Some bold predictions [Sonnie Bailey, futurologist (cough, cough, splutter, ahem)]

Sonnie Bailey

4 October 2019

* I use the term “futurologist” entirely tongue-in-cheek. 

In the spirit of taking a more positive approach to trying to predict the future, below are some of my predictions (and levels of confidence) relating to the future.

This is a first attempt at making public predictions. My plan is to go into more detail (by being more specific, quantifying more specific predictions, and updating probabilities) in the future.

Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball. I reserve the right to update these predictions and add more in the future!


Over the short- to medium-term New Zealand will suffer a period where property prices drop or stay static for an extended period of time. It won’t, however, receive a lot of media attention (because there’s not a lot of incentive for the media nor other financial incentives for organisations to talk about downturns).

Over the long-run, property prices on average (especially in desirable locations, such as near high-quality schools) will continue to increase in value at a rate greater than inflation. I’m still working out how to quantify this.

Returns on “defensive” assets such as bonds and term deposits will steadily reduce. Government-issued bonds in major developed countries, in particular, will offer lower returns as the economy continues to grow, the population ages, and demand for “safe” money increases, and people realise they’re prepared to pay a small amount in return for ensuring their capital is preserved. (Consider this a form of insurance.) I put the probability of the OCR in NZ going to negative territory (below 0) in the next five years at 57%. 

The ageing population will have a smaller economic impact than many pundits claim, as older people stay in the workforce for longer, meaning metrics like the “dependency ratio” (the proportion of people between the ages of 18 and 65 relative to people outside of this age group) will have less impact than might superficially be the case.

NZ Super will still be available in a similar form in 30+ years’ time. It won’t be means-tested and will provide for a somewhat reasonable lifestyle for recipients (as long as you own a home). I put the probability of NZ Super being universal (not means-tested in any significant way) by 2040 at 63%. I also put the probability of the age of NZ Super eligibility increasing to above 65 by 2040 at 80%. However, I put the probability of NZ Super’s age of eligibility being over the age of 70 at 23%.

There will be another major economic downturn. But I can’t tell you the timing or magnitude of this downturn. There will be large rounds of layoffs. I expect that many larger organisations are already planning for economic conditions to change which will allow them to make these layoffs.

Social and technological

Self-driving cars will have an enormous impact on the way we live. Friday night after-work drinks will become more raucous. Parents won’t have to spend as much time taxiing their children. In the same way that the car enabled suburbia, we will see greater take-up of exurbs (ie, people will live more remotely from central areas since they will be able to sleep and be more productive to and from work: for example, Ashburton for Christchurch and Oamaru for Dunedin). I put the probability that self-driving cars will be the dominant form of vehicle transport by 2040 at 60%. I put the probability that people won’t even be allowed to drive on major roads by 2050 at 35%.

By 2040 “clean meat” (ie, synthetic, or lab-grown meat) will be so popular (for various reasons, including price) that eating meat as we know it will be marginalised or a rare delicacy: 67%.

By 2040 synthetic milk and dairy products will be more widely internationally than animal-derived milk and dairy products: 60%. (And yes, I believe this will have a significant impact on New Zealand’s economy, since according to Wikipedia, Fonterra is New Zealand’s largest company, and according to Fonterra, it is responsible for 25% of New Zealand exports. I suspect Fonterra will get into synthetic products in a big way.)

There will be a major release of information about the browsing, searching, and viewing habits of millions of people on adult-oriented websites. This will come either from an entity directly hacking into the service itself, or from one of the many tracking sites that crawl the service. It may even come from one or more of these website portals directly as they look to better monetise their businesses. The first we will hear will be blackmail attempts, and perhaps the habits of a small number of prominent people being released. Eventually a massive tranche of this data will be released (similar to the Ashley Madison hack). It will be scandalous for a while but society will adjust faster than most people expect. I put the probability of a major release of adult-oriented online viewing habits within the next 10 years at 71%.

