Global inequality and climate change, main challenges affecting civilisation by 2073 according to IE University report

IE University Center for the Governance of Change has surveyed 8000 citizens from the G20 countries on their beliefs, hopes and concerns for the next 50 years.

Global economic inequality and climate change will be the main challenges humanity will face by 2073, according to a report developed by IE University’s Center for the Governance of Change (CGC) to reimagine our life in the coming five decades. The CGC researchers have surveyed 8000 citizens from the 20 countries of G20 about their main hopes and concerns across key areas, including technology, economic trends, scientific challenges, the environment and the education of the future. The findings come out ahead of COP28, which offers a platform to tackle these global issues.

Regarding the future of the economy, 39% of citizens believe in a brighter economic outlook for themselves and future generations, surpassing the number of citizens (25%) who anticipate a decline in their financial well-being.

  • To prepare for potential economic challenges, most respondents opt for saving and investing money (27%) followed by improving skills and learning to use new technologies (24%).
  • In Europe, countries including Spain (73%), Germany (68%) and France (63%) consider that our economy will be more unequal by 2073. A majority (55%) of Britons also believe wealth will be more unequally distributed.
  • Indonesia (55%), China (47%) and India (45%) remain the most hopeful that the economy will be more equally distributed in the next 50 years.

The report looks at attitudes regarding technology and what it may look like in the future, including AI and the role of biotechnology in our lives. Overall, these tech developments are widely seen as having a large role to play in the future.

  • Respondents place competition for natural resources and environmental concerns as the most relevant ethical challenge that technology will present in the next 50 years. Water conflicts due to drought are the climate risk that people deem most likely to occur. 
  • A vast majority of participants (80%) think AI will play a key role in our societies by 2073.
  • Of these, almost half believe AI will become seamlessly integrated into daily life and one in three (33%) think AI will dominate all aspects of human existence.
  • Almost half of respondents (48%) believe that by 2073, healthcare will have personalised genetic treatments. 

The report also reveals what citizens imagine education will look like in 50 years, from the future of the classroom to the way we teach.

  • The most popular scenario foreseen by respondents is the rise of the use of AI in the classroom (47%), signaling a significant shift towards technology-driven learning.particularly in Asian countries: China (65%), Indonesia (63%), Japan (58%) and South Korea (58%).
  • On the other hand, more European and Latin American countries predict a shift to experience-based learning outside of classrooms.
  • A majority of citizens (62%) expect an individualization of education, where each student will have a tailored education. Asian countries lean more towards an individualised education (73%) than European countries (53%).
  • In contrast, 38% believe class-based learning will continue to be the norm.

The study also uncovers the concerns of citizens about their future and that of generations to come. 

  • Presented with a list of various potential scenarios to occur in the next 50 years, the top three chosen by participants are a pandemic, a climate cataclysm and a global system collapse (social chaos, economic collapse). 
  • In the event any of the scenarios presented were to occur, most respondents (48%) said they would try to counter the threat by mobilising and collaborating with others. 40% would opt for a flight response and try to relocate to a safer region or seek refuge, and 11% said they would freeze and feel too overwhelmed to act decisively.
  • There is a generational split between the young and the old. The percentage of respondents who think they are more likely to “fight” than “flight” tends to be higher among older rather than younger respondents.

Irene Blázquez-Navarro, Director of the IE Center for the Governance of Change, commented: “The results of recent surveys highlight the growing concerns shared by society about the future, with environmental sustainability and economic stability at the forefront of these worries. Simultaneously, there is widespread optimism regarding the role of artificial intelligence and other technological advancements in shaping our future. Recognizing the need for proactive engagement, it is imperative for society to envision a future where individuals actively shape technological progress.”

“This proactive approach demands ethical regulation and governance while integrating technology and humanities-centered education to innovate society-wide solutions for economic, social, and environmental challenges. The upcoming COP28 offers a promising platform to address these concerns.”
Irene Blázquez-Navarro, Director of the IE Center for the Governance of Change

For more information and to review the full results of The Next 50. Trends for the Next 50 Years, please click here.

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted in 20 countries. The 8000 respondents were a representative of adults in the countries included, and by gender and age. Respondents are part of recurrent panels recruited by Netquest or affiliated companies into panels via social media, direct mailing or through referrals from other respondents. They receive small in-kind incentives for responding to each survey.