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My Daring Predictions About the Future of the World

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

There is a bumpy road ahead, but we will make it.

rainbow over Los Angeles
Rainbow over Los Angeles. Photo by the author.

We live in interesting times, as the proverbial Chinese curse says.

We are so enthralled by what is happening every day that we fail to take the long view. And those who do, it’s often to predict the imminent end of humanity, if not the entire planet.

What is lacking is a rational and sober look at where the planet is going.

Predictions are difficult, especially when they are about the future, someone said. Nevertheless, I will take the risk and speculate about what will happen in the next few decades.

Ukraine and Russia

The Ukrainian War is the main historical event these days.

The good news is that the Ukrainians seem to be winning, against all predictions.

The bad news is that this threatens to trigger a nuclear war, which I consider the only true existential threat to the future of Humanity.

I won’t dwell too much on what would happen in the event of nuclear war. We went over this scenario countless times during the Cold War. Destruction of all major cities in the Northern Hemisphere. Millions dying from radiation poisoning. Global starvation triggered by nuclear winter - the blocking of sunlight and heat produced by the huge mass of smoke and dust injected into the atmosphere. Civilization may survive in a few countries in the Southern Hemisphere: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. But, eventually, nuclear winter and radiation poisoning will reach them, too.

If the Russian refrain to use nukes, then it’s likely that Ukraine will win. It may reconquer all of its territory, or it may be forced to give some of it to Russia in a last-hour peace agreement. In any case, over the long run, this war would bring a new era of prosperity to Ukraine and long years of slow decline to Russia.

Ukraine has discovered a new national identity and pride. They will continue the rush of creativity and innovation that they had to develop to defeat the Russian. Proud citizenship and democracy will be great instruments to finish root out corruption. They will promptly integrate into the European Union and become a huge asset for the EU.

Russia will end the war with its army in shambles. But it is much worse than that. A young generation of men (and quite a few women) would have been either killed in battle or sent into exile. The latter will include the most creative and enterprising individuals. Coupled with its dismal natality rate, this would deprive Russia of the human resources it needs to grow. Science and technology will wither because of the huge brain drain.

Besides, Russia will become an international pariah for generations to come. Ukraine will seal its borders with Russia with artillery, bunkers and mines to prevent another invasion. Other EU countries may follow suit. Europe will never again make the mistake of buying gas and oil from Russia, embracing quick de-carbonization instead. Commerce with the rest of the world will continue, but will consist mostly of selling then agricultural products, mineral ores and petroleum. That’s the hallmark of a Third World country.

The best hope for Russia will be to mend fences with its neighbors. The ideal outcome would be to stop the sanctions and re-establish commerce in exchange for Russia completely eliminating its nuclear arsenal. Then it would make sense for the USA to get rid of most of its nukes as well, perhaps to achieve parity with China. Maybe Russia will eventually become a member of the EU, who knows?

China

I don’t think that China will replace the USA as the leader of the world.

The good news for China is that it will likely become a prosperous country with a thriving middle class. That is, if it manages to stay the course set by Deng Xiaoping: putting the well-being of its citizens above any imperialistic or ideological dreams.

The bad news is that an authoritarian regime does not have the resources for self-criticism and correcting the course. It is also vulnerable to corruption.

Although the Chinese Red Army is more powerful than the Russian Federation Army. I think the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are learning the lesson from the Ukrainian War: wars of aggression and conquest have no place in the 21st Century. They just don’t make sense economically. Neocolonialism and exploitation of poor countries can be done in other, much clever ways. The USA and the UK have been showing the way for a long, long time. And the Chinese have started to learn.

Invading Taiwan just doesn’t make sense. It would result in the economic isolation of China, something that it cannot afford if it wants to prosper.

There is another, deeper reason. The absorption of Hong-Kong taught the Chinese a lesson about not killing the hen that laid the golden eggs. Hong-Kong derived its value as a center of world finances but, once it was dragged into the Chinese system, it became just an overbuilt chain of small islands with an inconvenient, over-educated and restless population. Likewise, Taiwan is of more value to China as it is now: an industrialized country with a lot of creativity and innovation, who may become a great commercial partner.

The future of China lies in building good commercial relationships with its neighbors and old enemies: South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Just like the key to the prosperity of Europe was establishing strong alliances between former historical enemies.

The other reason China will not become the “world power” is its natality rate. And that’s a good thing. Limiting population growth was a wise decision - although it was done the wrong way with the one-child policy. The way things are now, China has got a population that is stable and small enough to feed and make prosperous. But not young and large enough to sustain a conquering army.

Europe

I believe in Europe. But I may be biased - I have an EU passport.

