This year begins on the edge of change – from simmering world conflicts and game-changing elections to the future of Obamacare. The New Year is also poised to see significant shifts in technology, transportation, arts and culture, and sports. We’ve rounded up the news stories that will help define our world over the next year. Visit OZY.com for full links to these thought-provoking stories. Do you agree with our look-ahead picks? Tell us what we missed @OZY.com.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The centennial of World War I’s outbreak provides a chance for world leaders to reflect on the past and pave roads to future peace. The U.S. is set to withdraw from Afghanistan after 13 years in 2014, and world leaders will work toward stemming Syria’s civil war. The long-awaited ‘Geneva II’ peace conference is scheduled for late January, bringing together representatives of different parties to the Syrian conflict, along with international stakeholders. Another test will be whether the international community can hold the interim Iranian nuclear deal – one of 2013’s diplomatic successes – together.
The good news is that the U.S. economy will continue to rebound: GDP is expected to increase 2.6 percent in 2014, inflation will remain minimal, and unemployment will drop to 6.5 percent. The bad news, globally at least, is that the Fed will taper its $85-billion-a-month foreign bond-buying program by $10 billion per month, thereby removing the stilts propping up emerging markets. This could cause some currencies to slide against the dollar, lower demand for American goods and discourage foreign investors. Europe will have another difficult year, but African economies will grow rapidly.
Elections in 2014 will decide the governance of an incredible 40% of the world’s population with votes in emerging economies significantly shaping the global agenda. India’s general election, for example, will be its largest democratic exercise ever and may upset the decades-long dominance of the Congress Party. Brazilian President Dilma Roussef will struggle to maintain power, and in South Africa, the ruling ANC will try to capitalize on its relationship with the late, great Nelson Mandela. Meanwhile, the U.S. midterms will likely hinge on healthcare, which may not bode well for Democrats.
Escalating costs and questions about efficacy plagued the rollout of Obama’s signature health care plan. More than one million people signed up by year’s end, despite delays triggered in part by website mismanagement, which was evidenced by a dizzying array of Congressional hearings. But now comes the hard part of making sure the entire new system works. The spectrum of concern ranges from too few people enrolling by the March deadline to doctor shortages. And as OZY notes, small businesses face employee requirements – and costs – starting in January 2015.
In 2014 we will see a team flight test a solar aircraft that will circumnavigate the globe in 2015 and perhaps herald a new era in clean-energy travel. Flying a little higher, we will see the first commercial space travel hosted by Virgin Galactic. Speeding along at Mach 3.4, the SpaceShipTwo will journey 70 miles above the Earth, offering passengers six minutes of zero-gravity flight. Back down on Earth, 2014 promises an explosion in personalized computing, with the Smart Watch being heralded as the next step in affordable interfacing.
Sources: Future Timeline
The US Airways-American Airlines merger will mean higher fares on some routes, and the Transportation Safety Adminstration will expand its PreCheck trusted-traveler program to allow more frequent fliers to enjoy faster security screenings. While Tesla Motors had an overall positive – though bumpy – 2013, the coming year will determine if, as some futurists predict, electric cars will speed ahead or stall in the auto market. Central Florida hopes to ease traffic following its much-touted SunRail launch, but the saga over beginning to build the high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco will continue.
Beginning on New Year’s Day with a hotly anticipated new episode of the BBC’s ‘Sherlock’, 2014 will be a year of sequels, prequels, revamps, and continuing series. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the X-Men, the Avengers, Captain America, The Muppets, James Bond, and even RoboCop will return to the Silver Screen. Breaking Bad’s creators are launching a spin-off focusing on popular secondary character Saul Goodman. Having kicked off the year, Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will round it off with ‘There and Back Again’ in December.
The New Year promises a number of exciting new exhibitions for art lovers, with a few that simply cannot be missed. The Musée D’Orsay in Paris will be bringing together more than 30 paintings by Dutch Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, alongside works from French poet and playwright Antonin Artaud. Closer to home, New York’s Whitney Museum of America hosts a retrospective in June of works by Jeff Koons, described as one of the most important post-war American artists. In April, the Tate Modern in London is bringing together the largest collection of Henri Matisse’s “Cut-Outs” ever assembled.
The sports world has a lot on the line in 2014. Construction disasters and scandals built the FIFA World Cup stadium in Brazil on shaky foundations, but fans couldn’t be more excited for the world’s most-watched tournament. Russia has endured substantial criticism in the run-up to February’s launch of the Olympics in Sochi, leaving many concerned about issues ranging from gay rights to terrorism. Football fans await the first potentially icy Super Bowl, co-hosted by New York and New Jersey in February, and it will be on artificial turf, which could prove a questionable experiment.