As a prepper, I frequently get asked what I think will happen in the future, I'm not a clairvoyant, a scientist or anyone with the authority to say with some certainty, however that never stopped anyone from having an opinion before, so here is mine.
Last year, the BBC and HBO co-produced a Drama called 'Years and years', it follows a family over the next 15 years of our future extrapolated from the likely outcomes of mid-2019. This is my inspiration for this article, if you've not seen it, I highly recommend it - although fair warning, it's utterly petrifying.
Please note: The following is not fact, it is my own extrapolation of the future based on the events I see in the world today. This is all conjecture and opinion.
I write this in isolation during the Coronavirus pandemic, a situation that many of us saw coming a mile away and were fortunately well-prepared for. However, I feel fairly confident in saying that this is just the first wave felt by everyone in this slow slide into the apocalypse.
Many people - preppers included - believe that the end of the world will come quickly, they stock up on things to help them to survive in a world that was fine one day and gone the next, however I highly doubt that that is the way the world will end. I believe it will fade away, our luxuries will start to fade first, then our essentials will get harder to find and then, as fear, anger and hate combine with hardship, the parties that stoke all of that will prevail and gain a strong enough foothold to realise that they can take away our rights. You can see them attempting it now, all over the world and they are smart, they know if they do it slowly enough and at just the right time, most of us won't even notice. The world (probably) won't end in nuclear fire, it will probably fade away to a background track of the public shouting at each other and complaining that things were 'not like the old days'.
I think T.S Elliot said it best:
This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang, with a whimper.
So, enough poetry. Here is what I think will happen:
The coronavirus isn't that bad. It's probably going to kill a lot more people than it has already but it will never come close to making a notable dent (statistically speaking) in the human population, the virus itself is expected to kill less than 1% of the global population and whilst that's a lot, it's not enough to make a difference to the world in the long term. What will make a difference is the isolation - don't get me wrong, I think it is needed (I am voluntarily isolating myself without symptoms) - the problem is that for a lot of people, without the proper protection from their government, isolation means unemployment and many people live paycheck-to-paycheck and will not cope with losing a few weeks of pay, let alone a few months.
Thankfully I worked to get myself to a position where I work from home anyway and my wife can work from home whenever she likes but I am the only person in my family with that luxury, my sisters need to wait to be told they can work from home and the rest of my family all work in the service industry and do not have that option. The only way they could isolate themselves would be if the government tells them that they will be properly compensated for their loss of income.
This story is being repeated globally on an unprecedented scale, my expected outcome of this is a global depression the likes of which we've not seen, I don't think this will the worst since the 'great depression', I think this will become the new great depression. We'll probably never refer to it as a 'depression' as politicians like to patronise people into thinking things aren't as bad as all that, so we'll probably refer to is a recession but mark my words, it will be a depression of the highest order.
I suspect we'll see riots this year, almost certainly in places like London and New York but also possibly spreading out into other areas too. These will probably come about due to the stark inequality that has been created by the pandemic and of course, the bare-faced exposure of the inequality that was already there. The have's vs the have-nots is a revolution, slowly brewing and this year may well see it's opening battles.
The end of 2020, probably in around December, will also be an announcement - which will be widely discredited by people like Trump - that we have now passed the point of no return when it comes to the environmental crisis and that we now have to prepare for things we previously considered to be the worst-case scenario. This point though is something I'm now unsure of as - like many others - I've been amazed at how quickly the environment has bounced back during the Italian lockdown, it makes me wonder if the pandemic may have actually given us a stay of execution for the climate crisis.
2021 - 2025
I strongly believe that the world is changing at an exponential rate, some of it good, some of it bad and exponential growth means that things will accelerate down one path or another in a way that can't possibly be predicted, so from here on out, there will be two prediction paths, one bad and one good.
Last year, the world saw that the divide between the rich and the poor was wider than ever, the working classes (especially the people in the service industry who stepped up - either voluntarily or through no real choice - to keep the world running during the pandemic) will see news stories about the millionaire who cleverly bought when others panic-sold their stocks and managed to increase his wealth by orders of magnitude. Or those who lost their jobs in the pandemic and are now suffering the hardest effects of the depression, not able to live comfortably and constantly frightened when the phone rings in case its someone demanding money and even talking to those who felt no ill-effects during the pandemic at all because they were all able to easily work from home and were able to isolate when it all started. Or those who were actually on their way up before the pandemic but then lost their businesses due to lack of support from the government.
The hatred and anger caused by this could cause a revolution or it could just follow the pattern that it is currently doing, with a more extreme slide to the political right. After how he handled the pandemic, I struggle to see Trump getting a 2nd term but stranger things have happened and in a world where everyone feels hard done to, the soft rhetoric of the Left will do little to rally people to their cause.
After the lockdown lifts, people go back to work and to their daily lives, some of them will have learned a valuable lesson from this and will go on to live more sustainable lives, however, the vast majority will have learned precisely nothing and will go back to how they were before. Pollution will return, the small mercy we gave the planet during the lockdown will be undone by the sudden massive increase in consumption that people go through to try to feel like they are in control again.
