Sunday, December 25, 2016

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The week between Christmas and the New Year is a traditional time of stock-taking. It's a time we summarize what has happened and what may happen in the year ahead. Herewith COTTonLINE takes a stab at this sort of sanctioned thumb-sucking.

History will judge with the advantage of decades of hindsight, of course, but from this vantage point, it appears 2016 was a watershed year. By that, we refer to a year when prior trends fail to do what trends normally do, which is continue in more or less the same direction at more or less the same speed.

Mathematicians and economists refer to such years as "inflection points." Futurists and pundits with a flair for the literary call such unusual events "black swans."

Most of the time projecting current trajectories to continue essentially unchanged is a safe call; safe but essentially worthless in the sense that it's a call anybody can make. Forecasting that is useful is that which nails the inflection points, which "calls" the times when directions change, when economies or societies take a new direction.

This will be a year, I predict, when Francis Fukuyama will be shown to have been definitively off-base. History isn't dead, it's still being made. A raft of trend lines will hiccup and head off in new directions.

Polling has proven to be nearly impossible in 2016, the outcomes of the Brexit vote and the presidential election were both widely predicted incorrectly. If you like, you could also include the unexpected vote rejecting amnesty for the FARC rebels in Colombia.

It remains to be seen whether or not Donald Trump will be able to uproot and break the stranglehold of the bureaucratic "deep state" on our government. If he even tries, it will be a titanic struggle, fascinating to watch.