This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au Had you asked me 40 years ago what life would be like now, the answer would have been very different to how it's actually turned out. There was no thought we'd be buzzing around in electric cars. That in our pockets we'd carry a device with more computing power than the Apollo moon landing. That our climate would have turned on us. That Canberra would become cool. Or that a mugshot of a former president facing a raft of criminal charges including racketeering would be beamed around the world the instant it became available. Yet there he was on Friday, glowering his best blue steel from the Fulton County Jail in Florida, where he'd been arraigned and fingerprinted. Defiant. Angry. Eyes ablaze with fury. The harsh jail light making a mockery of the fairy floss comb-over. No one in 1983 would have seen it coming. Not the certainty that the mugshot - soon to be seen on placards. posters and T-shirts across the US - would boost his popularity among Republican voters, convinced beyond reason that the accused perp is the victim. Not the post-truth era in which we find ourselves. Not the theatre of the absurd American politics has become. Similarly, had you asked an Australian in 1910 to gaze into the crystal ball and forecast what life would look like in 1950, the answers would have been very different to the painful reality they were served. Two world wars. Hitler. Stalin. The Great Depression. The atomic bomb. The Cold War. Oh, and a nasty pandemic which killed millions. It was American defence secretary Don Rumsfeld who in 2002 summed up so beautifully the unpredictability of the future: "... there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know." And that's why the Intergenerational Report over which there was much hand-wringing last week should be treated with a measure of calmness. Yes, there are challenges ahead - the known knowns like the ageing population (something we've been aware of since about, you guessed it, 1983), climate and shrinking tax revenue. But we shouldn't take our eyes off the known unknowns - post-Putin Russia, post-Xi China and post-truth America. And as for the unknown unknowns, well, they're anyone's guess. It's too easy to become despondent in the forest of bleak headlines about perpetual budget deficits, climate change and perpetually renting millennials on Zimmer frames burdening Gens Z, A, B and C. But despondency breeds hopelessness, which is the last thing we need when dealing with challenges. Life's certainties are death and taxes. Death is being delayed, which is a measure of our success. Taxes? We need to work on them as circumstances change but that's not the end of the world. HAVE YOUR SAY: Is it possible to predict with any certainty what life will be like in 40 years' time? Did the world turn out the way you thought it would 40 years ago? How seriously should we take the Intergenerational Report? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: - An organism that can severely damage eyesight has been detected in water at coastal lagoons across NSW. A new study detected the microorganism Acanthamoeba at coastal sites, which can cause an extremely rare but potentially sight-threatening eye infection. The condition, Acanthamoeba keratitis, can lead to vision loss with around one quarter of infected patients ending up with less than 25 per cent of vision or becoming blind. - An emergency order barring the movement of beehives is in place after varroa mites were found in the NSW Riverina and Sunraysia regions, where pollination is crucial for the almond industry. The NSW Department of Primary Industries has detected the bee parasite in hives at Euroley in the Riverina and Euston in Sunraysia, prompting the biosecurity order. - Voters at the upcoming Indigenous Voice referendum are being encouraged to clearly write "yes" or "no" on their ballot papers. But while a tick will be considered a valid "yes" vote, a cross will be considered an invalid vote and not counted. The Australian Electoral Commission stated its firm, legally backed view on Friday, after Opposition Leader Peter Dutton argued a cross on the ballot paper should be considered a valid "no" vote. THEY SAID IT: "People don't realise that we cannot forecast the future. What we can do is have probabilities of what causes what, but that's as far as we go. And I've had a very successful career as a forecaster, starting in 1948 forward. The number of mistakes I have made are just awesome. There is no number large enough to account for that." - Alan Greenspan YOU SAID IT: Nagging back pain prompted Garry to try medicinal cannabis. He didn't get stoned or raid the pantry but he did get the first good night's sleep in ages. Richard writes: "It works for people with Alzheimer's, particularly those who exhibit aggressive tendencies. Individuals in our Alzheimer's support group used it on their husbands when they became aggressive to great effect." "I suffer from PHN (post herpetic neuralgia) after a severe attack of shingles," writes Michele. "I have been in excruciating agony for around nine weeks, with no relief from opioids (patches, tablets, Panadeine Forte, Endone and various nerve blockers) until I became totally disoriented and desperately needed to be weaned off the pharmaceuticals. I am now currently on CBD/THC and have been for four weeks. This oil, plus edibles, which I make into a smoothie has given me so much relief. I can now get out of bed, shower and dress myself instead of lying around crying and not sleeping. Every day the progress is slow, but happening. I can highly recommend medicinal cannabis for those who are suffering chronic pain." Alan writes: "One word of caution. Cannabis can be detected many days after ingestion. The law prohibits the substance when driving. Unlike alcohol where they measure the percentage of blood in your alcohol stream, any trace of THC and you are busted, even if you took it a week ago and are as sober as a magistrate. It's a shame that they don't fix the law. I would use it instead of the opioids that are slowly killing me." "The same can be said about alcohol," writes Arthur. "Legalise marijuana and get rid of the black market." Paula disagrees: "I'm all for cannabis for medicinal use. However, having witnessed my own son's descent into psychosis as a young directionless teen, I am very reluctant to support legalisation for recreational use. The levels of THC in cannabis is much much stronger than when I was a teenager. According to psychiatrists there is an epidemic of young people suffering from psychosis due to drug use these days, and particularly from cannabis use - a terrible burden for families and the health system. I say no."