Issues Magazine

Articles about megatrends

Asian Population Transitions

By Graeme Hugo

Asia is currently home to four billion people and looms large in any consideration of global population.

In 2012 the federal government’s Australia in the Asian Century report described the pace and scale of change in Asia as “staggering”. The report was referring to the spectacular economic growth of countries like China, yet the transformation of the region’s population has been equally substantial. Moreover, it is very significant as both a major cause and consequence of the economic, social, political and environmental change that attracts so much attention.

What Happened to Privacy? Really?

By Stephen Wilson

Powerful forces – some of them megatrends in their own right – are pulling privacy in different directions.

The cover of Newsweek on 27 July 1970 featured a cartoon couple cowered by computer and communications technology, with the urgent all-caps headline “IS PRIVACY DEAD?” Four decades on, Newsweek is dead but we’re still asking the same question.

Water: What’s in Store?

By Greg Leslie

Access to clean water, its use on arable land and the damage it does during extreme weather are the big challenges for today’s water management.

Water shapes ecosystems, landscapes and human society; it sets the conditions under which life exists on Earth. Absence of water means absence of life.

Sustainable Productivity: Options for a World Running out of Resources

By Ian A. Maxwell

The legacy of two historical megatrends – the industrial revolution and the Enlightenment – is another megatrend: the emerging crisis in the supply of humanity's key resources.

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting through a seminar given by former US Vice-President Al Gore in which he outlined the categories of challenges facing humans. Gore is a student of history, and he believes that while humans have always faced challenges, the enormity of the situation facing us today is unprecedented because our very existence on this planet is potentially under threat – and that this threat is of our own doing.

Can We Feed a Growing World and Sustain the Planet?

By Jonathan Foley

Increasing population and consumption are placing unprecedented demands on agriculture and natural resources across the planet, but five strategies might just let us attain a food-secure and environmentally-secure world by the middle of the century.

The scramble for natural resources reflects the fact that agriculture is going to be absolutely fundamental to the success of our civilisation. It has been so for 10,000 years, and it must continue to be so for the next 10,000 years, because one of the big challenges for the world is food security.

Transforming the World’s Energy Systems

By John Morgan

Three trends in world energy, and the way they play out over the next 50 years, will shape the boundaries of our civilisation.

Three trends in world energy are on a collision course: tightening of fossil fuel supply, the need to drastically cut our carbon dioxide emissions, and the increasing global demand for energy.

Prosumption, Property and Public Policy in the Digital Realm

By Rebecca Watkins and Mike Molesworth

Emerging digital technologies are transforming consumer cultures, but many consumers overlook the restrictions on the use and ownership of content they have created.

Megatrends: Preparing for a Ripe Old Age

By Stefan Hajkowicz

How is the world ageing, and what challenges does this create? Ageing populations is one of the six global megatrends identified in CSIRO’s report Our Future World 2012.

An academic friend of mine told me that getting old isn’t a problem. You’ve only got one option. That’s to get old. But choosing where to go for your next holiday is a problem. You’ve got lots of options.

There is much truth in this observation, and I frequently recount it in my lectures on decision theory. But while old age is inevitable, as individuals and as a society, we have many options about how we age.

Five Major Trends

By Mark R. Anderson

A surprisingly small number of major trends are serving as primary drivers of the world today. Two of these are new, and two more have not yet been properly defined, but all are remarkable in their impact.

Privacy vs Lunacy: More Destruction, Lower Cost

One of the great, and perhaps most tragic, trends driving world events today is the increasing ability of the small and misguided to create ever larger amounts of destruction and death. While many people focus on the appropriately frightening spread of nuclear weapons, this is only the tip of the techno-terror iceberg, as many recent events have proven.

Never before have so few been able to kill so many. We have now also crossed a line beyond which we will never, as a species, return.

Protecting the Heart of Our Country

By Barry Traill

With wilderness areas across the globe rapidly disappearing, Australia’s outback remains one of the last great natural places on Earth. How do we manage our wild lands into the future?

The ranger walks slowly down the track, stopping to touch his flaming torch to the dry grass every few paces. The flames flick up and start to crawl through the savannah grasslands, turning the grass to ash and scorching the lower leaves of the eucalypts. After lighting up along a few hundred metres of a faint four wheel drive track, Nigel meets back up with colleagues doing similar work down the way and they casually return to their vehicle and to camp for the evening. The fire burns slowly on into the bush.

Engineering the Climate

By Christopher Doyle

As global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions continues to stall, can engineering the climate provide a feasible solution to climate change?

The planet is overheating, and humanity faces an impending catastrophe unless scientists and engineers can find a radical solution that will save civilisation as we know it. Putting mirrors into space and shooting reflective particles from cannons out into the atmosphere are just some of the options that have been placed on the table.

Machines That Can Replicate and Evolve

By Neil Yager

Smart software and hardware may be able to solve some of the future’s most challenging problems, but not without risks.

Evolution by natural selection is a powerful process. It drives the creation and adaptation of life on our planet, and most likely countless other planets throughout the universe. Recently, researchers have been investigating ways to harness the power of evolution and to use it to find innovative solutions to challenging problems in science and engineering.

Three conditions are necessary for evolution to occur in a population:

  • There are not enough resources for everyone, so members of the population must compete to survive.

Guest Editorial

By Ian A. Maxell

Ian Maxwell Consulting

An overview of what's in this edition of Issues.

What are megatrends? The answer is very dependent upon your point of view. Most people, when asked to nominate a megatrend, will correctly point to global warming or diminishing resources. Other less obvious megatrends require more esoteric insider information – an example is virtual reality and the impact it will have on humans over the next half century or so.