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

2022 is gonna be better, right?

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:32 pm, January 31st, 2022

Continuing my questionable tradition of making bad predictions about the coming year, here are the 14th annual yearly predictions. As always, have a look at my horrendous track record before you go out and invest your savings based on anything suggested below.

  1. In the 2022 midterms, Democrats will keep the Senate, gaining between 1-3 seats. It’s a bad election environment for Democrats, but they have a favorable Senate map. There are 14 Democratic Senators up for reelection while Republicans are defending 20 seats. While a state like Georgia may flip Republican, Democrats have decent pickup opportunities in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
  2. Another election prediction, Republicans will regain the House, gaining 20-30 seats. Between redistricting, a history of losses by the President’s party in midterms, and a tough election environment, it looks like a bad year for House Democrats.
  3. SpaceX will have a successful orbital test of their new Starship vehicle, but won’t successfully land the vehicle by the end of the year. I think it’s going to take them a few tries to get a vehicle to orbit and back, and the FAA might slow down the cadence of launches, but if they can launch at least three tests I think one will successfully get to space and make it back to the surface, even if the “surface” means a soft landing out on the ocean.
  4. A viable Facebook competitor is finally going to emerge. This prediction is more of a wish rather than something I feel confident will happen, but Facebook is in the doghouse with users and regulators, so there has never been a better time for someone else to launch a competing social network. We’ve had almost two decades to figure out how people use social networks, so whatever comes next can take those learnings to create something vastly better – imagine if instead of just being able to click the “surprised face” emoji when someone posts a picture of their breakfast, you could also easily use your social network to get a job, find a date, or meet an exercise buddy?
  5. Median home prices will decline 5-10 percent by the end of the year. Median home prices are at $408,100 for Q4 2021, a slight dip from Q3, and as interest rates rise and construction costs are less affected by supply chain bottlenecks it seems like they’ll continue to decline and return to where they were at the start of 2021.
  6. President Biden’s Build Back Better bill will pass in some form this year. If Democrats will capitulate to Joe Manchin’s demands they can pass something, and “we passed a bunch legislation addressing health care and climate change, and if you elect more Democrats we’ll be able to do even more” is the argument I’d want to be making if I was insane enough to be a politician.
  7. Tesla will face lawsuits or otherwise be forced to issue refunds for its delays in delivering on its “full self driving” package. Since 2016 Tesla has been selling a “full self driving” package, and every year since then Elon Musk has been saying that they were a year away from delivering it. Tesla has created some incredible technology and deserves a ton of credit for their vehicles, but charging customers thousands of dollars for a feature that was promised but not delivered will finally catch up with them.
  8. COVID will fade into the background and life will return to normal once the Omicron wave subsides. After a year of waiting for a vaccine, followed by a year of people not getting that vaccine, the Omicron variant will finally be the catalyst that ends this pandemic. Omicron is so contagious that pretty much everyone will at least be exposed to it, and the combination of vaccine immunity and natural immunity will finally get us through this virus. I’m basing this prediction on numbers from South Africa, where case rates have declined precipitously from their early-December peak.
  9. Amazon is going to announce a shipping service to compete with UPS and Fedex. Amazon already delivers millions of packages each day, so leveraging that infrastructure to do customer shipping seems like an easy win. Amazon has plenty of convenient dropoff locations (lockers, stores, etc), which eliminates the cost of sending a driver to someone’s house for pickups, and they clearly know how to do 1-2 day delivery, so this seems like an area where Amazon could charge less than competitors and still make a hefty profit.
  10. It is going to be a wild offseason for NFL quarterbacks. There are vacancies in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, a few big name QBs seem disgruntled, and there aren’t a lot of highly-touted prospects in the draft, so the 2022 season will start with a lot of new faces throwing the ball. I’ll predict that there will be monster trades for at least two of these three: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr. I’ll also predict that despite the hot market, Deshaun Watson is going to stay unemployed as long as he remains in legal trouble, and that the Browns are sticking with Baker.
  11. The Ford F-150 Lightning will run away with Motortrend’s 2022 Truck of the Year award. I’m incredibly impressed with Ford’s electrification efforts, and think that they are going to surprise a lot of people over the next decade.
  12. This year will finally see major progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s new president has expressed a desire to make progress, the Biden administration wants to see progress, so this will finally be the year the talks produce meaningful results.
  13. At least three more major newspapers will follow the Chicago Sun Times and become non-profits. In addition to the Sun Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer became a non-profit in 2016, and the Tampa Bay Times has been a non-profit for decades, but 2022 will be the year that more foundations and donors step in to save the dying local news industry. There is an increasing public awareness of the need for accurate and unbiased local news, and rather than seeing more newsrooms die, this year will see the NPR business model applied to print journalism.
  14. 2022 will see video game streaming become a major selling point of streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Apple TV. Tech companies have been paying huge sums to stream movies and develop TV shows, but have thus far mostly just dabbled in video games. With streaming hardware containing more computing power than older game consoles, and vast libraries of vintage games available, this year will see a massive push to put game libraries in everyone’s TV set, and tech companies will start buying up game studios so that we can all play Mario Kart and Angry Birds using our Prime subscription.
  15. One final prediction: the Browns will win the AFC North and will win at least 11 regular season games. There, I’ve jinxed them, and they’ll definitely go 2-15 now, but they’ve got all of the necessary pieces, and if they can’t win with this team then they’ll probably have to start over in 2023 with a new quarterback, and the universe can’t hate Cleveland enough to put everyone through that again, can it?

And that’s it. It is shockingly difficult to come up with fifteen predictions for the new year, but for some twisted reason I still enjoy doing them. We can all reconvene in twelve months, at which time we can recap how embarrassingly incorrect these guesses about 2022 turned out to be.

2021 Predictions Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:35 am, January 16th, 2022

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:

  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.

    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.

  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.

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. Rivian will begin delivery of their all-electric R1T truck before the end of the summer, and will steal some of Tesla‚Äôs 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.

  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.

    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.

  6. 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.

  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.

    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.

  8. 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.

  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.

    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.

  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.

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  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 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.