In late 2019, the Swiss gnomes in Davos were asked to rank 25 global risks in order of their assessment of the probability of them occurring over the following ten years. As shown above, they rated the risk of a pandemic dead last.
Everyone’s predictions, including mine, have been so utterly incorrect over the past few years that most people, fearing ridicule, seem to have given up making predictions at all. Fortunately, as someone who doesn’t actually exist, and as someone with an appreciation that there is nothing actually happening and no time or space within which anything can happen, I harbour no such fears.
So here are my wildly improbable predictions for the next four years (even I’m not foolish enough to predict things over a shorter time horizon than that):
- Pandemic’s end: The omicron variant will turn out to be much less virulent than its predecessors, perhaps even in line with the IFR of seasonal flu. So even though we’ll still hear about CoVid-19 as outbreaks continue in some places, by mid-2022 it will be endemic and cease to make headlines. However, by 2025 there will be at least one new major pandemic, probably an HxNx virus emerging from confined animals, most likely poultry.
- US political upheaval: Democrats will lose Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024. They will, in the process or as a result, either (a) move hard left and embrace a truly progressive agenda, or (b) the entire left-of-centre wing of the party will break away, start a third party, and take most of the under-25 voters with them. But it may take years before the old Democratic party is subsumed and the new party again takes power.
- Ecological collapse: Each year 2022-25 will see more and more ecological crises, and not just those related to climate collapse, but also biodiversity collapse, loss of arable soils, water loss, droughts, and a host of other currently-ignored ecological crises. Ecological collapse, in this broadened sense, will finally be taken seriously, but only by the fed-up citizens as a whole (through many movements of large-scale direct action), not by governments (which will remain paralyzed and incompetent) or corporations (which will remain obstinate).
- Major war(s): There will be at least one major war involving the real danger of nuclear weapons use and/or biological weaponry. People who thought the existential risk of nuclear annihilation was history, will think again.
- Market turbulence: Inequality, speculation, rising inflation, and oppressive debt levels will combine to produce a series of market crashes over the next few years that will significantly reduce stock and real estate prices and keep them well below their current absurd levels for years to come. But the start of the ‘Big One’ — the permanent collapse of our industrial economy over several decades, will be pushed off by endless maneuvering, probably until the end of this decade or so. Expect headlines about ‘The End of Growth’, and finally some reckoning of what that means.
- New measures of well-being: The absurdity of policies designed to increase average/global GDP will finally dawn on the citizenry, and then the media and politicians, and that will be precipitated by data showing the start of a permanent decline in life expectancy, and in healthy life expectancy. So the new measures will be about well-being and the quality of life.
- New understanding of the nature of the universe: Breakthroughs in science will lead to the abandonment of the Big Bang theory and other unsatisfactory models, and usher in some challenging and revolutionary new ideas about our universe, matter and reality. Sadly, they will be both unfathomable and uninteresting to most people.
- UBI gets its chance: The first national experiments with a Universal Basic Income will be launched (probably in Scandinavia), and others will follow suit, when it becomes clear that this is by the far the simplest and most effective ways to address a host of social and economic problems.
- The collapse of advertising and corporate social media: As mountains of data make it increasingly obvious that advertising is largely a waste of money (and an unaffordable luxury when the economy crashes), media and businesses that rely on advertising revenues will collapse, and be replaced by media that use a non-hierarchical, non-corporate membership-based model instead. These will be local and diverse but they will be well networked, so we’ll get much more functionality, more tailoring to our information needs and preferences, and much less crap.
- More black swans: The crisis that most dominates the headlines and creates the most disruption over the next four years will be one that isn’t even on the radar in 2022. And no, I’m not going to guess what that might be.
Stay safe, everyone. More of the ‘new normal’ wild ride ahead.