By Martin Chechen

“Pay attention to the interactions,” says sociologist Mauro F. Guillén. (Deutschlandradio / Hoffmann and Campe)

In less than ten years, the world will have radically changed, predicts Mauro F. Guillén. In many areas of life, we are heading towards critical tipping points, explains the sociologist. Yet he does not believe in catastrophic scenarios.

It’s only been a good eight years, but the world in 2030 will be different. The Spaniard Mauro F. Guillén, who has just been appointed to the University of Cambridge in England, presents a real staccato of astonishing predictions:

“Birthplace of the next industrial revolution: Sub-Saharan Africa. Proportion of the world’s population that will live in cities in 2030: 60%. Proportion of urban residents in the world who will be threatened by sea level rise in 2030: 80%. “

And so on: the topics already seem familiar in many ways in the more or less near future. It is about climate change, migration, a financial economy which has only itself for objective. About an increased life expectancy and therefore a demography for which there is no empirical value in history.

“About 60% of the total assets will be owned by people over the age of sixty.” It’s good news ? Or the one that is questionable?

Catastrophic scenarios are unrealistic

Guillén also complains about a growing wealth gap and a struggle for survival that has long permeated everyday life, including in Western societies. “The largest midsize consumer market by 2030: China. Number of people currently in the middle class in the United States: 223 million. Number of people who will be middle class there by 2030: 209 millions. “

Above all, they are creeping processes moving towards critical values. The question is not whether the balance will turn into disaster, but only when and how it will happen. 14 million Americans who will move from the middle class to the precariat!

But the author avoids joining the increasingly strident song of the prophets of doom. It’s reckless, he said. And also unrealistic: “Number of people who suffered from hunger in 2017: 821 million. Number of people who will be hungry in 2030: 200 million.”

The world will belong to women

Pay attention to interactions, says Guillén, and that’s exactly his particular approach. It connects lines that are typically carefully isolated in other future scenarios – the growing number of older people, for example, with advances in robotics. Or the birth rate in India with the diffusion of alternative currencies, the cost of a space mission or with a development that could usher in a whole new era: “Share of women in world wealth in 2000: 15%. Share of women in the Earth’s wealth in 2030: 55%. “

In fact, there will be more millionaires than millionaires. And as China ages into its prime and will have passed it at some point, many of these women will be living in Central Africa, South Asia – because birth rates there are high and continue to rise, because education is a commodity that is increasingly easy to transport, and because even small advances in care have a big impact.

“Given the challenges we face with aging populations, environmental degradation and climate change, we need to think carefully about the technologies we urgently need to develop by 2030. Dry toilets and books electronics for those who do not have access to their traditional alternatives, would be high on my personal priority list. “

A cornucopia of thoughts and arguments

The author reaches a cornucopia. It cites examples from movies and literature, lets out real-life witnesses – and I enjoyed it for almost 400 pages. Incidentally, however, this keen eclecticism illustrates the process with which Guillén first developed his prognoses. He himself speaks of lateral thinking, a way of thinking that boldly switches between models and categories.

This is very important, he says, in order to avoid a fatal long-term mistake: “People are great at dividing things up mentally. It is an unconscious defense mechanism. Its main purpose is to separate the conflicting events, perceptions and feelings from each other to be separated so that we are not overwhelmed by their interaction. “

Even dare to change course, allow a daring comparison: laterally, that is, creative thinking provides solutions where it only leads straight against the wall.

Speaking evidence

And yet, at the end of his book, Guillén provides a punchline with which he recognizes the limits of his predictions: in reality there are “black swans”, that is, events that redefine entire systems.

Corona was one of those events. The pandemic has changed the course of time in jerks – in the geopolitical constellation, in the gradient of prosperity, in intergenerational relations.

Despite this, the sociologist and economist defends his approach of searching the world for telltale clues, uncovering connections, and making predictions from them.

It could be, he says, that Corona in particular is helping to understand the tightly knit relationships a little better.

Mauro F. Guillén: “2030 – The world of tomorrow”
Translated by Stéphane Pauli
Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2021
384 pages, 24 euros