EDITORIAL – Who knows what the future will bring? (None of us)

“I’m convinced that before the year 2000 is over, the first child will have been born on the moon.”
– Wernher von Braun, rocket engineer, January 1972

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
– Woody Allen

Ah, to be soothsayers – able to see into the murky future. Alas, we seem to have misplaced our crystal ball.

While many have made a lot of money in the fortune-telling business, there are only a few true “visionaries” whose powers of prediction end up being vindicated by history. (Two spring to mind: Tiresias and George Orwell.)

Even so, there are a couple of things we can say with certainty about tomorrow (and tomorrow’s tomorrow): 1) No one knows exactly what it will bring, and 2) Some people will try anything to get around that fact – deploying logic, polling, statistics and sophisticated models of varied design in an attempt to lift the veil shrouding future events.

We were reminded of this truism this week when we stumbled across a December 2007 Cayman Islands government policy brief that had been squirreled away in a drawer in a corner of our newsroom, titled “Population Scenarios: Past Trends and Future Possibilities.”

The brief, prepared by the late Philip Pedley, principal policy adviser for the chief secretary and the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, attempts to predict the population of Cayman through the year 2026.

We empathize with Mr. Pedley’s efforts. As he writes: “Few communities have seen their population grow at the rate experienced by Caymanians over the past generation.” An increase of 428 percent between 1970 and 2006, to be exact.

Would such unprecedented growth continue? Decrease? Increase? Those are important questions. How would the population of Cayman change in the next 20 years, and how could Cayman’s government try to prepare for it?

In his brief, the author freely admits the question cannot be answered “with any precision.” Then he proceeds to do his best. Using several scenarios – and over the course of 14 pages – he makes an informed prediction: Cayman will be home to a population by the year 2016 of between 64,000 and 95,000 people, ballooning to somewhere between 79,000 and 170,000 people by 2026.

That is quite a spread … but, as it turns out, perhaps not quite wide enough. As of December 2016, the total population of Cayman stood at 61,361, significantly below Mr. Pedley’s “minimal” scenario of 2 percent annual growth.

(Things Mr. Pedley did not – actually could not – foresee include the negative impact of the global recession, governmental policies that hamper inward migration, macroeconomic factors influencing the direction of financial services, etc.)

Mr. Pedley and the Cayman government are far from alone in trying to wrestle an uncertain future into some recognizable form. In fact, they have some prestigious company. Perhaps it’s just the “hurricane” season, but meteorologists immediately come to mind.

For all the data points and measurements they use to predict the paths of hurricanes (resulting in projected cones so encompassing, you wonder if they are just trying to make sure no one feels left out of the excitement), we sometimes wonder if the safest place to bunker down is smack in the projected “bull’s-eye” of the storm, three to five days out.

There are our leaders across the Atlantic. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron thought he was being awfully shrewd by calling for a referendum on Brexit. Not to be outdone, his successor Theresa May decided to call for a snap election – only for her Conservative government to narrowly escape the snapping jaws of an unpredictable electorate.

Then there are the professional political pollsters who cannot seem to locate the pulse of voters in either the U.S., U.K. or Europe, even on the eve of an election.

And do not even get us started on climate change, and the countless variables that will go into whether the average temperature of a thimbleful of water will be one-thousandth of a degree warmer or cooler 500 years from now ….

As the song goes, “Que será, será” – whatever will be, will be.


  1. There must be a dearth of news to judge by this latest editorial, as Shakespeare’s play goes, “Much Ado About Nothing”. I do feel however, that Woody Allen’s quotation could well refer to Government’s plans for the berthing facilities.

  2. I may be repeating my comment, but here is what future has already brought to the people on this planet. Did we foresee it?
    -Today’s oxygen levels around 19 percent or less in most westernized cities (35 percent 250mil years ago). 19.5 is required for healthy humans. In the next several years…. expect to see Big Food selling us oxygen as well as fresh water very soon on massive scales…just watch. (JK)
    -millions of pieces of ‘space garbage’ called satellites and the International Space Station
    -There is 66 percent more humans on the planet than there were in 1950.
    -There is 90 percent less fish in the oceans, a billion more tons of plastic in our garbage dumps, and 40 percent less phytoplankton in our oceans than there were in 1950.
    -There is 200 percent fewer trees covering the land and about three times less drinking water available from ancient aquifers planet wide than there were in 1950.
    -There is about 80 percent less ice covering the northern pole during the summer season and 30 percent more carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere than there were in 1950.
    -there is a scientific evidence that showed that radiation from high voltage transmission lines traveled out from the earth about 90,000 miles to a region of the earth’s atmosphere called the magnetosphere, causing changes therein. The existence, composition, and characteristics of the earth’s magnetosphere are universally recognized as important influences on life on earth.(1975, R.A. Helliwell and his colleagues at the Stanford Radioscience Laboratory published a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research)
    -Twenty years ago people scoffed at the idea of selling bottled water. It now is a 4 billion dollar industry.

    I would think twice before settling in the Cayman Islands for good after reading “The Australian donut hole..” and “The South Atlantic anomaly” parts in the above mentioned link.

Comments are closed.