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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 21st (twenty-first) century is the current century of the Anno Domini era or Common Era, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001, and will end on December 31, 2100.[1] It is the first century of the 3rd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 2000s which began on January 1, 2000, and will end on December 31, 2099.[2]

The first years of the 21st century were marked by the rise of a global economy and Third World consumerism, mistrust in government, deepening global concern over terrorism and an increase in private enterprise.[3][4][5] Effects of global warming and rising sea levels continued, with eight islands disappearing between 2007 and 2014.[6][7][8] The Arab Spring of the early 2010s led to mixed outcomes in the Arab world.[9] While most member states of the European Union introduced a common currency, the Euro, the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union: Brexit.[10] The Third Industrial Revolution which began around the 1980s also continues into the present, and is expected to transition into Industry 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution by as early as 2030.[11][unreliable source?] Due to the proliferation of mobile devices, more than half of the world's population have access to the internet (2018 estimate[12]), allowing humans to be more interconnected than ever before. DNA sequencing cost continued to fall: the first human genome cost three billion dollars;[13] in 2018, sequencing one human genome cost about $1000.[14]

Transitions and changes

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

Technology and society

Advances in technology such as ultrasound, prenatal genetic testing and genetic engineering is 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 in past centuries, mostly because of son preference in East and South Asia. In 2014 only 47 percent of Indian births were of girls.[15] 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[16] and depression[17] rates are rising 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.[18][19]

Knowledge and information

The entire written works of humanity, from the beginning of recorded history to 2003, in all known languages, is estimated to be at five exabytes of data.[20][21] Since 2003, with the birth of social media and "user-generated content", the same amount of data is created every two days.[22] The advancement of the sum total of human knowledge and information continues to grow at an exponential rate; humans now collect and archive more data in one day than in the previous 10 years.[23]

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.[24] In the 2010s, artificial intelligence, mostly in the form of deep learning and machine learning became more prevalent, and is prominently used in Gmail and Google's search engine, as well as in banking, the military and other niches. In 2017, 14% of the world's population still lacked access to electricity.[25]

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 such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson are working towards commercial space exploration, colonization and tourism, and China and India have made substantial strides in their space program. On January 3, 2019, China landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, being the first to do so.[26]

Culture and politics

War and most kinds of crime and violence have declined considerably compared to the 20th century; such a period of "relative peace" between major powers has not been documented in human history since the Roman Empire.[citation needed] Malnourishment and poverty are still widespread globally, but fewer people live in the most extreme forms of poverty, relative to recorded history. In 1990 one-in-four people were malnourished, nearly 36% of the world's population lived in extreme poverty; in 2015 this percentage dropped to one-in-eight and 10%, respectively. If current trends hold, the United Nations projects the eradication of famine and extreme poverty by the end of this century.

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal draws international attention to the possible negative effects of social media on influencing citizen's views, particularly in regards to 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 7.7 billion by January 2019. It is estimated to reach about 8.6 billion by the year 2030,[27] and 9.8 billion by the year 2050. According to the United Nations World Urbanization prospects, 60% of the world's human population is projected to live in megacities and megalopolises by 2030, 70% by 2050, and 90% by 2080. By 2040, more than 5 times the current global gross domestic product is expected to be invested in urban infrastructure.[28]

Life expectancy is increasing as child mortality continues to decline. A baby born in 2016, for example, can on average (globally) expect to live 72 years—26 years longer than the global average of someone born in 1950. Ten million Britons (16% of the population of the United Kingdom) are expected to live to 100 or older.[29]

However, climate change remains an extremely serious concern; UN Chief António Guterres, for instance, has described it as an "existential threat" to humanity.[30] Furthermore, the Holocene extinction event, the sixth most significant extinction event in the history of the Earth, continues with the widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats as a byproduct of human activity.[31]

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 superpower and by some measures the world's largest economy. In terms of purchasing power parity India's economy became larger than that of Japan around the year 2011.[32]

The ongoing impact of technological unemployment due to automation and computerization on job employment is massive: the rate of jobs disappearing—due to machines replacing them—is expected to escalate.[33] Automation alters the number of jobs and their skills demands of industries. As of 2019, the manufacturing sectors of first world nations' production output was doubled when compared to 1984 output; but are now produced with one-third fewer workers and at significantly reduced operating costs.[34] Half of all jobs with requirements less than a bachelor's degree are currently in the process of being replaced with partial- or full-automation.[35]

According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school will end up in jobs or careers that currently do not yet exist.[36]

An increase in retirement age has been called for in view of an increase in life expectancy and has been put in place in many jurisdictions.[37][38]


There is a debate among experts and the general public on how to pronounce specific years of the 21st century in English. Regarding this, academics suggested that since former years such as 1805 and 1905 were commonly pronounced as "eighteen oh five" or "nineteen oh five", the year 2005 should naturally have been pronounced as "twenty oh five".[39] A less common variation would have been "twenty nought five". Generally, the early years of the 21st century were pronounced as "two-thousand (and) five", with a change taking place around 2010, where pronunciations often shift between the early-year standard of "two-thousand and ten" and the traditional approach of "twenty-ten".

