Looking Back on Looking Forward
Taylor Guzman '24
My five-year-old self sits awestruck in front of the TV as the credits roll on Back to the Future Part II. It is 2010 and I am amazed by the vision of the future with which I have just been presented. Back to the Future Part II depicts 2015 with flying cars, hoverboards, and most significantly, self-lacing shoes. I imagine what our world will look like in only five short years, and I desperately hope that Marty McFly is right. Unfortunately, 2015 comes and goes without flying taxis, but several technological and social advances do occur like the use of unmanned flying drones for data collection, bionic ears, and the Tesla Model X (which is strikingly similar to Doc’s DeLorean).
Reflecting on this experience leads naturally to some questions. What did we expect from 2022? Which of those predictions were right and which were wrong?
Emerging from two years of isolation, people had high hopes for 2022. On a personal level, we were all searching for increased connection, more social interaction, and a return to normalcy. On a national and global level, our country wished to continue economic growth and strengthen international relationships.
Interestingly, one of Forbes Magazine’s top ten predictions for 2022 was the rise of energy prices in the United States. Entering the year, the price of oil was higher than $100 per barrel. Forbes predicted that this price would continue to rise and would prompt consumers to consider alternative forms of energy. They linked this trend to a boom in the sale of electric and hybrid vehicles as drivers seek to defray rising gasoline bills.
While the Forbes prediction about increasing energy prices has proven accurate, many unforeseen causes have contributed to this price elevation, one being the war in Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened disruptions in the global energy marketplace because suppliers are already struggling to meet demand increases as countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. As attacks have intensified, traders, shippers, and financiers have been boycotting Russian oil. President Biden even signed an Executive Order prohibiting new shipments of Russian oil, certain petroleum products, liquefied natural gas, and coal. The U.S. only receives about 3.5% of its oil from Russia, but the ban still has a significant impact. Add to this the increased demand on a more limited supply and the national average gasoline price that has skyrocketed to a new all-time high of over $4.30 per gallon.
In an era of increasing globalization, divining future events proves difficult. The actions of every nation have intended and unintended consequences that influence every sector of daily life. Instead of relating to Marty’s fantastical optimism, I find myself eyeing the future with apprehension. The desire to plan for upcoming events with certainty can often do more harm than good by creating unrealistic expectations and diverting valuable attention away from pressing issues. Rather than attempting to illuminate uncertainty, we should focus on preparing ourselves for the unexpected. Perhaps a better question to ask when we enter a new year is, “How can we practice flexibility and adjust to unanticipated challenges?”
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