Last year, I wrote a long beginning of year post where I compared the current state of affairs in the world to that of the late Roman Republic. I thought things were bad, but that we were still a long way off from any danger. Have things escalated fast!
Not only has the state of democracy deteriorated significantly in the US and the UK (as well as around the world), but the environment is being destroyed at an alarming rate. We have fires burning in places like the Brazilian Amazon, Borneo, but also Australia, where huge swathes of territory have been scorched to the ground.
On the international front, the world seems to be headed towards confrontation, with aggressive, narcissistic leaders in places like the US, Russia, or China. Areas like the Middle East are becoming more and more turbulent, and the dangers of a conflict are increasing exponentially.
This is just a sampling of the events that are transpiring right at this very moment. The world is experiencing many problems on the social, economic, political, and environmental fronts. Some of the things have gotten so bad, that serious publications are talking of the potential of civil war occurring in the US, even of a complete societal collapse. “The Atlantic”, a US magazine that has been around for over 150 years and was started a few years before the Civil War, has dedicated their entire December issue to discussion of the potential of a new civil war erupting.
What we are seeing now is that many of the things that I wrote about last year as part of my series on the lessons from the collapse of the Roman Republic have gotten worse. Polarization is growing at a rapid pace, no one wants to compromise and both sides are getting more and more radicalized. A narcissistic leader has taken over the White House and keeps on getting more unhinged, which is a trend replicated in many countries around the world, where wanna-be strongmen are in charge.
On the positive side, I believe that we still haven’t reached the tipping point, the moment of no return. We can still turn things around, but it will require a lot more effort. This year will be a critical time period for the world. The decisions that we make in 2020 will have a significant impact on how things will turn out in the future. The year 2020 will be a significant turning point, for worse or the better.
Technology will be an important part of the solution, but also part of the problem. We have seen how the internet brought us the possibility to access tons of information from around the world, but also attention-whoring and fake news. New technological horizons are coming up, with AI being a potential game changer in the future.
However, new threats are also arising, with deep fakes, or the possibility to make a fake video of a real person, potentially blurring the line between what is real and what is fake, further contributing to the confusion. We seem to be at the cross-roads. How we tackle these different challenges will play a big role in the future of humanity, for we are not facing only problems that impact today, but what we will do will impact all the generations to come.
At the beginning of the year, I try to write a piece summarizing my thoughts and predictions for the year ahead. The piece above was part of that effort.
This was my analysis written at the beginning of the year 2019. Much of it takes analogies from the fall of the Roman Republic. It still rings true, and now maybe even more than last year:
The year ahead 2019: the dangerous trends that are shaking up the world today.
To get a deeper understanding of what caused the collapse of the Roman Republic and how those forces seem to be similar today, read this:
11 Lessons from the Fall of the Roman Republic – It is disturbing how relevant they are for today
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