For reasons that even I don’t understand, each year I like to make predictions about the coming year and then revisit those predictions twelve months later to see how wrong I got things. Here’s the recap of the 2021 predictions:
- 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.
CORRECT. The unemployment rate hit 3.9% in December, and even critics seem to agree that the vaccine rollout has been smooth. The thing I failed to predict was that a year later only 62.9% of the population would be fully vaccinated against COVID and opposition to vaccination requirements would become increasingly mainstream; I’m not looking forward to future battles over whether or not to continue requiring vaccination for polio and diphtheria.
- 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.
WRONG. This prediction was a longshot, but I’m a little surprised that someone like Murkowski or Collins didn’t jump ship. Both are on the fringe of their party and could win re-election as Democrats, and either of them could have replaced Joe Manchin as the swing vote for the Build Back Better bill, securing just about anything they wanted in return for helping to get that bill across the finish line.
- SpaceX will not conduct an orbital test of their new Starship rocket, but will be on track to do so in 2022.
CORRECT. Obligatory comment: SPACE IS SO AWESOME AND THIS IS THE BEST TIME IN HISTORY FOR ADVANCEMENTS IN SPACEFLIGHT TECHNOLOGY AND I AM SO HAPPY. That bit out of the way, SpaceX was launching test flights of its new vehicle seemingly every few weeks earlier in the year, but after a successful sub-orbital flight in May they have been focused on building their launchpad, getting FAA approval, and constructing orbital test vehicles. The latest estimate is that we may see an orbital test in March of 2022, which is incredibly exciting given the potential of this new vehicle to economically transport humans and cargo beyond Earth.
- 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 truck of the year award from Motor Trend.
CORRECT. Rivian’s R1T truck did indeed win Motortrend Truck of the Year, with Motortrend describing it as “the most remarkable pickup truck we’ve ever driven”. For a while it seemed like it was mostly just engineers who understood that electric vehicles weren’t just for tree huggers but were also vastly superior technology, but with Tesla, Rivian, and even Ford pumping out incredible vehicles like the electric Mustang and F-150, the rest of the world is starting to come to the same realization.
- 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.
WRONG. The Browns did pick up an extra 2022 fourth round pick, but that was their only trade back. Their first two draft picks were both named to postseason all-rookie teams, so even without trading back, the math guys still got it right. They might not win much during the season, but the Browns are perennial offseason champs.
- Americans will win at least three gold medals in the mid-distance and distance events at the Tokyo Olympics.
WRONG. Nineteen year old 800m runner Athing Mu was a true phenom, going from being a high school star in 2019 to gold medal winner in 2021, but she was America’s only gold medal winner in the mid-distance and distance events. The United States did also pick up a silver medal in the women’s steeplechase and bronze medals in the men’s 5000m, women’s 800m, and women’s marathon, but my hopes for three gold medals was unfortunately optimistic.
- 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.
EMBARRASSINGLY WRONG. Apparently they announced in July 2020 that the Avatar 2 release date was going to be pushed back to December 2022 and I missed that news and thus made a truly awful prediction. The movie was originally supposed to come out in 2015, so after seven years of delay hopefully James Cameron finally gets this film on screens by the end of this year.
- The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will receive permanent protection, either through a national monument designation or via an act of Congress.
WRONG. The Build Back Better Act at one point included provisions that would have prevented drilling in the refuge, but that bill is currently in limbo and no other protections have been proposed. The world is trying to quit its addiction to oil, so it seems incredibly short-sighted to me to risk an amazing natural wonder for a few more barrels.
- 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.
WRONG. The Build Back Better Act would have shored up Obamacare but seems to be in limbo now, and Democrats continue to fail to understand that they need to pare back ambitions on voting rights and immigration so that ten Republican Senators will join them, so this prediction didn’t pan out. While it’s tempting to believe that there’s nothing that could get ten Republican votes, Republicans did vote for the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that will be hugely transformational. Also, even though it didn’t get any Republican votes the $1.9 trillion Covid Relief bill was also a profoundly important piece of legislation that prevented massive cutbacks at the state and local government levels. While I would have preferred to see Democrats figure out how to pass legislation fixing the holes in Obamacare, pushing to mitigate climate change, etc, I’m amazed that two huge pieces of legislation that will have incredibly beneficial effects over the next ten years passed and most Democrats still seem to view the past year as a failure.
- 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.
WRONG. YouTube TV apparently has between 3-4 million subscribers, which is a paltry number compared to something like Disney+ and its 118 million subscribers. I have the business sense of a rock, but it still seems to me like streaming is an area that Google should dominate, but instead year after year they are allowing other companies to become more and more entrenched while Google does almost nothing.
- 2021 will see high-speed, wireless home internet begin to displace wired home internet.
WRONG. Tortoises move slowly, glaciers move even more slowly, and then there are the telecoms. Verizon, AT&T, etc could all easily take over the home internet market from the cable companies, but apparently they plan to rollout 5G home internet at about the same time that the personal robots and flying cars arrive.
- Following Brexit, Scotland will vote for independence and will rejoin the EU.
WRONG. In my defense I admitted that this was unlikely to happen this year, but the process is even more complex than I realized, apparently requiring approval from the UK before Scotland can even put another independence vote on the ballot.
- Facebook and Twitter will take significant actions to address misinformation, threats, and bots on their networks.
WRONG. I continue to be befuddled as to how a company whose sole product is 280 character messages that their brilliant marketing department decided to call “tweets” makes money. Meanwhile Facebook seems to be in a battle with Kim Jong-Un for the top spot on the “world’s least popular” list. Still, I’ve been predicting for years that both Twitter and Facebook would finally pay a price for their shortcomings, and for years I’ve been utterly wrong, so what do I know.
- Tesla will begin production of the Tesla Semi, but will delay production of the Cybertruck to 2022.
HALF CORRECT. The Cybertruck is now supposed to arrive in 2023 (originally scheduled to launch in 2021). In January 2021 Elon Musk said the Tesla Semi would ship by the end of the year, but later in the year said it wouldn’t launch until 2023; it was originally supposed to launch in 2019. Musk has brought some truly transformational technology to market over the past decade so I probably shouldn’t criticize, but still… maybe company resources should go towards getting the current roadmap to market before announcing an initiative to create C3-PO?
- 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 or silver medal.
WRONG. While most of the major stars like Steph Curry and James Harden did end up skipping the Olympics, the USA still won a gold medal despite losing to Nigeria and Australia in their first two exhibition games, and then having their 25-game Olympic win streak broken in a loss to France in their first game in Tokyo.
The final tally for 2021: 3.5 out of 15 (23%). A result that should be terribly embarrassing, but it’s far from my worst showing ever, and the whole reason these predictions are fun to make is because I try to stay away from anything too obvious. The 2022 version should be online soon for those who like to follow along at home.