21st century  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The 21st century is the current century of the Common Era, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001 and will end on December 31, 2100. It is the first century of the 3rd millennium.

Some also state that the symbolic beginning of the 21st century were the 9/11 attacks.

Issues and concerns

Issues that have been frequently discussed and debated so far in this century include:

  • Globalization. Advances in telecommunications and transportation, the expansion of capitalism and democracy, and free trade agreements have resulted in unprecedented global economic and cultural integration. This has caused (and is continuing to cause) economic and cultural shifts which have been the subject of considerable controversy.
  • Overpopulation. The United Nations estimates that world population will reach 9.2 billion by mid-century. Such growth raises questions of ecological sustainability and creates many economic and political disruptions. In response, many countries have adopted policies which either force or encourage their citizens to have fewer children, and others have limited immigration. Considerable debate exists over what the ultimate carrying capacity of the planet may be; whether or not population growth containment policies are necessary; to what degree growth can safely occur thanks to increased economic and ecological efficiency; and how distribution mechanisms should accommodate demographic shifts. Evidence suggests that developed countries (such as Japan) suffer population implosion, and the population debate is strongly tied with discussions about the distribution of wealth.
  • Authoritarianism. Some currently democratic states, such as the United Kingdom, are felt by some to be moving quickly in the direction of a police state, continuous surveillance and long term detainment without trial all having been introduced by the government. A shift in education can be noticed towards more emphasis on discipline and control mechanisms by the state. A good indicator of authoritarianism being a serious concern for the 21st century are the recent anti-authoritarian protests staged around the world. Examples include the 1999 Carnival Against Capitalism, the protest activities surrounding the 2001 Genova G8 Summit and the 2007 Heiligendamm G8 Summit, as well as the 2008 civil unrest in Greece, all with strong anarchistic and thus anti-authoritarian character.
  • Abortion. Debates between "Pro-choice" and "Pro-life" factions on the controversial procedure continue. The approximate number of induced abortions performed worldwide in 2003 was 42 million.
  • Dysgenics. Due to the negative correlation between fertility and intelligence, human genetic integrity may be deteriorating, lowering the intellectual capacity of the average human.
  • Poverty. Poverty remains the root cause of many of the world's other ills, including famine, disease, and insufficient education. Poverty contains many self-reinforcing elements (for instance, poverty can make education an unaffordable luxury, which tends to result in continuing poverty) that various aid groups hope to rectify in this century. Microcredit lending has also started to gain a profile as a useful anti-poverty tool.
  • Disease. AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria each kill over a million people annually. HIV remains without a cure or vaccine, and is growing rapidly in India and much of the African continent. Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern for organisms such as tuberculosis. Other diseases, such as SARS, ebola, and flu variations, are also causes for concern. The World Health Organization has warned of a possible coming flu pandemic resulting from bird flu mutations. In 2009, the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and later around the world caused widespread panic and concern, and is currently still a problem.
  • War and terrorism. Active conflicts continue around the world, including civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the largest war since World War II), Chechnya, Côte d'Ivoire, Somalia, Senegal, Colombia, and Sudan (mainly in Darfur). The 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered invasions of Afghanistan and partially and controversially Iraq. The War on Terrorism has seen controversies over civil liberties, accusations of torture, continued terrorist attacks and ongoing instability, violence, and military occupation. Violence continues in the Arab–Israeli conflict. Considerable concern remains about nuclear proliferation, especially in Iran and North Korea, and the availability of weapons of mass destruction to rogue groups.
  • Global warming. Climate scientists have postulated that the earth is currently undergoing significant anthropogenic (human-induced) global warming. [1] The resulting economic and ecological costs are hard to predict. Some scientists argue that human-induced global warming risks considerable losses in biodiversity and ecosystem services unless considerable sociopolitical changes are introduced, particularly in patterns of mass consumption and transportation. Others, however, doubt or deny human influence and counter-action were in effect significant, or question whether global warming will actually be a significant detriment to the planet.
  • Power in international relations. Issues surrounding the cultural, economic, and military dominance of the United States and its role in the world community have become even more pointed given its recent military activities, problematic relations with the United Nations, disagreement over several international treaties, and its economic policies with regard to globalization. Integration of the European Union and the African Union have proceeded.
  • Intellectual property. The increasing popularity of digital formats for entertainment media such as movies and music, and the ease of copying and distributing it via the Internet and peer-to-peer networks, has raised concerns in the media industry about copyright infringement. Much debate is proceeding about the proper bounds between protection of copyright, trademark and patent rights versus fair use and the public domain, where some argue that such laws have shifted greatly towards intellectual property owners and away from the interests of the general public in recent years, while others say that such legal change is needed to deal with a perceived threat of new technologies against the rights of authors and artists (or, as others put it, against the outmoded business models of the current entertainment industry). Domain name "cybersquatting" and access to patented drugs and generics to combat epidemics in third-world countries are other IP concerns.
  • Technology developments show no sign of ending. Communications and control technology continues to augment the intelligence of individual humans, collections of humans, and machines. Cultures are forced into the position of sharply defining humanity and determining boundaries on desire, thought, communication, behavior, and manufacturing. Some, notably Ray Kurzweil, have predicted that by the middle of the century there will be a Technological Singularity if artificial intelligence that outsmart humans is created. If these AIs then create even smarter AI's technological change could accelerate in ways that are impossible for us to foresee. (However, gradual and simultaneous use of AI technology to increase our own intelligence might prevent this from ever occurring.)
  • Fossil fuels are becoming scarce and more expensive, due to the escalating demand for petroleum ("oil") and oil-based products such as gasoline and kerosene, unmatched by production. Discovery of new oil fields has not been sufficient to sustain current levels of production, and some fear that the earth may be running out of economically viable oil, pressing for alternatives. As Agrofuel, one possible alternative, yields further hazards for the environment and endangers food security, debate is far from over.
  • NATO–Russia relations seem to remain strained as the "Western Alliance" and NATO square off with Russia and other nations over international policy and the future of the ex-Soviet sphere. An Eastern Europe Missile Defense Shield, military and social conflicts in former Yugoslavia and the Caucasus (particularly Georgia and Chechnya), fossil fuel infrastructures like the Nabucco pipeline and the future of nuclear arsenals are among the topics that have strained the relations between the two sides with eerie reminders reminiscent of the Cold War.

The United Nations lists global issues on its agenda and lists a set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to attempt to address some of these issues.

List of years

2080 - 2079 - 2078 - 2077 - 2076 - 2075 - 2074 - 2073 - 2072 - 2071
2070 - 2069 - 2068 - 2067 - 2066 - 2065 - 2064 - 2063 - 2062 - 2061
2060 - 2059 - 2058 - 2057 - 2056 - 2055 - 2054 - 2053 - 2052 - 2051
2050 - 2049 - 2048 - 2047 - 2046 - 2045 - 2044 - 2043 - 2042 - 2041
2040 - 2039 - 2038 - 2037 - 2036 - 2035 - 2034 - 2033 - 2032 - 2031
2030 - 2029 - 2028 - 2027 - 2026 - 2025 - 2024 - 2023 - 2022 - 2021
2020 - 2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011
2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005 - 2004 - 2003 - 2002 - 2001

See also

2000s, 21st century culture, 21st century politics




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "21st century" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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