Feature Story

The Next 100 Years

We asked researchers to transport themselves into the future.Here’s what Dr. James Tansey from the Sauder School of Business at UBC had to say.

If you could transport yourself to the future, what would you be teaching/researching in 100 years?

Over the course of our recent evolution, as we solve one set of challenges, new ones emerge. So our capacity to innovate is not just an economic imperative, it’s essential for us to thrive as a species.

Dr. James Tansey, Sauder School of Business

A: As much as our societies have been transformed in the last two centuries, many of the core debates about how we develop and evolve as a species have remained the same. In 100 years we will still be struggling to balance economic growth with the maintenance of human culture and environmental impacts. But the one transformation that is inevitable is that we will be a species that is thoroughly urbanized; 85 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2100.

Cities take incredibly diverse forms and in 100 years the global urban tapestry will be even more vibrant as megacities emerge in Africa and India, where populations are still very rural.

All cities represent concentrated nodes for channeling, expanding and multiplying human ingenuity. In 100 years I will be studying how to harness innovation in the new fast-growing cities outside of North America and Europe, where most of the population growth will occur, to solve social and environmental challenges we have barely yet anticipated.

While cities offer the opportunities to increase the efficiency of resource use, they also create huge demands on energy, water and food systems. Over the course of our recent evolution, as we solve one set of challenges, new ones emerge. So our capacity to innovate is not just an economic imperative, it’s essential for us to thrive as a species.

How will the work you are doing now influence your field in 100 years?

A: We are already witnessing a great unsettling of the conventional model of innovation and enterprise through the shared economy, innovations in sustainable foods, products and services and in major shifts in our approaches to aid and philanthropy. Our supply chains are flexing and rattling in discontent for better and fairer products.

As a social innovator, I believe we are an adaptable, flexible and creative species and the area where I would like to have the greatest influence is in helping break through the barriers that stifle innovation and create cycles of dependence and underdevelopment around the world. We see this same failure expressed in the challenges with welfare systems, exploitative production, for instance in agriculture in developing countries that fails to fairly distribute the value of commodities such as coffee, cocoa and timber, and in international aid.

I hope my work will help influence and transform philanthropy into a form of investment in human dignity that supports self-sufficiency and expands the supply of sustainable products and services that are available to us as consumers. I hope that some of our ventures will become the archived models that inspire future innovators to think differently about human potential and our relationship with the environment.

Want to study with James?

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Explore this Series

Nearly every researcher searches for something — a clue, an anomaly, a missing link — that will unlock new knowledge about the world we live in.

In the first 100 years at UBC, discovery was paramount. The drive for invention and the need to understand cause and effect ushered in decades of eureka moments in labs, classrooms and in the minds of students and professors alike as relationships between things revealed themselves. 

But what will the next 100 years bring? We asked researchers across a range of disciplines at UBC to transport themselves into the year 2115 and imagine what they might be teaching and researching.

Discover what they envision and travel with them into the future.

UBC is proud to mark its 100th anniversary as a global leader in education, research innovation and community engagement.
Learn more about the UBC Centennial.

Story Credits

Thank you to all of our participants for their willingness to predict the unknown.

Special thanks to Tim Herron, Events and Technical Services Manager, Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, for giving us lots of space to be creative and Public Affairs for suggestions on researchers for the story.

Story team: UBC Communications and Marketing — Martin Dee, UBC Photographer; Margaret Doyle, Digital Storyteller; Michael Kam, Web Developer; Lina Kang, Web Coordinator; Adrian Liem, Manager, Digital Communications; Mark Pilon, Designer; Aida Viziru, Web Interaction Designer; Matt Warburton, Manager, Graphic Design.

Published: February 2016