The subject of my column today in the TJ. I find predictions of the future fascinating because they are almost never right. I heard a guy over the weekend on a Big Ideas podcast saying that the UN population forecasts starting in the 1960s were always wrong by an order of magnitude.
We have talked about Faith Popcorn and David Foot and others that made interesting forecasts based on past trending and turned out to be wrong.
But these forecasts add value to public policy. Foot predicted a demographic disaster so the government just cranked up the immigration tap and, presto, demographic disaster at least delayed. Did Foot have a hand in that? Who knows but certainly his warnings were the subject of great debate in the 1990s.
But back to my prediction. I think we will be moving off the global economy model by 2050. People are already starting to realize the huge environmental costs associated with a) ever increasing conspicuous consumption and b) the offshoring of production to the furthest corners of the world just to lower labour costs.
But history is clear that predicting the future is almost impossible. This Big Idea’s guy suggests a global pandemic is coming that could kill hundreds of millions of people. That will upset the apple cart in unanticipated ways as countries literally close themselves off to try and immunize themselves.
There is always the spectre of war – nuclear war and other now considered unlikely but history says is likely.
We were chatting about this in Halifax yesterday. The Chinese model of a dicatatorial, planned economy is starting to get serious interest in certain parts of the world such as Africa and certain areas of Latin America. The messiness of democracy – in some peoples’ minds – is holding back development in emerging economies and stifling transformation in advanced economies. In China, if they wanted to green the economy – they would just make it so.
So, it is conceivable, we could be looking at the emergence of more totalitarianism in the next 50 years – particularly in places of the world where people make the case that democracy is holding back progress. It starts with a democractic mandate (like in Nazi Germany) and then morphs into full fledged totalitarianism.
And totalitarianism could lead to wars – particularly over resources – and then we are back into the old cycle once again.
Who knows? I prefer to operate in the here and now with an eye to the future.