I predict a future for Europe similar to that of China. It will never be a “world power” but it will be one of the best places in the world to live, with a stable population, nice income distribution, a widespread middle class and almost no poverty.

The EU will continue to integrate and develop a common identity. The rise of the Far Right is a bump in the road. It is driven mainly by the threat to national identity and European culture triggered by immigration, mostly the one from Islamic countries. It is also a reaction to the irrationality of Postmodernist Left and its contempt for European culture. I think things will eventually stabilize in a European identity that will be secular, egalitarian, scientific, and based on the values of the Enlightenment.

The United Kingdom has a tough choice to make. It will either reverse the Brexit and reintegrate into the EU, or be left behind the new era of European prosperity. It may lose Scotland - which will become a new country of the EU - and Northern Ireland - which may finally unify with the Irish Republic or become its own country inside the EU. It won’t make much difference, in the long run.

The United States

The good news is that the Ukrainian War and the Biden Presidency have restored the USA to its place as the word military superpower.

The bad news is that the Trump Presidency and the refusal of a large part of the Republican Party to accept Biden’s victory in the last election have completely undermined the political foundations of the USA.

The next two elections - the mid-terms next month and the 2024 presidential election - will determine if the USA will continue to be a prosperous, powerful and democratic country or devolve into a corrupt dictatorship. The latter would represent a global threat because the USA will eventually be tempted to use its unmatched military power to resolve its internal problems and prey on the rest of the world. Much like Russia is doing right now.

On the other hands, reasonably good outcomes for the Democrats in the elections will provide the chance to repair the electoral system, deal with the authoritarian Supreme Court, and force the Republicans to clean their house of undesirable politicians.

In the long run, I think that the USA will need to fix its key structural problems that keep it from functioning effectively: the unelected Supreme Court, the Electoral College, the undemocratic Senate in a paralyzing war with Congress, and the excessive power of the President.

The alternative would be giving more power to the States, a move that may be good socially and economically, but will undermine the military and diplomatic power of the USA.

The rest of the world

Developed countries like Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will continue on a trajectory similar to Europe. Negative population growth will dampen economic expansion but will increase equality and create a prosperous middle class. The balance between capitalism and socialism will swing to the latter, as the focus changes from producing goods to providing services.

South and Central America will continue to democratize and prosper. It will establish strong economical bonds with Europe due to the languages these countries share with Portugal and Spain. These countries will increasingly adopt the European political model and establish their own political unions.

The Islamic world faces an uncertain future due to its population growth and religious politics. De-carbonization will deprive countries like Saudi Arabia of their main source of income, and alternatives have not been developed. Eventually, countries like Iran, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt will secularize. The loss of power by the clerical elites may lead to a swing to widespread rejection of Islam, similar to the rejection of Catholicism in Spain after the Franco dictatorship.

India is in a similar situation. It has the largest population in the world, and it keeps growing. It will be heavily affected by climate change, which spells disasters. The theocratic government of Modi shows the country is moving in the wrong direction to solve its impending problems.

Africa is slowly doing better, but its future is the most uncertain. Perhaps the path for these nations is completely different from the one followed by the industrialized world. I don't know enough about African politics to venture any predictions.

Climate crisis

The good news is that the developed world is de-carbonizing at a fast pace and developing alternative energy resources. The Ukraine War has accelerated and incentivized this process by showing the many dangers of relying on fossil fuels.

The bad news is that it’s too late. A huge amount of CO2 has already been injected into the atmosphere. We are probably going to surpass the 1.5 C and likely the 2 C global temperature increases.

Therefore, we are going to need new technologies in order to not just stop injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but to deal with the impeding climate catastrophes.

Apart from large tragedies, mainly amongst the world poorest, we face the extinction of many species and irreversible damage to the world's rain forest, coral reefs and other valuable ecosystems.

However, there are reasons for optimism.

The way forward is more science and technology, not less. Trying to retreat into a Luddite utopia will only make things worse. We need to fix the damage that we have done already.

Nuclear fusion may be just around the corner. A new source of cheap, abundant energy will not just provide an alternative to fossil fuels, it would enable new technologies to put away all that pesky excess CO2 in the atmosphere.

Even without fusion energy, developing new technologies for renewable energy may lead us to the energy surplus that we need to bring the biosphere to a new balance.

There may not be just one solution, but a combination a multiple technologies and policies that will get us out of hot water.

The road ahead is going to be a bumpy one. There will be much suffering, and it will be concentrated on the poor and powerless. But we will make it.

There will be reversals, but we will continue to progress to a world that is less violent, more just, more egalitarian and more prosperous than ever.

Copyright 2022 Hermes Solenzol.

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