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From Doom & Gloom to Optimism & Hope: A guest post by William E. Halal

From Doom & Gloom to Optimism & Hope, by William E. Halal, (PhD); The TechCast Project and George Washington University.

Bill is a like-minded thinker, friend and fellow futurist, based in Washington DC. Check out his latest must-read book ‘Beyond Knowledge‘, and the video / live-stream event we did together last year.

TechCast Research takes on the deadening pessimism that “nothing will change,” “things could get worse,” “we can't know the future,” and the host of other fears that inevitably drive a crisis to go on. We suggest that only a transformation in the prevailing mindset can help. The world needs nothing less than a spiritual epiphany, and soon. 

Summary & Overview
We proudly present our cutting-edge study that draws on key trends and expert knowledge to forecast a “break” in the global fever of doom and gloom. Major trends outlined below allow us to call for finding faith in the supreme flow of evolution now moving into an Age of Consciousness The world is living beyond knowledge now, with emotions, values, believes and other subjective form of consciousness dominating modern life. With this in mind, here's how we envision this critical change playing out in the next few paragraphs. 

A warming climate is almost certain to raise the stakes dramatically over the next few years, further driving the major move toward greenhouse gas reductions already planned. The US $360 Billion climate program and corporations investing $ 9 Trillion could lead the way out of this mess. Other nations are likely to follow, starting the resolution of this central challenge in the global crisis. This turning point would be supported by the business plans underway to solve environmental and social problems (ESG, stakeholder enterprise, etc.), setting a new global standard for collaboration.  Climate damage will likely remain as yet, but a shift in attitude and intention would then energize ideas and action. 

The much-anticipated global recession will likely run its normal course in 2-3 years, prompting a rebound in economic growth. This time, growth is likely to be propelled by the takeoff of AI, forecast at about the same time.  With the automation of routine jobs and the growth of the new class of “creative work”, also anticipated, a global boom is likely about 2025. With threats now more prominent, growth would be fueled by focusing on solutions to the crisis — climate mitigation, renewable energy, cooperation with developing nations, etc.

All this renewed energy is likely to be encouraged by a renewed faith in democracy as the rise of autocrats reaches its end. Trump will almost certainly have been charged with crimes against the US government, Russia's war of aggression will have ended badly for Putin, Iran is likely to have been forced to allow its citizens normal freedoms, and China may feel the rise of demands for liberation. The triumph of democratic rule is likely to produce a resurgence of shared governance, extending to cooperation on the Crisis of Global Maturity.

TechCast is not naive, so we are aware that events will not play out neatly. Barring anything truly devastating, the three super trends noted above — collaborative action on climate, resurgence of economic growth, and a renewed dedication to democracy — should dominate events.

We feel fairly confident in forecasting this break to occur about 2027, much like the 2022 US midterm elections broke the crisis in American democracy. Specifically, this study suggests a 66 % probability that the prevailing Crisis of Global Maturity is likely to turn into hope for solutions about 2027 +/- 3 years.  This global crisis break, would then allow renewed efforts to think seriously about solutions — leading to our forecast of Global Consciousness about 2030.

Forecasting Global Crisis Break

A societal crisis is much like a bodily fever. Both grow to severe levels that may not be sustainable. Things get worse. Threats abound. The future looks grim.  Yet — at some point the fever breaks. The crisis turns from pessimism to hope. 

This study focuses on the prospect of a break in the global crisis of climate change, more pandemics, global recession, inequality, and other threats to come. We aim to forecast when and if today’s nagging pessimism will break, like the break in a fever. When a majority of people around the world become optimistic about the future. When prevailing attitudes switch from doom and gloom to faith and hope. 

Our earlier Trend Analysis defined 15 trends driving the Crisis of Global Maturity and 12 trends acting to resolve it. Here's a quick summary of highlights on the crisis: 

The Crisis of Global Maturity

Global Pandemics Likely to Continue. The Covid pandemic is but the latest threat from more global infections to come. The Global Health Security Index recently noted “every country, including the US, remains dangerously unprepared for … future pandemics.”

Democracy in Decline.  A PEW Research Center poll finds that only 17 percent of people in democratic nations are confident in the US as a role model of democracy.

Probability of Disaster.  The Marien and Halal Study found a 60-70% probability of disaster from climate, pandemics, financial collapse, inequality, conflict, terrorism, water, cyberwar, etc.

Majority Fear We Are Doomed. A New York Times Survey of 10,000 people found that  “56% think humanity is doomed.”

