What’s next for a baby born in 2016?

From drones to driverless cars, a child born this year will experience a very different world to ours. We look at the top predictions of what life will be like in coming decades.

“My parents focus on the origin and authenticity of the food we eat as a family; it is a big influence on my diet and food choices…”

While some dinner traditions are timeless (gathering around the table, bickering about politics) for future generations of young children, the relationship they will have to the food on their plates is likely to be very different. Gone are the days when a chicken is just a chicken; for future families it will be perfectly normal to tuck into free-range, corn-fed, locally reared, antibiotic-free chicken with ‘paddock to plate’ provenance… maybe even a name.

“In my teens, I will probably be conversing in Mandarin…”

Despite English being the dominant global language of the 21st century, some language pundits and politicians predict that the continued success of the Chinese economy (and the likelihood it will overtake the US as the world’s dominant economy) may make Chinese the global lingua franca for future generations. And it certainly is becoming more popular; the number of students in New Zealand learning Chinese increased 93 per cent between 2004 and 2009, according to Ministry of Education site TKI.

“My earliest memories are enjoying apps on my tablet, not playing in a sandpit…”

Children today are already far more comfortable using technology for play than their parents’ generation. According to The Atlantic website, “experimenting wildly with anything they’re given, children will figure out how to zoom in by pinching their fingers on their parents’ iPads before the parents even knew that was a feature.” Whether or not this will completely replace physical play in the great outdoors remains to be seen. And immersive virtual reality gaming technology is improving at breakneck speed. Today, the virtual reality gaming device Oculus Rift costs a pretty penny at $900; but by the time our kids are teens, this will absolutely be the norm.

“By the time I start my own family New Zealand will have driverless cars…”

New Zealand is one of the few countries that allow driverless car manufacturers to test their cars on public roads (as opposed to private testing areas) – so it’s highly likely we will see more of this technology here in the next few years. By the time a baby born today has a family of their own, not only could we expect to see communal self-driving cars ferrying people all over the place, but also previously congested roads and motorways can become parks and other greens spaces. However, there are some tricky safety and ethical details that will need to be resolved by then.

“As a teenager I pay for everything using mobile technology… ”

In the US, Android Pay and Apple Pay both offer the ability to make purchases with a swipe of your mobile phone using NFC technology (Near Field Communication) and in New Zealand you can use an app called Semble to make mobile payments. Your phone saves a digital version of your credit/debit card and then you can swipe your phone over contactless payment devices at checkout. This is still restricted to specific phones, credit card suppliers and the limitations of shops adopting the technology, but it will definitely be commonplace by the time babies born this year reach their teens.

“For my 10th birthday I am given a 3D printer and start creating my own toys with it…”

Broadly speaking, 3D printing has been in development since the 80s, but it wasn’t until 2007 that one built by 3D Systems became available for less than $15,000 – well out of reach for the everyday user! By the time a baby born this year reaches the age of 10, they will be limited only by their imagination. The Thingmaker 3D Printer by Mattel, which works with their toy designing app, is due to launch in October this year, and will retail for around $440. And the prices should just continue to drop as the years go by. So instead of begging/dragging you into the toy store for the latest gimmick, kids of the future will be dreaming, building and playing all from home!

“By the time I am 10 years old only one in seven of the world’s population will be living in today’s developed countries… ”

In 2004, an article in The Guardian predicted “wildly uneven population swings” over the next 45 years; so future children will be living in a world with a dramatically increasing population. Growing populations combined with climate change will put greater demands on wealthy countries to assist developing and disaster-prone countries. In New Zealand, children born today will likely be growing up in a world even more keenly aware of population and the environment as climate refugees from our neighbouring islands become increasingly vulnerable to rising water levels.

A baby born today could be more likely to own a drone than a home

“As an adult I will probably be more likely to own my own drone than my own home…”

Housing affordability researcher Ian Mitchell told The Weekend Herald recently that for many young people, the dream of becoming a home-owner is probably out of reach… if their parents aren’t wealthy. New Zealand is one of the most expensive countries in which to own a home, so if current trends continue, home ownership could be unattainable for children born today. They’ll have some great gadgets though – but a drone isn’t much of an investment.

“As I start my career I will be working alongside colleagues in their 70s or older. Most businesses predict big increases in the number of workers aged 65+…”

The age of retirement is increasing in New Zealand, with the number of people delaying retirement until they are 65-69 at 47 per cent in 2015 – up from 10.6 per cent in 2001. And New Zealand is leading the way in making the most of the experience and skills of an older workforce, so it is highly likely children born today will be working alongside people who are 70+ when they start their careers.

“When I am 21 there will be 500,000 more households in New Zealand than there are right now…”

Even though the rate of New Zealand’s population growth is slowing, the number of households will grow because of our ageing population; this means there will be more single occupant and couple-only households. Statistics New Zealand estimates one scenario could be that “one-person households will account for 29 per cent of all households in 2031, up from 23 per cent in 2006”. This means demand for housing will most likely only get more and more competitive for the children born today; but we may see a greater rise in communal dwellings in the future.

Watch: Bridget Jones’s Baby trailer

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