21 oddly specific Predictions for 2021
Australian bush-fires, Suleimani assassination, plane shot down, Black Mamba, COVID-19's first wave, market crash, lock-downs, mass unemployment, negative oil, “I can’t breath”, work from home, tech dominance, Beirut explosion, RBG, California fires, elections, second wave, vaccinations… How far we are from the naive and self-centered opening lines of my 2018 predictions : “Salt Bae made us swoon, La La… uhm “Moonlight” won Best Picture, Harry put a ring on it, we couldn’t get “Despacito” out of our heads, and I couldn’t (and still can’t) afford Bitcoins and the iPhone X”.
Yes, this year has been the worse. But we’ve made it. And though many (though not all) of my predictions for 2020, 2019 and 2018 have fallen flat, there are two reasons why you should read the following 21 guesses. Firstly… it’s fun! Secondly, because the knowledge gained through planning for potential realities is crucial to the selection of appropriate actions as future events unfold. Above all, articles such as this one act as catalysts to steer the conversation in the right direction. We don’t know the answers, but we can at least ask useful questions.
Let’s get prescient.
1. We’re not done with COVID-19
No one wants to hear this. I don’t want to write it. But the 1st of January won’t bring the solace we’re so desperate for. I see 4 reasons why COVID-19 will still very much be with us throughout the year despite promising vaccines :
Anti-vaxxers think this is their moment, and many will refuse to take the vaccine, leading to continued outbreaks and regional lockdowns.
Someone will get sick after getting said vaccine. This will get massive amounts of media coverage leading to a severe decline in public trust, adding to the already existing reservations. Eventually it will be revealed that the issues this person had had nothing to do with the vaccine; but the damage will have long since been done.
Local semi-authoritarian governments (US, Poland, Hungary, Brazil…) will regularly make a show of strength by ignoring WHO recommendations, ensuring none of their neighbors are safe until herd immunity sets in (whenever that is).
People will think they are invincible after getting a 90% effective vaccine (or even just the first of their two doses of the vaccine), and will forget all about masks and distancing. That means 10% of recipients might still catch and transmit the disease until vaccination is widespread, which might never happen for the reasons above.
We will be wearing face masks on the 31st of December 2021.
2. Tracking citizens becomes fashionable
But we don’t have to look at power-hungry extremists to find examples of freedoms being rolled back : Norway’s (first) COVID tracing app could track people’s exact movements, South Korea has an app to report neighbors who don’t abide by the rules set by the government, and Israel has used anti-terrorism methods to track the virus’ spread.
Every country has an example or more of some freedoms being taken away to ensure the majority’s safety. And that’s a good thing. But once that power has been given, the ones that hold it seldom relinquish it. Everyday tracking will become more common-place for the public good, and we’ll have to ensure this goes no further.
3. Women come back… with a vengeance
It’s difficult to find data for the entire world, but we at least know that, in the US, almost 2.2 million women stopped working or looking for work between February and October. We also know that this pandemic is worsening the economic gender gap throughout the world.
Many (not enough) of these women will come back to work in 2021. And in the Western world, they will come back angry and unwilling to settle again for anything less than they deserve. Look for the share of women getting higher education degrees to continue to increase and for the number of women seeking higher managerial positions to sky-rocket.
4. The car industry as we know it is dead
Though car sales will see the occasional spike because of fear of public transport over the next 12 months, car manufacturing having slowed down during lockdowns and lower incomes due to economic hardships will make it hard for manufacturers to recoup their losses over the long term.
When car sales do reach pre-crisis levels in two or three years, the electrification and digitisation of engines will have made further progress, finally matching customer expectation. Furthermore, new economic models of mobility will be accepted: a trend towards more flexible models of use, financing, subscriptions and mobility... Many existing players will find it difficult to adapt quickly enough to reshape their businesses and secure their market positions and profit bases — or even to find new ones.
The car industry is dead. Long live the car industry.
5. The media can’t let go of Trump
Media companies have thrived under the Trump show, and even with him having one cheek out the door, they’re still struggling to let go of their cash cow. In 2021, they will keep covering his insane hijinx. Since Trump needs this attention to survive (classic toxic relationship), he will continue to incite violence on a regular basic, until his inevitable heart attack.
By then, AT&T will have sold CNN to cut its losses, as cable will never do as well over the next 4 years as it did over the past 4. Anger gets more eyeballs than order.
6. Cyprus prepares to leave the EU
What I see happening is the two villains of our story trying to be smart : Cyprus welcomes the Bezos show for a fee, and Amazon is allowed to rewrite the Cyprus tax code to turn it into Ireland 2.0, minus the history and the charm of a lad getting into a fistfight with a lamp-post at 7am.
The EU sees this as an attack on the rule of law. As a result, Cyprus gets kicked out of the EU, and forms an alliance with Turkey.
7. Abandoned offices becomes child care spaces
Why not turn it into something useful, for once : spaces close to business quarters to take care of children, leading to both shorter commutes for parents and a revitalisation of business neighborhoods.
I’ve dreamed of such things existing in places like La Défense (Paris) for years. It will become a reality in 2021.
8. A new pandemic appears
Or at least what appears to be one. The government will not take any chances with the likes of H5N8, and will shut down anything that looks like a redo of COVID faster than you can say “civil rights”.
The media, however, will be reeling from the loss of their orange cash-cow, and will begin 24/7 coverage, leading to a frenzy and fears of “2020 redux”. Thankfully, various competent agencies are much more prepared now than they were a few years ago.
