The 21st century began with the United States as the sole superpower in the absence of the Soviet Union, with China emerging as a potential superpower. The debate over what should be done about fossil fuel pollution and alternative energy raged in the new century after most of the 20th century was marked by rapid industrial expansion. With the Cold War over and Islamic fundamentalist-related terrorism on the rise, the United States and its allies turned their attention to the Middle East.
Digital technology – in its early stages of mainstream use in the 1980s and 1990s – became widely adopted by most of the world, though concerns about stress and anti-sociality from the overuse of mobile phones, the Internet and related technologies remained controversial. Over 1.5 billion people worldwide used the Internet by the end of the first decade and over 4 billion (more than half the world's population) used cell phones.
A global financial downturn – triggered by a sub-prime mortgage crisis – resulted in severe and long-lasting consequences for the U.S. and much of the world. Growing divides between rich and poor exacerbated public resentment of their governments and elites. Citizens became more and more aware of excessive surveillance and privacy intrusion. At the same time, social media and other technologies exposed the corruption inherent in the political and economic system, while facilitating the organisation of movements and protests.
How do you feel about this century and what it offers the future