A New Hope

Over the few days since my recent post about my hopes for 2020, I’ve come up with a few more ways in which I hope we can collectively improve our situation before this new decade is spent. Just like last time, these aren’t things that I necessarily expect to be fixed by 2020, but they are all things I am still idealistic enough to hope for.

Drug legalization

The UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, recently dismissed David Nutt from his position as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) because Professor Nutt had the audacity to quote scientific evidence that contradicted the government’s invented ideas about the dangers of certain illegal drugs. It spawned a movement to impress upon public officials what you would imagine to be the obvious importance of paying attention to what’s actually true when determining public policy.

I hope that governments of 2020 will be more evidence-based in their approach to drug laws. I hope they create laws that actually serve to decrease the danger from recreational use, but which also allow for the use of drugs by informed adults, especially in a medical context.

Nuclear power

Related to my hope that the Earth’s climate will continue to support human life in a comfortable manner, I hope that the public will have overcome its irrational fear of nuclear energy and will be willing to switch from dangerous, polluting, climate-altering fossil fuels to cleaner, safer, more sustainable nuclear power. Research and development in this area has been dreadfully lacking in recent decades due to an exaggerated negative public perception. Maybe one positive outcome of the climate crisis will be a public willingness to reevaluate nuclear energy.


I’m Irish. My family is Irish. Many of my friends are Irish, and I lived most of my life in Ireland. In years past I would have lived my whole life there, and would have been unlikely to have many non-Irish acquaintances. Not so now.

Now I live in the UK, with an American girlfriend. Unsurprisingly, none of my immediate colleagues are Irish; but the majority aren’t even from the UK. I have good friends from several continents, and living all over the world. With the Internet, I read about and talk about the thoughts and ideas and lives of people as geographically disparate as people have ever been.

International travel is cheap and widely available. It’s easier now for me to get to know people half way around the world than it was for my parents to meet people in the next county over.

This change has been rapid, and laws have not caught up. Gaining the right to live and work in another country can be ridiculously difficult, even for highly qualified and intelligent young people. Australia evicts travelers after a year. Ireland erects hurdles for hopeful Americans even as it begs the USA to make the tens of thousands of illegal Irish immigrants to that country legal. The UK has backlogs of tens of thousands of applications from prospective university students.

The level of restriction on immigration between first-world democracies is incongruent with the free flow of tourism and communication. I hope that permanent or semi-permanent movement between economically similar countries becomes significantly easier by 2020. The world is now too small to bear so many walls.

2020 Foresight

We have reached a milestone. When counting from an arbitrary time in the past, using an arbitrary date system built on an arbitrary numeral system, we reached a day whose date, when compared to that of an average day, possesses a more pleasing roundness. That is to say there’s nothing inherently magical or mystical or important about the date of January 1, 2010 but, as always, people are excited about it. And, as always, this excitement has brewed an inevitable shared feeling of introspection, retrospection, and, perhaps above all, prospection.

If one thing is clear at the end of this first decade of the third millenium, it’s that we still have a bit of progress to make as a species. We have no hover cars or personal jet packs. We do not wear suits of shiny metal. We do not eat our food in pill form. In fact many of us have barely any food at all.

So I thought I’d write down a few of the areas in which I hope that we might improve over the next ten years. This is not an enumeration of all the world’s ills, as I don’t believe any sane person could expect all problems to be solved in a mere 3652 days (and even if they could, we’re two days down already). Nor is it a list of predictions, mostly because I don’t want people pointing out how wrong I was. It’s just hope: pure and (like its writer) simple.

Gay Rights

This is a subject that simply baffles me. Some people are straight, and some people are gay. Some straight people get married. Some gay people would also like to get married. Most straight people are allowed to. Most gay people are not. I don’t get it. It’s not just that I’m strongly in favour of gay rights—I just can’t understand why anyone, let alone a majority, could be opposed.

Yet progress is being made. Some jurisdictions have full rights for gay couples. Some have improved in recent years but don’t yet offer equal rights to straight couples. The UK has civil partnerships, but not gay marriage. Ireland will soon be in the same boat. Some states in the US are introducing full or partial gay rights, while others are revoking them.

The picture for the future is positive. As far as I can tell from what data I’ve seen, support for gay rights is heavily skewed towards younger people. The strategy then, if nothing else, is to simply wait for all the old people to die. No doubt we can do better, but that is a baseline.

My hope is that by 2020 most western democracies will have something at least as good as the UK’s civil partnership idea, if not full equal rights for gay people.

Treatment of Religious Ideas

Though I’ve done nothing but opposed it since it was first mooted, I can’t help but feel a little ashamed that Ireland’s anti-blasphemy law came into effect yesterday. It’s a huge step backwards for a country that I may well want to live in again in the future, so I have a vested interest in its being rectified.

Blasphemy is a victimless crime. To oppose or attack an idea should not be a crime, regardless of the perceived merit of either the idea itself or of the opposition. This should surely be an ethical axiom of a free society. A law against blasphemy has no place in a modern republic.

But this law is just one facet of a larger problem: the general protection of religion from criticism and the shielding of religions from the same sort of inspection that any other philosophy, or lifestyle, or organisation would expect.

The Irish constitution—the definition of the state and the document with which no law can be in disagreement—protects not only the rights of people to worship a god (a protection I wholeheartedly agree with) but the right of God to be worshipped. I’m not sure that that’s really an idea that’s compatible with the proper running of a pluralist 21st Century democracy.

My hopes for 2020 are that Ireland will have shed some or all of its constitutional references to God; that no western democracy will have any laws prohibiting or restricting the free dissemination of religious criticism; that religious organisations will be subject to the same scrutiny as secular ones when assessed for charitable status; and that western society will not only accept but expect the same honest criticism of religious ideas as it does of political or other ideological ideas.


I hope that in 2020 we still have a climate that human beings can live in.

What do you hope for in 2020?