Yes, that’s right, fun eclipses judgment. In short, if predicting the future was not fun few would put their reputations on the line. At this stage in my life where reputation has, for better or worse, become static I plow on. And, by the way, my thoughts cannot be shorted; there is no market. Rightly.
The Economist, as 2023 wound down, noted that economists had made a “muddle” of that year’s predictions. Many had forecast an international recession with attendant implications for stocks and bonds. And to add to the embarrassment economists actually use mathematical formulas to arrive at their analysis and conclusion. Their approach is not an intuitive game of spin-the-bottle.
So, having just spun my mythical bottle I believe 2024 will be a modest growth year in the US. Demand will slow for discretionary purchases and I wouldn’t want to own stocks of high-end consumer goods companies. Younger buyers will allocate more of their income to rent or building up capital for a down payment on a home. But, overall, America will have a rather settled economy with breakthrough technologies leading to what America does so well—entrepreneurial driven supply. The stock market will be up a bit—math is not my speciality.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) broke through our consciousness in 2023. As I type, the underlying software anticipates my words and speeds the mechanics. I use ChatGPT as a research assistant; it performs rather well. It also has good copywriting skills. But, my narratives are my narratives.
New technology always needs early adopters for demand to gather force. In one way or another there are more than enough early adopters of AI to suggest that this latest manifestation of computational magic will soon be a powerful enabling force as it enhances many offerings and undermines others. Health care will receive especially welcome boosts.
This will be a year of quantification. AI will produce results. And everybody who provides goods or services that are affected will research, build, or buy their way in and forward. The government will make noises about regulating it, but there will not be anything approaching a consensus on what to do.
However if you ask AI who will be the next president, it will decline to answer the question. That’s the reason we are prepared to call this technology intelligent. But regardless of how important politicians believe their efforts affect our economic well-being, mostly they don’t. In short, America’s strengths are substantial enough to absorb bad judgment. And to me featuring a replay of the 2016 and 2020 elections is real honest-to-God bad judgment.
But before abandoning the political field all together, I would simply note: don’t underestimate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ( RFK). He is a Kennedy and neither President Biden or Donald Trump will set the standards bar particularly high. I predict he will be the wild card in this election cycle.
I will also predict that the Democratic Party will begin to move back to the Center. The MAGA movement did not develop in a vacuum. Its success is derived from the many attacks on what Americans thought were settled values. Many of the attempts to re-engineer America coalesced into an unwelcome movement in both red and blue states. The irrationality of Harvard, Penn and MIT Presidents is illustrative and explosive. When truth becomes relative, lets say bendable, the culture fractures and wars break out.
Yes there are disparities in educational and economic outcomes. And we have spent the better part of four generations trying mightily, through programs piled on top of programs, to improve the lives of people who for whatever reason were not able to get ahead or even get started. Presumably we have learned a lot about what works and doesn’t. And that leads to a prediction.
As our tax payments increasingly flow to interest payments on the national debt, a strong and largely bi-partisan force will insist that we borrow less and prove up, by generational assessments, what will work or not. This will not be an outgrowth of a flinty resolve. We will be forced to do it. At the end of the day economic forces will push, not lag, reform.
Let me end on a lighter note. The Baltimore Ravens will win the Super Bowl. Lamar Jackson will be the MVP.
But, when it comes to baseball my crystal ball is blurry. I will predict, however, that the Los Angeles Dodgers will learn again that you cannot buy baseball’s crown. Baseball is a team game. So are our collective efforts we call government.
Happy New Year!
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.