Welcome back to Future. I hope you had a great holiday. Thanks for subscribing.
We have a lot in store this year. Consider inviting your friends and colleagues to sign up for Future. As usual — if you have any tips or thoughts on what we can do better, just hit reply to this email or message me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And email my colleagues Kaveh Waddell at email@example.com and Erica Pandey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, let's start with ...
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The most positive thing that can be said about 2018 is that, despite ultra-brittle geopolitics and an elevated risk of miscalculation amid much taunting by President Trump, no big new wars broke out.
Quick take: In my overall geopolitical forecast last January, I said that flashpoints across the planet — in Iran, North Korea and Russia, to name a few — created extremely ripe conditions for an accidentally lit match to ignite a disaster. Among the main wild cards in 2018: "willful leaders needling each other."
How the forecasts work: For the six years I've made these forecasts, 2018 produced the most mixed results — 3 right, 1 dead wrong and 2 debatable. I base the forecasts on 15 common-sense rules of geopolitics (here are the first 14 plus the 15th), general principles for figuring out the direction of big events.
Elon Musk will have a good year
The Big Tech uprising will go populist
The Republicans will lose the House
A show of muscle in North Korea
Khamenei will climb down — a tad
The U.S. will opt to live with North Korea's nuclear status
It's puzzling that so many prime-working-age Americans have withdrawn from the workforce. And the government forecasts that the problem is going to get worse.
By the numbers: The participation rate in this group actually has gone up since September, as the sizzling economy pulls long-term unemployed people into the job market, says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor. But in the coming years, the BLS expects the rate to go back down:
Be smart: Among the reasons for dropping out of the workforce are drug use, a felony conviction and a lack of skills after a long bout of unemployment. But in a paper last year from the Kansas City Fed, economist Didem Tuzemen also blames "job polarization" — a decline in demand for low- and middle-skill jobs, thus forcing people in these age categories out of the workforce.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty
In 2016, two prominent U.S. economists turned heads with a paper stating that the country was going gig — Americans were throwing aside the traditional desire for full-time jobs and opting for the freedom and flexibility of freelance work.
Where it stands: Now the pair — Princeton University's Alan Krueger and Harvard's Lawrence Katz — say they were fooled by economic noise and that workers are pretty much the same as they've always been.
Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, tells Axios that the pair's new paper is par for the course. "If you're not getting it wrong 20% of the time, you are not doing your job," he says.
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty
Indian tech talent is flocking to Canada (Economist)
Measles deaths soar in anti-vaxx campaign (Peter Hotez — Axios)
Secret history of the dismal science (David Levy, Sandra Peart — Library of Economics and Liberty)
Non-feudal tech (Jack Clark with Azeem Azhar —Exponential View) (podcast)
Top 10 Hubble photos of 2018 (Ethan Siegel — Forbes)
Screenshot: Walmart ad
Forget your droll image of Walmart and free grocery pickup, and think of running into the gluttonous green Slimer, Doc and Marty McFly, or Batman in the parking lot.
Walmart used last evening's Golden Globes Awards, along with Twitter, to unveil a hopping new ad campaign (watch here) for its online grocery service, in which you pick up your order at a store.
The clip features those and other classic Hollywood movies and is meant to position Walmart in a serious rivalry against Amazon and local services in grocery delivery.
What's next: In March, Cruise — GM's self-driving car subsidiary — will start delivering food and possibly groceries in driverless vehicles, report the WSJ's Josh Beckerman and Mike Colias.