Despite the fall-out from a four-course dinner party – a kitchen that resembles a warzone and a headache from too much wine and champagne, I begin 2016 as I ended 2015, as an optimist.
Human beings are fundamentally good and human imagination, together with the scientific method, continues to achieve miracles (well, actually, exactly replaces the need for miracles). The world gets better and better, even as it gets warmer.
These are my hopes, if not my expectations, for the coming year (the order has no significance):
- Further progress in the development of promising new classes of antibiotics based on microbes found in soil
- Further progress towards the production of sustainable and affordable fusion energy
- Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This issue lies at the heart of the humiliation and frustration that fuels Arab violence throughout the Middle East. In Gaza, those disappointed by the status quo are now turning to Islamic State, as, more than a decade ago, they turned from the relatively benign Fatah movement to Hamas. The longer peace eludes the protagonists in this conflict, the worse things will get. (I would love to include the elimination of Islamic State as a hope for 2016, but bombs and even boots on the ground won’t achieve it for the long-term.)
- The further advance of secular ideas, or, putting it another way, the further decline of religion as a force in politics, law and morality. Secularism doesn’t necessarily mean brash, heartless materialism, or a world without values. Rather, it allows complete freedom of personal religious worship and belief (however silly those beliefs might be) as long as they don’t infringe the rights of those who hold different and equally silly beliefs.
- Progress on the prevention of excessive global warming.
- A British vote to remain in the EU. Despite its many failings the EU is, on balance, a very good thing, and I only wish that it could formulate and promote its values more effectively.
- A decline in bureaucratic and business corruption. In some of the poorest parts of the world corruption is one of the chief obstacles to prosperity.
- A decline in the domestic popularity of Vladimir Putin and the realisation that Russia and the West need not be enemies. When will ordinary Russians come to see that there are other forms of pride besides bare-chested strutting and the fabrication of a nationalism that thrives on hatred?
- The election in the United States of almost anyone other than Donald Trump, though I hope that we’ll get a female Democrat President.
- Stable economic growth in China.
- The impeachment of Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.
- Quiet revolution and the triumph of secular democracy in Iran and North Korea.
- Survival, perhaps even expansion, of the Schengen Zone.
- Peace in Syria.
- The decline of protest-fuelled nationalism in Europe. Immigrants are good for us.
- The discovery of extra-terrestrial intelligence
- The detection of dark matter
What have I left out?
And my more personal longings:
- Tickets for the Wagner Festival at Bayreuth
- Elimination of Peruvian poncho-clad buskers from the streets of Prague
- The tracing of the billion USD missing from Moldova’s public accounts and the prosecution of those in Government who stole it
- Weight loss
- Further cricketing success for England
- Happiness and health for all my friends and family
Have a happy and a better New Year!