Transitions and changes
has become a symbol of the recent economic boom of China
Technology and society
Advances in technology such as ultrasound, prenatal genetic testing and genetic engineering is changing the demographics and has the potential to change the genetic makeup of the human population. Because of sex selective abortion, fewer girls have been born in the 21st century (and since the early 1980s) compared to in past centuries, mostly because of son preference in East and South Asia. In 2014, only 47 percent of Indian births were of girls. This has led to an increase in bachelors in countries such as China and India. The first genetically modified children were born in November 2018 in China, beginning a new biological era for the human species and raising great controversy.
Anxiety and depression rates are rising in the United States and many other parts of the world. However, suicide rates have fallen in Europe and most of the rest of the world so far this century, declining 29% globally between 2000 and 2018, despite rising 18% in the United States in the same period. The decline in suicide has been most notable among Chinese and Indian women, the elderly, and middle-aged Russian men.
Knowledge and information
The entire written works of humanity, from the beginning of recorded history to 2003, in all known languages, is estimated to be at five exabytes of data. Since 2003, with the birth of social media and "user-generated content", the same amount of data is created every two days. The advancement of the sum total of human knowledge and information continues to grow at an exponential rate.
Telecommunications in the early 21st century are much more advanced and universal than they were in the late 20th century. Only a few percent of the world's population were Internet users and cellular phone owners in the late 1990s; as of 2018, 55% of the world's population is online and as of 2019, an estimated 67% own a cell phone. In the 2010s, artificial intelligence, mostly in the form of deep learning and machine learning became more prevalent, and is prominently used in Gmail and Google's search engine, as well as in banking, the military and other niches. In 2017, 14% of the world's population still lacked access to electricity.
In 2001, Dennis Tito became the first space tourist, beginning the era of commercial spaceflight. Entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson are working towards commercial space exploration, colonization and tourism, and China and India have made substantial strides in their space program. On January 3, 2019, China landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, being the first to do so.
Culture and politics
War and most kinds of crime and violence have declined considerably compared to the 20th century; such a period of "relative peace" between major powers has not been documented in human history since the Roman Empire. Malnourishment and poverty are still widespread globally, but fewer people live in the most extreme forms of poverty, relative to recorded history. In 1990 one-in-four people were malnourished, nearly 36% of the world's population lived in extreme poverty; in 2015 this percentage dropped to one-in-eight and 10%, respectively. If current trends hold, the United Nations projects the eradication of famine and extreme poverty by the end of this century.
The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal draws international attention to the possible negative effects of social media on influencing citizen's views, particularly in regards to the 2016 United States presidential election.
Population and urbanization
The world population was about 6.1 billion at the start of the 21st century, and reached 7.7 billion by January 2019. It is estimated to reach about 8.6 billion by the year 2030, and 9.8 billion by the year 2050. According to the United Nations World Urbanization prospects, 60% of the world's human population is projected to live in megacities and megalopolises by 2030, 70% by 2050, and 90% by 2080. By 2040, more than 5 times the current global gross domestic product is expected to be invested in urban infrastructure.
Life expectancy is increasing as child mortality continues to decline. A baby born in 2016, for example, can on average (globally) expect to live 72 years—26 years longer than the global average of someone born in 1950. Ten million Britons (16% of the population of the United Kingdom) are expected to live to 100 or older.
However, climate change remains an extremely serious concern; UN Chief António Guterres, for instance, has described it as an "existential threat" to humanity. Furthermore, the Holocene extinction event, the sixth most significant extinction event in the history of the Earth, continues with the widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats as a byproduct of human activity.
Economics, education and retirement
Economically and politically the United States and Western Europe were dominant at the beginning of the century; by the 2010s, China became an emerging superpower and by some measures the world's largest economy. In terms of purchasing power parity India's economy became larger than that of Japan around the year 2011.
The ongoing impact of technological unemployment due to automation and computerization on job employment is massive: the rate of jobs disappearing—due to machines replacing them—is expected to escalate. Automation alters the number of jobs and their skills demands of industries. As of 2019, the manufacturing sectors of first world nations' production output was doubled when compared to 1984 output; but are now produced with one-third fewer workers and at significantly reduced operating costs. Half of all jobs with requirements less than a bachelor's degree are currently in the process of being replaced with partial- or full-automation.
According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school will end up in jobs or careers that currently do not yet exist.
An increase in retirement age has been called for in view of an increase in life expectancy and has been put in place in many jurisdictions.