proceeds paid to a rival Constitution Party challenger with the highest polling score.
The re-launch was shaky (a 3rd party run in 2032 threatened to sink them) but ultimately it caught on.
Healthcare: Finally Agreement
By 2015 ObamaCare’s negative ratings and positive ratings were almost neutral.With a narrow defeat in 2016, the GOP realized they had little chance to repeal it and, while their base was furious, made plans to adopt it. By 2024, both parties had alternate Universal Healthcare plans on the table.With the baby-boomer’s End-of-Life care threatening the national healthcare system on all fronts, it was time for bi-partisan action and the results were an increased social safety net that came, finally, at the expense of military spending (this was judged a big mistake in late 2044). With a huge portion of the populace out of work, having heath care not tied to employment has become noncontroversial.
Social Issues: Over And Out
In 2033 the first Social Marriage Contracts were drawn up and ratified. These allowed for (a) multi-party ‘marriages’ (including legally binding polyamory and contractually open marriages) and (b) could come with a time-limit and renewable periods (20 year increments, automatic renewal if there are minor-children involved, etc.). The creation of cheap, highly effective, virtually fool-proof contraception almost completely ended the need for abortions. In the 1st world, even if poor, by 2025, women only get pregnant if they want to. Educational standards around evolution, sex education, and the role of government ceased to be a political issue by 2035 after the failure of the Socially Conservative 3rd Party, The Independence Party.
The battle for the conservative soul of America was not fought quickly or lightly, however. Seeing a social shift of which they were on the losing end of, social conservatives first tried to rally around a candidate they felt could win a general national election (Mike Huckabee in 2016, Jeff Flake in 2020) and lost badly in the primaries both times. Following that, there were a series of conclaves that resulted in the launch of what came to be known as the Hand-basket Campaign. It was a set of TV and web advertisements, the purchasing of available media outlets, a large team of social-media experts, and an increased public voice about the degradation of American society and its future consequences. Casting the government as The New Rome and conservatives as Christian Martyrs, it was a sophisticated attempt to shape public opinion. It failed.
The final gasp was the creation of a conservative 3rd Party, a launched July 4th 2032. It won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi—but no more. Following that, the directive from on high was for Christian Conservatives to physically relocated to small communities where they could maintain family values away from the greater world—to refuse the VR-Drug augmented experiences so many people were trying, and to reject body-augmentation cybernetics. They were also discouraged from voting at all on the theory that politicians seeking their votes would either be unable to win on the national or even state scale—or would try to act as a compromising agent (forcing Christian Conservatives to support some of their values over others). As a result, the social conservative movement in 2050 is limited to small communities centered around a church from where most of the breadwinners telecommute.
Voter Id And Immigration: No Longer An Issue
These are non-issues in 2050. Firstly, voting is electronic and Ids are now checked by a national private-key-encrypted register and use a biometric 2nd factor for elections. This same system handles employment validation, opening bank accounts, and even run-of-the-mill purchases (one reason violent street crime is down: almost no one carries cash and electronic funds are impossible to steal by force). As such, illegal immigration is no longer a problem: Illegal immigrants are easily discovered. They can apply for citizenship after an 8 year term of review and service if they have no criminal record in America and no traceable history of violent crime in their original country.
Such events are rare though: borders are far more secure since the advent of targeted biological weapons has been proven possible (but never yet deployed in war). Automated systems patrol the borders and sensor-swarm robots work above and below ground—as well as at sea—looking for trespassers. It should be noted that while the Democrats enjoyed overwhelming minority support into the 2020’s but by the end of the 2020’s, with the re-branding, support began to even out. The Constitution Party’s re-brand not only committed to improving the immigrant experience, but also vocally rejected anti-immigrant sentiment in any forum including private ones—taking this even to the extent of disavowing candidates who were exposed as anti-immigrant on a racial basis.
The 2nd Amendment: More and Safer Weapons
The Constitution Party’s absolute stance on 2nd Amendment rights helped with the transition from the Republicans to the Constitution Party. With a continuing decline in violent crime and AI monitors on social media looking for “leakage” (warning-signs of an impending mass-killing) several incidents have been stopped—but not all. Vastly improved police response times and SWAT Drones (actual armed drones that can be deployed in an active-shooter situation) have mitigated the damage. Many guns (and all police guns) come with tracking systems their owners can access—this allows the recovery of stolen weapons if the owner wishes to hand over their identification codes (a password associated with the weapon’s internal tracking system). The internal trackers optional—but, when installed, difficult to remove without damaging the weapon.
Additional Smart-Safeties (optional—but subsidized by the Firearms Safety Act, proposed by the Constitution Party and passed by a bipartisan majority) allow guns in a household to be keyed to the owner’s bio-metrics, making houses with young children much safer even if the weapons are not secured.
The Economy: How Best To Serve The Unemployed?
As noted above, employment numbers hover at about 40% for what would have been considered “ordinary 20th century jobs.” Many jobs—such as construction, security guarding, cleaning, and food services are either done entirely or heavily augmented by robots. Higher-end jobs: computer programmers, triage nurses, financial advisors, system administrators, and legal assistants are also done more cheaply and effectively by AI. Even at the high end, AIs are capable of supplanting some surgeons, lawyers, and college instructors. The result is a large portion of the populace for whom unemployment is a given.
In Europe this is handled with a “Citizens Wage”—a pay-out that is given to every citizen, regardless of wealth-level, and is enough to live on (this is in lieu of all other social services). In America there is a National Jobs program that guarantees employment of some sort from a Jobs Bank. All the jobs pay a living wage. Private sector jobs where humans are preferred (restaurant hostess for high-end establishments, some elder-care, children’s day-care, and ‘friendly-face’ positions) receive an Earned Income Credit (effectively a negative tax-return) from the government.
There are many people who work—but there are some “opt-outs” who neither work nor take training. Under the current laws they are able to apply for Federal Assistance (a procedure described as difficult and sometimes humiliating) to receive a livable wage and government housing. Those with mental or physical disabilities (which include addictions) are able to receive assistance in addition to that. A major question remains about what society is to do with these opt-Outs or ‘NEETs.’ This is a major differentiator between the Democrats and Constitutionalists.
The world of 2050 is similar to today in many ways: the Congress, the Electoral College, and the Two Party System yet survive. In other ways it looks totally different: entertainment mixes chemicals and virtual reality. Medicine is largely non-invasive, hugely effective, and for most people essentially free (if you do not pay and are not in national service, there is a long waiting period). Many people feel America has lost her national character—but others disagree: she is still a super-power. She is still a bastion of innovation. She is largely safe and mostly clean-running. The American Dream may look pretty different—just like the American populace—in 2050—but it’s still living. The 2076 Tri-Centennial Silver Dollars might be the last coins ever minted for use as currency—but they’ll still bear the American eagle.