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Predictions

In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. Forty-nine of openDemocracy’s distinguished contributors, from Mariano Aguirre to Slavoj Zizek, Neal Ascherson to Jonathan Zittrain – offer their predictions for the coming year. Since this is openDemocracy, we did not expect them to agree. We were not disappointed. (Part Two).
Michael Naumann
22 December 2005

 

When Jonathan Swift wanted to tease the publisher of an Almanack who had somehow annoyed him, he predicted his death in the upcoming year – and then, a year later Swift celebrated his own clairvoyance in an article, although the altogether healthy man didn’t die at all at the predicted date. Whereupon the poor object of his wit protested too much. In the world of satire, he was dead.

Predictions are the stepchildren of prophecies and the bread and butter of political pundits who prefer never to look back at their own warnings and apocalyptic admonitions. In other words, they’re embarrassing and fun. So, here goes:

We predict that Monica Lewinsky will again fail to secure the impeachment of an American president. In fact, “waterboarding”, the practice of submerging an “illegal enemy combatant” in any kind of liquid until he almost drowns, will be officially declared harmless in comparison to oral sex in the Oval Office.

We predict that Vladimir Putin will change the Russian constitution (yes, they have one!) and forfeit the role of president to become the new prime minister – after the president’s powers have been reduced to those of a ceremonious constitutional czar (as in “CCC”, that is without the “P”). The new prime minister, unlike the present president, will not suffer from any term limit.

We predict that the soccer world championship in Germany will produce an avalanche of bad journalism, bad television, bad advertisement, bad hooliganism and bad soccer. Anybody who thinks that there will be good journalism, good television, good advertisement and good soccer, will also believe that there is good hooliganism.

We predict that Tony Blair will be remembered.

We predict that few will remember what for.

We predict that the German chancellor Angela Merkel will speak to her people on every new year’s eve for the next ten years. She will admonish them to finally start working – until the last job in the country has been exported to India, China, Turkey and the Republic of Slovakia.

We predict that the next Iranian president will also have an unpronounceable name, but that will not matter anymore.

We predict that the serious issues of our times - that is, terrorism, world hunger, Aids, genocidal wars, climate change, demographic shifts of enormous proportions - will be the subject of numerous academic essays. Without any consequences.

We finally predict that within fifteen years the internet will be controlled by a world government which in turn will be controlled by Google Inc. And as you read this, your name is already being registered and sorted according to your reading preferences.

 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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