Gentle Decline 2/13: 7 Predictions Revisited
Looking back to look forward, and wincing a bit
Hello. This (short) issue of Gentle Decline takes on the New Year by revisiting an old article: 7 Changes in the Next 50 Years. I wrote it in November of 2015, which makes it just over 6 years old. I want to take a look and see how my predictions are doing. You could go and read it first, or you can just follow along here; I’ll try to keep it coherent.
[Gentle Decline is an occasional newsletter about climate crisis, and - more to the point - how to cope with it. You can support the newsletter via Patreon, Ko-fi, or by buying some of the seriously classy merchandise. The spotlighted product for this issue is the Gentle Decline enamel mug, which is hard-wearing and probably great for the End Times.]
I predicted that connectivity would increase. Not so much the availability of bandwidth - that was a given in 2015 - but the necessity for it. I think I was solidly on the money in this prediction, but I also think it was easy. My side-prediction that there would be necessities for offline spaces, places where you can’t connect, has been less so. Such things exist, but I don’t think many people feel much of a need for them yet. And at the same time, I’m talking reasonably regularly to people who are in the their early 20s now, who grew up online. When they want a break from the internet, they just take it. They don’t seem, generally, to have the same compulsion as my generation to be online all the time. This is, of course, because they don’t really have a concept of not having that access. I don’t know, now, how that’s going to fall out. Certainly as long as we have pandemic restrictions in place, nobody’s going offline much.
Heh. This one got bigger. The few paragraphs in the 7 Changes article about climate are a pretty good summary of everything I’ve said since in Gentle Decline. My predictions here were pretty solid, and again, I think that was easy. “Global temperatures will rise more”; check. “Weather will be more chaotic”; check (I had not really considered wildfires back then, either). “Distinct possibility that major ocean currents will stall”; they haven’t yet, but there’s more evidence that they will. “There will be outbreaks of diseases, some thought extinct, some unknown”; well, I got that one right in spades… “Almost everywhere in the world will experience more extreme conditions”; considering the number of weather records broken in the last few years, yeah. “and there’s the near-certainty of sea-level rise”; levels are currently rising by about 3.6mm/year, and the rise is accelerating. The current figure is small, but it is increasing, and nobody is predicting it’ll be smooth.
I didn’t think of disease controls in this, so I’m going to ignore them for now. But Brexit, the US/Mexican border shenanigans over the last five years, and plenty of other issues with travel make this a no-win score, as it were. I can’t see this improving, to be honest. The EU will probably hang on tightly to its internal freedom of movement, but Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ laws of 2021 mean that’s not as good as it used to be either. If Roe v. Wade is comprehensively overturned in the US, it is very possible that some travel controls - for women only - will go into place at the borders of the more conservative states. I don’t know enough about Asia to make predictions there, but I wouldn’t like to be a Muslim trying to move around in India right now, either.
I think this one is just beginning to bite. The event wherein the price of oil briefly went negative was COVID-related, rather than anything else; the current rise in oil and gas prices is not so much. And the steady threat of Russia sitting on its supplies (for no other really good reason than “Russia”) is there too, possibly tying more into Borders than the fuels themselves.
Self-driving cars have not boomed as much as I thought, yet. Current predictions seem to be that they’ll exceed human safety capabilities by about 2024, and that they’ll be dominant by 2040, which is within the bounds of my original timeframe. However, my broader prediction that transport would be disrupted is certainly being borne out by the Shipping Crisis. It’s less visible because the pandemic reduced traffic in bits and pieces - and made public transport more difficult to use - but I think I can stand by this one, and say that transport is liable to get weird over the next while.
There was an attempted coup in the US just short of a year ago. It was organised via social media. I think that says most of what needs saying, to be honest, and while I am intent on reducing my dealings with Facebook specifically, I think social media in general is very definitely going to continue to be a force in our lives.
Life expectancy in the US dropped last year, by about 1.5 years. This is honestly not the change I was expecting, but that’s mostly because I really didn’t expect there to be resistance to sensible public health efforts. Demographics are definitely changing, though. The pandemic reduced birth rates, and while there are predictions of a rise when it’s eventually over, I’m not convinced. By and large, though, the pyramid-becomes-pillar prediction is holding in there.
Honestly, I was kind of hoping to be wrong about some of those. So far, I think I’m more accurate than not. I'm not going to revisit them every year, but you can expect a look-in again in about four years’ time, at which point we’ll be ten years into the headline fifty.
This issue has been brought to you by record-breaking New Year warmth in the Isles, The Rise of Omicron (not a Transformers movie), and some continued thinking about processes and work. I'm taking requests and questions. If you hit reply, you can send stuff straight to me!
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