As many are now aware, December 21, 2012 supposedly marks the end of the world as marked by the Mayan calendar. Whether or not this judgment of the Mayan date is accurate (the Mayans weren't using our calendar system), and whether or not the Mayans really meant to imply the end of the calendar was the end of the world, it sure makes for fun speculation. Does the end of the Mayan calendar really mean the end of the world?
There are any number of natural catastrophes, and a few man-made ones, that could happen which would wipe out most of the human race and bring civilization to an end. More likely, however, are political and cultural upheavals that could fundamentally change human consciousness. If the "world" ends, I suspect it will end in the latter sense. And, I suspect all efforts will be made to make sure absolutely nothing happens on 12-21-12.
I doubt there will be one key day or event that changes everything. But I would predict that in ten years, the world will have changed more drastically than at any time since 1910-1920. Consider just the U.S. of that decade. It was the freest country in the world in 1910. By 1920, the people had to pay income taxes and weren't allowed to have a beer. Washington D.C. and federal offices had become re-segregated, the Ku Klux Klan had been revived, and the economy was at the mercy of the first central bank in 80 years, the Federal Reserve System. And in 1917-18, the country had nationalized the economy, imposed censorship, and drafted millions of men to fight a country, Germany, that was nowhere near the U.S. and never threatened it.
Of course, what happened in America is nothing compared to what happened in other places, such as Austria-Hungary. By 1920, that empire didn't exist.
In the 1910's, everything in the world changed drastically, and set the stage for everything that came after.
Of course, I can't prove that everything will change in the next ten years. And, I can't predict how things will change. But here are some reasons why I think they will change:
1. Government debt, with Medicare and Social Security obligations increasing, is not sustainable
2. The Federal Reserve creates "booms" and "busts." A "boom" doesn't mean real economic growth, it means overproduction. Overproduction means the rape of the earth. Our current policies are not environmentally sustainable.
3. The new kind of warfare is not winnable, for any side. Hasn't been for decades, really. (The "conventional" 1991 Persian Gulf War was the exception that proves the rule; its goals, and therefore its tactics, had nothing to do with installing new governments or nation-building.)
4. The growth of regulation and bureaucracy, and the increased militarization of police, is not sustainable. Sooner or later, somebody's going to push back. There might be a riot in a ghetto, or there might be armed resistance at a Tea Party. However it happens, something's gotta give. At some point, public sympathy will turn away from the government enforcers and toward the resisters.
5. The increase of social networking in the digital universe will create closer bonds between people across borders, and governments will be seen more and more not as guarantors of liberty and peace, but as obstacles.
6. More and more countries are financially and politically in a similar boat as is the U.S. "Something's gotta give" in the rest of the world, too, and not just in the U.S.
7. There could be technological breakthroughs, or political breakthroughs that liberate suppressed technology, that allow us to utilize the fifth dimension - whatever it is.
8. Knowledge outstrips secrecy in the long run, and will be aided even further by the growth of the Internet or its successor. Media monopolies will be broken by the international nature of social networking. Nobody's version of the truth will be accepted at face value. That is to say, fewer people will accept the "truth" as told by the corporate-owned media or the corporate-controlled governments and political parties.
It would be great if in the future we could have all the fun stuff - commercialized Christmases, Super Bowls - without all the bad stuff like inflation, war, and environmental degradation. In any case, from my perspective it isn't that we ought not continue to live in our current political-economic system, but that we literally can not. The question is, whether we will continue the current course until we face extreme calamities, or somehow learn to adopt a different course before such calamities take place.
By 2020, then, I suspect that the majority of the American people, and perhaps the world's people, will look upon how their governments have behaved over the previous 100-125 years and shake their heads in disbelief.
If they do - and the "they" is actually "us" not long from now - then "our" world really would have ended and a new one will have begun.