Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Ahead to 2019

Where I sit, the last hours of 2009 and of this decade are upon us. We've come this far and we haven't even agreed on a name for it, but personally, I think "the Naughts" is most accurate - after all, it was not what we had expected, it was not pleasant, and it was not the gateway into the future. It was just the end of the long vacation from history that started when the Soviet Union's flag came down for the last time.

Now, perched on the edge of a new decade, there's ample room for forward-looking folk to feel hopeful, worried, or both. I don't make any claims at accurate prognostication, but there's just something about stretching your mind in an attempt to predict the future that feels rewarding. Honestly, I think it's something that more people should do - after all, if more people were concerned about the future - the real future, not just three or six or nine months from now - we'd be living in a better world. You can't run a decent marathon without ever taking your eyes off your feet.

NOTE: I use the word "will" in these not because I believe that these events will happen, but because that seems to be the way all prognosticators do their business.

    Thoughts and Anticipations for 2010 - 2019 (void if black swan)

  • Steampunk aesthetics and neo-Victorian fashions will gain a greater degree of mainstream acceptance.

  • The Arctic will be completely ice-free for multiple summers during this decade. While there is the possibility that this will prove to be a Pearl Harbor moment, galvanizing people and organizations to work toward a low-carbon future, there will still be those who think it's all a liberal plot.

  • The Conservatives will lose power in Ottawa, but it won't make much difference because the Liberals will take full advantage of the heavy-handed precedents they set. Conservatives will wail and gnash their teeth over the resulting "destruction of democracy," as if they believe people who follow politics have the memory spans of goldfish. The Green Party will not win a seat in the House of Commons, though they may have better luck in provincial legislatures.

  • Spacefaring states lacking their own manned spaceflight capability - as of 2009, all of them except the United States, Russia, and China - will begin to establish their own human presence in space by 2019, not by building up their own launch capability but by purchasing the equipment from SpaceX or similar private space company.

  • No nuclear weapons will be detonated in anger by state actors.

  • Hollywood will release a major blockbuster, in the vein of 300 or the remade Clash of the Titans, about the Battle of Salamis. It will be called Salamis.

  • The United Nations will select its ninth Secretary-General. He (and it will most likely be a man) will be from the Eastern European Group.

  • The PlayStation 5 will be totally awesome.

  • At least one major geoengineering project will be active by 2019. It will most likely involve the stratospheric injection of sulfur dioxide to increase the global dimming effect.

  • Population will begin to shift away from the Sun Belt in the United States, as energy becomes more expensive, water becomes scarcer, people are less able to afford the sort of house that is fashionable there. Major cities such as Phoenix, based economically on real estate and situated in environments unfavorable to low-energy urban living, will increasingly lose the ability to finance their own operations.

  • In 2019, there will have been at least serious discussion in Washington, DC to build a water pipeline from the Great Lakes to supply the Sun Belt.

  • I will still be around. Hopefully.
so long 2009, and good goddamn riddance

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