This time 10 years ago, we were all worried that computer systems around the world would crash as the millennium approached. People stayed at home because they were scared of flying (sound familiar?), convinced the world was coming to an end.
We dodged that bullet, but then all hell broke loose, with terrorist attacks (2001), Enron’s collapse (2001-02), never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001- present), the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia over Texas (2003), Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Ike (2008), the near-collapse of the world’s financial system (2008), bankruptcies at Chrysler and General Motors (2009), and the revelation of gigantic frauds perpetuated by Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff (2009).
No one could have foreseen these calamities on Dec. 31, 1999. But neither could we have predicted that over the next decade we would elect the nation’s first African-American president (2008) and Houston’s first openly lesbian mayor (2009). We had yet to hear of Wikipedia (2001), iPods and iTunes (2001), My Space (2002), BlackBerry (2002), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006) or reality TV (Survivor debuted on May 31, 2000).
So who knows what will happen over the next decade?
I’m going to go out on a limb and take a guess. I've steered away from things I really have no clue about (global warming and what additional article of clothing we'll have to remove to go through airport security—will underwear be next?) to concentrate on seven things I'm convinced will happen over the next decade, like:
1. Houston will have an Hispanic mayor
Parker will likely be in office until 2016. Once elected, Houston mayors tend to stay in office for six years (three two-year terms) until they are term-limited out. It’s a no-brainer to predict that by then, Houston will be past due to elect a Hispanic mayor. Look at the demographics.
About 43 percent of Houston’s population is Hispanic now. Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg, director of the Houston Annual Survey, notes that the figure will increase because Houston’s white population is growing older while most younger adults are black or Hispanic.
“No force in the world will stop Houston (and America) from becoming more Hispanic and less Anglo as the 21st-century unfolds,” the survey concludes.
2. Houston will have zoning
Or some form of it. The fight over the Ashby high rise shows that neighborhoods aren’t going to accept loosely regulated development without a nasty fight. Such protests will only increase as the city becomes more densely populated and neighborhood groups organize to fight city hall on the issue. I’m betting that some sort of compromise will be reached that allows high-rise development in certain sectors of Houston while prohibiting it in others.
3. Houston won’t have a daily newspaper
Already Detroit has stopped home newspaper delivery on Mondays through Wednesdays, and one of the Seattle newspapers has gone to Internet-only publication. On weekdays, the Chronicle is often so thin that if it didn’t show up on the front lawn a resident could suspect a sparrow flew away with it. While community newspapers and niche publications will likely continue because a certain segment of the audience likes something to hold onto, the mass market dailies' days are numbered.
4. Your TV will disappear
Your favorite TV shows will be available any time you want to see them -- only they won’t be on TV. Many experts believe that shows will be streamed on the Web and available for viewing on your computer screen whenever you want to download them—for a small fee, of course. We’re inching closer to that now with DVRs, YouTube and Hulu. While it may seem a little farfetched, remember that not so long ago, so did iTunes.
5. Gay marriage will be legal
Once again, look at the demographics. While older people are adamantly opposed to gay marriage, younger people favor it. Many have gay friends and to them it’s no big deal. A recent paper published in the American Political Science Review by Columbia University political scientists Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips analyzed support across age groups and concluded that if policy were set by people 65 or older, no states would allow same-sex marriage. But if policy were set by those under 30, 38 states would favor it. So it’s just a matter of time.
6. Tiger Woods will play more golf
The world’s greatest golfer will go to rehab for sex addition, make a tearful confession on Oprah, return to the PGA tour, break Jack Nichlaus's record of winning 19 major championships and earn a measure of redemption. We all love second chances. (I actually wrote this column a few days ago before Woods confessed he's a sex addict. So I'm already 1 for 7 in my predictions. Las Vegas here I come!)
7. The Texans will win the Super Bowl
OK, who really believes it’s possible that Houston’s team will be Super Bowl-bound? Even though the Texans have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs this season, I don’t foresee them taking part in the Super frenzy—ever.
But it’s nice to dream.