Wow... 2050... we actually made it through another half-century.

Back in 2011, I wasn't so sure. Malaria, tuberculosis, obesity, type II diabetes, Alzheimer's; they were almost unchecked in places and Ontario was spending 50% of its budget on health care.

And you should have seen the potholes and the pollution; the quality of the air in Toronto was awful. Many took to wearing black shirts since white ones turned black by noon anyways! The poor asthmatics; thank god they had those inhalers in those days. But not only was the air polluted, our lakes and rivers were going from bad to worse, with people lamenting the loss of the clear, crisp streams but continuing to pollute. Then there were those folks in Alberta who were getting rich 'mining liquid gold' while contributing to global warming and the demise of our beautiful glaciers and the threat of coastal flooding.

Social networking was all the craze, and maybe it even resulted in major uprisings around the world, as poor people rose up against the rich and the corrupt – shades of the French Revolution. So how did we make it through those terrifying days? In a word: GENOMICS. We were in fact in the middle of an important revolution and few of us even realized it.

Well, one person did: the famous Harvard-based futurist Juan Enriquez. In 2005, his first book, As The Future Catches You, predicted how the biotechnology industry (read GENOMICS) was going to change our world, our health, our food, our environment. Then in 2008, he wrote the book Homo Evolutis: A short tour of a new species. He suggested that in a few short years Homo sapiens had evolved through what he called hypernatural evolution into a new hominoid species that he called Homo Evolutis, a hominoid that directly and deliberately controls the evolution of its own and other species. Most reacted to the book with a "come on, get real. Enriquez is starting to believe in his own future fancies," but wait a minute. Maybe he was right. We all still look the same and even act the same... A new species?

Well, he was right about controlling the evolution of our own and other species, and we did it by understanding biology through genomics and making changes that have changed our planet in very positive ways at least in terms of our own survival.
It's not perfect, but wow did genomics ever help us avoid the bullet and save our backsides. We've genetically modified all sorts of foods to make them healthier and safer and to allow us to grow vegetables using less water and cheaper fertilizers. Famine has decreased around the world, and our own health has improved. We're not living much longer but we are living healthier. Infectious diseases are still common, but now we rapidly deploy genomics and new microbes to produce vaccines quickly. We haven't seen a case of malaria or tuberculosis in almost two decades, and we have new therapies for some of those awful neurodegenerative diseases.

Personalized medicine is no longer a myth or a promise. The right medicine, at the right dose for a particular 'patient' has now become common practice. Cancer and heart disease are still all too common,
but in many cases genomics has allowed us to better understand them and hence at least partly control, if not cure, these two devastating conditions, which used to take so many lives so early.

And, by the way, I haven't seen a smoker in more than a decade. We've come to understand and treat many of those terrible addictions. The hardest nut to crack was the environment, as we still wanted our luxuries, our cars and our air conditioning.

Do you remember when Craig Venter, the champion of the private-sector Human Genome Project, decided that he would make oil directly from the sun and genetically modified algae? Well, we've not only dramatically lowered our carbon footprint, but we've started to clean up our environment. Well not us, but rather microbes trained genetically (well, many of them knew how even without our instruction) to clean up our lakes and our rivers. They even allowed us to make the extraction of oil from the tar sands more environmentally friendly. The carbon footprint is still a problem, but at least a clean one, and maybe one day algae and microbes will help us wean ourselves off all fossil fuels.

So let's go back to 2011 and review some of the ideas that resulted in changes that have allowed us not only to survive, but in fact to prosper in the year 2050 and be healthier, not only in terms of our own persons, but also in terms of our environment.