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The 21st (twenty-first) century is the current century in the Anno Domini era or Common Era, under the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001 (MMI) and will end on December 31, 2100 (MMC).[1]

Marking the beginning of the 21st century was the rise of a global economy and Third World consumerism, deepening global concern over terrorism after September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and increased private enterprise.[2][3][4] The NATO interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq of the early 2000s and overthrowing several regimes during the Arab Spring of the early 2010s led to mixed outcomes in the Arab world, resulting in several civil wars and political instability.[5] The United States has remained the global superpower, while China is now considered an emerging global superpower.

In 2017, 49.3% of the world's population lived in "some form of democracy", though only 4.5% lived in "full democracies".[6] The United Nations estimates that by 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will be urbanized; an inverse of a century ago when less than one-third lived in cities.

The European Union was greatly expanded in the 21st century, adding 13 member states, but the United Kingdom withdrew. Most European Union member states introduced a common currency, the Euro. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was also greatly expanded in the 21st century, adding 11 member states.

Effects of global warming and rising sea levels exacerbated the ecological crises, with eight islands disappearing between 2007 and 2014.[7][8][9]

Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to rapidly spread worldwide, killing over 6 million people around the globe and causing severe global economic disruption, including the largest global recession since the Great Depression.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, more than half of the world's population obtained access to the Internet by 2018.[10] After the success of the Human Genome Project, DNA sequencing services became available and affordable.[11][12]

Pronunciation

There is a lack of general agreement over how to pronounce specific years of the 21st century in English. Academics have pointed out that the early years of previous centuries were commonly pronounced as, for example, "eighteen oh five" (for 1805) and "nineteen oh five" (for 1905).[13] Generally, the early years of the 21st century were pronounced as in "two-thousand (and) five", with a change taking place around 2010, when pronunciations often shifted between the early-years form of "two-thousand and ten" and the traditionally more concise form of "twenty-ten".

The Vancouver Olympics, which took place in 2010, was being officially referred to by Vancouver 2010 as "the twenty-ten Olympics".

Society

Shanghai has become a symbol of the recent economic boom of China.
Shanghai has become a symbol of the recent economic boom of China.

Advances in technology such as ultrasound, prenatal genetic testing and genetic engineering are changing the demographics and has the potential to change the genetic makeup of the human population. Because of sex selective abortion, fewer girls have been born in the 21st century (and since the early 1980s) compared to past centuries, mostly because of son preference in East and South Asia. In 2014, only 47 percent of Indian births were of girls.[14] This has led to an increase in bachelors in countries such as China and India. The first genetically modified children were born in November 2018 in China, beginning a new biological era for the human species and raising great controversy.

Anxiety[15] and depression[16] rates have risen in the United States and many other parts of the world. However, suicide rates have fallen in Europe and most of the rest of the world so far this century, declining 29% globally between 2000 and 2018, despite rising 18% in the United States in the same period. The decline in suicide has been most notable among Chinese and Indian women, the elderly, and middle-aged Russian men.[17][18]

Knowledge and information

The entire written works of humanity, from the beginning of recorded history to 2003, in all known languages, are estimated to be at five exabytes of data.[19][20] Since 2003, with the beginning of social media and "user-generated content", the same amount of data is created every two days.[21] The growth of human knowledge and information continues at an exponential rate.

Telecommunications in the early 21st century are much more advanced and universal than they were in the late 20th century. Only a few percent of the world's population were Internet users and cellular phone owners in the late 1990s; as of 2018, 55% of the world's population is online, and as of 2019, an estimated 67% own a cell phone.[22] In the 2010s, artificial intelligence, mainly in the form of deep learning and machine learning, became more prevalent and is prominently used in Gmail and Google's search engine, in banking, with the military and other areas. In 2017, 14% of the world's population still lacked access to electricity.[23]

India's Prayag Kumbh Mela is regarded as the world's largest religious festival.
India's Prayag Kumbh Mela is regarded as the world's largest religious festival.

