“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” quipped Nobel laureate Niels Bohr. The Danish physicist is best known as an early-20th Century pioneer of quantum theory.
The early 21st century has only made prediction harder. Each year has brought big news that few or none foresaw: 9/11, America’s longest war, a global financial crisis, the rise of Obama, the rise of Trump, COVID-19, fake meat, fake money, Jan. 6, inflation, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine’s cajones, factories returning to America from China.
Such a long list of the unexpected pushes prognosticators to try and imagine the unimaginable. To swing for the fences, so to speak. For this season of annual amateur prophesying, I humbly submit my random list of bizarre things that could happen next year. Or not. Being wrong might as well be fun.
- Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) launches a Twitter campaign, #SquashTheSquishes, against the popular Squishmallows plush toys for kids. “These goofy little stuffed animals are a radical leftist scheme to groom future young Republicans to become squishes and RINOs. Don’t let your children near them!”
- President Joseph R. Biden turns 81 on November 20. His only announced challenger, Donald J. Trump, turns 77 on June 14. As 2024 election talk heats up, Biden settles on a pithy rejoinder to address the age difference: “Four more years.”
- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg appears each week at a different construction site holding a giant check in one hand and a shovel in the other while wearing a hardhat with the phrase “Being 41 is fun!” printed on the front.
- In a viral tweet explaining his erratic behavior, Elon Musk reveals that in early 2022, he secretly began the first human trial of a neural implant he designed in his spare time. The brain-computer interface, known as the QT-420 (Musk calls it “Cutie”) integrates artificial intelligence, delusions of grandeur, passive-aggression and will-to-power in a single chipset. “Cutie is really cool, but sometimes it has a mind of its own,” Musk chuckles. “It reminds me it’s smarter, and I remind it I’m richer.”
- Amazon announces a bid to purchase the U.S. Postal Service. “Those weird little trucks are already half full of our stuff,” says a spokesperson. “And our Prime vans pass by most American homes every day. We may as well bring their mail. We have the vehicles, the routes, the people and the pee bottles to make the USPS deliver on time.”
- Home builders try to lure buyers leery of high mortgage rates with offers of cash prizes hidden inside features the new owner will probably tear out and redo anyway.
- General Foods and Carhartt announce a joint venture to produce the first wearable food, “Not Pockets,” a plant-based textile. The garments, targeting those who hate carrying lunchboxes or love impromptu snacking, feature multi-layer, pocket-size patches that peel off like a sticky note, one serving at a time. Flavors include chicken, ground beef and bacon. “Just dissolve one strip in any beverage for a third of your daily protein,” a spokesperson suggests.
- A joint strike force comprised of the FDA, the Fashion Police and the garment workers union raid the headquarters of Not Pockets three days after the announcement, shutting down the idea of wearable food permanently.
- A whistleblower posts an online video claiming to have stolen a prototype invisibility cloak being developed by DARPA, the supersecret Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA dismisses the video as a computer-generated deep fake. But many news sites breathlessly report that the employee, whose name is withheld for security concerns, has not been seen since leaving work that day.
- Smart doorbells using AI-based facial recognition software and automated 911 dialing add TASER technology to disable porch pirates until the police arrive.
- The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program reports receiving the first radio signals from deep space sent by intelligent beings. A team of linguists and cryptographers assembled to translate the ultra-high frequency tones cannot reach consensus on the message. Half think it says, “We have detected your lifeforms and regret the distance is too great for a visit.” The other half contend it says, “We’ve been watching your behavior on Earth and in space. Stay the hell away!”
- Exercise physiologists publish the most dramatic findings to date supporting high-intensity interval training. Comparing subjects who rode exercise bikes intensely for two minutes with those wearing virtual reality (VR) goggles simulating a failed parachute opening at 5,000 feet, the latter group required only four seconds to raise their heartbeats to maximum.
- Epidemiologists announce the discovery of a new virus spread solely by eye contact. Lacking physical symptoms, the virus appears to cause only a dread of the future and recriminations about the past. Millions adopt sunglasses and avert their eyes in public. Millions more shuffle about staring and muttering at one another. A new political movement is born around the idea that only a blind man can now lead the nation. Dozens of politicians claim they have lost their vision but refuse to release their eye exams.
- Readers of this post contact me toward the end of 2023 to gloat that not a single prediction came true.
Yes, that last one is a trick. Good luck in 2023!