The Hidden Factor: What We Miss In Our Predictions

April 1st, 2021 | AR

There is a common factor that is often overlooked by our cultural prophets. The predictions that have succeeded share one common attribute that is seldom remembered in modern prognostications. The predictions that were somewhat accurate but still missed the mark have something in common with each other and all of the failures. How a culture or society advances and shapes the future has one more factor than politics, ideology, economics and education. The one thing that ties a successful prediction together with all of those factors is demographics. In fact, the very success or failure of a civilization is dependent on the age and long term productivity of its people. Predictions about the future of a society, government, culture or political party cannot be successful without including the demographic sustainability of the population.

At the moment, there is not a single world superpower with a promising future based on the sustainability of its population and workforce—except one.

The dominant ages in which a person is most productive is between 25 and 50 years of age. Some scholars will have a differing range, but it is commonly accepted that people under the age of 25 and over the age of 60 contribute less to the overall productivity of a society. In fact, the older and further along in retirement a person moves, the more burdensome they become on a society's productivity and sustainability. This is not to say that we must rid our society of the elderly, it simply means we must do more to sustain the weight of their existence—particularly as the baby-boomers come of age and enter retirement.

The most dangerous image for a society is a bell curve:

At the moment, every major world power is facing a demographic bell curve. The ages of productivity are now peaking in countries like the United States, China, Japan, Germany and Russia. As fertility rates and birthrates decline, while more people enter retirement and become eligible for social security and pensions, a silent crisis is emerging in most of the world's centres of power.

The number or retirement-aged people is now growing larger than the number of people under the age of 25 in most major countries. As the left side of the curve enters the workforce and enters the category for most productive, the hump will move further to the right, in turn, creating an economic and cultural crisis not yet seen in our modern age.

Below is an image of the ominous demographic bell curve (by sex) that now threatens the United States:

Note the hump in the middle and the shrinking lower base. Ideally, a more uniform and sustainable shape would look more like a pyramid or straight tube. As the decades go on and as those in the middle enter retirement, America's demographic bell curve will evolve into an upside-down pyramid.

That is when the real crisis begins.

In other countries, the future bears the same grim outlook. In China, where more men than women make up the workforce, a similar situation is unfolding with low birthrates against an aging population. China's one-child policy has affected a more devastating future situation when combined with the country's natural progression towards a culture that chooses to have children later and in fewer numbers. Like in the west, China is facing a new cultural norm that values personal ambitions over building families.

Other countries are going down similar paths, as the graphs below indicate:

One notable exception among emerging superpowers is India. This is India's current and future demographic situation:

Currently the largest democracy in the world and one of the leading economic forces of the century, India is on path to become one of the world's (possibly the  world's) leading superpower(s). With a growing military, a flourishing economy and a vibrant democracy—India will become the top geopolitical and economic force of the 22nd Century.

India's demographic future looks promising on all fronts, including the most important front: its ability to sustain an aging population with a strong and sustainable future workforce. Within this century, as China, Russia, Arab countries and the United States face crisis, India will remain stable. This stability will make India a trusted and valuable place to do business and to place investments.

India will not be alone. Other countries, not yet superpowers, may emerge as light superpowers within the century—due mostly to their demographic sustainability. As the graphs below show, these countries will rise to replace the current world order as we know it:

As all of these graphs indicate, any notions or predictions about China, Japan, Brazil and Latin America becoming future superpowers are misguided. Scholars have touted Brazil as a growing superpower of the Americas, while ignoring the demographic advantages possessed by Mexico. As demographics show, Mexico will replace both Brazil and the United States as the leading power on the American continent. By the year 2100, it is highly probable that Mexico will have supplanted the United States as the sole Western superpower—in competition with the new Asian superpower: India.

One hundred years from now, the world order will resemble something entirely different than what we see now.

The Asian continent will be dominated by India, the Americas by Mexico, and Africa by Nigeria and South Africa. Without significant advances in automation, the workforces within the existing world order will fail to sustain their aging populations and the services and institutions required to run an efficient society. As we move closer to 2100, countries like India, Nigeria and Mexico will outbid the existing powers in labour, manufacturing, technology, medicine and science. Above all, they will acquire great military strength.

Even in the presence of significant advancements in automation as a means to fill the growing gaps in productivity and engineering, countries without a strong and reliant human workforce will struggle. Humans will continue to be valuable and easily replicated assets, even as artificial intelligence and robots take on more labour and engineering capabilities.

The one and a half billion capable humans in India will always offer a competitive advantage over the alternatives produced by their declining rivals. In order to change the world's current path, automation would need to reach levels of advancement that exceed our current pace by 500%. Even though the pace of our advancement is increasing, it is not advancing fast enough to rewrite the future of our existing world order and the rise of its replacement.

© 2021 Poletical