A few ~predictions relating to technology and/or social change that I haven’t put into testable formats:

  • Virtual reality will become really good, and a genuine substitute for travel as it creates the real sense that you’re at, say, the Eiffel Tower of the Louvre – but without the crowds. Plus, you’ll be able to visit places that couldn’t possibly exist in real life.
  • Molecular printing will eventually become a thing and it will be transformative.
  • Less conventional forms of relationship will become more common. For example, open relationships (where both partners are open about this, even in the context of marriage), and thruples. However, monogamous relationships will remain the norm.
  • There will be limitations in relation to what people are prepared to do in terms of genetically modifying their children. Most desirable traits won’t be able to be influenced by just one or two genetic changes and will be far more complex. The risks of unintended consequences will be too great for there to be major appetite for significant genetic modification in humans. It will become more common in other species, however.
  • People will attempt to colonise Mars this century but it will be much more difficult than expected. If and when colonisation takes place, issues will include Mars’ ongoing dependency on earth, and how the planet will be governed (and its relationship to earth).


Climate change will be taken really seriously once insurers start to factor in the associated risks in their insurance premiums.

This might especially be the case if one of the major reinsurers faces financial difficulty from failing to appropriately price the risk associated with climate change. I put the possibility of a major reinsurer (such as Swiss Re, Munich Re, or Lloyds) facing financial difficulty by 2040 at 32%.

There will be a major outcry and heated debate about what sort of cover the Government should provide to people who own homes which they can no longer insure, when they eventually suffer flooding or other climate change-related damage. My general prediction is that people buying property after a certain date will be told that they cannot expect Government support due to a natural disaster related to climate change.

Sea levels will rise, and although it shouldn’t surprise us it will surprise us when low-lying cities, especially in developed countries (think: Florida in the US) start to get flooded in ways that are hard to imagine now.

Immigration will continue to become a hot button topic, as we have to deal with the realities of people being displaced and economically disadvantaged due to climate change (among other things). New Zealand will be more immune compared to other places in the world (thanks to being surrounded by ocean and not sharing borders with anyone), but it will start to get topical even in New Zealand.

US politics

Donald Trump, or at least his legacy, will be remembered with enormous disdain, even by his current, ardent followers. He will go down in a more sensational fashion than Richard Nixon. But things will get much crazier before they get better. (I have to wonder whether this is a prediction or a statement of fact…)

The following probabilities are current as I write them, but are changing by the day.

The probability that Trump is elected for a second term: 13%. 

The probability that Donald Trump will be impeached by the House of Representatives before the 2020 US Presidential election: 90%. (And the most likely reason he won’t is due to health issues or resignation. I suspect Pelosi already has the numbers and could impeach tomorrow, although they need to do the investigation to have a chance of the Senate to remove Trump.)

The probability that Donald Trump will be removed from the US Presidency due to a vote from the US Senate: 47% (ie, if he is impeached in the House of Representatives I think there’s a slightly-better-than-50% chance he will be removed from the GOP-lead Senate. Bold statement, I know).

If Trump is still president at the time of the 2020 US Presidential election (38%) and he loses, he will dispute the election results and say it was rigged (95%).

If Trump is still president at the time of the 2020 US Presidential election and he loses, the chance of a major, sensational, geopolitical event that results in the deaths of more than 10,000 people occurring between the election and the inauguration of the next US President is very high: 62%. 

One or more people from Trump’s inner circle will be charged and convicted of treason [or something equivalent]: 64%. Jared Kushner in particular, being charged and convicted of treason: 45%.


There will be a major pandemic that kills at least 1 million people worldwide by 2035: 69%.

There will be a major autonomous weapon event in a major city in a developed country – somewhat akin to the scenario set out in the following video.


Fairhaven Wealth will increase its fees by 20% or more by the end of 2020: 95%.

Fairhaven Wealth will increase its fees by 20% or more by the end of 2019: 40%. 

The first-generation Porsche Cayman will become a classic that will increase in value over the long-run. 100%. 😉

What are some of your predictions? What do you disagree with? What are you more or less confident about than me, and why? Let me know!

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