Where I put on my New Years Hat and you can Ask me Anything!
An Annual Tradition
I continued the New Year’s Eve tradition where Facebook users could “Ask me Anything” (AMA) and receive an improvised, off-the-cuff, unsourced, but what I hope is an interesting forecast on where we’re going in 2020.
This year the questions were harder, more varied, and reflected what I sensed was a growing pessimism on the state of the world. I’ve also spent some more time in each forecast laying out the heuristic systems thinking methods I am relying on. These are not ‘formal’ or ‘simulated’ forecasts, these are my best-guess (with reasoning) at a point in time.
This document presents each question asked in the 2020 New Years Eve AMA followed by the Forecasts I wrote at the time (12/31/2019 through 1/5/2019).
Note – all forecasts related to General Qassem Soleimani, Middle East, Iran, oil, Presidential elections etc. were written prior to the Baghdad Airport Strike in early January that killed the General. This means some contingencies are invalid as of publishing this (those that involve General Soleimani in Q1 and Q17) and others might be manifesting before our eyes (such as the “brief war” contingencies of Q2). But I have not made any changes to the forecasts themselves. This preserves the forecast “as it was” prior to learning of the strike or after-effects. We’ll see how far off at the end of the year they ended up being.
Review of 2020 AMA Questions
Click on any of the below to navigate directly to the Forecast and Results. (ed these are being uploaded from the original Google Docs responses. ETA 1/27/2020 for completion. Until then binge-away here!
Q1 Which is more dangerous to the Iranian people, suppression by the regime in Tehran or a violent fall of the government and the chaos that may result?
Q2 Who fares better in the 2020 Presidential Election?
Q3 Will the Impeachment process heal or harm the current world opinion of the United States?
Q4 Does impeachment cost the Democrats the House?
Q5 If he is re-elected with a GOP friendly House will President Trump be able to do a better job of actually implementing policies than he did the last time he had complete control of government?
Q6 What causes (e.g. corruption of government) would be sufficient to get citizen mobilization to the level of Hong Kong?
Q7 What areas in the US are ripe for civil unrest in 2020? What factors are feeding the potential conflict and how might it play out?
Q8 What will ISIS look like by the end of 2020 in the Middle East specifically in terms of strength and structure? Will it continue to be a degraded and simmering problem, eradicated, or reform into something more enduring and virulent?
Q9 Where will the stock market be in a year, relative to where it is now?
Q10 What are some nagging long term global problems that you see getting better this year?
Q11 What does the East Asia strategic picture look like in context of South Korean, Japanese and US relations?
Q12 Will there be movement in firearms regulation along any of the following axes- suicide, accidental discharge, domestic abuse, criminal usage, or terrorism?
Q13 How does polarization between Red and Blue evolve in the US, politically and geographically, and how does that play into long-term electoral politics of the US?
Q14 Beyond 2020 what trends concern/interest you most in the next 10 years?
Q15 Given the premise Britain leaves the EU, what is the best way forward with Brexit?
Q16 What areas are ripe for civil unrest internationally in 2020? What factors are feeding the potential conflict and how might it play out?
Q17 What will the significant players in the Middle East: Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia gain or lose in 2020?
Q18 Will we see increased attacks on US embassies in 2020? Would you consider non-state actors or state actors as the biggest transnational threat?
Q19 What systemic trends do you see for the EU? Pulling apart or growing together?
About these Forecasts
System dynamicists do not predict the future. Much like Dr. Strange we prefer to run many simulations and identify a range of possible future manifestations, and what contingencies will cause them to exist. We also focus on trends over time rather than discrete “point-predictions”. For example a forecast might answer whether the stock market might be higher or lower next year, and why, but won’t try to predict that the market drops by 10% on October 5th, 2020.
In this regard these forecasts are not “predictions” insomuch as they are just one of many possible future scenarios and the contingencies I think people should be looking for to see if it will manifest or not. Also these forecasts are made on the spur of the moment, as questions are asked, and without extensive research (or actual simulation.) This represents what I might respond if you asked me the same question in a coffee-shop rather than in a peer-reviewed paper. Consider these forecasts more than anything else as edutainment, don’t take them seriously. (Unless I’m right, then of course all of the above doesn’t matter.)
Also although I don’t have a horrible track record on getting the scenario right – I’m downright miserable on correctly picking the time frame in which the scenario will occur. So when I give a forecast for 2020, think 2020-2025.
Check back in late December 2020 when I review these forecasts. I’ll post a summary result that compares what actually happened to my forecast and assign a completely subjective score to it.
Questions that I passed on due to repeats, lack of knowledge or they don’t constitute a “forecast” in that there’s no way to meaningful evaluate results in the future.
What skill would you like to learn in 2020? (Neidan.)
Of three very tasteful dress choices, what should someone wear to a New Years Eve party? (Passed because fashion is my dump-stat and I spent my points elsewhere.)
What is your #1 piece of advice for a cross country move? (Abandon all hope.)
Favorite pair of socks? (Fox River Hot Weather socks. But not for any material comfort, and I don’t wear them now, but they remind me of overseas and the work there.)
Who would win, Donald Duck or Porky Pig and from there who takes out Pooh? (Donald Duck obviously!)
Who do you see winning Best Picture for the Oscars and who will be the comic book hero of the year? (Passed as they are discrete event “point-predictions” which I don’t do.)
What are the 5-6 areas you know well? (History, Foreign Affairs, Domestic Politics, Economics, Violence & Instability, and Advanced Analytical Methods)
What systemic trends do you foresee in the current conflicts in the middle east (you can break these out by conflict or country if you like)? (Answered in Q8, Q16 & Q17)
Systemically, would you see the current domestic red vs. blue slipping into “high conflict” and getting worse, pulling back, or staying the same? (Answered in Q7 & Q13)