What will be the state of the United States in the near and distant future?
This question is of particular interest to me as a proud yet concerned citizen of the United States. The state of our country is important with regard to domestic issues (jobs, Social Security, civil rights, etc.) as well as international issues (diplomacy/conflicts, international commerce, outer space activity, etc.). Indeed, all of these issues affect the daily lives of all Americans. If I could accurately predict the future state of the US, I would be able to make informed career decisions and lifestyle choices in a manner that would benefit me in the long run.
Today, professionals ranging from financiers to educators to politicians constantly seek to anticipate future fluctuations in the state of the United States. One common method for predicting the future is to conduct thorough analyses of the past. For example, investors scout out past trends in various stocks’ performance that might be indicative of future behavior. Similarly, historians conduct in-depth studies of landmark historical events, primary source documents, and public policy to understand how/why individuals and institutions reacted to social changes in the ways that they did. Since much of the human experience is rooted in a few common ideologies, understanding the past can provide insight into how American society may evolve in the future.
An increasingly powerful tool for “predicting” the future is the analysis of massive quantities of data. According to this philosophy, the outcomes of important events in the United States–from presidential elections to sports games to crop yields–can be predicted by crunching numbers. Organizations like 538 pool survey data from thousands of Americans to forecast the winner of each election, which can have quite an impact on the future of the United States! The idea of using big data is that numbers are objective representations of real-life situations, whereas historical analyses can be subjective and/or biased. However, one crucial factor that numbers cannot always account for is human behavior, which can be unpredictable and is constantly modulating. Given the size and diversity of the American populace, fluctuations in human behavior are a crucial wild card that often precludes social scientists from developing accurate predictions of future popular mindsets.
Furthermore, evaluating the accuracy of one’s predictions is a fairly subjective matter in and of itself. For example, I predict that the price of Google stock will go up. The outcome of my prediction is of significance to both my personal financial well-being as well as to the financial well-being of many other investors in the US and around the world. Well, let’s say that for the next 2 weeks, Google stock ends up increasing by 5% every day, but then the stock price declines back to the original price over the next 4 weeks. Was my prediction accurate? You could reasonably argue both “yes” and “no,” depending on which time frame you considered. Some analysts would call Google “bearish,” while other analysts would say that Google has all the elements of being a high-return stock. If objectively determining the accuracy of a prediction is so challenging, the art of making a prediction becomes all the more muddled. Indeed, it is quite a challenge to predict the behavior of all these highly complex and integrated American systems, from the stock market to the political arena.
Nevertheless, the future of the United States is of great importance to me, and I shall continue to make predictions and speculations about where our nation will go from here.