Zoom out and take a longer view, and there are good reasons to muster a new confidence for the 2020sby Tom Clark / December 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
Perhaps it was because 2019 was quite so grinding that as the nights drew in, there was little excitement, or even acknowledgement, about the dawn of a new decade. The 2010s had begun with stagnant economics, and ended with angry politics. They were years lived in the long shadow of the financial crisis, and as we emerge blinking from them, if we dare to look ahead at all, we mostly do so with trepidation. There are some good reasons to be fearful, as threats from climate change to dangerous new nuclear standoffs (see Jeffrey Lewis) hove into view around the world. And in Britain, where the weight of the Brexit business remains overwhelming as well as divisive, there is a special temptation to hunker down and wish away the challenges that lie further down the road.
But zoom out and take a longer view, and there are also good reasons to muster a new confidence for the 2020s. Over many centuries, human beings have had to confront seemingly intractable problems—from the population boom that Thomas Malthus said would ruin us in the 18th century, to the arrival of an atom bomb that could easily have wiped us out in the 20th. And yet by answering them with human ingenuity, not only have we survived, we’ve also rescued a growing proportion of humanity from the nasty, brutish and short lives that used to be almost everyone’s lot. And for the last quarter-century Prospect—which turns 25 in 2020—has played its own part in applying the intelligence of today’s sharpest thinkers to the problems of tomorrow, which is exactly what we seek to do again in this, our Winter double issue.
We call on several of the World’s Top 50 Thinkers, as saluted in our pages back in the summer, together with other experts in their fields, to come up with a new idea for the new decade. What makes their suggestions bracing is that they are at once both bold and believable. Why shouldn’t we, as Camilla Cavendish urges us, be able to stop panicking defensively about the demographic transition, and put oomph into getting the most out of longer lives? Why can’t we plan effectively against the real risk of a pandemic, something Peter Frankopan points out needn’t be expensive…