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2021 predictions: On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me...
by Prof. Mark K. Smith

‘I’m bored, I’m the chairman of the bored’ was released by Iggy Pop in 1979.

I love that song.

There are three earworms in my life that crop up when my state of mind needs them. The first is ‘Men of Harlech’, a rousing Welsh hymn – famously sung by the British Army at Rorke’s Drift during a particularly grim battle in the Anglo-Zulu Wars. I sing this when I feel I am under attack.

The second is the theme tune to the Great Escape (think Steve McQueen and that motorbike scene), which I tend to unconsciously whistle when I am trying to work through a problem.

But Iggy’s words are what I scream in my head when I am very, very bored.

I have sung it a lot during the lockdown.

So I was delighted when one of my colleagues asked me to scry the future with my 10 predictions for the new year. Only an idiot predicts the future, especially a bored idiot….and I think there are 12 days of Christmas anyway so there are a gift or two at the end… here goes:

I think, dear reader, you will agree that 2020 was a weird one. Very weird. But it also had its positives.

How so?

Well, I do not know about you, but my place has never looked better. That broken chair is fixed, the settee that sinks in the middle – fixed! The bathroom is painted, that dripping tap is sorted. The shelves are up. The lawn mowed. The garden is looking great. And I have actually built quite a bit of an actual house in my garden (no, really, I have). The roads have been quieter, the way that products are delivered has been great, the delivery men and women have become friends (especially the wine and beer ones, I love them the best). The way people have dived into working online, hardly missing a beat has been incredible.

Governments have risen to an incredible challenge with inventive and supportive job propping-up schemes and to the medics of the world – we salute you! Add to that a vaccine being created in a time frame that has never, ever been seen before is a testament to human resilience. We all love each other more now, do we not? We are, quite literally, all in this together. So, what will happen next? Here are my 12 days of Christmas predictions:

On the first day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Food

Online food delivery will become the norm, deliveries will get quicker and better, we will sort packaging out. The idea of massive stores with massive car parks will disappear and more and more ‘lights out’ depos will appear. Job losses will be made up with a shift to bewheeled grocers.

On the second day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Electric Vehicles

Brilliant to see the UK government bring forward the move to total electric vehicles by 10 years to 2030, but here’s the thing: The sun is not out in the dark. You need battery storage. Tesla’s Powerwall 2 is expensive. So what we next need is to connect the house to the electric vehicle – so your battery is your car for night time usage. I predict much more pioneering work being done here, especially as those EV cars will sit quietly charging during day light hours when the sun is out – so use that power to light up your life!

On the third day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Better health

If the pandemic has shown us anything it is that our health is literally the only thing we truly own. Look after it. Put that pie down. Lose that weight. Start that walk. Eat your five-a-day and stop eating animals. It is wrong. It is just wrong. Ask the Pangolins, ask the bats, and those mink in Denmark – they like their fur, leave it on them, it is theirs.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Happier communities

We clapped for health care workers around the world, but better than that we started talking to each other again, looking after each other too. Lovely.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Better online experiences

This one is a work in progress but you mark my words – amusing productivity tools will be heading to Zoom, Teams, UberConference, and the rest in the new year. The words ‘we have 15 minutes left’ will be banned on all conference calls, because if you say that it’s mostly because you want to use the last bit of time for waffling about. Set clear goals and objectives and if you finish early, go home. Oh, you already are. Good. Then go make a nice cup of tea.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love will send to me: More research

The first vaccine is here – shaving literally years off the usual timing, a couple of Turkish people whose family moved to Germany sorted it – what a truly marvellous story. I do not care how much money they make, they might actually have saved us all. More of that please – but let’s get serious here – new antibiotics please, new antivirals as well – this absolutely should be done by big Gov, not profit-making companies.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Less odious politicians

That happened.

Democracy has settled into a pattern of division. Perhaps it is an inevitable consequence of there being many two-party states? But worse, when you try proportional representation as a system you get the kind of problem that you see in Italy or Israel where smaller parties, who by definition hold views that are minority based, can hold other established parties to ransom just to get a majority and their sometimes extreme views get greater importance. We have seen it in the US and the UK in very recent times with tragic polarisation of whole countries, and further afield, the one party states of China, Russia and North Korea actually scare me far more than the Cold War did when I was a kid. So here’s hoping for a better future where we have kinder and more thoughtful politicians. That would be lovely wouldn’t it?

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Polluters really made to pay

Clear blue skies, rivers with more fish – we have one planet, stop setting fire to it, stop eating it all and start caring about the kids, the kids, kids, and the kids, kids, kids.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love will send to me: Kinder capitalism

I would never have imagined Karl Marx was reborn in the guise of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson but seems like he was. Boris was straight in there with packages to help the poor, the employed, the unemployed, the hungry – all of us. He even had the common decency to get the virus and actually get properly ill. Respect Boris – and respect to many of the World leaders – more of this kind of thing will happen next year. How can we forget this nightmare – let us be nicer from now on.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love will send to me: an ideas explosion

I do not know about you, but the time lockdown has given me allowed me to dream up all kind of new ideas – making meetings better, storing potential energy from my solar panels for night-time power, I even started to write a children’s book – I think we are going to see a whole slew of new ideas, new approaches, new ways of thinking as we are all galvanised to make our world better, as it looked like it was going horribly wrong.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love will send to me: better CX

Yeah this is one of the free ones – and it is very biased. The lockdown has accelerated my company’s development by years – closure of call centres and people not being allowed into homes has given us all sorts of new business to go at – and we are the pioneers of the new proactive revolution. Much more of this will happen next year, as we all demand better service as we care more because we are at home loads!

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love will send to me: a longer life

Seems silly and maybe a little insensitive to say that just now – but I reckon a good dose of time at home, with family, to have friends taken away, give back, and taken away again will make us all a little less stressed and a little more eager for better health. I think we might well return to more of a pastoral/artisan/local community vibe – and I reckon the less rat race and the more community care will just make us live a better, cleaner and less consumerist life. Maybe. Probably. Hopefully.

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