Today's Reading

SOME FACTS AND FIGURES

Birthplace of the next industrial revolution: sub-Saharan Africa
The reason: 500 million acres of fertile yet undeveloped agricultural land the size of Mexico: 500 million acres

Percentage of the world's wealth owned by women in 2000: 15 
Percentage of the world's wealth owned by women in 2030: 55
If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman 'Sisters': global financial crisis averted

Worldwide, the number of people who went hungry in 2017: 821 million
Worldwide, the number of people who will go hungry in 2030: 200 million

Worldwide, the number of people who were obese in 2017: 650 million Worldwide, the number of people who will be obese in 2030: 1.1 billion
Percentage of Americans projected to be obese in 2030: 50

Percentage of the world's land occupied by cities in 2030: 1.1 Percentage of the world's population living in cities in 2030: 60
Percentage of worldwide carbon emissions produced by cities in 2030: 87
Percentage of world's urban population exposed to rising sea levels in 2030: 80

The largest middle-class consumer market today: United States and Western Europe

The largest middle-class consumer market in 2030: China

By 2030, the number of people entering the middle class in emerging markets: 1 billion

The number of people currently in the middle class in the United States: 223 million

The number of people in the middle class in the United States in 2030: 209 million


INTRODUCTION: THE CLOCK IS TICKING

People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.—Judge Taylor in Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

The year is 2030.

From Paris to Berlin, Western Europe is unusually warm, with no end in sight to the summer's record temperatures, a fact the international press reports with increasing alarm. Rehema has just landed in her native Nairobi on a return flight from London, where she spent a couple of weeks with some distant relatives. She was disappointed to see fewer stores open than during her previous trip, perhaps because so many people had become used to buying online during the pandemic. Seeing Britain through the eyes of immigrants afforded her great insight into the diversity of the world around her. Walking through the Nairobi airport, she reflects on how her homeland differs from Britain, which she found to be behind Kenya in areas like tele-medicine and mobile payments. Later, she jokes with her cousin on the trip home at how strangely the British reacted when she told them she had been "attending" an online school since she was six, along with most of her neighborhood friends.

Thousands of miles away, Angel is waiting to clear customs at JFK Airport in New York City. In two weeks' time, she will begin a two-year master of science program at New York University. As she waits, she reads the day's New York Times, which opens with a report that the United States, for the first time in its history, has more grandparents than grandchildren—a reality in stark contrast to the situation back home in the Philippines. As it turns out, tens of thousands of American senior citizens, under the care of robots for their basic needs, are renting out spare rooms in their homes to make ends meet, especially since their pensions are no longer providing the financial safety net they once expected. Angel turns to a rather reactionary op-ed decrying the fact that American women now outpace men in terms of their share of wealth, a trend the author somehow finds disturbing for the future of the U.S. economy. Angel has time to read most of the newspaper, as the line for foreigners is long and slow-moving. Meanwhile, the line for citizens and permanent residents is moving quite quickly, and she overhears a conversation detailing how Americans can now clear passport control using some fancy blockchain technology, which is a breakthrough with a wide range of benefits: it can assess a sales tax on goods purchased abroad and arrange for the arrival of a self-driving vehicle shortly after you've retrieved your luggage.

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