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

15 Years of Bad Predictions

Posted from Culver City, California at 11:12 pm, January 23rd, 2023

For reasons that are now lost to history, back in 2009 I thought it might be fun to make some predictions about the coming year. That initial post started a string of fifteen straight years of making ill-informed and usually incorrect guesses about what was to transpire over the upcoming twelve months. While the journal hasn’t seen a ton of posts over the past few years, the tradition of bad predictions has lived on, so without further ado, here’s a list of 15 things that probably won’t happen in 2023.

  1. SpaceX is going to have several spectacular failed launch attempts of its new Starship rocket, but will get the vehicle to orbit.

    With the caveat that in a few years they will almost certainly be launching and landing the world’s largest and most powerful rocket regularly, Starship is a brand new vehicle using a lot of unproven technologies, and Elon Musk is known to push the boundaries, so I think this year they will have a few spectacular failures. If it has a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly anywhere near the launchpad they will need to spend months rebuilding the launch infrastructure, so a single failure could result in six months of delays before they can try again.
  2. Apple is going to launch a new VR headset, but despite a ton of initial press it won’t catch on with consumers.

    VR headsets seem (to me) like a cool idea that I would never want to actually own, but I’m also getting to the “you kids stay off of my lawn” stage of life, so maybe I’m missing something. I think augmented reality glasses will be a thing soon – imagine driving and having directions appear on your glasses, or going to a party and not having to worry about forgetting everyone’s name – but a clunky VR box to wear around so that you can experience a TRON-like view of the Grand Canyon from your living room? It seems fun once, but not something people will want to spend $1500 on.
  3. The Ukraine war will end by summer, with Russia ceding all claims to Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, in exchange for some sort of face-saving gesture like a promise that Ukraine won’t join NATO.

    Everyone has been inspired by Ukraine’s defense against a much larger foe, but Russia continues to do incredible damage to Ukraine despite slowly losing this war. Putin needs a way to save face, and Ukraine needs Russia to stop raining destruction down upon them, so once Ukraine has retaken its territory I think that both sides will be highly motivated to negotiate an end to hostilities.
  4. Ford will be responsible for 30% of all US EV sales by the end of the year.

    As of Q3, Ford had 7.2% of EV sales, but they are massively ramping up production of the F-150, Mach-E, and Ford Transit van, all of which have enormous demand. Ford is going to be able to sell as many EVs as they can build, and all indications are that they will be able to build a lot.
  5. The US will default on its debt for the first time in history.

    This is a prediction that I hope doesn’t come true, but in its early days the current Republican House majority has let its far right members drive the agenda, with the supposed moderates doing nothing to stop them. As a result, I think Democrats will refuse to make concessions for agreeing to pay the country’s bills, Republicans will be unwilling to back down, and markets will panic as the US finds itself facing default. My 401k is not excited about this prospect, so again, I hope this prediction is very, very wrong.
  6. Tesla will begin deliveries of its new Cybertruck by June 2023, but they won’t offer the truck for the $39,900 that was initially announced, and won’t sell a model that costs less than $50,000 in 2023.

    Tesla has a history of announcing prices for vehicles that don’t materialize; for example the Model 3 was supposed to cost $35,000 when it was announced, but the cheapest version of the vehicle today is $43,990, and that’s after a recent $3,000 price drop. While they will claim that a $39,900 Cybertruck is coming some day, I’m betting we definitely won’t see that price in 2023, and probably won’t see it in the future.
  7. Donald Trump will drop out of the 2024 Presidential Race before the end of the year.

    Republican politicians have blamed Trump for losses in the past three elections, and polls seem to indicate that Republican voters want someone new. Meanwhile, there is an argument to be made that Trump is primarily running to fund his legal troubles or to benefit his own businesses, and with money not flowing as fast these days he may seek out other options for addressing his financial difficulties. With the current Justice Department understandably reticent to set a precedent by prosecuting a former President, it seems possible that a deal may be offered to end some of the legal cases against him in exchange for him getting out of the political spotlight, and with pressure coming from the Right as well it could lead to an early exit from the Presidential race.
  8. Layoffs will continue in the technology sector in 2023, but there won’t be a broad recession.

