Some years are indelibly etched into history, like 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor; 1964, with the Civil Rights Act; and 1968, with the anti-war demonstrations.
Such a year may be 2017, not only because of Donald Trump’s presidency but also because of revolutionary changes in the way we live and work that aren’t directly produced or ratified by politics.
Here are some of the takeaways:
—The uprising of women against men in power who have harassed them, assaulted them and sometimes raped them. Nothing quite like this has happened since women got the vote. The victims have already wrought massive changes in cinema, journalism and Congress: Great men have fallen, and fallen hard. Can the titans of Wall Street and the ogres of the C-Suite be far behind?
—This Christmas, more people will buy online than ever before. Delivery systems will be stretched, from the U.S. Postal Service to FedEx, which is why Amazon and others are looking at new ways of getting stuff to you. There will be bottlenecks: Goods don’t come by wire, yet. The old way is not geared for the new.
—The sedan car — the basic automobile that has been with us since an engine was bolted in a carriage — is in retreat. Incredibly, the great top-end manufacturers, from Porsche to Rolls Royce and even Lamborghini, are offering SUVs. They win for rugged feel, headroom and, with all-wheel drive, they’ll plow through snow and mud. In the West, luxury pickups are claiming more drivers every year for the same reasons.
—No longer are electric vehicles going to be for the gung-ho few environmentalists. Even as the big automakers are gearing up for more SUV production, they’re tooling up for electrification on a grand scale, although the pace of that is uncertain. Stung by the success of Tesla, the all-electric play, General Motors is hoping to get out in front: It is building on its all-electric Volt. Volvo is going all-electric and others want to hedge the SUV bet. The impediments: the speed of battery development and new user-friendly charging.
—The money we have known may not be the money we are going to know going forward. In currency circles, there is revolution going on about a technology called “blockchain.” Its advocates, like Perianne Boring, founder and president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, believe it will usher in a new kind of currency that is safe and transparent. A few are making fortunes out of bitcoin, which has risen 1,000 percent in value this year so far. A fistful of new currencies are offered — and even bankrupt Venezuela is trying to change its luck with cryptocurrency. For those in the know, blockchain is the new gold. Will it glitter?
—The proposed merger between CVS, a drugstore chain, and Aetna, an insurance giant, may be one of the few mergers that might really benefit the consumer as well as the stockholders and managers. It will lower drug prices because both the drug retailer and the paymaster will be at the same counter. Expect this new kind of health provider to drive hospital charges toward standardization.
This holiday season, consider the changes in the way you live now. Watch out for whom and how you kiss under the mistletoe, and for how internet purchases get to you. If a new car is in store for you in 2018, a difficult choice may be to venture electric, go SUV or stay with a sleek sedan. And will you pay for it with the old currency or the new-fangled cryptocurrency?