3. China highlights positivity. It will claim to have met its target of achieving “moderate prosperity” by 2020. Other countries will have to work out how to position themselves, in trade and technology, between a Chinese sphere of influence and an American one.
4. Sport has a jumbo year. The Tokyo Olympics will draw a huge global audience. The Euro 2020 football championship will be spread across 12 countries. Cricket hopes for a smashing success in Australia with the T20 World Cup—and in England and Wales with a new, even shorter format called The Hundred.
5. Worries about nukes proliferate. The five-yearly review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be a fraught affair, 75 years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fears of a new arms race will grow as nuclear arms-control agreements fray.
6. Sustainability is all the rage. At least, talking about it is. In Kunming countries will discuss biodiversity. In Glasgow they will make pledges on carbon emissions. Business leaders will vow to support sustainable capitalism—as long as shareholders let them.
7. The Gulf welcomes the world. Dubai hopes its World Expo will have a lasting impact. More awkwardly, Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 summit.
8. Multiple missions head to Mars. America, Europe, China and the UAE all send probes.
9. Tech has both highs and lows. The highs include flying taxis, electric supercars and personalised medicine; the lows involve tech giants bracing themselves for more regulation, taxation and critical scrutiny. Instagram will find itself in the spotlight of controversy in this American-election cycle.
10. Big anniversaries resonate, especially Beethoven’s 250th. It’s also 500 years since Raphael’s death, 400 since the Mayflower sailed to America, 300 since the South Sea Bubble burst, 200 since the birth of Florence Nightingale (the World Health Organisation has designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse), 100 since Prohibition, 75 since the founding of the un and—while their fans gently weep—50 years since the Beatles broke up.
11. A torrent of entertainment comes on stream. Television’s streaming wars intensify, and streaming opens new vistas for gamers, too. But James Bond fans will head to old-fashioned cinemas for the 25th film in the franchise. And a grand new national museum in Cairo will show that physical presence still matters.
12. It’s the decade of…the “yold”, or the young old, as sprightly baby-boomers hit 65. For the first time, the world will have more people aged over 30 than under. The 2020s promise to be a bad decade for African dynasties, a disruptive one for countries facing separatist pressures and an exciting one for plant geneticists, who in ten years’ time aim to be drawing down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a global scale.
The new decade provides an excuse to look beyond the coming year. A special section, “2020 visions”, reviews long-range predictions from the past and for the future, speculates on what the world is doing today that will appal our grandchildren, and includes ideas on tech’s evolution from the founders of DeepMind and Huawei. Elsewhere, guest contributors invite us to think afresh about the future of everything from Africa to Venezuela to the American Dream.
One thing about 2020 is sure: this annual will have a new editor. After 17 years, it is time to pass on the crystal ball. Under Tom Standage, a master at spotting trends and putting them in context, the future will be great.
Editor, The World in 2020