(Editor’s note: These predictions are offered in the spirit of light-hearted fun and are not intended to be taken literally. Each merely reflects a broader trend that readers can expect to see, experience or read about in the coming year. For a more realistic perspective on each trend, click on the embedded links. Enjoy!)
- Global Economy Spirals into Deflation: First, oil prices dropped faster than expected due to continuing advances in renewable energy and battery technology. Next, as consumers began switching to electric vehicles in record numbers, the prices for millions of cars with internal combustion engines plunged. Then, continued progress in farming technology caused the commodity prices of corn, wheat, rice, and sugar to plunge to record lows. This, in turn, lowered food prices. Consumer spending in other areas is now slowing as people expect prices on other goods, including houses and higher education, to become continuously cheaper.
- Bible Belt Embraces “Higher” Power: Desperate for tax revenues and faced with the reality that legalization of marijuana in a growing number of other states was making it easy for their citizens to obtain marijuana, a handful of southern states passed legislation making marijuana legal. As one Republican lawmaker said, “The tax benefits are real and the medicinal benefits are real. Also, if pot keeps even one of our kids from getting addicted to opioids, I believe it’s worth it.”
- Cord-Cutting Causes Cable Bloodbath: Shortly after the introduction of 5G coverage in a handful of U.S. cities, thousands of residents canceled their cable subscriptions because wireless broadband service offered comparable service at a fraction of the price. The cable industry now faces an existential crises as the telecommunications industry aggressively expands 5G coverage across the country.
- Signs of the Times–Greed is Now a Matter of Perspective: Contrary to Gordon Gekko’s infamous line in the movie Wall Street that “Greed is Good,” a group of Wall Street equity traders who were laid off after their firm began using artificial intelligence to analyze and execute trades, was spotted outside of the Stock Exchange holding signs reading that “Greed is Not Good,” “Bearish on Automation,” and “You’re Next!”
- “Booze Cruises” Cause Taxi Industry Backlash: Early this year, TGI Fridays created tension with the taxi industry when the restaurant chain began offering free Uber and Lyft rides to patrons who had consumed more than two drinks. That tension has since grown into a full fledged war, now that TGI Friday’s has announced plans to trial a new, autonomous shuttle that will carry customers to and from select hotels in New Orleans. If the trial run is successful, the company hopes to begin offering the service in a handful of other cities in 2019.
- Dropping NFL is “No Brainer” for the Insurance Industry: Citing overwhelming scientific evidence of signs of traumatic brain damage appearing in football players as early as the age of 14, the insurance industry announced it would no longer insure NFL players against any economic or medical costs associated with brain-related diseases. Claiming football was “an American institution,” NFL owners immediately began lobbying Congress for a liability waiver.
- “Walcoin” Mania Strikes the Heartland: In the wake of Bitcoin’s torrid ascent, Walmart became the first major retailer to offer a digital cryptocurrency. The retailer said “Walcoin” would dramatically lower transaction costs for its customers and allow it to better compete against Amazon. The advantage may be short lived as insiders report that Amazon is expected to announce its own digital coin later in the year.
- Fake News Causes Real Riots–and Deaths: A video that both looked and sounded authentic, and which purported to have captured the president of the United States saying he had issued a warrant for the arrest of Hillary Clinton “on charges of high treason,” rapidly went viral because it neatly fit into the pre-existing biases of both supporters and opponents of the president. Shortly thereafter protests on the campus of the University of Texas turned violent-leaving seven people dead and dozens more seriously injured. The video was later determined to have been a sophisticated forgery that utilized the latest in voice and imaging splicing technology. U.S. officials believe the video was the work of either Russian or North Korean hackers intent on causing Americans to turn on one another.
- Blockchain Unblocks Voter Apathy: The concept of a blockchain–or a distributed digital ledger–is hard to grasp, but government leaders in Estonia have tapped into its power to allow Estonian citizens to vote from anywhere within a 48-hour period from their smartphones. In the first election using the technology, voter participation increased 48 percent.
- “Ageless Whiskey” Has Distillers Seeing Red: Claiming that whiskey is nothing more than water, grain, and yeast, a group of young chemists recently announced that they had raised $50 million in an initial coin offering (ICO) to create a line of ageless whiskies that mimicked the precise chemical composition of the world’s best 12, 18 and 25 year-old scotches.
- Beverly Hills Daycare Now Serving “Toddler Chips”: After seeing that workers at a Wisconsin manufacturing facility had voluntarily agreed to have RFID chips implanted in themselves, an innovative daycare center inc Beverly Hills began advertising its “Toddler Chips”–RFID chips that allow parents to monitor the location of their child at all times via their smartphone. Enrollment at the daycare is up 30 percent since the service began being offered. In a related development, the ACLU has filed a brief on behalf of the toddlers claiming that their right to privacy has been violated.
- Hypochondriacs Fear Coming Down With Everything: After Google unveiled Deep Variant, a technology that allows people to harness the power of artificial intelligence to better understand their genetic makeup by comparing their genes against millions of other peoples’ genes, one significant unintended consequence has been that thousands of hypochondriacs are now besieging hospitals and medical facilities with fears of previously unknown diseases and ailments. Google has discontinued the use of the platform pending a deeper examination into how the technology can be deployed responsibly.
- Scientists Announce the “Biggest Bang”-Maybe: In April, scientists turned on the world’s largest and most powerful telescope–the James Webb Telescope. Unable to make sense of the massive amount of data the telescope was collecting on the universe, researchers deployed artificial intelligence to help uncover insights hidden in the data. At year’s end, the agency’s computer claimed to have identified signs of alien intelligence. Because artificial intelligence thinks differently than humans–and because alien intelligence might also communicate differently than humans–scientists are still trying to understand why the computer “believes” it has uncovered signs of alien intelligence.
Jack Uldrich is a global futurist, popular keynote speaker and the author of 11 books, including Foresight 2020: A Futurist Explores the Trends Transforming the World of Tomorrow. He can be reached at www.jackuldrich.com or [email protected].
Interested in reviewing some of Jack’s past predictions? Checkout these articles from years past: