To comprehend the absurdity of 2016, just think how it would appear to an observer from 2000.
I remember 2000 — it was an intense five years into my tenure as an analyst. We could see where things were going. The Web had vanquished walled gardens like AOL and was about to become universal. People were getting second phone lines so they could dial up the Internet without tying up the phone. Media was surging into the online space. eCommerce was all the rage (pets.com!) — bricks-and-mortar was so 20th century. HDTV was hot. We’d dodged Y2K. And president George W. Bush, the compassionate conservative, was running against Al Gore and Clinton legacy.
So, put yourself into the mindset of the resident of the year 2000, and ask yourself if you could have imagined, let alone predicted, any of the following:
- The open Web would fade, increasingly displaced by a walled garden run by one company that sets all the rules. Its power comes from the compelling desire to share pictures of yourself, cat videos, and fake news.
- Land line phone and cable TV subscriptions would suffer precipitous declines. People would trade dependable wired connections for phone and TV delivery that was glitchy and variable in quality.
- Phones would generate more Internet traffic than computers. Internet devices with a 5-inch screens would outsell PCs by a factor of 4.
- The average time spent reading a news article would be 36 seconds — because it would be competing with baby pictures and naked celebrities.
- The leading Republican candidate would be a real estate developer with a scrambled speaking style, specializing in insults, and suggesting that women be punished for getting abortions. The leading Democratic candidate would be the departing President Clinton’s wife. And their biggest challengers would be man who says he’s a Christian first and an American second, and socialist Jew.
- The Red Sox would win the World Series three times in the first 13 years of the new century.
Now you know why predicting the future is such a dicey business. Because anyone in 2000 who predicted any of these things would have been accused of making a bad April Fool’s joke.