Thursday, February 1, 2018

Two Thousand Eighteen stretching out before us

At some point I came to realize that most of my  life's trajectories had little to do with big, conscious decisions that I made, and much more to do with thousands of little micro-decisions.  Choices made that each day kept certain options open but that tightened the aperture on others.  

I suspect this future that I'm trying to predict is like that.  I can try to predict the big, disruptive things, but in some way they are not only not predictable, but they are also mostly beside the point.  Rather, history gets made by all the little consistencies and textures of inertias that lend a topography to change through time.   Carved as though by water and gravity - this landscape of flow and predictable diversion is what a discerning eye might notice if we weren't creatures hard-wired for novelty.

So, given the thousands of micro-decisions that we as a nation make, what are some predictions that I can put forward?

  • 2018 will be one of the top 3 hottest years on record globally.
  • We will still have no driverless cars on the public roads at the beginning of 2019.
  • The Democrats will re-take control of the House, but lose ground in the Senate.
  • Over 80,000 Americans will die of drug overdoses in 2018 as the opioid epidemic continues to worsen.
  • Medical mistakes will be the 3rd leading cause of death in the US, behind cancer and heart disease.
  • The US Olympic Committee will have its hands full with more sex abuse scandals as the Nassar sentencing inspires athletes in other sports to speak out.
  • The US budget deficit will exceed a trillion dollars under the new tax code.
  • The US will maintain the largest prisoner population in the world and will replace the Seychelles as having the highest rate of incarceration. 
I could troll around for positive trends, but that's not my beat as a self-styled witness to the decline of an unsustainable civilization.  I can hope that positive trends like a revitalization of civic life or re-localization will pick up steam, but I see no reason to expect that.  Still, I should add a couple of wild guesses to the mix to round out the dectet. 
  • North and South Korea will dissolve the DMZ.
  • First signs of extraterrestrial life will be discovered.
So there we go - my modest exercise in prescience for 2018.  Let's see how I do this year . . . .

Two Thousand Seventeen in the rearview mirror.

It is a new(ish) year and it is time for the annual humiliation of seeing how badly I've predicted the future once again.  Is prediction futility?  Can one get better at it?  Does it only work if you never go back and revisit the specifics of what you actually predicted?  (I strongly suspect that that last one is nearest the truth.)

Let's resume this after visiting those last year's predictions . . .

Half-credit on this one, as the FBI was caught laying the groundwork, by inventing a new kind of terrorism, "black identity extremism".  But so far, I haven't heard of any actual crackdown, behind the normal, state-sanctioned terrorism that minority communities face on a day to day basis.
  • There will be an attempted crackdown against McClatchy News, which will mostly backfire, giving investigative journalism a much-needed shot in the arm.
Nope, the Right's railing against "fake news" has continued, as they try to insulate their supporters from any confusing contact with real journalism, but so far nothing concrete and nothing aimed at McClatchy.  More subtle strategies of neutering journalism may be sufficient.
  • 2017 will turn out to be second hottest year on record, right behind 2016.
Right!  And the hottest non El NiƱo year on record.
  • The Republican leadership will allow Democrats (and a few Republicans) to impeach Donald Trump on charges of corruption and self-dealing, but he is not removed from office.
Trump turned out to have no interest in maintaining his populist bone fides, so he has been a useful - if disruptive - tool for the Republicans to use in their effort to serve their billionaire masters.  The low-information base hears rumblings of outrage from liberals and the media and is satisfied with that.  (See fake news, above.)
  • Serious unrest in Turkey enables Russia to intervene militarily.
Nope, nothing there.  Erdogan's authoritarian moves haven't elicited any widespread unrest, nor has Russia seen fit to pick a fight here.
Nope, real estate is still booming.  Head's remain buried in the increasingly damp sand.
  • Overtly political songs begin to surface more in popular music - but not on the radio.
Hmmmm.  Nothing leaking into my Spotify playlists anyway, and no "political" category to explore, yet.  I'll resist the temptation to play the "everything is political" for partial credit.
No one apparently dying yet, not this year anyway. 
Nope, the previous year's legislative coup was as far as things have gone, and Brazil's deathly ill democracy staggers forward toward elections.
  • For my tenth prediction, I might as well recycle the one from last year that proved most prescient:
    • Americans won't take back their democracy from the wealthy interests that have hijacked it; and corporations will continue to write regulations to suit themselves.  
    • Assault weapons will remain legal despite more mass shootings.  
    • Militarization of police forces, systematic use of homicide and excessive force, as well as officers' de facto immunity from prosecution will continue unabated despite the mounting financial and social costs.  
    • We will not develop a constructive or effective plan for dealing with Islamic fundamentalism.

OK,well that one holds up for another year.

So to sum up, 2.5 out of 10 - not exactly a stellar showing, and that only because I banked on climate change and our nation's inertia. I will have to reflect upon this, and decide, as I think forward into 2018, what are the kinds of things that I can predict, and what are the kinds of things that I cannot.

Now I turn my thoughts to predictions for the coming year.  What shall we see in 2018?