Our reader has enjoyed the appearance of many predictions and forecasts in this space. Many were laughed at. Of those, some (rise of Apple from the ashes, fall of the Berlin Wall) came true, and others (demise of Microsoft) have not (in its case, forestalled by a change of management and direction). Others (various automation forecasts and social changes) are still pending. 

Punditry is easy and widely practiced, because few people are likely remember the predictions that go wrong, whereas successes are well trumpeted. Not daunted, he forges on to predict the obvious, suggest a few that are otherwise, and bemoan some troubling trends on the world scene that can only end badly.

First, what about the more mundane matters of the immediately pending technophile’s year? Ah, there things are murky–not because they are not clear enough (?) but because they are too mundane to really shake things up.

Apple will continue to target maturing markets at the high end, especially in computing, and will consequently not release any groundbreaking products.

Expect improvements to the Apple watch and its competitors, but not profound enough to tempt the Spy.

The company will make more money than ever on iPhones. Its video streaming service will start to make money, but grow slowly.

The Spy has expected for some time that Apple will get into the networking business. Piggyback on someone’s satellite swarm? Make a deal with a group of 5G providers? Become one?

Microsoft will also continue to shift from products to services and to products as services. This will annoy the Spy who will sooner of later rewrite all his macros to work in a competing spreadsheet product. (Excel is the last one of their products he uses, and Microsoft steadfastly refuses to fix bugs that have cropped up on its Apple version.) 

Facebook will lose ground. Google and Netflix will gain. Tesla will continue precarious. At least one former player (Blackberry, Nokia, Sony?) will vanish or be acquired.

Specifically, HP will continue to resist the Xerox buyout, but the latter may have a chance of succeeding anyway as a hostile move rather than a friendly one.

Major data security breaches involving the personal information of a million or more people will take place at the rate of one or more a month. At least two will be at either a major bank or a government site and will result in major disruptions. Someone will hack a satellite swarm or major network.

Smart wearables will continue to get much press, but attract merely nominal sales. Internet connected socks, anyone?

The growth of smart home products, the darling of the last few years will slow for a bit. Too much trust has been lost with the abysmal lack of security on these devices. It will be a long time before the Spy buys in to connectivity, especially for cameras and listening speakers, despite that he forecast the smart home nearly four decades ago.

– The incipient revolution that will see us all eventually occupying (not driving) smart electric vehicles will continue to lurch to a conclusion, but again, the Spy will not be an early adopter (this tech is in its infancy), and the accidents as these devices are tested will substantially delay the inevitable. But truck and taxi drivers be warned–your profession is going the way of the stenographer, keypunch operator, and telephone operator. Steering wheels will go the way of Morse Code telegraphy.

And, of least importance to our reader perhaps, the Spy’s 16 inch MacBook Pro will arrive and he can give it a proper review in a month or two.

In the wider sphere the social and political turbulence of the last few years will intensify.

Between one and three major scandals will cause the fall of a national government this year.

The Excited States will get a new president at least once in 2020, but probably not twice, no matter how many smoking guns surface as evidence for. The party loyalty divide is too deep to foresee any other outcome.

However, if the Democrats do nominate a Socialist candidate, which has now to be seen as a distinct possibility (50-50?) the resulting election will be very close, and will divide that nation even more deeply, perhaps to the point of no return.

Britain will no longer be either a united kingdom or particularly great for a long time after a relatively hard Brexit (a minimal trade deal). Solitary England will have difficulty re-establishing itself as a major trading and banking centre and will become increasingly isolated, which the English apparently want.

The consequences for Scotland are obvious, but those for Ireland (which seems not to matter to the English any more) are far more serious. The lack of a north-south border is the only thing maintaining a still uneasy peace, but the Unionists of the north see the now imposition of a compromise customs check across the Irish Sea as a betrayal by Westminster. Meanwhile, the portion of the Ulster population favouring union with the south grows toward a majority. Given the nearly nonexistent influence of the once powerful Catholic Church in the republic, can a united Ireland rise from the ashes of the UK? It seems logical to suppose so, but logic has little or nothing to do with political emotions, especially there.  The Spy thinks it will happen, but it will take time and statesmanship, and the latter is a rare commodity.

