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What could the world look like in 20 years' time?
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What could the world look like in 20 years' time?
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What could the world look like in 20 years' time?
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Articles
9 September 2020

What could the world look like in 20 years' time?

Beloved writer June Factor on our imagination to change the world.

Written by June Factor

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Discussed in this Story

At what age do we truly understand the difference between ‘could’ and ‘should’? Well past early childhood, and it could/should be argued that some of us avoid this linguistic cum ethical question most of our lives. Futurists included.

Meanwhile, we are living through a health pandemic. In Victoria we wait apprehensively for daily reports on the number of people infected, the number dead. Our fortunes appear to rise and fall every 24 hours. We hang on the hope offered by the epidemiologists with longer perspectives. We are forced to recognise the relevance of age, but largely avoid difficult questions about class and ethnicity. Are the disturbing number of jobless more than a worrying footnote?

A serious and experienced gambler and world-watcher would likely predict that 20 years from now, nothing of importance would have changed. The surest bet is that the poorest countries are still the poorest: despite discoveries of gems, and oil, and other valued products, their wealthy families continue to electrify their fences. Less certain is the world distribution of wealth, but 20 years is not long enough to markedly change the good fortunes of big powers such as the US and China, nor of reasonably stable middling powers such as Japan and Australia, most of western Europe and parts of Asia. In almost every case, a reliable certainty is the continuation of very rich and very poor, with a comfortable but varying number managing tolerably well in the middle. Until there is a catastrophe, such as a depression or a prolonged pandemic.

Push the gambler aside. He is, from experience, inclined to believe that Lady Luck is unreliable. But I’ve found a female fortune-teller who insists she is particularly skilled at foretelling the future. (The alliteration is hers.) According to Madame Elpis, human beings have the imagination, the capacity and the determination to change the world. And sometimes for the better. She’s ready with multiple examples: ending slavery in most of the world; ending the drowning of baby girls ditto; a thousand thousand life-saving medicines and operations; a growing disinclination to beat children; a declining blindness and deafness to the needs of the sick and the poor; an endless outpouring of music, and painting, and poetry.

Her list goes for more than a page. Her point? In 20 years, if people use all their admirable qualities (or at least a reasonable number of them), of course the world will be a better place: safer (outlawing nuclear weapons only the beginning), more cooperative, more just, fairer, kinder, and healthier. Admirable for the natural environment as well as the human. What’s not to like?

You may well ask: why should I believe an alliterative fortune-teller? I agree – I think she’s over-enthusiastic and wildly optimistic. But we have to start somewhere.

Get your hands on Issue 64 of Dumbo Feather magazine for a collection visions of the world in 20 years’ time from our community. 

June Factor

June Factor is convenor of the Befriend a Child in Detention Project. She is a writer, editor and folklorist, and an Honorary Senior Fellow at The University of Melbourne.

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