2017 is a transition year, when a new president and his cabinet will assume office in the United States and critical elections are scheduled to take place across Europe in France, Germany and other key nations. These transitions may lead to improvements, but they may also lead to increasingly dire conditions for people around the world. Given the tumultuous year that was 2016, we need to be especially vigilant in the year to come. Here are the top five risks in 2017.

5. Cash bans

In recent years, the movement to ban cash has gone from hypothetical scenario to real-world implementation. The justifications for banning cash include eliminating black market/illegal transactions, curtailing tax evasion and preventing terrorism funding. At the same time, we are being herded into using digital payment systems, such as credit/debit cards and Apple Pay, for all our transactions. Governments want all our money in banks, and they want to be able to track and record everything we do.

In Sweden, credit cards are already the main form of payment. 900 of the 1,600 banks in that country no longer keep cash on hand, nor do they accept cash deposits. You cannot buy a bus or metro ticket with cash, and it is difficult to find any shops that will accept cash. Even churches collect donations digitally!

In Australia, Citibank branches no longer handle cash, because less than one in twenty customers still use cash. UBS has suggested Australia phase out its large denomination bank notes altogether, to “lower crime, boost tax collections and strengthen the banks’ deposit holdings.”

In India, the government banned the two largest rupee notes, kicking off a crisis that has affected millions of rural farmers who transact exclusively in cash, as the sudden move has caused a severe shortage in lower denomination bank notes. Now, the government is considering a ban on gold, starting with restrictions on gold imports. The Indian government is in effect confiscating the wealth of its citizens with these bans on cash and gold. Is America next?

As IMF Chief Economist Ken Rogoff notes in his 2014 paper Costs and benefits to phasing out paper currency, “…it is precisely the existence of paper currency that makes it difficult for central banks to take policy interest rates much below zero.”

Banning cash has nothing to do with combating illegal activity and corruption or improving monetary security. It has everything to do with increasing government control over the financial system and our lives. Most people are unaware that when they deposit money in a bank account, that money is no longer theirs. It belongs to the bank, and the depositor is now a creditor to the bank. Banks used to pay decent interest rates on savings accounts, which encouraged people to deposit their savings in banks. Now, interest rates on savings accounts are nearly zero, and if they get their way, banks will impose negative interest rates on depositors, meaning you will have to pay the bank to keep your money there.

If cash is banned, there will be no physical money to withdraw to avoid negative interest rates. Governments and banks can simply withdraw taxes, fines, fees and penalties from your digital account whether or not they have your approval. And every transaction you make will have to go through the bank, which will be subject to fees and other skims. Owe your buddy for lunch? Want to pay the neighbor kid to mow your lawn? All these transactions and more will have to be routed through financial institutions when cash is eliminated.

When cash is banned, it will be easy to simply deny account holders access to their money, preventing them from paying rent, utilities and even buying food. When financial institutions control our money, we will no longer have any freedom at all. Anyone who speaks out or complains about this might be deemed an anti-government dissident and have their bank account frozen. There will be no escape and no alternatives.

In 2017, we must keep a close watch on the movement to ban cash. This constitutes one of the biggest threats to our personal freedom and independence.

4. Financial collapse

I suspect that the catalyst for a systemic global ban on cash will be a catastrophic financial collapse. In reality, this already happened in 2007 when the credit markets froze, eventually leading to the manufactured “collapse” of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which was essentially done to extort taxpayer money (via TARP) from the U.S. Congress. Many smaller, regional banks collapsed or were absorbed into the newly created megabanks, creating gigantic financial institutions that are “too big to fail” (TBTF), because if they do, the entire global financial system will implode. Thus, these TBTF banks must be preserved at all costs—costs that all of us on Main Street must bear.

