WHP Lesson 45: The Past and the Future

One of our goals in learning about history is to make it “usable.” In other words, how can we take what we’ve learned about the past and apply it to today, or even to the future? Today, you’ll think about what you’ve learned in the course to make some predictions about what will be happening in the world in 2050.

Driving Question: What do you think the world will look like in 2050? How will it be similar and different from today?

  • It’s hard to predict the future. One way we can try to do this, is through data. Historians often look at things like poverty, income, birth and death rates, and climate to determine if things are getting better or worse. There are a bunch of other measurements, too, that people like to use when thinking about the future—the number of wars in the world (decreasing for now), the average lifespan (getting better for now), toxic pollution (gradually getting worse), education levels (improving), equality for women (getting a bit better). While this information is invaluable, it also leads to a really mixed vision of the world.
  • And what is even more complicated, while things get better for some people, they may be getting worse for others at the same time. For a long time, people looking at globalization predicted it would equalize opportunity for everyone—or in other words, make the world “flatter.” But another group of scholars now argues that globalization affects different communities unequally, in other words, it makes the world “lumpy” or “spiky” rather than “flat.”

Word of the Day: Data 

  • Definition: facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.
  • We have to analyze data to make meaning of it, data does not directly lead to conclusions. 


  • ReadIs the World Flat or Spiky” in Lesson 7.5 on Khan Academy
  • Think about what data would be useful evidence to establish that the world is spiky or flat today, and what it will be like in the future.

Historian’s Journal Prompt

  • What do you think the world will look like in 2050?
  • How will it be similar and different from today? Are things getting better or worse, and for whom? What can we predict will happen in the future? Pick a few categories and think about how the world will be different.