Life Mothers & Babies

Friday 22 August 2014

What the future holds for a baby girl born in 2014

With average Irish female life expectancy now at 83 years, experts reveal what changes 'Emily' can expect to live through

Darragh McManus

Published 03/06/2014 | 02:30

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Future: Baby ‘Lucy’ will see one huge tech breakthrough

As aircraft become lighter we can expect to fly direct from Dublin to hundreds more destinations

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Meet Emily, a newborn Irish girl. (We're calling her Emily because it was the most popular Irish girl's name last year, according to CSO statistics released last Friday.) With average Irish female life expectancy now at 83 years, Emily will live until nearly the end of this century, and probably longer. What can she expect between now and 2100? We've asked several experts to predict the future for Emily, both in her own life and the wider world.

HEALTH/MEDICINE

Danielle Barron, editor Irish Medical News

Irish women have a higher life expectancy than the OECD average of xx, and it is increasing every year. So the incidence of illnesses associated with age will rise, especially cancer.

The biggest change I see between now and 2100 is in contraception. The Pill is amazing, but it's costly and has side-effects. A male pill or contraceptive injection could revolutionise relationships. Techniques would render men temporarily infertile, such RNA molecules regulating sperm production.

There will be huge advances in fertility. Recent developments have shown it's possible to create an embryo from iPS cells, with the potential to develop into any of the body's cell types.

Birth: advances in fertility will be huge.

In terms of medicine, epigenetics is where it's going: how genes change over your lifetime due to environmental factors. These could mean you become more susceptible to certain illnesses. Linked to that is personalised medicine: strategies based on your genome. And because the science moves so fast, ethics will be a problem.

 

WOMEN'S RIGHTS

David Dalton, CEO Plan Ireland

In Sierra Leone, one of Plan's programme countries, life-expectancy is just 45. Women are more likely to live in poverty, be denied access to education and be malnourished. But studies show that when you invest in girls, the whole world benefits. When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they pull themselves and their communities out of poverty.

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Encouragingly, there are strong indicators that their plight is improving. As recently as 2000, life expectancy in Sierra Leone was only 39 years. Throughout this century, with investment in health, education and equality, the lives of women and girls throughout the poorest regions in the world can be changed irrevocably. Plan's 'Because I am a Girl' campaign aims to reach four million directly, improving lives through better family and community support, and access to services.

The lives of women around the world have improved dramatically, at a pace and scope difficult to imagine 25 years ago. But there is still a way to go.

 

SCIENCE/TECH

Looking ahead: new story worlds

Professor Siobhán Clarke, School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity

By 2050, 75pc of the world will be living in urban areas. Resources will be constrained: energy, roads, water, everything. We'll have to totally change how we live and behave. People will have much less sense of ownership; there'll be more of a 'sharing' model, to make better use of resources.

By 2100 we'll be better at using renewables; we won't have a choice. Wind and solar power are likely to be more prevalent, and we'll be forced to use less energy.

Technology will play a large part in fixing problems, but we'll need a multi-disciplinary solution. In relation to consumer technology – for example, the next Facebook – that changes so fast you can't predict the next five years, never mind 85. You'd hope we wouldn't have so many devices. There will undoubtedly be at least one massive tech breakthrough, a real paradigm shift. But I don't think we'll be seeing time-travel or warp-drives, anything like that!

 

TRAVEL

Eoghan Corry, editor of Travel Extra

Travel options available to a girl born in 2014 will be more extensive than today's generation. The number of trips being taken worldwide will continue to increase. Our airlines will move away from forcing people to travel through a small number of large airports (Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt) to a wider range of direct routes.

As aircraft become lighter, and capable of travelling a longer range, we can expect to fly direct from Dublin to hundreds more destinations. Moscow, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur: all will have direct flight from Ireland. Flights will run like buses do today – unless the world runs out of oil, through over-exploitation or war. If that happens, it'll be time to take great-grandmother's bicycle out of the shed.

Rail travel will make a comeback. The train to Cork or Belfast will take an hour. It will be possible for someone in Westport to commute to Dublin and be back home in an hour-and-a-half.

 

SPORT

Ger Gilroy, presenter and producer, Newstalk's Off the Ball

I'd be very hopeful about the future of women's sport. Improved professional levels should lift participation levels. Girls tend to drop out of sport, and I'd blame the disastrous education system. That's slowly changing.

People don't want that for their children any more: they want women held as equals. I see a situation where everyone does PE every day, and it becomes a lifelong habit.

Sport can be positive for women, but it works in two ways. You need role models, but also strategic investment in grassroots. You need facilities, coaches, supports, or the influence of successful athletes falls apart.

We've a big opportunity in the next 20 years for women's sports to become more popular on TV. Individual sports have long been at an elite level, whereas team sports are only reaching that now. Scholarships in college are also important.

 

ECONOMICS

Antonio E Weiss, historian at University of London, management consultant, author

Ireland is likely to be confronted with three big challenges between now and 2100. First, twin pressures related to migration: an expanded but stretched diaspora, and a more diverse ethnic make-up at home. Coupled with the rise of China, India and other emerging economies, it will challenge conceptions of Irish as an identity.

Second, continued low corporation tax rates, and English remaining the dominant global language, should continue to make Ireland a desirable home for foreign direct investment. However, technological changes – self-operating machines, 3-D printing, easier global connectivity – will likely reduce low-skilled jobs and hit Ireland's large agricultural and service industries particularly hard, relative to other European countries.

Third, Ireland's recent baby boom may cause a bulge of elderly people (and more women) towards the end of the century who need to be cared for by a younger population cohort struggling to find employment in the hi-tech economy.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

Sam Ford, author and teacher on media, social networking and popular culture

We'll likely see the development of immersive story worlds. People will look for continuous, ongoing narrative worlds that they can follow in real-time, dipping in and out, just as we currently experience the "story" of news or sport. It's the soap-opera model, expanded to all-day: a story where actors are always "in character".

We'll also see fictional stories unfolding across several media. Again, look at news or sports, which currently unfold across live events, weekly series, social media, web commentaries, magazines. We'll likely be going straight to creators for content; audiences will expect to be able to subscribe to their favourite artist.

I think we'll see increasingly porous cultural borders, especially because content will circulate as much through interpersonal relationships as distribution channels. International audiences will be increasingly open to subtitled content. And attempts by governmen- tal, religious and commercial entities to restrict that flow of content will become increasingly futile.

 

POLITICS

Dr Jane Suiter, political scientist in School of Communications, DCU

I think there'll be big tension between increased empowerment of citizens and corporate control. The internet has given us openness, helps us interact globally. But the downside is the amount of data we're generating and what use might be made of it.

There will be tension between the widening or deepening of the EU: how far east it will go, how much it will become a United States of Europe. Will it include Ukraine? Will we have an elected president?

I don't think the US will remain the sole superpower; it and China will come together for more co-operation. Barring catastrophe, the whole world will get richer. There isn't the same incentive to go to war, but the bigger picture of nationalism will be interesting: to what extent we become global citizens.

In Irish politics, we'll probably still be talking about reform in 80 years, despairing of this local, clientelist system. If we do not change the education system, it'll be hard to change our political culture.

Irish Independent

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