– Meanwhile, what of a weakened Europe post Brexit? The same nationalist forces grow stronger there, and France, for one, will not likely long tolerate the greatly expanded relative influence of old foe Germany. Neither can long support the sick economies of southern Europe. Expect turmoil on this front, but that the EU will survive in reduced form for a few years yet before finally breaking apart. Expect meanwhile the influence of Putin’s Russia to grow.

– Concurrent with the growth of nationalism, expect anti-religious and with it, anti-Semitic bigotry, to trend sharply upward. Once imagined as associated mostly with the extreme right, this sort of hatred is actually equally the province of the far left. The issue and outcome has always been the same for the two. Both political extremes see all-encompassing statism as the solution to their perceived socio-political issues, whether real or imagined. And those who put absolute faith in an all-powerful state to achieve their agendas can brook no competition, particularly not from loyalties placed elsewhere. All must toe the line, as long as the dictatorship lasts. Most statists eventually need a scapegoat to gain or remain in power, and religion (or a nearby country) provides the most convenient whipping boy.

– Meanwhile expect the pressure to force creative artists such as bakers to express in their work support for practices with which they religiously find abhorrent, and on doctors not just to refer women to abortionists, but to perform them or lose their license to practice. The Canadian experience with a Supreme Court that ruled a faith-based university cannot (because changing social norms trump supposedly guaranteed rights) establish a law school is one harbinger. So is what is going on in China with the forced “re-education” of Christians and Muslims. Whenever and wherever statists prevail, people of religion who cannot put the state above God (and are therefore perceived as threats) are ghettoized away from the professions and much of commercial life and either forced to conform or eliminated. We’ve seen this movie before, and the trailers for yet another sequel are already rolling in many theatres near you.

It is probably too much to expect, though perhaps one can hope, that people of religion will meanwhile realize that their own agendas cannot be achieved through state compulsion either, for their call is to the changing of people’s hearts one at a time. Reliance on enforcing one’s beliefs on all (whether religious, social, or political) by co-opting the mechanism of the state eventually seriously backfires on those who attempt it–even (especially) if they appear to succeed for a time. All totalitarian states, whether fascist or socialist, alike fall apart, most sooner rather than later.

In other spheres, far from expecting solutions in the Middle East, South Asia, Venezuela, Yemen, the Persian Gulf generally, several African nations, or the South China Sea, expect one or more of these to break out into a new war, and at least one additional hot spot to emerge.

Over the longer term, expect more of what is happening in Britain on the one hand–the breakup of nations in the rise of insular nationalism, and in China on the other–the rise of tightfisted control over disparate peoples to enforce conformity to a single faith in and loyalty to what the power elite dictates as defining the nation. Note: No current Western nation is immune to either end.

– Finally, the Spy predicts the continuing redistribution of relative wealth from the poor to the rich. This too has a breaking point, but historically does not produce riots in the streets and cause governments to fall until unemployment reaches at least twelve percent. That won’t happen this year for most parts of the world, except perhaps in Venezuela. Even the general recession he was predicting seems now less of a threat, though it would still take only one major political (war or revolution) or economic event (bank failure) to trigger one.

But despite the mess we humans constantly make of a world they were designed to steward, The Spy has much personal optimism. OTOH, he’s looking forward to having a great time teaching Discrete Mathematics II to a wonderful group of students in the new year, and OTOH to enjoying the growth and development of his now seven grandchildren (David Alan Joseph Sutcliffe was born 2019 12 15). For what do you give thanks and to Whom?

Y’all have a blessed New Year, for there are more important things to participate in and to look forward to than more technological goodies, and the continual outplay of the social and political wars.

–The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author’s own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a. k. a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics, Interim Dean of Science, and Chair of the University Senate at Canada’s Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member of or consultant with the boards of several organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. 

He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and ten alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he’s a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce just celebrated their fiftieth anniversary and have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of B.C. since 1972. 

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Arjay Enterprises: 

The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com

opundo : http://opundo.com

Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org

WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net

WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net

nameman : http://nameman.net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Books: 

Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca

Publisher’s Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html

The Fourth Civilization–Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed. ): http://www.arjay.bc.ca/EthTech/Text/index.html