To this end, the criminal enterprise known as the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) has been implementing zero interest rate policies (ZIRP) and quantitative easing (QE) for the past eight years. While banks pay depositors little to no interest on deposit accounts, yet consistently raise interest rates on loans and credit cards, corporate America gets loans essentially for free (ZIRP). Do they use this money to engage in R&D, rationalize operations or enhance the skills of their employees? Not at all. Instead, most of these ZIRP loans have been used by corporations to conduct share buybacks, which increases their earnings per share (EPS), creating the false impression of profitability and driving the stock market to record highs. Companies can actually sell fewer products and services, fire employees and close down operations, but use share buybacks to make it appear as though business is booming. Most people incorrectly assume that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is an accurate indicator for the health of the U.S. economy, so when President Obama claims that he has created new jobs and lowered unemployment, EPS and the stock market seem to back up all that fiction he is peddling. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is printing worthless fiat (a.k.a. “money”) day and night and pumping it into the system (QE) in hopes of raising inflation (which is essentially a hidden tax).

Since the advent of fractional reserve banking, it is the bankers who inflate bubbles, and the bankers who cause them to burst. They make money on the way up, and they make money on the way down. Banks engage in predatory lending, then blame the victims of their financial malfeasance. The Federal Reserve Bank was responsible for the expansion and crash of the real estate market culminating in the Lehman Shock of 2008. Since then, nothing has changed, no reforms have been implemented and today we are faced with an even larger bubble than in 2007-2008, which implies that this next downturn is going to be even worse. This is not organic, it has been deliberately engineered by the FRB. It is a giant Ponzi scheme, and when it all unravels, retail investors will be decimated, taxpayers will be raped for generations to come and millions more will join the swelling ranks of the unemployed.

In 2017, there is a strong possibility of another manufactured financial collapse. This is the crisis the money masters need to implement their ban on cash. They will create conditions that will make citizens beg for relief, scream for help and demand solutions. The ultimate goal is to establish an entirely new digital currency structure under a single global financial institution.

3. Civil unrest

With the inauguration of Donald Trump just weeks away, everyone from Black Lives Matter to Michael Moore are calling for widespread civil unrest on January 20th. We are already seeing signs of this, as the ugly violence that visited shopping malls across the U.S. during the Christmas holiday has all the earmarks of a coordinated campaign. Many Americans are increasingly desperate due to unemployment, poverty and increasing uncertainty. After eight years of the first half-Black president, racial tensions in the U.S. are near all-time highs. The outgoing Obama administration seems determined to start a war with Russia, and the use of tactical nuclear weapons are now considered a viable option. Conditions are ripe for massive civil unrest.

The last thing the criminal bankers want to happen when they pull the rug out from under the fake recovery is for the average American to realize who is really responsible. The impending financial collapse will therefore require a manufactured scenario to shift the blame away from the bankers. Widespread civil unrest, or even a world war, would provide the perfect cover story. You can imagine the soundbites…”the recovery was on track, we were almost at full employment and things were finally looking bright, when this crisis hit and torpedoed the economy!”

As I have said before, we are living in the most highly manipulated human environment of all time. The mainstream media is completely unreliable, propagating fake news and serving as the primary disseminator of government propaganda. The “news” they provide us serves only to widen ideological and racial disparities, while pumping up our fear of everyone and everything. Their messaging is filled with contradictions and cognitive dissonance designed to short-circuit critical thinking and rationality. We are instead made to focus on our feelings and encouraged to let emotions rule. In these deeply divided, angry and uncertain times, running on emotions may get us killed.

In 2017, we should brace ourselves for the possibility of civil unrest the likes of which have not been seen in the U.S. since the Civil War. The media, academia and government are working hand in glove to divide us and foment violence in the streets. This will be used to justify martial law, provide cover for a manufactured financial collapse and open the door for the banning of cash and other draconian measures aimed at complete command and control of the population.

2. Surveillance state

Since 9/11, Americans have become increasingly coerced into a digital surveillance state, everything from full-body TSA scanners at airports and license plate readers at intersections, to facial recognition cameras at concerts and persistent drone surveillance of hundreds of square miles above Baltimore and other major U.S. cities. Most people assume they have nothing to hide and have bought the lie that all this is for our own protection, so they see no need to protest, nor even pay any attention.

