Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Futurists Lay Out 2016 Agenda

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, January 4 / 16

Zack Gross

A scan of websites maintained by influential magazines, government departments and intellectual organizations shows that, at this time of year, a number one priority is laying out predictions for the year now upon us.  Having checked out Forbes and Fortune as economic and technological trend indicators, and The Independent and The Futurist as more political and academic, one has a sense of what might happen in the coming year or two.

Some journalists, leaders and thinkers will go so far as to predict the next decade or two.  What is helpful in these predictions is that they make you think – they may not always be correct, but they certainly are interesting, challenging and, ultimately, involve us in making the world what we want it to be, or at least observing history in the making in our lifetimes.

The 2016 prediction list of what might happen includes the continuation of many stories that have recently been playing out. Here is a list of the most noticeable and/or interesting possibilities:

*  The United States and its allies will continue to struggle in their relationship with Russia, in part because of the invasion and partial annexation of Ukraine.  It is, in many ways, the continuation of the Cold War that began as World War II ended in 1945 and then lasted until the Soviet “Empire” fell in 1989.  After some early years of instability, Russia has attempted to regain some of its former stature and even territory.

*  The world will continue to transition from the Pax Americana that began when Russia fell to an Asia-centric world, based on the growing global economic reach of China, India and Japan.  President Obama and then President Clinton (another prediction) will want to be seen as world leaders but will find it hard in a weak economy and with much internal turmoil as we have seen from both climate change and racial and homegrown terror violence (two more predictions).

*  Western Asia and the Middle East, along with some African countries, will continue to be failed states without governments that are able to control all their national territory and with warring factions continuing to accelerate the on-going refugee crisis.  The countries in question include Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and the trouble may spread to others.  Europe will struggle in dealing with the influx of displaced people and this, along with possibly more terror attacks, will make the European community less stable.

Technological advancement will continue to impact upon our lives, affecting how we educate our children, how we communicate and how we get around.  There will be more “driverless” cars, more drones in use, more internet and on-line learning in the classroom, and more “virtual” medical check-ups. One downside will be more cyber-attacks globally and more account hacking personally.

2016 will be the hottest year on record.  While 195 nations at the Paris Climate Change Summit recently agreed to fight global warming in real terms and cooperatively, a combination of the natural El Niņo cycle and our own human-made impact on the environment mean that scientists predict a 95% chance that 2016 will be hotter in average temperatures than any year before.  Extreme weather events, from scorching heat, drought and wildfires in some parts of the world, to unrelenting rain and flooding in other parts will be the result.

Business observers note that the number of female corporate CEOs in our wealthy parts of the world have declined in recent years, but that women corporate board members have increased.  They predict that the trend will continue with more women being influential in the business sector.  In electoral politics, women are also a growing factor.  Our own recent federal election illustrates that point with half the Cabinet being female.  Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, women were able to vote recently for the first time in local council elections and some were appointed by their King to his advisory bodies.

For those excited about our new Liberal federal government's support, at least in the election campaign, for the legalization of marijuana, predictions are that, with almost 60% of Americans supportive of this as well – and with the huge tax revenues possible from the sale of pot – many states, as well as our own country, could make legalization a fact in the coming year.

What is satisfying about some prediction websites is that they report on where they were correct and where they got it wrong last time, and why.  The old Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times” certainly applies!

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of the Marquis Project in Brandon.

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