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January 1, 2008

A New World
Monday. This chest cold has more wind in its sails than I'd imagined, but such is life. I'll just keep my head down and hope things come together by the end of the week. I have a haircut appointment tomorrow and I'll see if I can't make it, but either way, I'll put these failed attempts to predict eminent recovery aside, get out of the house at least briefly today and take it as it comes. Too much time in bed, too much stuffy air. And the sun has been shining brightly now for three whole days, no rain until day after tomorrow.

Interesting fellow, a futurist and engineer on the faculty at Stanford, was interviewed on local public radio this morning. I didn't get all of it (sitting, as I was, in a hot bath thinking that breathing a little steam couldn't be bad for a cold) as the radio wasn't turned up high enough and my brain was out of tune, but he made a couple of predictions after describing at length the methods he and his fellow academic futurists used to make predictions, how they succeeded and how they failed. He suggested, given a list of factors he'd identified that had been predictive in the past, that we were due for “some deeper overturn” in the next two to five years when asked about the economy. “Some deeper overturn”. Sounds like more than a recession. Sounds global. Sounds kinda kinky.

Since he was coming (half hearing all this in the tub now remember) from an academic framework with some predictive success that examined many elements, he gave as an example of what turned out to be a predictor in the past: the Taliban in Afghanistan, when they dynamited the ancient statue of Buddha, how that event had troubled him when he'd heard about it - what might it imply? - and caused him to contact and ask many of the political and military people he'd worked with around the world as to what they were seeing, what they were hearing, what they were thinking this might mean in a global context, this destroying of a statue in Afghanistan, was it a tipping point, one of what were probably other signs not yet noticed indicating a significant change was taking place, a tipping point that needed to be taken into account?

He finished to say he'd recently started working on a larger project that was leading him to predict we'd moved into a period that in fifty years would lead to significant reductions in the power of nation states, these powers transferring to individual “city states” contained within them (the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, a “city state” rather than perhaps the entire state of California. We were also seeing the beginning of reverse outsourcing of highly skilled Americans to other parts of the world, Asia for one, China particularly, in the same way a talented person might now move to another city here within the United States, both of these being aspects of globalization.

One indicator the transfer of power was happening, a point on the curve, was the fact that the President had ordered in 2006 his fellow Republican Arnold Schwartzenegger, the governor of California, to move elements of the California National Guard to the Mexican border “to protect the country from terrorism” and Schwartzenegger had turned him down. Impossible to imagine twenty years back. The “futurist” seemed serious: national central governments in general, the United States not excepted, will lose significant power to components within their own states, China a good example as the real power in China is now held by the governors of the individual Chinese provinces and the national government is riding a knife edge teeter-totter attempting to keep the country on (their) track in what is an increasingly unstable environment. (Hmmm. Two sources now who know something about China saying China is on the edge of revolution.)

Interesting, sitting there in the bath, breathing beneficial steam, on this first day of the New Year, head pretty fuzzy attempting to write this, feeling pretty confident chest cold or no as we enter a New Year and a new world.

The photograph was taken at the family party in Seattle with a Nikon D2X mounted with a 17 - 55mm f 2.8 Nikkor lens and an SB-800 strobe light at 1/60th second, f 2.8, ISO 100.