The phrase "may you live in interesting times" is considered by many to be the English translation of an ancient Chinese curse. There is no doubt that we do live in interesting times and that the not too distance future holds many changes for most of us. Changes which, in large part, will be driven by China and its ever-expanding economic influence.
I've been considering lately just what kinds of changes we can expect in the next 10-20 years as we see our world adapt to shifting power structures and new realities that will impact us all. So with a great debt to many authors, journalists, and my own late-night ponderings, I present my "amateur futurist" predictions of how our world will change over the next two decades.
1) Unemployment will soar as North American manufacturing moves offshore, leaving uneducated workers in the lurch. This is no great prediction as this is already happening on a daily basis. But to all of those poorly educated men and women on the picket lines demanding higher wages for low skill jobs, I would suggest you start finding another line of work...quickly. Those jobs are not coming back, no matter how much pressure the unions exert. We can't compete anymore so let's just get over it and let the retraining begin.
2) Most of us will be driving Chinese or Indian made vehicles with the Japanese and Koreans continuing to hang in there. The North American automobile will be a luxury item for those who can afford them, much like the Mercedes and Jaguar are today.
3) Oil companies will lose their positions of power as more and more of us switch to electric and hybrid vehicles. As a result of this switch, electricity companies will replace "big oil" as the new power brokers. My advice? Invest in your local power generation corporation now.
4) Newspapers and magazines will cease to exist in print form as they head online with an as-yet-to-be-figured-out pricing structure.
5) Evangelicalism will no longer be the primary religious preference of Christians in North America as young believers align themselves with a more inclusive brand of "Jesus follower" without denominational boundaries.
6) As China rises to world economic dominance, our interpretation and application of democracy will change dramatically as will our understanding of free market capitalism. I don't expect any sort of socialist republic being birthed in North America, but those with whom we trade will not necessarily agree that Adam Smith was the father of all economic wisdom.
7) Watch for new economies to arise as developing nations embrace and appropriate China's economic vision for themselves. If (and only if) Africans will demand transparency from their scourge of corrupt leaders, we will see a new dawn for the millions living in extreme poverty in sub-saharan Africa.
8) The concept of personal privacy will become a thing of the past. And we'll give it away willingly! Think about all of those Gen-Y folks driving you nuts in the mall as they text and talk incessantly on their cell phones. Do you think they're going to have any issues with giving up their privacy? Heck, they'd gladly give it up now if it meant more cool ways to connect with their friends.
This list is by no means complete or conclusive, and Nostradamus I'm not. These are just a few areas of observation but there are so many more...How will retail adapt to advancing technologies? What effect will climate change have? How will media conversion influence our day-to-day understanding of the world around us? To what extent will religious extremism continue to inflame violence locally and globally? Will the middle class cease to exist? With fewer farmers and less arable land, how will we feed a growing urban population?
I don't know the answers to these questions, but one thing I am sure of - we are in a time of rapid upheaval the likes of which we haven't seen since the Industrial Revolution three hundred years ago. While there will inevitably be some folks walking around with sandwich boards proclaiming the end is near, I'm not convinced that is in fact the case. God is still at work calling the church to embrace our role as emissaries of His radical life-changing Kingdom built on grace, peace, and love. May we continue to stick to our mission and stand firm while the whirlwind blows around us.