Do we know what the world will be like in the year 2050?

Do we know what the world will be like in the year 2050?

Could there be anything more daring and sterile than playing to find out what the future will be like? Probably not. However, it is almost an ethical obligation to impose on ourselves the exercise of projecting and reflecting on the changes that are coming and playing to guess them, if only for pure intergenerational responsibility. And it is that if we want the future to be better than the present, we must provide it from now on with an environment and resources that help it to progress.

“Encuentros en La Vanguardia” has tried to collect with criteria what the world will be like in 2050 and, no less important, to know how the women and men who are going to lead the changes that are going to take place in the coming years think and feel. They are the components of Generation Z, which groups those born between the late 1990s and the early years of the new millennium.

They talked about all this at the Higher School of Technical Engineers of Madrid, José Miguel Atienza, director of the School of Engineering of Roads, Canals and Ports of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM); Carmen Camuñas, head of Acciona’s Digital Hub; David Cuartielles, co-founder of Arduino and professor at the University of Malmö (Sweden), and David Lafuente, deputy director general of the Youth Institute (Injuve).

If we want the future to be better
that the present must be designed now

The session began trying to find out what the young people of Generation Z are like. José Miguel Atienza highlighted that “they have a very strong command of the digital”. One of the virtues of this knowledge is that “they are more aware of the dangers of digital and preserve more of their privacy.” For the teacher, another characteristic is that “they are very independent and they choose the paths they want to develop”. Atienza, as well as the rest of the participants, emphasized that these young people “already take their commitment to diversity as standard; they are very clear about gender issues and the defense of the environment”.

Based on the accumulated experience in Acciona’s Digital Hub, in which more than 75% of its members are under 30 years of age, Carmen Camuñas explained that this clarity of ideas, when deciding what they want to do, leads, for example, “to combine various careers -such as doing the double degree in mathematics and physics- or to combine a career in one field with a master’s degree in another apparently unrelated subject, which gives them a more open approach than in a department of innovation like the one where I work, it works very well”. The Acciona board of directors explained that the minds of young people “is always thinking about how to solve problems related to their own business or sustainability and promote social aspects.”

Another of those standard features of this generation is having “a more open mind to collaboration.” For the researcher, “it is something that they carry in their DNA and that is encouraged from childhood.” The way in which they have studied at school has little to do with what prevailed in previous generations. On the other hand, “they are pure digital natives, but not only because of their abilities to handle a tablet, but because of the way they relate to society,” she clarified.

To look to the future, we must take into account how those who will lead it think

The training model will be decisive for the construction of the future. In this sense, David Cuartielles stated that the current “neoliberal university must evolve.” One of the priorities for the professor at the University of Malmö is “to ensure that more people have access to training” and free access to many technological resources to be able to create. Cuartielles assured that “it is very important that many more people can participate.”

For his part, the deputy director general of Injuve defined himself as “a staunch defender of these young people who were deeply attacked during Covid”. Lafuente explained that reality shows that “they are very supportive and that, despite criticism, they have always given their best.” Regarding the identity of Generation Z, he stated that “it is very internalized that, in addition to entering a company to work or access a public job, there is a third way that is entrepreneurship.”

Data from the Youth Observatory, integrated into Injuve, confirm that “the issues that most mobilize young people are gender equality and everything that has to do with environmental issues,” revealed Lafuente. For him, another aspect that defines this generation is that, despite its youth, it has “critical thinking based on access to a large amount of available information.”

Asked about what the world will be like in 2050, the participants in the debate accepted the game of adding to their much knowledge, the audacity of futurologists. Of course, judiciously. José Miguel Atienza assured that “it is difficult for me to think what the world will be like in 30 years, but what is clear is that it will be a world in which technology will have greatly changed our day-to-day life”.

Camuñas stated that “working on innovation, our responsibility is to help build and facilitate what is to come in the future.” The head of Acciona’s Digital Hub also highlighted the leading role of technology in the world of the future and the fact that society as a whole is at the center of all transformations.

