100 Years In the Future

Posted on January 23, 2010

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“The 19th century was a century of empires, the 20th century was a century of nation states, the 21st century will be a century of cities.” – Wellington E. Webb

In 1900, only 13% of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, that number will have risen to 70%. If someone could have observed Earth from space two centuries ago, they would have seen the light from just two concentrations of a million or more people, London and Beijing. Today, there are 450 such shining cities. They are the economic, governmental, cultural and technological power plants of a global urban age. This unprecedented urbanization is both an emblem of our economic societal progress and a huge strain on the world’s infrastructure. Our future depends on keeping them running.

Keeping these cities running will require an immense amount of hard work. We will have to educate the young, protect the citizens, keep everyone healthy, facilitate commerce, reduce traffic congestion, and diminish pollution. Pretty basic stuff and some would argue that we are doing those things already. If we are, we’re doing a terrible job in my opinion. Let me break it down piece by piece.

  • Educating the Young – About half of the students served by public school systems in America’s largest cities receive diplomas. Students in suburban and rural public high schools are more likely to graduate than their counterparts in urban public high schools.
  • Protect the Citizens – It is only common sense to realize, that the more people you have living together, there is a higher chance of collision. Whether it is traffic collisions, emotional collisions which lead to violent crime, or just a simple mishap. The modern city isn’t a safe place to live.
  • Keep Everyone Healthy – Like public safety; it is only smart to realize that more people living together, means it is easier for disease and sickness to spread. Recently the world experienced the terrors of the H1N1 Virus and many cities were virtually shut down because of the virus.
  • Facilitate Commerce – With the birth of the Interstate, the commerce in all cities was drastically reduced. Instead of funneling people into the city, they funneled people out. It made it easy to expand and to travel great distances. It also opened up the way for major trucking and transportation of products, which meant jobs, went elsewhere.
  • Reduce Traffic Congestion – In the U.S. alone, 3.7 billion hours are lost to people sitting in traffic every year, and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel burn needlessly, at a cost of $78 billion per year. At the rate cities are growing, what do you think the future holds if we don’t reduce traffic congestion?
  • Diminish Pollution – Projections show energy consumption increasing by 50% in the next 25 years. With our main resource for energy continuing to be fossil fuels, it is only a matter of time before the planet becomes inhabitable with the excess amount of carbon that will rise into the air.

It seems rather bleak at the moment, but there is still a chance to save our cities, and our future. Smarter cities will encompass the world in 100 years. The main problem with the cities of today is that they’re the same cities of yesterday, and the systems within them have remained unchanged. That goes for the systems set up for education, the systems of public safety, healthcare, and traffic. They have all essentially remained unchanged when compared to the major advances in technology, and the major increase of population.

In 100 years, I see a world that has not only continued to advance in technology, but has also learned to implement it smartly, and not just apply these technologies in making a quick dollar. I see smarter schools, safer cities, healthier cities, cities that can support their selves economically, cities that flow, and cities with a clean and fresh atmosphere. I see an entire world of great cities, with great expanses of nature in between where we can still have a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. An immense playground if you would. In 100 years, I see all of this, along with the slew of problems we will encounter when it comes to migrating to other planets. Probably much of the same stuff we are currently encountering with this wave of technological feats. Sounds fun!

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Posted in: Culture