Nassim Taleb has cautioned readers about making predictions for years, but now he’s making a few of his own. Taleb wrote for The Economist: “Paradoxically, one can make long-term predictions on the basis of the prevalence of forecasting errors.” In other words, Taleb believes that all contemporary systems that rely on faulty forecasting methods will fail. From this, he makes a few predictions (and some I’m not sure are really based on this thesis).
The following predictions are from Taleb’s The World in 2036 article for The Economist:
Nation-States Will Be Replaced by City-States
Taleb argues that nation-states will be only “cosmetically alive” due to the problems inherent in centralization, especially central banking. He expects future currencies to be pegged to something non-government controlled, like gold, and for city-states to takeover the functional role of government.
I actually mostly agree with this, except the gold standard (I don’t think it’s ever coming back). I’ve changed my mind since The Death of the Nation State? Renegade Futurist Round Table, but I’ll go into that in a future article. I don’t think the end of nation-states will be due to fiscal imprudence or “centralization” – I think they’re being hollowed out by corruption. I think the equivalent of city-states will be dominant in most of the world (it may already be happening in Asia), but “mega-regions” will be the dominant paradigm in the United States.
Large, “Debt-Laden” Companies Listed on Exchanges Will Be Gone
I have a hard time believing this. Not because I believe the current corporate system makes sense, but because these institutions have so much power. Agribusiness, finance, the car industry, the defense industry and the airline industry all exist by extorting money from the US public via the government. It doesn’t matter how unsustainable their exoteric business models are, exploitation is a time-honored business model. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, sadly. If they do fall, it will be due to interference from foreign cartels from countries like Russia.
Most Technologies Older Than 25 Years Will Still Be Around
I’m not sure how Taleb is predicting this, as it doesn’t seem to be based on any forecasting method. Taleb mentions cars, planes, bicycles, voice-only telephones, espresso machines and wall-to-wall book shelves as examples of things that will still be around. All are safe bets, except the voice-only phone. Video-conferencing will be so compelling that I expect a nearly all hold-outs who still have feature-less phones or even landlines will end up upgrading over the next 25 years.
What technologies younger than 25 will go away? Chris Anderson is gunning for the Web, of course. And the web is something that could surely mutate into something else or be replaced entirely in another 25 years time. SMS would be my best guess for the current hot technology that will die.
The World Will Face Global Pandemics, Both Biological and Electronic in Nature
Another one I can’t see deriving from faulty forecasting. Both seem like highly probable, conservative bets. Society has gotten extremely good at averting pandemics. It does seem like it’s only a matter of time until something slips past this international patchwork of containment. But, remarkably, a global pandemic seems “likely” and not “inevitable.”
A malware pandemic, Conficker not withstanding, is also less likely than it seems. Apple’s iOS puts more control into vendors hands, and Microsoft wants to ban infected computers from the Internet. More government control over ISPs, more security-as-a-service vendors being able to detect infected systems, and less user-control over machines = less overall risk of malware pandemics (NOT necessarily a reduced risk of cybercrime, but of “viral” infection).
Religion Will See a Revival
Once more, I don’t understand how Taleb is predicting this by identifying faulty forecasting methods. Religion has been around for about as long as humanity, though, so it’s a safe bet to expect it to still be with us in 2036. But a revival? Who knows?