Intelligence, artificial and otherwise, is on the rise. So too is space exploration. Polio (and possibly cancer) are on the decline. And contrary to what my many democratic friends were clamoring just over a year ago, we have yet to enter into an apocalyptic fall-out. In fact, one could make a case that we’re far from that. There are many reasons to look forward to 2018 with confidence.
It is a year that will see 88 nations gather in South Korea for the Winter Olympics, and 32 travel to Russia to battle for the World Cup. A year in which 27 million more Americans are expected to cut the cord with their cable providers, but also one in which more seniors are expected to plug in to technology in general.
It is a year, in short, that presents ample reason for optimism, in nearly all fields of human endeavor:
- Business: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the U.S. unemployment rate will fall from 4.3 percent in 2017 to 4.2 percent this year, and that 20.5 million new jobs will be created by 2020. The majority of those will be in health care, personal care, social assistance and construction. Another expected trend is toward workspaces that facilitate greater interaction among employees, as one study has shown that snippets of conversation among co-workers improves performance by 20 percent, while another revealed that 72 percent of employees who have a best friend at work are more satisfied with their jobs.
- Technology: The expectation is that AI will become far more pervasive this year, with chatbots — i.e., programs that facilitate text conversations — at the forefront of that innovation. One report estimated that that mode of technology, currently used by 20 percent of American companies (with the expectation that that number will rise to 57 percent by 2021), can save businesses over $79 million annually. Other technological advances on the horizon are expected in such areas as facial recognition technology, image recognition and robotics.
- Science: In May, NASA will launch InSight (i.e., Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), a geophysical lander that will land on Mars in November and explore the Red Planet’s interior. The space agency will also launch a solar probe this summer, and late in the year an unmanned spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx, which began its seven-year mission in 2016, is expected to retrieve rocks and dust from an asteroid named Bennu, in an attempt to determine the origins of the planets in our solar system. Other scientific breakthroughs are expected to come in the study of ancient genomes, which could help explain how humans spread across the Americas, and cosmic data, which could help improve our understanding of the galaxy’s structure.
- Health: There were only 17 reported cases of polio last year, and there is some expectation that the disease, which is spread by poor sanitation and exposure to infected human stools, will be completely eradicated this year. That would make it the first disease to be eliminated since smallpox in 1980. Continuing advances are also expected in the fight against cancer.
- Energy: Last year saw record sales of solar panels, and this year could be an even better one for that industry. While wind turbines and combined-cycle natural gas power plants currently provide the cheapest forms of energy (and while that figures to remain the case in ‘18), experts believe that over time solar energy will emerge as the least expensive option.
In short, our country and world are forever changing, forever moving forward. And there’s no reason to believe that that will change in 2018.