Every once in a while, it’s crucial to step back from the immediate mess and gossip and all the little things we tend to focus on each day to look at our world from a 30,000-foot view, to project what we should expect moving forward.
As we enter a new decade, this seems like the perfect time to think about and prepare for what may come over the next 10 years both at home and abroad.
To state the obvious, this is not an exact science. It’s more like looking at a fog bank and trying to see what shape is in the fog. What is it that you kind of see but can’t fully make out?
We can’t predict all that is to come, but we can get a good sense of what to expect — and then prepare accordingly as a country and as individuals.
Of course, we don’t ever get around to examining the future based on big-picture trends happening now, because our current news media and political structure really don’t lend themselves to this kind of discussion. This is why I take on the task of discussing what to expect over the next decade on this week’s episode of my podcast, “Newt’s World.”
Indeed, the single biggest story of the 2020s will be the rise of China and the countervailing responses of other countries.
The other big question aboard is the potential of a black swan event, such as the coronavirus pandemic was this year. And speaking of the virus, people who think life will get back to normal by the summer are sorely mistaken.
I fear the economic repercussions of a government strategy of closing down and destroying businesses will be felt at least for the first half of the decade. People underestimate how easily governments can destroy economies and how hard it is to restart those economies.
Technological changes over the next decade will be monumental and transformative. From developments in oil and gas to getting potentially safer nuclear reactor systems, we could see a revolution in energy that would have massive economic implications.
We will see unprecedented advances in computers and artificial intelligence that will play a growing role in our health care system. Robotics and the right artificial intelligence can already learn more about a patient and perform surgery better than human doctors.
We should also expect to see a revolution in military technology, such as drones, which will dramatically affect how we plan for military contingencies.
Some of these developments, bolstered by a surge in computational power, are going to enable relatively small countries like Iran and Venezuela to pose more of a threat than most people would have thought possible 20 or 30 years ago.
The gray world will also expand, and by gray world I mean all of the illegal criminal actions and behaviors that are the underside of the global economy — human trafficking, drugs, weapons and illegal finance.
In America, our educational system is in crisis and will reach a boiling point. Our system of enormously expensive colleges and universities is fundamentally flawed. The student loan program essentially indebts the future to the present.
Meanwhile, college will get more expensive and less necessary as companies use apprenticeships and tell young people they’ll train them and incorporate online learning.
Because of this, universities will find it harder to fill up their buildings with Americans and turn increasingly to foreign students for money. If they don’t get enough foreign students, however, you’re going to see an enormous cash crunch in higher education.
Over the next decade, there’s also going to be an enormous fight between the teacher unions and government employee unions in general, and the need to rationalize the system and make it effective. There will be enormous pressure to reform the various unionized schools, and the unions will fight it. This will be one of the most bitterly intense fights of the 2020s and one of the most important.
I hope you will listen to this week’s episode and try to think through what the world and our country will look like two, five and even 10 years from now.
The 2020s will be a decade of huge choices and huge challenges. America will either once again reinvent itself in becoming the leading entrepreneurial, dynamic country in the world, or Americans will decide that it’s all just too hard, relax, and hope the Chinese don’t notice our surrender too soon. We in America control our own destiny.