Transitions and changes
has become a symbol of the recent economic boom of China
The first years of the 21st century have thus far been marked by the rise of a global economy and Third World consumerism, mistrust in government, deepening global concern over terrorism and an increase in the power of private enterprise. The Arab Spring of the early 2010s led to mixed outcomes in the Arab world. The Digital Revolution which began around the 1980s also continues into the present. Millennials and Generation Z come of age and rise to prominence in this century.
In contemporary history, the 21st century essentially began in 1991 (the end of the Short Twentieth Century) with the United States as the sole superpower in the absence of the Soviet Union, while China began its rise and the BRICS countries aimed to create more balance in the global political and economic spectrum.
Religion has been declining worldwide, with an estimated 1.1 billion unaffiliated people in 2010.
The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 marks the continual rise of life sciences, making mankind's long-held dreams, such as curing cancer, more realistic. By the 2010s, gene therapy, first performed somatically in late 1990 and heritably in 1996, showed promise but remains an experimental and emerging technology.
Assistive reproductive technology developed in the 1980s, such as polar body biopsy and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, has allowed for the selection of genetic traits, and, along with the advent of ultrasound, has increased the number of boys and decreased the number of girls in many countries, most notably in China and India but also in other Asian and eastern Europe countries. This began in the late 1980s in China and India and after the fall of communism in the Balkans and Caucasus regions, concurrent with both the advent of capitalism in those countries and the widespread availability of reproductive technology.
While digital telecommunications technology became widely used by most of the world, concerns about stress from the overuse of mobile phones, the Internet, and related technologies remain controversial.
By 2013, about 80% of the world's population used mobile phones. An estimated 33% owned personal computers in 2010, and 46% used the Internet by 2016, compared to about 1% in 1996.
The distribution of modern technology is not equal – in 2012 it was estimated that 1.5 billion people, or about 20% of the world's population still lacked access to electric power, with many more having only intermittent or poor access.
The International Energy Agency estimates that 83% of the global population has access to electricity as of 2013 with the percentage projected to increase to 88% by 2030.
The world population was about 6.1 billion at the start of the 21st century and reached 7.5 billion in 2017. It is estimated to reach about 8.5 billion by the year 2030, and 9.37 billion by the year 2050.