Let's ditch fatalism in 2018by Tom Clark / December 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Truly, this is the bleak midwinter—and not only literally. The world’s biggest brains despair at intractable conflict, climate catastrophe and raging nationalism. Meanwhile the economics profession, as it emerges blinking from a decade of stagnation it failed to see coming, is split. Half is preoccupied with wizardly robots that will destroy jobs and livelihoods, while—somewhat incongruously—the other half frets that growth is grinding to a halt because we’re running out of big ideas.
But the dismal productivity numbers are, as last month’s Prospect explained, clouded in haze. This time we’ve tasked writers with peering through them to catch sight of the tomorrow shaping up in different aspects of life. There’s no sign of ideas running dry.
Consider quantum computers, which replace the basic building block of the digital age, the binary on/off switch, with something more akin to a dimmer. Such machines are, as Jay Elwes explains, already moving from science fiction to scientific fact. In food (Stephanie Boland) and also in relation to sex (Kate Devlin), disruptive technologies abound; there are some disturbing implications, but there is also real hope that technology can deal with pressing needs.
Meanwhile, Big Data is revolutionising the way goods are priced (James Plunkett) in a way that could, if we’r…