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Welcome to the future: what Columbia might be like in 2050

Predicting the future helps us understand the rapidly changing present, but can we really forecast the world in 30 years?

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Our destinies contain both the possibilities for unimaginable joy and abominable grief. The snaking cables of opportunities and risks become tangled in our collective imagination, that fantastical realm where the world’s ill-defined future is negotiated daily.

But predict we must. The sun sets and rises, but will winter come early, or won’t it? Crops will thrive or fail, towns will shrink or expand, and, quite possibly, an earthquake will erupt (or won’t it?).

We can’t resist predictions. Yet, all the hope and desire and foreboding and fixation won’t help suss out tomorrow’s secrets. There is a reason why even a Magic 8-Ball, a toy sold to divine children’s desires, leaves the user wanting for answers a quarter of the time.

So why dedicate an entire issue of a magazine to that distant speck of time 30 years from today?

For one thing, those hopes, desires, forebodings and fixations can themselves be revealing, even if not revelatory. What does the desire to rehabilitate a pock-marked piece of road say about our community and its members? What about enthusiasm for a high-speed transportation system that traverses the state?

For another, thinking about the future often leads to a reckoning with the past, which informs or misinforms our every action and reaction while the minutes and hours unspool ahead of us. The future leaders of agriculture will have to reckon with the public’s desire for the pastoral past, even as technological revolution uproots Old MacDonald’s farm. A catastrophe more than 200 years ago continues to echo today, though it’s unclear whether it resounds with Missouri state officials.

Predictions are tough. They often don’t pan out. But thankfully all the answers are a day away.

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