In 2001, Dennis Tito became the first space tourist, beginning the era of commercial spaceflight. Entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Richard Branson are working towards commercial space exploration, colonization and tourism, while China and India have made substantial strides in their space programs. On January 3, 2019, China landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, the first to do so.[24]

Culture and politics

Further information: International relations since 1989

War and violence have declined considerably compared to the 20th century, continuing the post-World War II trend called Long Peace. Malnourishment and poverty are still widespread globally, but fewer people live in the most extreme forms of poverty. In 1990, approximately one-in-four people were malnourished, and nearly 36% of the world's population lived in extreme poverty; by 2015, these numbers had dropped to approximately one-in-eight and 10%, respectively.

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal drew international attention to the possible adverse effects of social media in influencing citizen's views, particularly regarding the 2016 United States presidential election.

Population and urbanization

The world population was about 6.1 billion at the start of the 21st century and reached 7.8 billion by March 2020. It is estimated to reach nearly 8.6 billion by 2030,[25] and 9.8 billion by 2050. According to the United Nations World Urbanization prospects, a 60% projection of the world's human population is to live in megacities and megalopolises by 2030, 70% by 2050, and 90% by 2080. It is expected by 2040, the investing of more than 5 times the current global gross domestic product is expected to be in urban infrastructure.[26]

Life expectancy has increased as child mortality continues to decline. A baby born in 2016, for example, will, on average (globally), live to 72 years—26 years longer than the global average of someone born in 1950. Ten million Britons (16% of the United Kingdom population) will, on average, live to 100 or older.[27]

Climate change remains a serious concern; UN Chief António Guterres, for instance, has described it as an "existential threat" to humanity.[28] Furthermore, the Holocene extinction event, the sixth most significant extinction event in the Earth's history, continues with the widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats as a by-product of human activity.[29]

A map of uncontacted tribes, around the start of the 21st century
A map of uncontacted tribes, around the start of the 21st century

Economics, education and retirement

Economically and politically, the United States and Western Europe were dominant at the beginning of the century; by the 2010s, China became an emerging global superpower and, by some measures, the world's largest economy. In terms of purchasing power parity, India's economy became more significant than Japan's around 2011.[30]

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are decentralized currencies that are not controlled by any central bank. These currencies are increasing in popularity worldwide due to the expanding availability of the internet and are mainly used as a store of value.

There is an ongoing impact of technological unemployment due to automation and computerization: the rate at which jobs are disappearing—due to machines replacing them—is expected to escalate.[31] Automation alters the number of jobs and the skills demands of industries. As of 2019, the production output of first world nations' manufacturing sectors was doubled when compared to 1984 output; but it is now produced with one-third fewer workers and at significantly reduced operating costs.[32] Half of all jobs with requirements lower than a bachelor's degree are currently in the process of being replaced with partial- or full-automation.[33]

The World Economic Forum forecast that 65% of children entering primary school will end up in jobs or careers that currently do not yet exist.[34]

A rise in the retirement age has been called for in view of an increase in life expectancy and has been put in place in many jurisdictions.[35][36]

Linguistic diversity

As of 2009, SIL Ethnologue catalogued 6,909 living human languages.[37] The exact number of known living languages will vary from 5,000 to 10,000, generally depending on the precision of one's definition of "language", and in particular, on how one classifies dialects.

Estimates vary depending on many factors, but the general consensus is that there are between 6,000 and 7,000 languages currently spoken. Between 50 and 90% of those will have become extinct by the year 2100.[38]

The top 20 languages spoken by more than 50 million speakers each, are spoken by 50% of the world's population. In contrast, many of the other languages are spoken by small communities, most of them with fewer than 10,000 speakers.[38]

Events

Main article: Timeline of the 21st century

2000s

Belligerents of the Second Congo War
Belligerents of the Second Congo War
George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, from 2001 to 2009
George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, from 2001 to 2009
September 11 attacks
Angela Merkel and José Manuel Barroso
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev after signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev after signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

2010s

Julia Gillard was sworn in as the first female Prime Minister of Australia in 2010.
Julia Gillard was sworn in as the first female Prime Minister of Australia in 2010.
Americans celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden in front of the White House
Americans celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden in front of the White House
Pope Francis in Poland
Pope Francis in Poland
Ukraine, Euromaidan, people protesting in favor of Ukraine's European way.
Ukraine, Euromaidan, people protesting in favor of Ukraine's European way.
Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Ukraine
Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Ukraine
2015 European migrant crisis
Turkish anti-coup rally in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 22 July 2016
Turkish anti-coup rally in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 22 July 2016
China's Xi Jinping has been the leader for life since 2018.
China's Xi Jinping has been the leader for life since 2018.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, parents, and others march in the March for Our Lives protest in Parkland, FL in 2018.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, parents, and others march in the March for Our Lives protest in Parkland, FL in 2018.

