Apr 10, 2021

Axios AM

Happy Saturday! Smart Brevity™ count: 977 words ... < 4 minutes.

1 big thing ... 20-year world forecast: Stormy

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

A 20-year-forecast for the world: increasingly fragmented and turbulent.

  • In fact, we may look back on this period as the good old days.

An every-four-years report by the National Intelligence Council says the next two decades' trajectory depends on whether new tech unites us — or continues to divide, Axios Future correspondent Bryan Walsh reports.

The biggest trends in the U.S. government report are negative:

  • "Shared global challenges — including climate change, disease, financial crises, and technology disruptions — are likely to manifest more frequently and intensely in almost every region and country."
  • The U.S. will be competing with China for global leadership, while citizens of democracies and autocracies grow more dissatisfied with their leaders.

The clearest trend lines are in demographics: Over the next 20 years, richer countries will grow older and in some cases even begin to shrink. Whatever slowing population growth exists will be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

  • That will produce "extensive strains on infrastructure, education, and healthcare" in megacities that aren't prepared for it.

What to watch: Should we experience something truly world-changing — a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a pandemic worse than COVID, a leap forward to true artificial intelligence — all bets for the future are off.

The bottom line: The scarcest resource in the decades ahead won't be oil or rare earth metals, but social trust.

2. America's top 5 boomtowns

Tesla factory under construction in Austin in October. Photo: Bronte Wittpenn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hubs far from the coasts "emerged as beacons to job seekers and businesses during the pandemic," The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • To determine the strongest job market in the U.S., The Journal rated 53 regions with 1m+ residents on factors that included unemployment rate, wages and change in payroll and size of workforce. The winners:
  1. Salt Lake City: "The region spanning the neighboring cities of Provo and Salt Lake City had so much momentum over the last decade that it acquired the nickname 'Silicon Slopes.'"
  2. Austin
  3. Denver
  4. Indianapolis
  5. Washington, D.C.
3. Getting Joe Biden: "The country changed, and so did he"

President Biden signs the Paycheck Protection Program extension in the Oval Office on March 30. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Getty Images

Ezra Klein has an insightful N.Y. Times column on the unexpected "Radicalism of Joe Biden," and "why President Biden is making such a sharp break with Joe Biden":

The backdrop for this administration is the failures of the past generation of economic advice. Fifteen years of financial crises, yawning inequality and repeated debt panics that never showed up in interest rates have taken the shine off economic expertise. ...
Biden is a politician, in the truest sense of the word. Biden sees his role, in part, as sensing what the country wants, intuiting what people will and won’t accept ... When the [country's] mood was more conservative, when the idea of big government frightened people and the virtues of private enterprise gleamed, Biden reflected those politics ... Then the country changed, and so did he. ...
As the pseudonymous commentator James Medlock wrote on Twitter, "The era of 'the era of big government is over' is over."

Keep reading (subscription).

🗞️ How it's playing ...

The Washington Post
4. NASA's Mars chopper test

Illustration depicts liftoff on Mars by the Ingenuity helicopter, which was attached to the bottom of the Perseverance rover (left). Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP

Coolest story of the weekend — the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet.

Tomorrow, NASA plans the first test flight of its tiny Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, marking the advent of drones for space exploration, Axios Space author Miriam Kramer writes.

  • Why it matters: If successful, the flight will be the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

The helicopter detached from the Perseverance rover's underbelly earlier this month, and survived its first frigid Martian night solo.

  • Ingenuity will rev its rotors and climb to about 10 feet in the air for 30 seconds, collecting photos and engineering data along the way before coming back to the surface.
  • The flight is expected to occur at about 10:54 p.m. ET on Sunday. NASA should have some indication of whether the test was successful by early Monday morning

But it might not work: The atmosphere on Mars where Ingenuity is flying is only 1% as dense as Earth's, making it difficult for the helicopter's rotor blades to loft it into the air.

  • Communications with the helicopter via Perseverance — which acts as a relay station between Earth and Ingenuity — are difficult because of the time delay.

What's next: If this flight goes well, Ingenuity is expected to take to the Martian skies again and again over the course of the next month.

🚀 Sign up for Miriam Kramer's weekly newsletter, Axios Space.

5. 🇬🇧 "Prince Philip's Century"
The Sun

In a Vanity Fair excerpt from a biography out June 1, Robert Jobson writes that the queen’s husband — who died yesterday at Windsor Castle, 62 days short of his 100th birthday — was "always a modernist at heart":

[T]here has been a tabloid tendency in recent years to dismiss him as a rude old man from a bygone age. But from his fascination with television and space travel to his conviction that the royals must remain relevant to the public, Philip had his eye on the future, even when so many forces within the palace seemed more committed to the past. ...
Philip, perhaps more quickly than anyone in the royal family and royal household, had recognized that the royals could not stay hidden away in that metaphorical gilded tower forever and they had to get out and communicate with the public. ... Under the queen’s stewardship the institution was in danger of becoming irrelevant and drifting too far from the people it is supposed to serve.

Keep reading.

Photo: Ben Birchall/PA via AP

Members of the 104th Regiment Royal Artillery fire a 41-round salute to Prince Philip on the grounds of Cardiff Castle in Wales today.

6. ⛳ 1 fun thing: What you can learn from the Masters
Photos: Doug Mills/The New York Times. Used by kind permission

"The World’s Best Golfers Disagree on How to Grip a Putter," photographer Doug Mills and Bill Pennington show in the N.Y. Times:

  • "The claw. The two thumbs. The alternative reverse overlap. Every golfer at this week’s Masters Tournament has a preferred way to putt and a reason for doing it."

Also: "The Arm Lock" ... "The Left Hand Low" ... and the "Lefty Claw."

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