There is no doubt that technology is developing very rapidly, faster than most people know how to make use of it. The technological revolution we are facing today makes it all the more vital and necessary for people to understand the impact megatrends have on the world as a whole. The demography of cities, regions and countries changes all the time and these developments are largely influenced by the societal changes and advancements that are made. Demography is more than just the data and numbers of who is who in a given area, it is about understanding what happens to them and why. The way people live, work, and develop as a society is the basis for the study of this megatrend; it is virtually impossible to separate changing demographic patterns from the other megatrends.
Demography is more than just the data and numbers of who is who in a given area, it is about understanding what happens to them and why.
In the areas of demographics and technology, there are four key developments that need to be addressed: Ageing; improving standards of health; empowering individuals and harnessing their power; and recognizing trends and developments and keeping a watchful eye on what the future holds.
“The so called ‘baby boom’ generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) is already having an effect on the healthcare system and this is expected to increase as the century progresses. The number of American citizens aged 65 and over (35 million people in 2000) will rise by more than 19 million to 54 million by 2020. From 2000 to 2050, the number of people aged 65 and older will increase from 12.5% to 20% of the US population.”1 In the US, more than 10 000 people celebrates their fiftieth birthday every day. Proportionally, the size of the older population is growing at a faster rate than the younger population. In Japan, the number of people who are aged 75 and over has grown by almost 40% between 2005 and 2015.
Trends like these are the same across the globe and bring to light a fact that cannot be ignored: the world’s population is aging. That brings a whole new list of issues that must be addressed and dealt with.
The impact of this shift in population demographics is far reaching and spans many industries.
Aging populations affect all areas of health and social care, and the impact is felt not only by the older population itself, but by the coming generations who must help to support and care for them. Medical advances have been made and new medicines and treatments are being developed, but the needs of the ageing population are also growing at a rapid rate.2
Since diseases such as dementia, diabetes, cancer, age-related health problems and other chronic conditions become more prevalent as people live longer, the burden that is placed on the healthcare industry, as well as all members of society, increases.
“The $414.3 billion in healthcare expenses for the elderly in 2011 was over $100 billion higher than inflation adjusted expenses for 2001. … The average annual [medical] expense per person was about $1,000 higher in 2011 than 2001.”3 This data comes from the US, and although the country has the highest healthcare spending per capita in the world4, figures like these are showing up time and time again in surveys, medical studies and reports from many other countries. It is little wonder that the aging population of the world struggles to get the care they need to have full and valuable lives.
Up until quite recently, at least from a history of humanity perspective, famine, pestilence, war and natural disaster were control mechanisms limiting population growth. Lower birth survival rates and higher death rates slowed the population increase. With recent advances in medicine, this is no longer the case and as populations swell, communities are facing the challenge of both supporting the young, the working population and older people, in need of care, for longer and longer periods of time. This put enormous stress on the welfare system, and is one of the most pressing issues concerning politicians today.5
The Millennium Project, along with many others like it, measures the guiding principles that are thought to be the most influential in shaping, for example, ethical decision-making, both now and in the future.
THE POWER OF ONE
Our understanding of how to use technology and the way technology impacts society will change year on year. What’s “right” today may not be “right” five years from now. However, there are certain constants that seem likely always to play a factor in determining how technology should be used.6
This applies to the concept that has come to be called “the power of one” because it focuses on how an individual’s needs, goals, and actions can lead to bigger advances. Every person can create a ripple effect in an interconnected world. The power of one focuses on the change that happens in a society where trends, fads, and acceptable norms are in flux; there is a constant ebb and flow that helps govern societies and dictate accepted norms and values. There is still power in the individual and even one person can make a difference. A few united minds can be enough to fuel serious change and revolutions. The Millennium Project, along with many others like it, measures the guiding principles that are thought to be the most influential in shaping, for example, ethical decision-making, both now and in the future. What many similar studies have uncovered is that the needs and values of a population are not continuous but fluid. Some of the most important values and needs of today will not be considered important in a few decades. Examples are changes in societal norms, changes in the needs and desires of the population, changes in health and lifespans, current events that shape the way groups view the world, and the ever changing interests and convictions of individuals.
TRENDS IN DEMOGRAPHIC ETHICS
While these principles do not directly explain how megatrends impact society, or how these advances and changes should be used, they are elements that are generally agreed upon in the process of making ethical decisions. Technology usage and social norms that potentially threaten human survival, for example, do not fit into ethical usage. Society will have to adjust its views on certain topics and issues involved.7 While it is true that changes in demographic trends mean there is a greater demand for resources, supplies, money, healthcare, and so on, this does not mean that the world is doomed to a future of scarcity and an everyday battle for basic necessities. What it does mean is that there must be a shift in how people see and approach these trends and how society adheres to these changes. Demographic trends are connected to every aspect of society, including, but not limited to, environment, culture, job markets, and financial stability.