More than talking about what the future will be like, Cuartielles focused on drawing “the future that I want”. For the Arduino co-founder, what awaits us is a world “in which we will be in tune with nature.” A necessary step to move towards that future more quickly requires “aligning between some standards and, for example, eliminating private clouds to move towards a public infrastructure model so that everyone can play by the same rules”.

The training model will be decisive
for the construction of the future

Lafuente’s view of the world that awaits us around the corner is focused on ensuring that “young people do not have difficulties in emancipating themselves and having decent housing and work”. The Injuve representative also referred to a future in which young people “feel that they are listened to more and that they can participate in society and I believe that innovation and technology can be good allies to achieve this”. The ultimate challenge is to achieve “a balance between technology and humanism,” he said.

Another relevant aspect related to that future under construction has to do with what the jobs that will be needed will be like. He atienza regretted that “they do not make things easy for the university, because they are intended to train professionals to develop jobs that do not exist today and that we do not know what they will be like.” The certainties point to the relevance of technology, artificial intelligence, programming and the importance of digital skills, but also in other human aspects such as what has to do with “the impact that digitization will have on society”.

The UPM professor expressed his conviction that what is truly useful is “providing young people with a solid foundation that allows them to have a very long journey in which it is very possible that they may even have to change sectors several times.” At this point, Atienza joined the idea expressed by Cuartielles about the need to “make a university for everyone that leaves no one aside.”

Camuñas, for his part, made reference to the fact that, despite the prominence of technological training, other knowledge will also be necessary in the future. The head of the Acciona Hub wondered: “Who was going to tell us that to make a voice assistant we would need a linguist?” The economic sectors are going to change “and we will have to adapt”.

Cuartielles considered that “current innovations are a reflection of those of the past”. Thus, the first initiative around an autonomous car dates from 1939. This expert alludes to the concept of utility for a new development to be consolidated and the need to “go through a white label phase”. In this way, its access is democratized, it begins to interact and progress is made.

One aspect that the Arduino co-founder claimed to be clear about is the importance of predictive manufacturing in the context of a sustainable world. He cuartielles he affirmed that in that future “no more bricks will be produced than are needed to build my house”.

Digitization will mark the world of work in the coming decades

Lafuente, on the other hand, emphasized “the importance of the circular economy”. On the role of the university, the deputy director general stressed that “it will no longer only be useful for young people up to the age of 24, we are going to continue training throughout our lives.” It is one more element of the absence of certainties that marks the life of Generation Z and, in general, of the future. At this point, the leader made reference to the relevance that “mental health and the need for psychological support to reach all layers of society” will acquire.

Energy, or rather, the solution to the energy problems that frighten us today, generated unanimity. Innovation will remedy the energy crisis in the future. Beyond solar or wind energy, Atienza and Camuñas made reference to hydrogen as a fundamental piece of energy supply in the future. Acciona’s board of directors regretted that the current concern over this issue is due not so much to awareness of energy transformation as to the high cost of the bill. “It’s a shame to have wasted so much time,” he said.

“The solid battery is going to be the great revolution this year,” said Cuartielles; while Lafuente made reference to Spain’s international leadership “in renewable energy”. To continue advancing in this direction, the Injuve leader recalled the importance of alliances between the public and private sectors, “as stated in one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Another point of agreement in the debate revolved around the priorities of the members of Generation Z, who distance themselves from certain material possessions and prioritize having free time and obtaining rewards in line with their purposes. David Cuartielles assured that he imagines a “less stressful” 2050 and Lafuente vindicated the values ​​of ethics.

Round table


José Miguel Atienza, director of the School of Engineering of Roads, Canals and Ports of the
Polytechnic University of Madrid: “The members of Generation Z are very independent and choose
the paths by which they want to develop”.


Carmen Camuñas, head of Acciona’s Digital Hub: “Working on innovation, our responsibility is to help build and facilitate what is to come in the future.”


David Cuartielles, co-founder of Arduino and professor
from the University of Malmö (Sweden): “I hope that in the future we will live in a more sustainable world in which we will be in tune with nature.


David Lafuente, deputy general director of the Youth Institute (Injuve): I hope that young people do not have difficulties to emancipate themselves and have decent housing and work”.

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