New Year: Positive Predictions For 2018 To Beat The Gloom

So 2017 has limped to a close, and with 2018 hoving into view, good news is still in short supply.

There's pretty much something to disappoint everyone: if you're a remainer, well, the problems are obvious.

If you're excited about the UK's departure from the EU's clutches, then you're probably glum about the unending saga of government crisis that accompanies it.

Elsewhere, we have the still-steady flow of sexual harassment disclosures about powerful (mostly) men: necessary, and long overdue, but grim.

And that's just the big headlines, rather than the miserable minutiae that flit down our newsfeeds in hourly battalions.

So we thought we'd try and stand out from the gloom by asking interesting people in different fields to buck the trend, and tell Newsweek a couple of things they're excited for or feel positive about in 2018.

Here's what they said.

Brexit: A painful lesson in Geography

Danny Dorling, Oxford University professor of Geography and author of Inequality and the 1%

Dorling is a geographer, and he thinks that the process of leaving the EU is going to bring some Brits bang up to date with his field of study.

"The positive side of Brexit is a very good national geography lesson for the U.K.," Dorling said.

"For understandable reasons people in Britain haven't actually realised where they are geographically located," he said. "It's almost as if we've had a kind of mappa mundi, with us at the center of the world, and the rest of the world floating around us, and that's how we've talked about Britain."

"The process of Brexit is a slow realization that other European countries are going to be very polite to us, but they're not going to say: 'we recognize you as the most wonderful country in the world, we'll do whatever you want.'"

It doesn't sound entirely positive. But, said Dorling, in the long term, this could bring benefits. "We have one of the most rigid class systems in the world... It should help soften that and begin to make us more normal and not quite so sort of stiff upper lipped and stiff backed."

"This is going to be a painful lesson. But in hindsight, at some point every former world power has to come to realise it's no longer there and this may accelerate that process of learning."

Brexit Protest Westminster
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, December 13, 2017. Leave or Remain, it's been a depressing year in the news. Simon Dawson/Reuters

Entertainment: Letting the light in

Camilla Wright, founder of Popbitch

Wright's Popbitch, the centerpiece of which is an unmissable weekly gossip email, specializes in publishing stories from the worlds of media and entertainment that the subjects didn't want to emerge.

But in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault revelations and the ensuing #metoo campaign, she is hopeful that 2018 could change the milieu she writes about.

"I think that the world has changed a bit in 2017," Wright said.

"Although these are all quite difficult stories, and quite horrific stories sometimes, I think the edifice that has been built up over decades where people in positions of power have used their power, their status, lawyers... I think that's crumbling a bit.

"I think in 2018 we will see that continue to crumble."

She concedes that "The pressures that make people in media suppress stories will still be there, the need for advertising, the desperate desire to keep your job, the kowtowing to famous people."

But: "I think what we've seen with the Ronan Farrow New Yorker piece, the New York Times... people have been able to have their voices heard and it not be a terrible thing.

"I'm quite positive that the worlds of entertainment and media are going to be a little bit more open, a little more diverse, and a little bit more fair."

Meanwhile, she says, there's one other thing to be hopeful about: "We're not expecting a new Ed Sheeran album in 2018, which I think is a good thing for everybody."

Tech: taking back control

Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central and Shadow Industrial Strategy Minister

Onwurah told Newsweek that (to coin a phrase): "I think 2018 is the year that we could take back control of technology."

A chartered engineer, Onwurah worked at the telecoms regulator Ofcom before entering parliament in 2010. Now, she says, "we're seeing the regulators assert their jurisdictions, we're seeing Silicon Valley... recognize that it is liable to take the place of the bankers as being the most hated sector.

"And I think we're getting stronger voices both at the citizen consumer level, at the government level and in the sector itself, tech people saying that 'just because you can do it, doesn't mean that you should do it,' and that we need a moral jurisdiction over technology."

In her old career, Onwurah said, she witnessed a years-long debate over "a)... whether tech had any moral responsibilities and b)... whether government had any jurisdiction over it."

But now, democratic and legal institutions around the world are getting much bolder. Onwurah points, for example, to the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) this month to recognize the ride-hailing app Uber as a transport services company: "It's a transport company! That's what I've been saying, it's a bloody transport company!"

But, she cautions: "What we need to see is forward looking regulation, we're still being reactive."

Meanwhile Onwurah, who is also chair of a parliamentary group on Africa, points to elections scheduled next year in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone.

"I would hope in twelve months time," she said, "I'll be saying that 2018 was a good year for democracy in Africa."

Politics: The country unites in disunity

Richard Smith, Editor of satirical news site Newsthump

Smith reckons that 2018 could bring some big stories that, while controversial, will finally resolve some long-running disputes, bringing the country together.

In anger, mind, but together nonetheless.

"It's like the end of an ongoing saga: think of it like the final seasons of Game of Thrones," said Smith. "In politics, finally we'll have a resolution. And there will be people who are disappointed but at least we can draw a line under it and move on."

"One of the things, surprisingly, will be the Donald Trump visit. That'll sound a bit unusual, but I think you'll be surprised how someone who is almost universally disliked can bring people together."

"Around a lot of dinner tables you'll find people with politics at the moment disagree about a lot, but most people think Donald Trump visiting the U.K. is a bad idea. So as and when that happens, I think you'll find a lot of people getting on better than they do today.

Another example? "The Brexit deal. Now, I'm not saying that the Brexit deal will be good, or that the terms will be favorable. I'm saying that it's a good thing that it's finally done.

"The constant arguing about what will or won't happen or what we will get or what we won't get, is exhausting, and it's a circular argument because nobody knows.

"So let's get a deal and move on."

Economics: the return of industrial policy

Mariana Mazzucato, Founder and Director of UCL's new Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Mazzucato is an influential economist who has advised Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, lobbied Conservative Business Secretary Greg Clark on industrial strategy, and is set to begin work as a special advisor to the EU on science and innovation.

She told Newsweek that "Because of both Brexit and the financial crisis there has been this realization... that we need to stimulate growth in the real economy, and there's this comeback of industrial policy worldwide."

But, she said, governments including Britain's were realising that a new kind of industrial policy is needed—one that brings together different sectors to tackle big societal problems.

There is, she said, a focus on "problems, that can get lots of different sectors working together around... how to transform these challenges, which could be broadly things like ageing, inequality, climate change, etc, into concrete missions."

Britain's industrial strategy, for example, focuses on four "grand challenges": AI, mobility (of goods, services and people), clean growth and the ageing society.

This has the potential to solve deep social problems. But, Mazzucato cautions, we have to watch closely to make sure governments actually launch concrete "missions" to solve the problems they've identified.

Otherwise: "It's just blah blah blah."