Once again, we are entering the Twenties, a decade which, last century, saw an eruption of freedom caught between two immense tragedies. Here is a little taste of what might await us this time around.
PARIS — Over the past ten years, we have witnessed an incredible number of improbable events. From an Islamic caliphate being established and then collapsing in Iraq and Syria, to a property developer being elected president of the United States and a complete unknown being elected president of France. We have made unbelievable progress in artificial intelligence, seen a global environmental movement spearheaded by a 14-year-old girl, and watched as the UK decided to leave the European Union. There have been terrorist attacks on the streets of Paris, fires spreading from the Amazon to Australia, and protests in Hong Kong, Santiago, Quito and Algiers, to name just a few.
Now we are once again entering the Twenties, a decade which, last century, saw an eruption of freedom and flapper girls, caught between two immense tragedies.
So here are twelve extreme, unlikely but by no means impossible, events that could take place before 2030 — some are negative, others positive, but all are events for which we must be prepared:
1. The global financial system could collapse amid a huge financial crisis. If the stock exchange were to crash and unlisted companies went bankrupt, banks and investment funds would fail, protectionist measures would be introduced and there would be a major recession in the United States, China and Europe.
2. North Korea could fire a nuclear missile at Tokyo or Washington, causing untold damage and a death toll reaching the hundreds of thousands.
3. The Roman Catholic Church could collapse, as the Soviet Union did, as its leaders become progressively more liberal.
4. Russia might invade the Baltic States, and the United States may not defend their sovereignty, destroying Europeans' firmly held trust in the NATO alliance.
5. A new Islamic caliphate could be established in parts of Libya, Niger, Mali and Nigeria, supported by Turkey. France and African countries would be powerless to stop it.
6. A far-right President could be elected in France, and work with Italy against the European Union.
7. The United States could elect a female, environmentally conscious Democrat President who would renew the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and introduce gun control laws.
We could see democratic revolutions in the countries where they seem most unlikely.
8. There might be new medical discoveries that allow us to cure the most resistant cancers and reduce the health risks associated with obesity.
9. Environmental issues might finally get the recognition they deserve. Governments could implement carbon pricing schemes to fix the price at 100 dollars per ton, make global efforts to recycle all the waste clogging up our oceans, and make a viable plan to combat deforestation and the desertification of the Sahel.
10. The world's 50 largest public and private investment funds could make a legally binding pledge to invest only in socially and environmentally responsible companies.
11. We could see democratic revolutions in the countries where they seem most unlikely, such as Russia, Turkey and China, where artificial intelligence technologies could be put to democratic use.
12. There may be some truly original works of art and new artistic movements that change how we see the world.
We must be prepared for all of this. Prepared to fight or dodge it, or to push change forward. However, it's likely that reality will again prove far more surprising than anything we could have predicted.
*Jacques Attali is a French economic and social theorist, writer and political adviser.