The Vancouver Olympics, which took place in 2010, was being officially referred to by Vancouver 2010 as "the twenty-ten Olympics". The latest timeframes for change are usually placed at 2020.[39]

According to The Stanley Kubrick Archives, in the press release for his film 2001: A Space Odyssey, film director Stanley Kubrick included specific instructions for journalists to refer to the movie as "two thousand and one" instead of the commonplace pronunciation of "twenty-oh-one". Kubrick said he did this in the hope that if the film became popular, it would influence the pronunciation of that year.[40]


Politics and wars

Despite a very large decline in conflict deaths compared to the 20th century, genocide still remains a problem in this century with the concern of the war in Darfur and the conflict in Sri Lanka which ended in 2009. Low estimates on the deaths in Darfur stand around 200,000 deaths with 2.5 million in displacement, there has been much outcry against the perpetrators, the Sudanese government, and the very weak international response. Also, controversies from past genocides remain commonplace in the minds of victims and average people alike.


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.



Pope Francis in Poland
Pope Francis in Poland

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.

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:

  • Autonomous Republic of Crimea Crimea annexed from Ukraine into the Russian Federation on March 18, 2014.

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.



Biotechnology and medicine

U.S. yearly overdose deaths. More than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017.
U.S. yearly overdose deaths. More than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017.
  • 2003 – Completion of the Human Genome Project
  • 2003 – Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spreads around the globe.
  • 2005 – The first successful partial face transplant is performed in France.
  • 2006 – Australian of the Year Dr Ian Frazer develops a vaccine for cervical cancer.
  • 2007 – Visual prosthetic (bionic eye) Argus II.
  • 2008 – Japanese scientists create a form of artificial DNA.
  • 2008 – Laurent Lantieri performs the first full face transplant.
  • 2009 – Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 spreads around the globe.
  • 2012 – The first successful complete face transplant is performed in Turkey.
  • 2012 – Doubts raised over Statin medication.
  • 2013 – First kidney grown in vitro in the U.S.
  • 2013 – First human liver grown from stem cells in Japan.
  • 2014 – Ebola virus spreads in west Africa, prompting the largest ever epidemic, with more than 20,000 cases. The first cases outside Africa are reported.
  • 2016 – The Zika virus, caused by mosquitoes, targets unborn babies, causing birth defects on newborns making some pregnant women afraid of traveling overseas.


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

Social networking emerged in the late 2000s as a popular social communication, largely replacing much of the function of email, message boards and instant messaging services. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube 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 and FaceTime, have made video calling and video conferencing widespread.

Civil unrest

2007 Georgian demonstrations
2007 Georgian demonstrations
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).
A Committee for the Defence of Democracy protest in Warsaw against Poland's government, 7 May 2016
A Committee for the Defence of Democracy protest in Warsaw against Poland's government, 7 May 2016
2017–2018 Romanian protests against government policies and corruption, 22 January 2017
2017–2018 Romanian protests against government policies and corruption, 22 January 2017
Supporters of Catalan independence protest in Barcelona in April 2018
Supporters of Catalan independence protest in Barcelona in April 2018
Marcha Mas Grande De Chile during the 2019 Chilean protests.
Marcha Mas Grande De Chile during the 2019 Chilean protests.

Linguistic diversity

As of 2009, SIL Ethnologue catalogued 6,909 living human languages.[54] The exact number of known living languages will vary from 5,000 to 10,000, depending generally 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, and that between 50–90% of those will have become extinct by the year 2100.[55][failed verification] The top 20 languages spoken by more than 50 million speakers each, are spoken by 50% of the world's population, whereas many of the other languages are spoken by small communities, most of them with fewer than 10,000 speakers.[55][failed verification]


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.



The eye of Hurricane Irene as viewed from the International Space Station on August 24, 2011
The eye of Hurricane Irene as viewed from the International Space Station on August 24, 2011
Hurricane Maria destruction in Dominica in 2017.
Hurricane Maria destruction in Dominica in 2017.

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
  • On July 27, 2002, a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter crashes at an air show in Ukraine, killing 77 and injuring more than 100, making it the worst air show disaster in history.
  • On February 1, 2003, at the conclusion of the STS-107 mission, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates during reentry over Texas, killing all seven astronauts on board.
  • The Black Saturday bushfires – the deadliest bushfires in Australian history took place across the Australian state of Victoria on February 7, 2009 during extreme bushfire-weather conditions, resulting in 173 people killed, more than 500 injured, and around 7,500 homeless. The fires came after Melbourne recorded the highest-ever temperature (46.4 °C, 115 °F) of any capital city in Australia. The majority of the fires were ignited by either fallen or clashing power lines or deliberately lit.
  • On April 10, 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczyński, his wife and 94 other people, including dozens of government officials, are killed in a plane crash.
  • On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, operating in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, left eleven crewmen dead and resulted in a fire that sank the rig and caused a massive-scale oil spill[65] that may become one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history.[66] On June 18, 2010 oceanographer John Kessler said that the crude gushing from the well contains 40 percent methane, compared to about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits. Methane is a natural gas that could potentially suffocate marine life and create "dead zones" where oxygen is so depleted that nothing lives. "This is the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history," Kessler said.[67] On June 20 an internal BP document was released by Congress revealing that BP estimated the flow could be as much as 100,000 barrels (4,200,000 US gallons; 16,000 cubic metres) per day under the circumstances that existed since the April 20 blowout.[68][69]

