Most -- maybe all -- of the interesting changes that happen in history are completely unexpected. Well, maybe not completely, and there will always be people after the fact who will claim they knew such-and-such was coming, but history is only interesting to the degree that it marks events you didn't expect.
Twenty-five years is not such a long time. The mid-1980s is about 25 years ago, yet think of some stunning ways the world is now different:
- The Soviet Union, Cold War, and all its consequences, not to mention a newly reformed China that was barely alive.
- Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Microsoft were around but who really knew or cared?
- Technology: Internet, mobile phones, personal computers, cordless phones, VCRs, digital cameras, home theatre
- Venture capital, hedge funds, and other forms of finance that now seem routine were much more specialized and rare.
- End of the Cuban Embargo (and surge in development and tourism). Same with North Korea.
- A major earthquake significantly incapacitates Tokyo.
- Nuclear terrorism
- A Chinese recession (3+ quarters of negative growth) and resulting political shakeup
- Major disease epidemic kills millions of people worldwide
- Post-petroleum world that makes the Middle East (and other oil-exporting countries) economically irrelevant
- Developing countries no longer suffer major casualties from common infectious diseases like malaria and AIDS.
- Major news organizations like The New York Times or CNN are no longer significant information sources, either because they're out of business or because they're entirely eclipsed by something new.
- Enrollment in "traditional" colleges and universities plummets as the process of higher education is replaced by something else.
- The United States no longer has military bases in Japan, Korea, Europe, or the Middle East.
- A new type of finance (microloans? e-bartering?) is mainstream and common.