This year will mark thirteen years of making laughably incorrect predictions about the coming year. I have intentionally skipped any predictions related to the on-field performance of the Cleveland Browns to avoid having the universe unleash its jinxing powers against them.
- The COVID vaccine rollout will go smoothly once the new administration settles in, and the economy will rebound quickly once vaccination rates hit critical mass, causing the current unemployment rate of 6.7% to drop below 4.0% by the end of the year. I’m basing this prediction on the 1918 Influenza, which ended and saw everyone party during the Roaring Twenties.
- At least one of the following Senators will leave the Republican party this year and begin caucusing with Democrats: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, or Pat Toomey. None of these four need to be too worried about re-election, all have expressed grave concerns with the direction of their party, and with Democrats in control of the Senate they would wield huge legislative influence as swing votes if they decided to switch.
- SpaceX will not conduct an orbital test of their new Starship rocket, but will be on track to do so in 2022. SpaceX previously announced that they would start commercial launches of their new vehicle in 2021, and they have already launched prototypes eight miles into the atmosphere, but there’s a huge difference between eight miles and an orbital flight. While it would be awesome to see them pull off commercial flights in 2021, test flights in 2022 with commercial flights a year or two later would still be an incredible achievement.
- Rivian will begin delivery of their all-electric R1T truck before the end of the summer, and will steal some of Tesla’s thunder by winning the car/truck/SUV of the year award from Motor Trend. I know some people love Tesla’s Cybertruck, but I think Tesla made a huge mistake by packing amazing tech into an exterior that a majority of current truck owners won’t want to drive. Given its controversial exterior, the Cybertruck provides an opening for Rivian to capture the market for everyone who wants a truck with a technologically-advanced electric powertrain without having to drive something that looks like it came from a Mad Max movie.
- The Browns will trade back at least twice during the 2021 NFL draft, and will end the draft with at least one extra 2022 draft pick in the third round or better. I know the draft is in Cleveland and the Browns expect to be competitive next year, but I think the math guys in their front office are aware that if you want a team to be consistently good you need to exploit inefficiencies in the system, and a major inefficiency is that teams undervalue future draft picks. If you disagree, ask the Texans and Dolphins how they feel about this upcoming draft.
- Americans will win at least three gold medals in the mid-distance and distance events at the Tokyo Olympics. The world should be able to figure out a way to hold the Olympics by the end of the summer, and while the men’s 800m is the only event in this category in which an American might be considered the favorite, athletes like Emma Coburn and Galen Rupp have the potential to surprise everyone, particularly after being able to use 2020 to get healthy and spend the time base training.
- The Avatar sequel will bring people back to movie theaters and will be on its way towards a top-three all-time box office showing by the time these prediction are revisited next year. The original Avatar hasn’t aged well, and conventional wisdom seems to be questioning whether there’s an appetite for a sequel, much less the four that are planned, but there are doubts about every movie James Cameron makes, and he always delivers; I remember snide rumors about how Titanic was over budget and that the director had lost his mind, Fox Studios initially passed on the original Avatar, etc. Time after time people doubt him, but in the end James Cameron knows how to put something new and compelling on a screen.
- The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will receive permanent protection, either through a national monument designation or via an act of Congress. In its waning days the Trump administration auctioned off drilling rights in ANWR, and big oil companies chose not to bid. Banks don’t want to finance such a controversial project, the world is moving away from fossil fuels, and any drilling attempts will face innumerable lawsuits before they can proceed, so oil companies seem to have given up the push to turn a pristine wildlife refuge into an oilfield, meaning the primary argument against permanent protection is now gone.
- Congress will pass bills shoring up Obamacare, addressing voting rights, and dealing with immigration, but nothing will get through the Senate related to gun control, marijuana legalization, or giving statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. While the Left is understandably overjoyed at the election outcome, they will need to lower their expectations as the reality of a 50-50 Senate becomes apparent.
- Google will announce some sort of streaming service to compete with Netflix, leveraging its massive library of YouTube content and its expertise in AI for targeting content. While there are currently YouTube apps that you can run on a TV, they are clunky and hard to use, and Google will find a way to better monetize its existing assets while offering additional content via original programming, curated YouTube content, or possibly an acquisition of an existing studio.
- 2021 will see high-speed, wireless home internet begin to displace wired home internet. Between ultra wideband 5G and satellite services like Starlink, just as most people no longer use landlines for phone service, 2021 will be the year that begins the transition to home internet that doesn’t require a cable, DSL or fiber connection.
- Following Brexit, Scotland will vote for independence and will rejoin the EU. The process of actually putting a referendum in front of voters may take some time, and Scotland leaving the UK may prove just as messy as Brexit was, so it’s probably premature to suggest a vote will happen in 2021, but if I’m going to make incorrect predictions anyhow, why not make bold incorrect predictions?
- Facebook and Twitter will take significant actions to address misinformation, threats, and bots on their networks. Both companies are more than capable of better moderation if they choose to do so (Facebook in particular has tons of AI expertise that is currently used to drive clicks, but that could be easily redirected to content moderation), and social media is in the crosshairs of legislators from both parties, so they will be extremely motivated to do whatever they can to change the narrative that heavy regulation is urgently needed.
- Tesla will begin production of the Tesla Semi, but will delay production of the Cybertruck to 2022. The Tesla Semi was originally supposed to be available in 2019, then 2020, but 2021 will finally see it deployed. The Cybertruck is supposed to start shipping in 2021, but the factory where it will be built is still under construction and they are planning on using untested new manufacturing processes, so it’s hard to envision it being ready in the next twelve months.
- With the NBA season ending a month later than normal, most NBA players will opt out of playing in the Olympics, and as a result the USA will not win the gold medal; I’ll go further and predict that they don’t win the silver medal, either. I hope I’m wrong on this prediction, but after a shortened offseason and very little time between the end of the playoffs and the Olympics, players will be exhausted and will choose to wait three years for their chance to win a gold medal in the 2024 Games.
There they are; with any luck at least three or four will actually come to pass, or if the universe smiles upon me maybe six will come to pass, matching the 40% success rate of 2020. The comments link is available as always for anyone who wants to add their own predictions, and we can laugh at them together in twelve months.