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This Scientist Predicted A Chaotic 2020. Here's What He Thinks Could Happen Next


There are a lot of scientists and researchers who seldom get things right when they make predictions, like all of those geniuses who claimed that COVID-19 was a planet-killer and we’d all die of the new ‘Black Plague.’

But some are actually pretty good because they have obviously mastered the Scientific Method or, at a minimum, understand how it works. That allows them to make predictions based on sound conclusions rather than ‘models’ that are defective because the information put into them was wrong to begin with.


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A decade ago, Peter Turchin predicted that the year 2020 would be tumultuous, but of course, not everyone bought that.

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“They had no reason to believe I wasn’t crazy,” Turchin – a researcher who teaches cultural evolution at the University of Connecticut – told Time.

In the scientific journal Nature, Turchin wrote in a piece published Feb. 3, 2010:

In the United States, we have stagnating or declining real wages, a growing gap between rich and poor, overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees, and exploding public debt. These seemingly disparate social indicators are actually related to each other dynamically. They all experienced turning points during the 1970s. Historically, such developments have served as leading indicators of looming political instability.

As they say in the journalism world, here’s the money quote:

Very long 'secular cycles' interact with shorter-term processes. In the United States, 50-year instability spikes occurred around 1870, 1920 and 1970, so another could be due around 2020. We are also entering a dip in the so-called Kondratiev wave, which traces 40-60-year economic-growth cycles. This could mean that future recessions will be severe. 

No doubt that today our politics are as divisive as they’ve been since the decade before the Civil War. This is an election year, so that partisanship is only going to get worse. Then there renewed racial tensions following the death of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks (though the cases are in no way similar). Throw in the economic instability caused by the coronavirus, and there is a perfect storm of unrest and upheaval on the horizon, Turchin notes.

“As a scientist, I feel vindicated,” he says. “But on the other hand, I am an American and have to live through these hard times.”

But, as Time reports, citing Turching, “Worse conditions could still be coming.”

Societal crises, according to Turchin, are most often triggered when pent-up anguish and anger seek an outlet – in this case, the Floyd incident. And, he warns, don’t expect a rapid return to normalcy, either, especially if the aggrieved group or groups do not feel as though their issues have been addressed. Turchin said such periods of unrest can last from five to 15 years (and, as a side note, we should probably expect that if President Trump is reelected).

Time notes: 

As millions of Americans remain jobless, Turchin says there will be other triggers after this. He worries tensions “may escalate all the way to a civil war.”

“Unfortunately,” he says, “things are not as bad as they can be.”

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That would be a catastrophe. If the U.S. becomes preoccupied fighting itself, the world we help keep relatively peaceful will also explode. 

Maybe the best thing to do is just agree to a peaceful divorce.

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