Imagining the future has long been the domain of the fortune-teller, the politician, or the science fiction writer. But social science graduates just might be the best qualified candidates for predicting what the world of tomorrow has in store.
Social scientists have been instrumental in shaping the past, predicting and helping to develop such revolutionary advancements as face-recognition technology, minimum wage policy, universal sign language, micro-credit loans, the spread of dementia, and much more, according to world-renowned think tank, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
To commemorate the last 50 years of social science success, the ESRC held a contest asking PhD students in the liberal arts to look 50 years into the future. The students put their powers of prediction to the test, and ESRC has just chosen the winning predictions, based on their scientific veracity and the critical insights they offer into today’s world.
Read on to learn what those on the cutting edge of social science predict for 2065:
Social Science Courses: Predicting the Realities of Climate Change
“For several decades, social science has provided invaluable insights into how human societies can limit climate change and live in a changed environment,” states ESRC.
Every winning submission to ESRC’s future-predicting featured climate change as a major governing factor in the world of tomorrow.
Writes winner Gioia Barnbrook: “In 2065 it will be impossible to ignore climate change’s social and humanitarian impacts: food and water shortages, mass migration and resource wars seem likely, coupled with large-scale political and economic unrest.”
Her fellow contest winners James Fletcher and Josephine Go Jeffries also use their finely-tuned critical thinking skills to predict futures with “artificial forests,” “drought and forest fires” that spread rapidly across the developing world. To these veterans of liberal arts college courses large-scale environmental demise seems inevitable.
A Shift Toward Mass Corporatization and Decentralization
James Fletcher’s winning work was entitled CITY, Inc., and focused on the implications of heightened corporatization and a “global decentralization trend” changing the physical and hierarchical architecture of the world’s cities. He imagined himself as a social scientist living in London in 2065, witnessing the city’s changes firsthand.
“The city into which I had moved was unrecognisable. From the 900m high tower in which I now lived, I surveyed a transforming cityscape, embracing recent technological developments,” Fletcher writes.
He envisions the world’s big cities breaking off from their geographical neighbours to become completely autonomous and self-governed, creating a divide between these global powerhouses and their less corporately-viable counterparts.
Could Liberal Arts College Courses Save the World?
If you think these predictions paint a depressing picture of the future, you’re not the only one.
“From this vantage point, the future looks decidedly bleak,” Barbrook writes.
But both she and Fletcher say the social sciences’ practice of analyzing complex systems and encouraging creative, independent thought may be able to turn it around.
“We may well wonder what use we will have for the social sciences in a world of catastrophic environmental decline and change,” writes Barbrook. “This would be a mistake.”
She believes social sciences courses are vitally necessary for helping the world’s leaders understand the complexity of the “conditions, networks and interconnections” that will continue to influence the world’s social and cultural climate.
“This information will be essential in aiding governments, NGOs, and policy-makers with developing appropriate responses to the humanitarian and social crises climate change will bring.”
The world needs passionate and informed citizens to lead it to a prosperous future.
Read the ESRC winners’ full essays here if you’re interested in taking an even closer look, and be sure to tell us if the predictions outlined above align with your own personal vision of the future.
You can help shape the world of tomorrow with a social sciences college education of your own.
Visit Shimer for more information, and to learn how the liberal arts impact the global development scene.