By 2050, 97+% of the world's individuals will be participating in, and fully reliant upon, a “Shadow Economy” that is outside a country’s official national economy or even the world's economy. It will address most, if not all, of their economic needs and provide mechanisms whereby they can exchange “instruments of value" for "goods and services". Financial transactions within the shadow economy will be conducted with unofficial financial instruments (for example, Shadow-Dollars) and used to make “purchases” of goods and services. Small businesses will arise (e.g. manufactures, boutique medical suppliers, repair works, etc.) that will trade exclusively with Shadow-Dollars and operate in a manner that avoids any scrutiny of the official economy.
This Shadow Economy will arise as individuals will no longer have access to the official economy, because most of the world’s generated wealth, and the ability to generate wealth itself, will have been transferred into the hands of a few companies or individuals. This will likely come about because of automation, displacement by artificial intelligence and advanced robotics.
Considerations and Background
By 2023, the annual global total value of electronic payments alone is expected to exceed US $3 trillion and maybe even reach US $5.5 trillion. This is expected to represent roughly 7% to 15% of the world's financial transactions in that year (some analysts think this value may be too conservative). By 2050, we can expect this total value to have expanded exponentially. By the year 2050, we may see the world’s annual total financial transaction value exceed “thousands of trillions” of US dollars, maybe even “tens of thousands of trillions” of dollars. It is very hard to accurately predict, but by 2050, the total value of the world’s financial exchange will dwarf everything ever previously considered. It will be so large that some small governments will not be able to participate. Furthermore, even the biggest governments will not be able to fully participate. Only the richest and biggest players will be able to fully participate.
Business without Humans and Data-Tsunamis
By 2050, the world’s total number of electronic financial transactions in one hour alone far exceeds the entire number of financial transactions for the whole year of 2025. By today’s standards, the volume of data processed in 2050 can only be described as a “Data Tsunami”. Advanced AIs manage whole teams of specialist AIs to ensure the robustness of the financial transactions and the systems they run on. AIs that specialize in security watch each bit and byte and scan for anomalies in real time.
Simultaneously, in mere milliseconds, even more specialist AIs do the work that an entire team of Human paralegals would take months to perform. Entire contractual arrangements are started, negotiated, and completed in under a second. Businesses and vast sums of money change hands faster than Governments and the public are able to witness or even consider.
The volumes of data are so vast and so arcane that only highly advanced and specialized AIs running on the most optimized and advanced hardware can review some of it by random inspection.