You’ll hear about the “New COVID”, but you won’t get sick from it.
9. The vaccine hurts the economy
We’ve been printing a lot of money since 2008. This means that interest rates have been very, very low globally (virtually 0%). Because it’s harder to make a profit in such an environment, banks have sought riskier assets for higher returns.
When things slowly return to normal in 2021, inflation will jump up, as the economy was over-stimulated in 2020 (the addition of “money printer goes brrr”, low wage growth and a high level of savings). Interests won’t go up fast enough and we will see banks hemorrhage money while some lenders are quickly unable to repay their debts.
Long story short : we see defaults in a thriving economy.
10. Amazon gets crucified
The Covid-19 pandemic was the best thing that ever happened to Amazon. And the worse thing to happen to many politicians around the world, who now need a scapegoat to regain some political credit.
The most powerful company in the world will serve as just that. Europe has already taken first blood, and public sentiment is shifting fast in the US. This has been building up for a few years, but 2021 will be the year Amazon gets imposed record fines for anti-competitive behaviour, and gets broken up.
Mr. Bezos, the world happens to you in two ways : “Gradually, then suddenly”.
11. Jeff Bezzos buys a sports team
Bezzos will turn 57 at the start of 2021. As a recently single man, he will do what every man of a certain age does to get laid : buy new toys. While your average divorced CEO invests in a Ferrari to attract Svetas, Bezzos is not your average billionaire, having access to more money than anyone else in the world.
In 2021, Jeff Bezos will buy a sports team. And while Rome burns, Caligula will play with his toys.
12. Mental health is important again
Let’s get one thing straight : mental health can never be over-discussed.
The pandemic that hasn’t been talked about enough this year is the mental health crisis sweeping through all nations. More suicide, more depression, more anxiety… as things get better in 2021 (fingers crossed), we will have to face the hurt that we’ve hidden from for too long while we barely got through the 2020 tunnel. And that’s just part of it : we’re yet to find out how many will grieve the loss of a year of their lives.
In 2021, the number of people seeing a psychologist will skyrocket, leading to an improvement of society over the long term.
13. Gen-Z takes over Tech
Kids are already much more savvy than many of us when it comes to digital technologies. A year of online learning will have made them even more proficient, and given them plenty of time to tinker on their own.
With college bringing less and less perceived value, year after year, and costs that continue to increase, expect a record number of Gen-Z start-ups to see the light of day in 2021. They will have no issue finding funding : as we’ve seen with the rise of SPACs and mad-high IPO valuations, the market is thirsty for investment opportunities.
14. Brexit leads to food and medicine shortages
This has been predicted for a long time, but it doesn’t make it any less true : the UK government is too busy botching its COVID response to think beyond their next pay raise, and Europe has very little to gain from letting the island go through the divorce unscathed.
In 2021, we will see images of long lines of trucks trying to get in and out of the UK. Crappy news-papers will seize on these images and the very mild basic goods shortages to blame the EU for starving the poor Brexiters in retaliation for a messy split-up.
Shortages will happen. But they won’t be nearly as bad as what is portrayed in The Sun or The Guardian.
15. Buzzfeed goes public via SPAC
As mentioned above, SPACs were the hot new finance buzzwords in 2020. In fact, so much money has been raised that it is impossible for it all to go to great companies ready for a boost in their growth. This is where Buzzfeed and bad acquisitions come in.
Buzzfeed is a seemingly healthy company with some potential and history, and its unlikely its shareholders will ever get a bigger deal than one offered by a SPAC team. The deal will go through, and be remembered as a cautionary tale when it inevitably goes bad as Buzzfeed continues its long slide to irrelevance.
Narratives can massage numbers, but not stop history’s arrow.
16. Walmart and Amazon double down on healthcare
I spoke about those two behemoths getting into healthcare over the past couple of years. They were right to do so at the time, and will be right to continue to do so given the current health crisis.
Expect both companies to make record acquisitions in this space in 2021 : they are both more or less trusted brand, and the average American lives closer to a Walmart than to a hospital. The math does itself.
17. Q-Anon look-alikes gain power worldwide
You might think tat Q-Anon is an uniquely American issue. You’d be wrong. It’s well-known american branch is the symptom of a worldwide issue, with impacts in Latin America, France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
The Q-Anon playbook is good for today’s politics; you’re not poor and unhappy because the the rich and corporations aren’t taxed : you’re poor and unhappy because there’s a whole world order in place to keep you that way. It’s not true, but it makes more sense…
While US Q-Anon has already gained access to the government, it’s just a matter of time before on of its crazy believers also reaches a position of power in a civilised country.
18. France wins the Euro 2020, one year later
19. Nomadland wins best Oscar
I’ve never had a good sense for Oscar winners. But that’s never really stopped me from trying to get a good guess in :
Nomadland wins best picture (A recession story, right on time)
Chadwick Boseman wins a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
20. Bring the Bolt Cutters wins a Grammy
Best Alternative Music Album, to be precise. The fact Fiona Apple wasn’t nominated for Album of the year is a travesty, but I guess a WAP gets more attention than talent nowadays.
Expect Billie Eilish to win big in all categories except song of the year.
After a brief hiatus in 2020, infant mortality, deaths from infectious disease, hunger and wealth inequality between the poorest and wealthiest nations continue to decline. The number of girls attending school and global income continues to increase. People continue loving each other, and keep making great TV shows. The world keeps turning.
Good luck out there.