Economics and industry

Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world in 2018. There were over 2,200 U.S. dollar billionaires worldwide, with a combined wealth of over US$9.1 trillion, up from US$7.67 trillion in 2017.[70]
Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world in 2018. There were over 2,200 U.S. dollar billionaires worldwide, with a combined wealth of over US$9.1 trillion, up from US$7.67 trillion in 2017.[70]


At the start of the 21st century sports are very popular. The IOC's Modern Olympic Games was the most viewed sporting event. Association football is the most popular sport worldwide with the FIFA World Cup the most viewed football event. Other sports such as rugby, cricket, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, tennis, and golf were popular globally. In cricket the emergence of the Twenty20 format as well as 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.

International tournaments

Modern Olympic Games

Association football

Portugal vs Morocco match during the 2018 World Cup in Russia
Portugal vs Morocco match during the 2018 World Cup in Russia





Rugby Union

Tennis (Men)

Tennis (Women)


The start of a race during the 2016 Supercars Championship in Australia
The start of a race during the 2016 Supercars Championship in Australia
  • Dale Earnhardt passes away after a last-lap crash during the Daytona 500 in February 2001. NASCAR surpasses the Indianapolis 500 as the most popular motorsport in the United States.
  • Michael Schumacher breaks many records in the first few years of the century, breaking the record for most races won (91), most World Championships (7), and most pole positions (68) by the time he retired in 2006. He then announced his comeback to Formula One after three years out of the sport, in 2010, before retiring again in 2012.
  • Sebastian Vettel breaks numerous records on his way to becoming Formula One's youngest ever world champion, in 2010 at age 23, and then the youngest ever double world champion, in 2011 at age 24.
  • Sébastien Loeb becomes the most successful rally driver ever, winning the World Rally Championship a record 9 consecutive times between 2004–2012. He also sets new records for the most wins, podium finishes and points scored.
  • Casey Stoner wins his second MotoGP world title (2007 and 2011) before announcing his retirement from the sport at just 27 years of age, citing disagreement with the direction of the sport and a desire to spend more time with his family. His retirement is effective at the end of the 2012 MotoGP season. Stoner has won every MotoGP-branded race at least once.
  • Craig Lowndes became the first driver to reach 100 race wins in the V8 Supercars Championship.
  • Lewis Hamilton breaks the record for most pole positions in Formula One held by Michael Schumacher which is now 85 pole positions.



Arts and entertainment



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.

The most popular styles of music in the 21st century have been hip hop and electronic dance music, although rock music, as well as country music is still popular and other genres such as jazz and classical music still have active scenes and continue to evolve.

At the beginning of the century, the compact disk 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 slight resurgence in vinyl records started to take place in the second decade of the 21st century.

Issues and concerns

There are several points-of-view pertaining to the following items, all of which should be considered accordingly.

Issues that have been frequently discussed and debated so far in this century include:

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.[74]
Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2006. Almost 97% of future population growth is expected to occur in developing countries.[74]

Astronomical events

List of the long central solar eclipses

Other phenomena

  • 2004: Transit of Venus.
  • December 23, 2007: grand conjunction, a galactic conjunction which happens every 26,000 years.
  • 2009: Triple conjunction JupiterNeptune.
  • 2012: Transit of Venus.
  • November 11, 2019: Transit of Mercury.
  • Friday, April 13, 2029: The asteroid 99942 Apophis (previously better known by its provisional designation 2004 MN4) will pass within 30,000 km (18,600 mi) of the Earth.
  • July 2061: Next return of Halley's Comet.
  • 2063: Triple conjunction Mars-Uranus.
  • November 11, 2065: Transit of Mercury.
  • November 22, 2065: At 12:45 UTC, Venus will occult Jupiter. This event will be the first occultation of a planet by another since January 3, 1818. This event will be very difficult to observe from Earth's surface, because the elongation of Venus and Jupiter from the Sun on that date will be only 7 degrees.
  • 2066: Triple conjunction Jupiter-Uranus.
  • July 15, 2067: At 11:56 UTC, Mercury will occult Neptune. This rare event will be very difficult to observe from Earth's surface, because of the constant low elongation of Mercury from the Sun, and the magnitude of Neptune always under the limit of visibility with the naked eye.
  • Friday, November 10, 2084: Transit of Earth as seen from Mars, the first and the only one in this century.
  • November 7, 2085: Transit of Mercury.
  • 2100: Polaris appears furthest north. Polaris' maximum apparent declination (taking account of nutation and aberration) will be 0.4526° from the celestial north pole, on March 24, 2100.[80]

See also


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