What Megatrends will shape our future as we approach 2050?

SevagKechichianSevagKechichian Posts: 13 XPRIZE
As we attempt to understand the globally significant megatrends and the various ways in which they affect human societies and food systems as we approach 2050, what do you think the list below should include that it yet doesn't?

Population Growth

Economic Growth
Increased Income
Changes in employment

Fragmented Globalization
Conflict & Crisis
International relations and trade

Climate Change
Natural Disasters
Energy Use

Digitization, connectivity, & mobility
Artificial Intelligence
Big Data
Virtualization (VR/AR)
Nano technology


  • NickOttensNickOttens Community Manager Amsterdam, NetherlandsPosts: 899 admin
    @Lorenzo, @AlanReed, @dhanasreej, @Tuija, what do you think? Did we miss any megatrends? Or do you think any on this list ought to be taken out?
  • arshimehboobarshimehboob IndiaPosts: 78 ✭✭
    Health, must be included
    Food security
    Diet Diversity/Food habits

    As diet diversity and traditional foods vary from region to region. There is undergoing a shift towards nutri-dense foods/diets. As such technological advancements vary widely between countries which also affect trade liberalisation.
  • ACESChrisACESChris Posts: 50 ✭✭
    Under economic, you need to consider economic contraction, and decreased income, caused by changes in employment. Maybe under environment, or possibly another category, planetary limitations, specifically peak phosphorus. Arshimehboob is right. The megatrend that will capture all of this, and be the key, will be informatics. We need true cost accounting, where we move up a context and look at food/energy/water and health together. Obesity is now a bigger problem than starvation.
    One other dynamic is the recent $2 billion dollar award against Monsanto for Roundup causing cancer. The world has built a chemical dependency, and I don't think the warriors against it understand the implications of its sudden removal.
    My team has been working on the Future of Food for more than 12 years now. Data driven, mission focused; we can't make emotional decisions around food. We are establishing a tech development Centre where we can bring everything to one campus. Put the lights and cameras on, and shoot for the moon, absolute resource efficiency!
  • arshimehboobarshimehboob IndiaPosts: 78 ✭✭
    The future trends of food-based systems will be consumer-centric. The small serving with dense nutrition at likely taste and socio-economic cost.
  • arshimehboobarshimehboob IndiaPosts: 78 ✭✭
    Taste has been the top driver of food purchases anywhere in the world. The popularity and selection of nutrient-dense and “superfood” collagen have exploded over the past years. Organic is a new winning brand.
  • arshimehboobarshimehboob IndiaPosts: 78 ✭✭
    The food sharing revolution: OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local shops so surplus food and other items can be shared, not thrown away.

  • LorenzoLorenzo Posts: 12 ✭✭✭
    Some of the above megatrends aren't actually megatrends, strictly speaking. For example: conflict & crisis is surely an issue, but isn't a megatrend per se, it's just a generic statement that crisis has a role. A megatrend is a trend that is shaping a certain issue (old or new). For example, the tendency of conflicts to be more within states (either because of civil unrest, civil war or proxy war) rather than between countries (as country vs country direct conflict becomes too costly and politically unviable). This has an effect as poorer areas will be unable to benefit from new food production techniques or distribution and in general will find it hard to emerge from this, so any tech breakthrough won't be effective there - unless such breakthroughs are the means to reach stability. Just an example to show what I mean.
  • SevagKechichianSevagKechichian Posts: 13 XPRIZE
    I agree Lorenzo. Would you consider it to be a megatrend if, at the global level, there has been a rise in intrastate or within-state wars since the cold war?

    Which of the others in the list do you find similar to the conflict and crisis issue?
  • lisadreierlisadreier Posts: 2 ✭✭
    I think the list above could include more detail on environmental trends, many closely linked to climate change, including:
    -- Increasing water scarcity and related desertification
    -- Declining soil health including topsoil erosion and nutrient loss
    -- Deforestation, ecosystem degradation and species loss (including pollinators)
    -- Increased volatility in weather patterns , leading to disruption/fluctuation in agricultural production

    Some other trends:
    -- Changing consumer demand patterns, in particular increased demand for meat and processed foods in emerging markets (negative environmental impacts) and rising consumer awareness of the health benefits of nutrition (positive health impacts)
    -- Women's empowerment (positively impacts food security and childrens' nutrition)

    Not sure if we want to name individual technologies among trends, but biotech and CRISPR for agriculture may have significant future impacts.

    Sharing a report I worked on a few years back outlining scenarios for the future of food systems, which takes a number of trends into consideration:

    best, Lisa
  • SevagKechichianSevagKechichian Posts: 13 XPRIZE
    edited May 2019
    Thanks Lisa. I think all the items you highlight are both significant and relevant. For our purposes, the environmental ones are either nested under "Climate Change" or framed as challenges that need to be directly addressed. So they are accounted for. But worth thinking if they should be included as separate trends or megatrends.

    Biotech and CRISPR are included in the "Bioengineering" megatrend. It will all depend on the available amount of space to decide what examples to include.

    The changing consumer patterns, and in particular both processed foods and demand for meat (and other animal-based proteins) we have included as challenges (one of the challenges we've reworked is "Reducing over-consumption of foods that lead to diet-related health impacts" which is mostly about those 2).

    Great point on the Women's Empowerment. I think we should consider including it as a megatrend. We've updated the above list since we posted it, and we currently have a megatrend that is "Individual Empowerment". But i think your Women's Empowerment point is distinct.

    What would you say are the most significant manifestations of women's empowerment and their potential future impacts (not just in/on food)?

    Great to hear you worked on that report. I've found it quite insightful and helpful (and impossible to miss whenever looking up issues related to the topic)
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