Around 2025 we start to see some real extremes of climate change weather after the first western cities announce that they have run out of water whilst others are drowning under the rising sea-levels.
Due to the increase in consumption after the lockdowns are lifted, we will start to see debt rising again, however the crunch point of that will come shortly afterward as the low interest rates set during the pandemic are starting to rise rapidly in order to attempt to recoup some of the losses, hyperinflation could start to happen in some of the western countries with weaker economies and we may start to see entire countries declare bankruptcy.
Last year, the western world saw real hardship for the first time in its life, the shake-up caused by the pandemic made people realise that the way we lived before 2020 wasn't sustainable, it's taken a while to put in place but we are now starting to see local-production outstrip centralised production as people move from buying their essential goods from the supermarket to buying them at local stores.
Losing an entire summer in isolation meant that people started to crave connection and community in a way that we'd forgotten about in the prior 20 years. Streets start to communicate and get to know each other, apartment blocks start to feel like little self-contained villages and high streets come alive again with shoppers getting to know their local butcher and green-grocer.
Due to the blackouts and brownouts that happened during the worst of the pandemic, many people have also started to switch to renewable energy and now strive to become more self-sufficient, a resurgence in gardening sees allotments become the new cool thing for young people to have and people start opening up their homes to dinner guests on a regular basis.
The population sees the positive impact we can have on the planet during the lockdown, images of dolphins in Venetian canals and whales happily frolicking in the Thames give people a renewed sense of hope for the future.
British and American governments put plans together to protect people from the depression as well as a disaster like 2020 if it happens again and finally implement a permanent Universal Basic Income, it's not a lot but it's enough to get by if you live simply enough, some people use that to go into early retirement and others use it to move to jobs they find more fulfilling.
Corporations realise they can save money by allowing many of their employees the freedom to work from home, remote working becomes much more common and soon 40-50% of jobs advertised are for remote work.
2025 - 2030
This is as far as I'll carry my predictions as after this point, the world will be so different from our own that there is almost no chance I'll be correct.
The world is on the brink, hyperinflation and over consumption have created a divide between the rich and the poor not seen since the days of feudalism, civil-wars and revolutions are now commonplace on the news and no country is spared from rioting. So many people now starve to death in their homes and on the streets that it doesn't even make the news anymore. Without the safety net of universal basic income, the increase in artificial intelligence and robotics has resulted in many people out of work and unable to make ends meet, homelessness is now so bad that slum towns are a common sight in every city in the world.
Violence and crime have increased to unprecidented levels, it is now too dangerous to go out at night and curfews are put in place to attempt to lower the crime rate.
Some low-lying cities like London are now close to being uninhabitable as they spend most of the year underwater due to widespread flooding and a worldwide refugee crises caused by global warming rendering some parts of the world too hot to live in has resulted in serious overcrowding of cities. Green belt zones are eroded as cities grow into mega-cities and the population concentration and widespread poverty creates yearly epidemics killing millions.
The far-right are now so entrenched that totalitarianism is now the dominant political force in the world, human rights and due processa are a thing of the past and freedom of speech is something that only exists in theory. Dissidents dissapear in the dead of night.
By 2030 only poor people live in mega-cities, but as that's the vast majority of the world they are still incredibly full. The remaining rural areas are now either the playgrounds of the rich or the hunting grounds of those who live in the fringes, surviving off the land.
The world gets used to being self-sustainable and a new economic system based around living well becomes the norm, the majority of office jobs are now work from home positions and hotdesking and socialising businesses see a huge boom. The working week gets reduced to allow people to spend more time with their family and tending to their personal needs - something they all got used to during the lockdown and now don't want to give up. Also, as a lot more people took up gardening during the pandemic, many people wish to continue that and require the extra time to properly tend to their crops.
Many people choose to work part-time now as universal basic income is enough to cover many peoples day-to-day expenses and most people work for pleasure. Advances in artificial intelligence mean that low-skill and manual labour jobs are now almost entirely automated and extra financial compensation is made for the small amount of human labour which is still required, meaning manual labororors now have a much higher quality of life.
Companies, pressured to not allow the environment to slip back to pre-pandemic levels find ways to reduce their impact on the environment and people - no longer travelling far and wide for work - are using vehicles less and less, that combined with the advancements in clean energy and electric engines has caused a lot of the damage we have done to the atmosphere to begin to repair.
Whilst not quite a utopia, the pandemic allowed the world to undergo a hard reset and gave us all a chance to re-evaluate how we live our lives, we all learned a valuable lesson and are now thankfully starting to repair our damaged society.
Will this actually happen?
Probaly not, like I said, I'm not a clairvotant, economist, scientist or politician. I'm a software engineer and a writer, however I spend a lot of time thinking about the future and I think that whilst unliklely, all of those futures are well within the realms of feasability, I imagine that we will probably see some of my predictions come true the law of averages suggests that's likely but the most likley outcome is that the ones I got right will be a mix of the good and the bad and the ones that I got wrong, they will probably lie somewhere in-between.
Remember though, the future is unpredicable as it only takes one changed variable to alter the entire course of future-history. The truth of the matter is, nobody knows what is coming next. That's the fun of it all.