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Scientist published a paper in 2010 predicting economic and social turmoil would peak in 2020

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This year’s events may be a surprise to many Americans, but one scientist predicted predicted the current political, economic and social instability a decade ago.

Peter Turchin, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, published a paper in 2010 forecasting that these instabilities would peak around the year 2020.

He highlights a rise in public debt, declining real wages, overproduction of graduates and a growing gap between rich and poor.

All of these have experienced a spike every 50 years – 1870, 1920 and 1970 – and in the paper, Turchin writes ‘so another could be due around 2020.’

Now that we have entered the year 2020, Turchin revisited his work and found that all of the trends increased after 2010, with the US reaching similar levels that peaked in the late 1960s.

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This year's events may be a surprise to many Americans, but one scientist predicted predicted the current political, economic and social instability a decade ago. Peter Turchin, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, published a paper in 2010 forecasting that these instabilities would peak around the year 2020

This year’s events may be a surprise to many Americans, but one scientist predicted predicted the current political, economic and social instability a decade ago. Peter Turchin, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, published a paper in 2010 forecasting that these instabilities would peak around the year 2020

Turchin’s 2010 paper, titled ‘Political instability may be a contributor in the coming decade,’ notes ‘complex human societies are affected by recurrent — and predictable — waves of political instability.’

‘In the United States, we have stagnating or declining real wages, a growing gap between rich and poor, overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees, and exploding public debt.’

‘These seemingly disparate social indicators are actually related to each other dynamically.’

‘They all experienced turning points during the 1970s. Historically, such developments have served as leading indicators of looming political instability.’

He highlights a rise in public debt, declining real wages, overproduction of graduates and a growing gap between rich and poor. All of these have experienced a spike every 50 years – 1870, 1920 and 1970 – and in the paper, Turchin writes'so another could be due around 2020'

He highlights a rise in public debt, declining real wages, overproduction of graduates and a growing gap between rich and poor. All of these have experienced a spike every 50 years – 1870, 1920 and 1970 – and in the paper, Turchin writes ‘so another could be due around 2020’

He explains that all of these instabilities, or trends, have historically spiked every 50 years in the US – 1870, 1920 and 1970.

However, Turchin also notes that although turmoil was on the horizon, records show that past societies have found ways to avoid them.

He notes tax rates becoming more progressive to address economic equality and the exploding public debt.

Limiting the education system so the economy is not overwhelmed with young graduates looking for work.  

Peter Turchin (pictured) studies math, ecology and evolutionary biology, and anthropology at the University of Connecticut

Peter Turchin (pictured) studies math, ecology and evolutionary biology, and anthropology at the University of Connecticut

‘An excess of young people with advanced degrees has been one of the chief causes of instability in the past,’ Turchin writes.

Turchin shared a recent blog post about the events in the US, along with the prediction he made in 2010.

The prediction he made was not based on the social instabilities of 2010, as he notes they were on the decline leading up to that year.

However, Turchin based his forecast on a quantitative model that collected major structural drivers for instability – economic impoverishment, intraelite competition and state capacity.

He then converted them into the Political Stress Index, which showed a rising curve starting in 2010.

Turchin and a colleague revisited the 2010 prediction earlier this month to compare the current events, protesting and riots, and found nearly all of the trends spike after 2010.

Now that we have entered the year 2020, Turchin revisited his work and found that all of the trends increased after 2010, with the US reaching similar levels that peaked in the late 1960s (pictured)

Now that we have entered the year 2020, Turchin revisited his work and found that all of the trends increased after 2010, with the US reaching similar levels that peaked in the late 1960s (pictured)

And the data showed the US is experiencing a similar wave of instability that peaked in the late 1960s.

‘Our conclusion is that, unfortunately, my 2010 forecast is correct. Unfortunately, because I would have greatly preferred it to become a ‘self-defeating prophecy’, but that clearly has not happened,’ Turchin writes.

‘What does it mean for the current wave of protests and riots? The nature of such dynamical processes is such that it can subside tomorrow, or escalate; either outcome is possible.A spark landing even in abundant fuel can either go out, or grow to a conflagration.’

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