Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

All the Things for 2021

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:08 pm, January 20th, 2021

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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?
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

2020 Predictions Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:16 pm, January 11th, 2021

The annual exercise of attempting to predict events for the coming year continued in 2020, and twelve months later it’s time to revisit how awful those prediction turned out. In an ironic twist, however, after the most unpredictable year that anyone has seen in decades, I managed to make way more correct predictions than normal; I still didn’t break fifty percent, but I’m notoriously bad at this game. Here’s the recap:

  1. Here are the election predictions for 2020:
    1. Either Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg will be the Democratic nominee… I suspect that South Carolina will probably be a turning point.

      CORRECT. This one may seem obvious in retrospect, but at the time it was made Biden hadn’t yet won a single primary, and I TOTALLY NAILED IT. Biden was the nominee, and South Carolina was what changed his fortunes.

    2. Democrats will end up gaining 3-4 seats in the Senate.

      CORRECT. After the November election when the Democrats underperformed in Maine and North Carolina this prediction was a clear loser, but with their shocking wins on January 5 in Georgia this prediction rose from the ashes like a phoenix; who would have expected Georgia to be more blue than Maine?

    3. Democrats will maintain control of the House but lose a few seats overall.

      HALF CORRECT. They lost more than a few seats – current counts have them on track to lose thirteen – so I’m only giving half credit.

    4. Trump will lose in the general election.

      CORRECT. Trump lost, but the election was much closer than expected based on the polls. I know a huge chunk of the country loves him, but it scares me that someone so willing to promote lies and viciously attack anyone who disagrees with him remains the face of the Republican party.

  2. Virgin Galactic will launch its first paying space tourists, and Richard Branson will finally take a ride on his new space plane.

    WRONG. When the company was founded they hoped to have their maiden flight by 2009. Space is hard, but even knowing the difficulty of taking something like a space plane from “it works” to “it’s safe for tourists”, I’m still surprised they are taking so long to achieve their goals.

  3. Coming off of a seventh-place finish in the 2019 World Championships, the US men’s basketball team will go undefeated in the Olympics, winning each game by no less than ten points.

    TOTALLY WRONG. The reason I got this wrong? THEY POSTPONED THE FREAKING OLYMPICS BECAUSE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

  4. Tesla will announce major updates to its Model S and Model X vehicles.

    NOT EVEN CLOSE TO CORRECT. The Model S debuted in 2012, and while it has seen minor updates since its launch, Tesla hasn’t introduced any technology to its flagship vehicle that has made people want to rush out and buy it; instead sales have been steadily cannibalized by the less expensive models. I assume that 2021 has to be the year Tesla rolls out crazy new technology for its top-end models, but attempting to predict what Elon Musk will do next is a fool’s errand.

  5. Lebron James will win his fifth NBA MVP award and his fourth NBA championship.

    HALF CORRECT. I think he deserved MVP, but I’ll take half credit for getting the NBA championship prediction right.

  6. Boeing’s 737 MAX plane, grounded since March 2019, will not fly again in the US until the July-September timeframe.

    WRONG. Flights didn’t resume until December 2020. This engineering snafu cost several hundred lives and lost Boeing between $20-60 billion. Engineering is hard, but from most accounts this disaster was a preventable one that hopefully won’t ever occur again.

  7. The deployment of faster 5G wireless will be slow and problematic through 2020… Verizon will not have made usable 5G available at my house by the end of the year.

    HALF CORRECT. This prediction is a tough one to judge – Verizon has rolled out what it calls “Nationwide 5G” across much of the country, but if you read the fine print it’s mostly a marketing gimmick that means you get 4G speeds while a 5G icon is displayed on your phone. The much faster “ultra wideband” 5G is still only available in a tiny handful of locations, and not in my neighborhood. I’m claiming half credit.

  8. Wonder Woman 1984 will be the top-grossing comic book movie of the year… I’ll predict something in the $275-325 million range.

    SO WRONG. Remember back in the olden days of 2019 when people went to movie theaters?

  9. At least two of the following three things will happen: Drew Brees will return for one more year with the Saints but retire when the season ends, Tom Brady will return for one more year with the Patriots but retire when the season ends, or Andrew Luck will announce that he is ending his retirement and returning to the Colts.

    UNBELIEVABLY WRONG. I knew this one was a longshot when I wrote it, but wow, spectacularly wrong. Has anyone seen Andrew Luck in the past two years? He’s just… gone. And Brady to Tampa Bay… I assume no one saw that coming a year ago.

  10. Mobile phones with folding screens will be the next big idea in tech that turns out to not have a market.

    HALF CORRECT. This prediction is kind of hard to judge since the mobile phone companies are still pushing folding phones, but based on estimated sales figures of just 500,000 Galaxy Fold phones being sold worldwide, it sure doesn’t seem like consumers are rushing out to buy them. I’m going to take a half credit here for a prediction that looks right today, but could still prove wrong a few years from now.

  11. SpaceX will launch astronauts to the space station by the end of summer, but Boeing will not launch astronauts in 2020.

    CORRECT. The Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission carried astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the space station on May 30. Meanwhile Boeing has pushed their second, uncrewed test flight to no sooner than March 2021. Also, spaceships are awesome.

  12. Apple will either purchase an existing studio, partner with another streaming service, or in some other way significantly beef up the content library for its Apple TV service.

    WRONG. Completely and totally got this one wrong, but after the box office carnage of 2020, with studios in debt and theaters empty, I could suggest a great (and economical) way for Apple to vastly increase the amount of shows they offer in 2021.

The final tally for 2019: 6 out of 15 (40%). Shockingly, that ties with 2012 as the third-best showing ever, behind only 2010 (44%) and 2011 (50%). Granted, there were four half-points awarded this year, but after several years of getting most predictions completely wrong, I’ll take it.

Check back in a week or two as I return to making guesses about the coming year that we can all laugh about later.