Inspired in part by Long Bets and the new decade, I'm making some predictions for the coming ten years. They're based around areas that I think will be the biggest points of improvement and decline for humankind: Power and population, politics, food, climate, travel, artificial intelligence and technology.
A lot of these predictions are nothing more than a stab in the dark and a lot, I hope, do not come true. Nonetheless, it's fun to ponder what might be in ten years time...
Power and Population: By 2030, one country will have shutdown its citizens access to the internet for a total of at least 366 days – 10% of the decade.
Freedom House report that we are already seeing these trends in countries like Iraq and Iran, where the state maintains significant control over the internet backbone, in China, which limits access to foreign resources and requires foreign companies to adapt to domestic regulations, and in Russia, which is increasingly ordering network shutdowns in relation to protests. In India, as I type this on December 27th 2019, the longest internet shutdown in the country's history is taking place: 145 days and counting.
I define 'internet shutdown' as blocking or punishing free access to the open internet beyond what is already in operation at the close of 2019 and we'll use the stats of Freedom House, NetBlocks, or their equivalents, to judge whether this prediction was correct in a decade.
Politics: By 2030, at least one country 2019's United Kingdom will have re-entered something that is, or that resembles, the European Union.
I predict that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union in the early 2020s but that by the end of the decade at least one of its current countries, England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, will be a member of something that, if not identical, is almost functionally identical to the European Union. Furthermore, I predict the country will have entered into the alliance without consulting the public in the same manner they were consulted when asked if they should leave.
Food: By 2030, per capita meat consumption in both the USA and UK will be lower than it is in 2019.
As we come to terms with the impact that food and faming has on our planet and begin to realise the health risks associated with our modern day diets, I predict that per capita meat consumption in both the United States and in the United Kingdom will be lower than it is today. In 2019, each person eats approximately 99.3kg (USA) and 61kg (UK) of meat according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, whose numbers (or the closest thereof) will judge the success of this prediction in 2030.
Travel: By 2030, almost every high-street travel agent in operation today will go the way of Thomas Cook.
As international travel continues to become faster and cheaper and as companies like Airbnb continue to make it easier for ordinary people to market their homes as destinations, it is my prediction that only travel agents that specialise in luxury long-haul holidays (like Kuoni) or multi-leg journeys (like STA) will still be in operation come the end of 2029.
Climate: By 2030, the UK's hottest temperature will be at 45ºC or more.
As we fail to act on the climate crisis and as tipping points begin to set in, I predict that by the end of the decade the UK's hottest temperature ever recorded will be registered by the Met Office at 45ºC or more. That's 6.3º hotter than the current record set in 2019 and 0.9º hotter than the record temperature set in France, also in 2019.
Artificial Intelligence: By 2030, a non-human entity will have passed the Turing test.
The Turing test is simple. Put a computer and a human on one side of a wall and a human tester on the other side. If the tester can't recognise which candidate is human and which candidate is a computer after a series of questions, the computer has successfully passed the Turing test. I predict that by the close of the decade, a computer will have consistently 'tricked' a panel of multiple human testers into believing it is the human.
Technology: By 2030, the code that powers Decade Clock will be obsolete.
All of these predictions have one thing in common: The speed of technological advancement is phenomenal but we have to question what we stand to lose when our feet are bound to the accelerator. Yes, that might include frivolous luxuries like experts in travel and silly little art projects, but it'll also include things of more consequence, like free and open communication and potentially our very humanity.