2020s

George Floyd protests in Miami during the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020.[46]
George Floyd protests in Miami during the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020.[46]
Joe Biden, the 46th and current president of the United States.[47]

Politics, wars and states

Main articles: International relations since 1989 and List of wars: 2003–present

Russian President Vladimir Putin with George W. Bush and other Western leaders in Moscow, 9 May 2005
Russian President Vladimir Putin with George W. Bush and other Western leaders in Moscow, 9 May 2005
Protesters try to stop members of the G8 from attending the summit during the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, Italy by burning vehicles on the main route to the summit.
Protesters try to stop members of the G8 from attending the summit during the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, Italy by burning vehicles on the main route to the summit.

New countries and territorial changes

Some territories have gained independence during the 21st century. This is a list of sovereign states that have gained independence in the 21st century and have been recognized by the UN.

Celebration of the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo
Celebration of the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo

These nations gained sovereignty through government reform.

The Union of the Comoros replaced the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros

The Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan replaced the Islamic State of Afghanistan.

The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro replaced the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan replaced the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal replaced the Kingdom of Nepal.

The National Transitional Council of Libya replaced the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

The State of Libya replaced the National Transitional Council of Libya.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan replaced the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

These territories have declared independence and secured relative autonomy but they have only been recognized by some UN member states:

These territories have declared independence and secured relative autonomy but they have been recognized by no one:

These territories were annexed from a sovereign country, the action has only been recognized by some UN member states:

These terrorities were ceded to another country:

Science and technology

Space exploration

NASA successfully lands the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.
NASA successfully lands the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.
Artist's impression of New Horizons' close encounter with the Pluto–Charon system.
Artist's impression of New Horizons' close encounter with the Pluto–Charon system.

Physics

Mathematics

Biotechnology and medicine

Further information: Timeline of medicine and medical technology § 2000 – present

See also: Medicine in the 2010s

Telecommunications

Steve Jobs discussing the iPhone, an early smartphone, in 2008
Steve Jobs discussing the iPhone, an early smartphone, in 2008

The Digital Revolution continued into the early 21st century with mobile phone usage and Global Internet usage growing massively, becoming available to many more people, with more applications and faster speeds.

Worldwide Internet users[58]
Users 2005 2010 2017 2019[59]
World population[60] 6.5 billion 6.9 billion 7.4 billion 7.75 billion
Worldwide 16% 30% 48% 53.6%
In developing world 8% 21% 41.3% 47%
In developed world 51% 67% 81% 86.6%

Social networking emerged in the mid 2000s as a popular social communication, largely replacing much of the function of email, message boards and instant messaging services. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are all major examples of social media to gain widespread popularity. The use of webcams and front-facing cameras on PCs and related devices, and services such as Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime have made video calling and video conferencing widespread. Their use hugely increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Civil unrest

December 2001 riots in Argentina, also known as "Argentinazo".
December 2001 riots in Argentina, also known as "Argentinazo".
2007 Georgian demonstrations against the government of president Mikheil Saakashvili.
2007 Georgian demonstrations against the government of president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Tahrir Square Protest during the Arab Spring in Egypt.
Tahrir Square Protest during the Arab Spring in Egypt.
Peaceful protests in Madrid. In August 2011, Spain's unemployment reached 21.2% (46.2% for youths).
Peaceful protests in Madrid. In August 2011, Spain's unemployment reached 21.2% (46.2% for youths).
2019–20 Hong Kong protests
"Marcha Mas Grande De Chile" during the 2019–2020 Chilean protests.
"Marcha Mas Grande De Chile" during the 2019–2020 Chilean protests.

Disasters

Natural disasters

The tsunami striking Ao Nang in Thailand on December 26, 2004.
The tsunami striking Ao Nang in Thailand on December 26, 2004.
New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

2000s

2010s

Damaged buildings in Port-au-Prince as a result of the 2010 Haiti earthquake
Damaged buildings in Port-au-Prince as a result of the 2010 Haiti earthquake
Hurricane Maria destruction in Dominica in 2017.
Hurricane Maria destruction in Dominica in 2017.

2020s

Man-made disasters

Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit in the Gulf of Mexico on fire in 2010
Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit in the Gulf of Mexico on fire in 2010

Pandemics and epidemics

Western African Ebola virus epidemic
U.S. yearly overdose deaths. More than 70,630 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019.
U.S. yearly overdose deaths. More than 70,630 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019.

Economics and industry

Sports

Association football is the most popular sport worldwide with the FIFA World Cup being the most viewed football event. Other sports such as rugby, cricket, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, tennis, and golf are popular globally. In cricket, the emergence of the Twenty20 format and the creation of the Indian Premier League led to changes in the nature of the sport. American swimmer Michael Phelps won an Olympic record setting 8 Gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The Beijing Bird's Nest Stadium during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The Beijing Bird's Nest Stadium during the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Association football

Cricket

Gridiron football

Quarterback Tom Brady led the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his career, appearing in 10 Super Bowls himself, the most ever.
Quarterback Tom Brady led the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his career, appearing in 10 Super Bowls himself, the most ever.

Golf

Tiger Woods was the most successful male golfer of the first two decades of the 21st century.
Tiger Woods was the most successful male golfer of the first two decades of the 21st century.

Motorsport

The start of a race during the 2016 Supercars Championship in Australia
The start of a race during the 2016 Supercars Championship in Australia

Rugby Union

Tennis (Men)

Tennis (Women)

Arts and entertainment

Arts

Main article: Contemporary art

Music

A. R. Rahman, an Indian composer, became the first-ever from the sub-continent to have won double Oscars for his original score and soundtrack in 2009.
A. R. Rahman, an Indian composer, became the first-ever from the sub-continent to have won double Oscars for his original score and soundtrack in 2009.

At the beginning of the century, the compact disc (CD) was the standard form of music media, but alternative forms of music media started to take it place such as music downloading and online streaming. A resurgence in sales of vinyl records in the 2010s was driven by record collectors and audiophiles who prefer the sound of analog vinyl records to digital recordings. In 2020, for the first time since the 1980s, vinyl surpassed CDs as the primary form of physical media for consumers of music, though both were still surpassed by online streaming, which by the 2020s became the predominant way that people consumed music.[79] As of 2020, the most active music streaming services were YouTube (1 billion monthly music users, 20 million premium subscribers), Tencent Music (657 million monthly users, 42.7 million premium subscribers), 130 million premium subscribers), SoundCloud (175 million monthly users), Gaana (152 million monthly users), JioSaavn (104 million monthly users), Spotify (286 million monthly users), Pandora (60.9 million monthly users), and Apple Music (60 million subscribers).[80]

Television

As with music, the story of the first two decades of the 21st century was the growth of streaming television services in competition with older forms of television, such as Terrestrial television, cable television, and satellite television. The first major company to dominate the streaming service market was Netflix, which began as a DVD-delivery service in the late 1990s, transitioned into an online media streaming platform initially focused on delivering content produced by studios, then began to produce its own content, beginning with the popular and critically acclaimed series House of Cards in 2013. Netflix's success encouraged the creation of numerous other streaming services, such as Hulu, YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+, which within a year of its launch overtook Netflix as the most downloaded television streaming application.[81]

Issues and concerns

Global Peak Oil forecast. Virtually all economic sectors rely heavily on petroleum.
Global Peak Oil forecast. Virtually all economic sectors rely heavily on petroleum.
Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2006. Almost 97% of future population growth is expected to occur in developing countries.[85]
Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2006. Almost 97% of future population growth is expected to occur in developing countries.[85]
In early 2019, more than 90% of world's 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States.[88]
In early 2019, more than 90% of world's 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States.[88]
.mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}  Marriage open to same-sex couples  Death penalty for homosexuality
  Marriage open to same-sex couples

Astronomical events

Further information: List of future astronomical events § 21st century

See also

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Further reading