'We have seen the future'

15 May 2015 - 02:19 By Sanya Mansoor

Ever wondered what the world will look like in 2040? So did a panel of six professors at the University of Johannesburg, who discussed their environmental, economic and social projections. Engineering professor Saurabh Sinha envisioned a world in which 3D holograms will be everywhere and resort to artificial intelligence will be part of everyday life. Our reliance on oil will diminish as it is replaced by renewable and hybrid energy sources.Sinha said that although we are swamped by the amount of data presented to us today we will soon have the ability to process it more quickly and efficiently.He said our privacy will be compromised but we will accept that for the convenience it brings.Alexander JB Zehnder, a member of the board of trustees at Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore, quoted French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."This, Zehnder said, is what must be done to solve the problems of the future.Nanyang Technological University biochemist Bertil Andersson said universities will become more interdisciplinary and global, with campuses in different countries.He said university education would increasingly serve people aged between 20 and 80, and questioned whether English would still be the dominant language.Zehnder cited research by the World Economic Forum that predicted that severe drought and floods were highly likely in the next 20 years. But he said there would be no droughts in South Africa between 2020 and 2039.University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg said that if the world were to follow the 20th-century "resource-intensive and exclusionary" path it would "tip our planet into irreversible downturn".Rensburg said that in 50 years Africa's population would have more than doubled.Thirty percent of its people live in the cities but this proportion would increase to 70%, he predicted, necessitating the urgent expansion of urban resources.

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