UN Reports on Climate Are Dire.  The most recent report of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC)  warned that “Total societal collapse is likely unless major decline in carbon emissions is made soon.



 Most Likely Scenario/Driving Forces for About 2026-28 

To put this issue in sharper focus, we outline trends shaping up into a moment of truth. Here's a scenario of what we think are key trends and driving forces likely to affect the mid-term, five-year planning horizon of about 2026-28:

Climate Worsens but Provokes Action: The fires, droughts, heat, floods and other damage caused by climate change is almost certain to intensify. Fortunately, so will attempts to resolve the climate threat.  Biden's $360 Billion program seems promising, other nations are doing the same. McKinsey Consulting expects business to invest $ 9 trillion per year alleviating climate change. The fear of relying on Russian oil and gas is driving a rush to energy independence and renewables should exceed the use of coal by 2025. (Washington Post, Dec 13, 2022)

Democratic Enterprise Coming: ESG is now practiced in 90% of corporations and growing.  TechCast estimates a 70% probability that stakeholder governed corporations will enter mainstream use this decade.
Global Recession Ends: Central banks are raising interests rates to reduce inflation, while global debt has doubled recently, making the downturn painful. The decline may be deep, but it should also run its course to produce renewed growth about 2024-25. This time, it is likely to be led by government spending and demand that remains strong. The collapse of the Tory government under Liz Truss in the UK refutes faith in “trickle down” theory (tax cuts, reduced public services, etc.), whereas the US programs under President Biden demonstrated that government can spur growth.

AI Takes Off:  Our forecasting consistently signals that AI is likely to  pass the critical takeoff point about 2025 +/- 2 years. This will eliminate many routine jobs and create new creative jobs, and cause more subjective forms of thought to proliferate, as well as more disinformation. Automation will provide far higher level human attention, and the intelligence to do what seems impossible now. This newfound power of AI will also poses enormous risks, stressing the necessity to establish strong AI controls.

Peak Trump:  It is increasingly clear that former President Trump and his associates are likely to be indicted for criminal charges, possibly sometime in 2023. The reaction of his followers could be violent, but the Department of Justice says it cannot allow the law to be disregarded. Trump's associates could be charged first, thereby gaining more information to support an indictment against the former president and preparing the public for the worst to come. The US mid-term elections confirmed Peak Trump. Even GOP leaders are moving away from Trump, finally! In symbolic terms, this could play out as Dept. of Justice Chief Merrick Garland assumes the heroic stature of Saint George slaying the fierce dragon of evil.

End of the Russian War Against Ukraine: The Russian military is nearing exhaustion, while Ukraine shows no signs of yielding, setting the stage for some type of negotiated settlement — as all wars do eventually. Ukraine may cede some territory to Russia, and it may agree to refrain from supporting NATO strategic arms. Putin and his generals are likely to be charged with war crimes.

Decline in Autocracies: The Trump rebellion and Putin’s war on Ukraine seem to be failing, and Bolsonaro was defeated in Brazil. China's turn to state control is condemned to harm economic growth and freedom. Iran is throes of rebellion. After the past decade of strongman rule, could this mark the decline of autocracy? But Netanyahu is following the Trump playbook in Israel.

Continued Rights Movement:   Following gay rights,  #MeToo, BLM, we now see young women in Iran ignite widespread protests, with men also challenging the regime. After hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests, the movement has moved beyond female dress to demand an open society that joins the modern world. Meanwhile, China's failure to make zero-Covid policies work has discredited Chairman's Xi's power. The Russian people have been tamed temporarily, but the brutal costs of war build pressure for revolt. In these 3 nations, the “easy” work of industrialization and raising living standards is nearing its end,introducing the messy social demands now troubling the modern West. The fundamental need for freedom, respect, and equity is insatiable. Look for more demands that challenge power everywhere.

US Crisis Break: The Mid-Term elections in the US punctured the Trump bubble, and public opinion has broken the fever of The Big Lie, rigged elections, and the other post-factual web of delusionary thought. Resistance to dumping Trump persists, but the national mood has shifted distinctly away from “crazy” and toward normal again. GOP leaders are left dazed and confused. Shell shocked. Tom Friedman called it the second greatest test of American democracy since the Civil War.  “We were dinged a bit,” he said. “But we won.” This US Crisis Break seems to be spreading not only in US politics but everywhere. Faith in the cryptocurrency mania collapsed, like a hi-tech Ponzi scheme. And tech superstar Elon Musk so bungled Twitter that he also destroyed his reputation of appearing invincible. The hard truth of reality struck again, as it always does.

