The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Roaring '20s

I'm old enough to recall grandparents remembering the Roaring '20s—a time in between big wars, a time when masters of the universe (big industrialists) ruled the roost in the private sector; a time when the stock market kept going up, bubble after bubble, until it didn't; a time when technology (e.g., the automobile, radio, the telephone) became increasingly accessible to at least some of the middle class; a time when college, although still an elitist institution was opened up to at least some of the masses; a time of change.

Today, we enter a new Roaring '20s, one hundred years after my grandparents' era, but with many characteristics that are analogous to that time long past. We are in a time of relative peace, although new threats from China, Russia and even Iran keep us slightly on edge. We watch as tech titans create and grow important new technology that has and/or will 'change the world.' We have experienced a stock market that has been upward trending for over a decade, long enough to lull younger people into the belief that it'll go up forever (it won't). We'll undoubtedly see cars that drive themselves, but far more important, we'll begin to feel the profound affects (and potential dangers) of strong artificial intelligence. We may begin to see a movement away from college as we know it and toward a learning model that replaces an increasingly stifling and ineffective college experience.

But what of the next 10 years—the new Roaring 20s. Here are a few predictions:

The Bad News
  • We'll see an increasingly ineffective government, driven by increasingly ideological politicians who will refuse to work together. As a consequence, major systems (e.g., infrastructure, social security, the welfare state) that have been the engine of growth and stability over the past half century, will begin to degrade and fail.
  • We'll see ever-growing national debt that will degrade the ability of even ineffective government to function at a sustainable level. Worse, we'll see politicians in both parties who simply don't care.
  • We'll see a continuing effort by socialists to convince us that ineffective government can be fixed with still more ineffective government. That higher taxes, more controls (of speech, of commerce, of health care, of everything) will somehow make us a better country.
  • We'll see a rush to regulate the private sector (again coming from the Left) and as a consequence, the establishment of significant roadblocks for the creation of new businesses and economic growth that benefits all.
  • We'll see a media that is no longer professional or trustworthy. Fake news will become the norm.
  • We'll watch as social media changes the psychology of human interaction.
  • We'll hear more and more concern about problems that are characterized incorrectly as major existential threats, and relatively nothing about problems (see point 2) that actually are serious, if not existential, threats.
The Good News (maybe)
  • Social media has freed us from dependence of an increasingly corrupt media, allowing more and more people to get their information without the filter imposed by those who consider themselves the elite.
  • Big data, coupled with machine learning, will provide the first true hope of addressing currently intractable social problems, but only if (that's a big if), political correctness doesn't intercede.
  • Humans and machines will begin to merge. That's already happening, and if you don't believe me, consider how much you rely on your mobile device, how often you look at it, and what you do with it. Soon, the device will become embedded in you.
  • New energy technologies will become practical and widespread and will lead to a cleaner environment. But fossil fuels will remain and by giving us energy independence, they may lead to a significant change in geopolitics.
  • The private sector will lead exploration into space and the results will be spectacular—less expensive and more compelling.
  • Medical care will become more expensive, but if left alone by big government, will also become increasingly effective in eradicated and curing disease.
And then, of course, there's Scott Adams who writes:"Scientists will eventually stop flailing around with solar power and focus their efforts on harnessing the only truly unlimited source of energy on the planet: stupidity. I predict that in the future, scientists will learn how to convert stupidity into clean fuel."

In my view, if "scientists" just focused on Washington, DC and the media, the amount of stupidly they could harness would save the world. Where's Greta Thunberg when you need her?

May your road into the Roaring 20s be happy and healthy.