This Researcher Predicted 2020 Would Be Mayhem. Here’s What He Says May Come Next
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Not everyone took Peter Turchin seriously a decade ago when he said widespread civil unrest would sweep through the U.S. in 2020.
“They had no reason to believe I wasn’t crazy,” says Turchin, a 63-year-old researcher who teaches cultural evolution at the University of Connecticut.
In 2010, after analyzing historical cycles of instability, Turchin made a prediction that was published at the time in the journal Nature: America will suffer a period of major social upheaval beginning around 2020.
Some were skeptical, Turchin says, because “people did not understand that I was making scientific predictions, not prophecies.”
Then 2020 came. Amid a global pandemic—which has so far killed more than 116,000 people in the U.S. and resulted in record unemployment rates—national unrest erupted at the end of May over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who begged for his life as a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
"people did not understand that I was making scientific predictions, not prophecies."
Dozens of cities were placed under curfews as marches protesting police brutality and racism blocked highways, bridges and city streets. Videos circulated of heavy-handed policing: pepper-spraying of peaceful protesters and journalists, and the shoving of marchers to the ground by officers. Some protests ended in violence, with police cars torched and shops looted. The National Guard was deployed in several states.
While he feels validated, Turchin is horrified to be right. “As a scientist, I feel vindicated,” he says. “But on the other hand, I am an American and have to live through these hard times.”
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