Study Results —
Global Crisis Break ~ 2027 +/- 3 Years


Round One of this study “eyeballed” these forces driving a break in today's doom and gloom about 2025 or so, and the results below estimate Global Crisis Break at ~ 2027 +/- 5 years, with a strong probability of 66 %. The small number of “Much Later/Never” estimates speaks to the doubts that prevail. Our sample size of 15 is smaller than we like, but TechCast has learned that anything over 12 provides a good approximation of the rough answers needed for our purpose.
   



A few experts voiced the doubts:  Peter King leads the opposing views by saying, “… we are on the verge of a planetary crisis… the initial phase of the breakdown by 2050 but the full consequences will be obvious in the second half of this century. And Young-Jin Choi thinks“I’m afraid there is little chance for a return to a past state of perceived normalcy or an imminent crisis break.”

While more experts saw the likely change:   Paul Haase noted, “… we already see changes happening in the right direction.”  Owen Davies has misgivings but agreed, “Yes, the world will be a better place in five or ten years… Eventually, we will look back and recognize that things have changed for the better.” And Victor Motti stated, “This is a major driving force that will accelerate the pace of approaching the global crisis break point.”

TechCast studies like this strive to be objective and even handed, while also providing inspiration for addressing the hard work of change.  While we respect the voices of those who argue global crisis break is likely to happen much later or never, we also suggest they represent what Arthur C. Clarke defined as a “failure of nerve.”  We know that crisis breaks are common, and we can see the driving forces noted above are moving toward resolution. The main obstacle, however, is beyond knowledge — summoning the courage to challenge widely held views that such a dramatic change will happen. The fear of being proven wrong. TechCast thinks the issue is so crucial that we are prepared to risk the stigma of a mistaken forecast. We also think these driving forces are so robust that global crisis break is not only possible — but that it is near.  The most likely time frame may be 2027 +/- 3 years, but it could easily happen at the lower end of this margin — 2025 or so. 

Conclusion: Finding Faith and Hope
Global Crisis Break is not to be confused with our previous forecast for Global Consciousness about 2030 +/- 5 years.Our best estimate suggests a 55% probability of a “global consciousness” emerging about 2030 +/- 5 years to address these threats. We define Global Crisis Break as the point when the bulk of opinion swings from pessimism to optimism, much like the mood shift that is so striking now about the US. Like the eventual break in a fever. The crisis is still there, but today’s pervading sense of doom is replaced by faith and hope. Crisis break would be the first step toward global consciousness. The solution may not be in sight yet, an energizing faith drives the search for options.
 
This conflict between evidence and skepticism is one of our great obstacles today. Many find compelling reasons for hope and optimism, but many others simply cannot accept the possibility of anything good. They condemn hope as unrealistic, utopian, idealistic, even naïve. The public seems divided roughly at 30-40% skeptics, 30-40% convinced, and the remaining 20-40% confused or undecided.
 
Conflicting views block needed change. That’s why crises continue. Negative attitudes can become self-fulfilling prophecies because they discourage action. Doom and gloom are deadly. Change is only possible with hope for a better future. And hope can only exist with faith in forces for good.
 
To find our way through this critical test of civilization, we can trust in these universal forces brought us through chaos. Civilization survived the fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, various plagues, World Wars I and II, and a cold war bristling with nuclear weapons. Today, the “Trump rebellion” is alarming, but a similar rebellion came from left-wing radicals a few decades ago. During the 1960’s, the US was struggling to contain social conflict that it flared into riots, takeover of public buildings, and bombings. That too passed.
 

Now we need to have faith in the powers of social evolution that has proceeded steadily from an Agrarian Age to an Industrial Society, then the Knowledge Age, and is now moving to an Age of Consciousness. To also have faith in the goodness of humanity that drives this evolutionary progress. If we can find these sources of faith, then we can also find the hope that allows us to make bold changes. Otherwise, prepare to face disaster.

This is a Guest Post by by Bill Hallal

Related: Have a look at The Good Future Project.

The Good Future Project (TGFP), founded by Futurist Gerd Leonhard and supported by the Futures Agency, is a global, non-profit network of like-minded individuals and creators who focus on making ‘The Good Future’ a reality.  TGFP’s concept is based on Gerd’s 2021 film ‘The Good Future’ – watch it here.  The project’s blogs, video-channels and live-stream sessions serve as a platform for experienced contributors and as a space for planting the seeds of change, exploring what a ‘Good Future‘ might look like…

Related videos, below: The ‘Good Only' Edit of my new film Twice Upon a Time

And my 2019 film ‘We need to talk about AI”
 

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