Even before the pandemic, the 2020s were shaping up to be a dramatic decade for the U.S. and the world.

George Friedman, a Texas-based business consultant, saw that before most people did. His 2009 book "The Next 100 Years" has turned out to be remarkably prescient — and has stayed in print as a result.

He was on the mark by forecasting that Russia's weak military would be unmasked in this decade and that China's rise would lose its dynamism. He also observed that the U.S. and other advanced nations would come under economic pressure from aging and shrinking populations, something we're feeling in Minnesota.

One effect, he noted in that 2009 book, is that inflation would be hard to suppress because the big group of baby boomer retirees would keep demanding goods made by a dwindling labor pool. With the Federal Reserve's rate-setting committee meeting this week for the first time in 2023, I thought I'd ask Friedman if he was seeing this part of his book also come true.

To my surprise, he said not yet.

"The numbers have begun moving in that way," said Friedman, founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures in Austin. "But it's going to be close to another 10 years when demographics are really going to crunch us."

At the moment, he said inflation is shaped by three acute events: the economic upswing in the pandemic's aftermath, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the government stimulus that is still being spent down in states such as Minnesota.

"This has more similarity to the 1970s than anything else," Friedman said. "We had the Vietnam War, the Arab oil embargo and inefficiencies built in the economy with aging industries like automobiles."

And what's today's aging industry? Friedman delivered another surprise.

It's technology, he said, from smartphones to PCs to the internet to social media.

"At a certain point, a technology reaches a point of exhaustion, where it has achieved extraordinary things and has now become a commodity. That's the situation we're in here," he said.

It's hard to argue with Friedman at a moment when the tech industry is laying off thousands of people — while hardly any other industry is. Last week, Intel Corp., the nation's largest maker of semiconductors, reported a fourth-quarter loss. It expects another in the current quarter, which would be the first time in 30 years it will lose money for two quarters in a row.

"The driving industry of our time, tech, has reached a point where the rate of return on capital is nothing like it was before," Friedman said.

This changing dynamic in tech is visible in more ways than financial measures. The convenience and integration of services on digital gadgets is improving all the time, but none of us are in a rush to replace our smartphones, upgrade to the new tablet or swap out a flat-screen TV. And social media platforms have devolved into TikTok lookalikes, with mindless videos replacing the experience of catching up with friends.

"Trying to find something new that the customer wants is getting harder and harder," Friedman said.

In a more recent book, "The Storm Before the Calm," Friedman describes another reason why the 2020s will be turbulent. An 80-year "institutional cycle" that began with World War II is coming to an end along with a 50-year "industrial cycle" characterized by the influence of the tech industry.

He traces the start of the 80-year cycles to the American Revolution, with the next one starting at the Civil War, the next at World War II. With each cycle, Americans relearn the lessons their grandparents did and their relationship with government changes. He said that's now happening again right on cue.

One thing he predicted in the more recent book has already come true: Rage has surged in the country the last few years. He sees that as "a useful American tool" and sign of broader renewal. "We constantly reinvent ourselves, and that reinvention enrages people," Friedman said.

"Because of the virtues of the republic, we will develop a new wow thing. What it is, I don't know. We normally create these technologies to solve social problems," he said.

And that's where Friedman turned back to demographics. In the 2009 book, he wrote that the U.S. and other countries will be "competing for immigrants" by 2030. In the interview, he said people will also have to work longer.

"The next social problem coming is we cannot afford to have the elderly be non-productive," Friedman said. "That means you have to solve Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, a range of diseases. In the course of doing that, a new technology will be created."