    Statistics indicate that about 200,000 jobs have been cut in the technology sector during the most recent round of retrenchment, but as a tech worker I actually think that this was overdue. COVID made remote work the norm, allowing a massive number of people to change jobs, and for the technology sector in particular this led to gigantic salary increases as companies struggled to keep existing employees and replace lost employees. Today a lot of tech companies have people on the payroll at huge cost, and as a result it seems likely there will be significant cost-cutting going on in tech, while other industries will be able to continue as normal.
  9. At least two of the following three things will happen in the NFL: Tom Brady will retire (for real this time), Aaron Rodgers will retire, and Jimmy Garoppolo will join the New York Jets.

    While I’m usually bad at predictions, I’m particularly bad at predicting the NFL, but the only reason Rodgers and Brady have to continue playing is that they want to win Super Bowls, and neither Tampa Bay nor Green Bay are favorites to win the Super Bowl next year. Meanwhile, San Francisco can’t afford to keep Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Jets think they are a quarterback away from going to the Super Bowl.
  10. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will be a flop, earning less than the $317 million that the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull made.

    Everyone wants to see another good Indiana Jones movie, but the last one featured a terrible plot and CGI monkeys, and there doesn’t seem to be any good reason why they’re making another movie. Let’s hope they go out with a bang, but it’s been 42 years since Raiders of the Lost Ark came out; if you want a franchise to last that long, follow the lead of James Bond and get a fresh cast and creative crew.
  11. Joe Biden will announce that he is running for a second term, and no major Democrat aside from (maybe) Bernie Sanders will announce that they are running against him.

    Biden quietly accomplished a ton during his first two years, and while there are serious concerns about his age, I’m not sure if the Democrats have an obviously better option to put on the ballot for 2024.
  12. Kathleen Kennedy will be removed as the head of Lucasfilm.

    As an unabashed Star Wars fan I’m impressed by the new Mandalorian and Andor Star Wars shows, but have been massively disappointed by most of the new films and most of their other shows. Kennedy doesn’t seem to be a fan of Star Wars, and the franchise is too valuable to Disney to not have someone better at the helm. Were I betting man, Dave Filoni or Jon Favreau would be my picks to steer the ship moving forward.
  13. Twitter will see declining revenue and user engagement under Elon Musk, but no viable competitor will emerge by the end of the year.

    Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter has seemed to me to be a clinic in how not to run a business. He has alienated advertisers, fired employees without understanding their role, and fundamentally misunderstood that Twitter isn’t a technology company as much as it is a moderated community of users. That being said, there isn’t yet a viable competitor, and none seems to be on the horizon, so he’ll have a while yet to figure things out.
  14. Athing Mu of the USA will break the 40 year old world record in the women’s 800m.

    Athing Mu has been unbeatable since she was a high schooler in New Jersey. Last year she caught COVID and it affected her season, but this year I think she’ll come back with a vengeance and is capable of breaking one of track and field’s oldest world records.
  15. 2023 will see two “quiet” supersonic planes successfully flying over our heads.

    NASA is planning to fly their X-59 plane in 2023, and expects the plane to have a sonic “thump” that is only 1/1000th as loud as the sonic boom of existing supersonic planes. Meanwhile Boom Aerospace should be flying their XB-1 plane by mid-year. As Boeing’s long-delayed 777-X proves, there are no guarantees with test aircraft, but just as SpaceX revolutionized access to space over the past decade, I think we’re on the verge of seeing supersonic passenger travel return to the skies.

And there they are. Fifteen predictions for the fifteenth year of making predictions, and based on history most of these will be laughably incorrect twelve months from now. Still, it’s a fun little exercise, and I’ll see everyone at the start of 2024 to recount how awful this year’s prognostications actually were.

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