The 2,033rd Meeting of the Society

November 4, 1994 at 8:00 PM

Powell Auditorium at the Cosmos Club

The Highly Probable Future

83 Assumptions about the Year 2025

Joseph F. Coates

President, Coates & Jarratt

About the Lecture

A set of assumptions on developments in society and in science and technology are needed to establish a framework on which to plan for the next 30 years. This talk will discuss one such set of assumptions established for “Project 2025: Anticipating Developments in Science and Technology and Their Implications for the Corporation.” Sources of these assumptions include the project itself, statistical and mathematical analyses of trends, and evaluations of evidence and trends from multiple fields. The assumptions cover such fields as health, the environment, automation, population, global developments, education, communication, and even public issues.

About the Speaker

Mr. Coates received his education from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Pennsylvania. His first career was with Atlantic Refining Company as an industrial chemist. For the past fifteen years, he has been an adjunct professor at George Washington University and president of Coates & Jarratt, Inc., a research organization committed exclusively to the study of the future. He has been an assistant to the director and head of exploratory research at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and a program manager of research applied to national needs at the National Science Foundation. Mr. Coates has written over 200 articles, chapters, papers, and publications, including co-author of Futurework, What Futurists Believe, and Issues Management: How You Can Plan, Organize, and Manage for the Future. Mr. Coates is also the Vice-President of the Philosophical Society of Washington.


In the absence of the President, the President-elect, Mr. Ohlmacher, called the 2033rd meeting to order at 8:16 p.m. on November 4, 1994. The Recording Secretary read the minutes of the 2032nd meeting and they were approved. The President-elect then read a portion of the minutes from the 423rd meeting, May 26, 1894.

The President-elect then introduced the Vice-President Mr. Joseph Coates to discuss “The Highly Probable Future: 83 Assumptions about the Year 2025”.

This work summarizes the report for the “Project 2025: Anticipating Developments in Science and Technology and Their Implications for the Corporation"[1]. The report presents 83 forecasts in two categories; one is scientific discoveries, and research and technological developments and applications, and the second is social, economic, political, military, environmental, and other factors that will shape or influence scientific and technological developments. This set of assumptions is meant to provide an intellectual framework for thinking about the year 2025 and planning for the next 30 years [2].

One of the fundamental forecasts for 2025 is that world population will be about 8.4 billion (#39), which may be considered in 3 tiers, World 1 consisting of the populations of the advanced nations living in prosperity (presently 1 billion growing to 1.4 billion), World 2 consisting of a middle class living comfortably but not extravagantly (2 billion growing to 5 billion), and World 3 consisting of the populations of underdeveloped nations living in destitution (1 billion growing to 2 billion) — if things go well (#45). The process of metropolitanization will continue (#44). The majority of the world's population will live in urban and suburban areas. This urbanization will permit continued aggregation of markets and utilization of economies of scale, but will also foster epidemics, potentiate disasters and service failures, and lead to socially and occupationally stranded populations.

The accumulation of information impels us to try to take action advancing us toward a world totally managed, but not totally controlled (#1). The best example of effective international management is the convention for global management of the electromagnetic spectrum. The UN and other supranational organizations will become more prominent and effective (#52) and they will move from a peacekeeping to a peacemaking role (#48). There will effectively be a global currency (#59) and a recognized international basis of capital (#69).

In the technological area “megatronics” well advance to the point where almost every device will be “smart” with embedded microprocessors and sensors to be able to respond to its environment (#2). As consequences of the Human Genome Project, three to four thousand genetic disorders will be understood and our comprehension of biochemical and physiological processes will make our present level of pharmaceutical science technologically insignificant (#8). Many more diseases will, like smallpox, be wiped out. Smart cards now being introduced for financial transactions, will also be used for medical records and will eventually carry complete medical histories (#6). Some privacy rights will be sacrificed for the sake of improved medical treatment.

There will be more refined management, control and manipulation of other plant and animal species (#10). Of the estimated 3000 edible plant species, about 300 are cultivated, 30 are common in commerce and only 6 make up 90% of the vegetable diet. Foods for human consumption will become more diverse and there will be less reliance on animal proteins (#12).

The introduction of fiber optics will make every telephone a television (#23). Until recently the problem has been meeting customer demand, but now the problem is inducing consumers to use the channel capacity available. Information technology will have an important influence on public policy processes by providing more feedback, more quickly on political issues (#25).

The Russian-American rapprochement is making the world safe for conflict. Local conflicts will become more prevalent and violent, peeking at about 2010 (#47). On a scale of scale of 1 to 10 with the Three Mile Island event a 0.5 and Chernobyl a 3, there will be, either as an accident or as a deliberate act of war or terrorism, a nuclear event of 5 or higher (#49).

[1] J.F. Coates, “The Highly Probable Future: 83 Assumptions about the Year 2025”, the World Future Society, Bethesda, MD, 1994.
[2] J.F. Coates, J.B. Mahaffie, and A. Hines, Technological Forcasting and Social Change 47, 23-33, 1994.

Mr. Coates kindly answered a number of questions from the audience. The President-elect thanked the speaker on behalf of the Society. On behalf of the membership chairman he presented one new member, announced the speaker for the next meeting, made the parking announcement, and adjourned the 2033rd meeting at 9:36 p.m.

Attendance: 79
Temperature: +16.4°C
Weather: partly cloudy

Respectfully submitted,

John S. Garavelli
Recording Secretary