The digitization of our everyday lives is expanding at a frightening pace, under the guise of convenience, marketed to the brain-dead as “smart” technology. There is nothing smart about allowing cameras, microphones and other surveillance apparatus into our homes, but this is what the Internet of Things (IoT) is all about. The digital data collected from internet-enabled devices in our homes is stored in big data centers, which are home to East German Stasi-like digital files on each and every one of us. Everything we have been doing online since who knows when is stored there. All our emails. Every mobile phone call. And someday, when we decide to speak out against unconstitutional government surveillance, or attempt to voice an unpopular opinion, perhaps our digital Stasi file will be data mined for incriminating evidence we never knew we left behind in the first place.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. Everything that can be automated and digitized will be. Artificial intelligence will replace many jobs, robotic workers will replace many more. While this is being marketed as a new era of convenience and leisure, what it actually means is tens of millions of able-bodied people left without meaningful work or purpose. Perhaps we will all receive a universal basic income to invest or squander. Virtual reality porn and video games, enhanced with legalized GMO marijuana, will keep the more passive and unintelligent among us placated—for a while, anyway.

The more we accept things like smart meters, free Wi-Fi zones and Amazon Echo into our lives, the less privacy we will have. Already, few people seem to realize that the smartphone they constantly stare at is actually a GPS-equipped tracking device with cameras and a microphone that can be activated remotely (even when it is turned off). Digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are always listening, always recording. And everything they see and hear become the property of the company who made them. The AT&T spying scandal, known as Project Hemisphere, proves that companies we love and trust, like Apple, Google and Amazon, are actually working with intelligence agencies to surveil, track and record everything we do. It is no coincidence that Amazon operates a $600 million private cloud platform for the Central Intelligence Agency.

In conjunction with the detailed personal information people foolishly provide to social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter, real time digital surveillance enables governments to fine tune their messaging and propaganda to bring about a whole range of desired outcomes, from population pacification to civil unrest. In addition to this manipulation, digital surveillance also provides the government, law enforcement and the military with information that can be used to prevent or shut down civil unrest.

In 2017, we must be cautious of what we say and do when in front of the computer, smart TV, mobile phone and video game console. When possible, we should avoid purchasing household appliances that connect to Wi-Fi and/or smart meters. Above all, we must maintain an awareness of the expanding surveillance state and its intrusion into our private lives.

1. Increasing censorship

Personally, I find censorship to be one of the most troubling trends of all. The free and open exchange of ideas is the foundation of the “marketplace of ideas” concept, which holds that the truth will emerge from the competition of ideas in free and transparent public discourse.

Truth is self-evident. It does not need legal protection. Truth can withstand any critique or counterclaim. As Thomas Jefferson said, “There is not a truth existing which I fear… or would wish unknown to the whole world.” Inconvenient or uncomfortable truths should not be feared. Fears are often based on ignorance. Ignorance is only a temporary condition, one that can be remedied with truth and knowledge. Lies are used to deceive us and obfuscate the truth. Lies are problematic, while truth is the solution.

In the marketplace of ideas, there is no place for censorship, because we can only get to the truth through free and transparent public discourse. Censorship prevents free and transparent discourse, thereby preventing the truth from being revealed. Freedom of speech is the greatest of all the freedoms protected by the U.S. constitution. With free speech, all else is possible.

The recent claims of “fake news” by known liars and propagandists in the U.S. government and mainstream media are clearly aimed at shutting down free and transparent discourse. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media websites are moving in lock step with the government to surveil and censor users on their platforms. We should be very concerned that 40% of millennials approve of limiting free speech. We should be outraged that colleges across the United States are turning their campuses into safe spaces where censorship is used to protect fragile feelings and insulate hypersensitive infantile non-adults from the harsh realities and bitter truths that exist out here in the real world. Most of all, we should be alarmed that the war on fake news is being used to silence independent researchers and non-mainstream media, virtually the only remaining sources of unadulterated information, critical commentary and unbiased analysis free from propaganda.

As should be obvious by now, all five of these risks are interconnected. By censoring free speech and limiting access to information, we will remain blissfully unaware of threats to our freedom and privacy. Constant surveillance ensures that the state knows what we are doing, while censorship ensures that we remain ignorant of what the state is doing. Surveillance also ensures that we are never able to rise up against corrupt governments and criminal bankers and corporations. Disinformation and propaganda may be used to foment civil unrest that could then be used as cover for a manufactured financial collapse, resulting in martial law, suspension of the U.S. constitution and the implementation of extreme control measures such as the banning of cash.

These are not predictions for what I think will happen in 2017—I sincerely hope none of what I have discussed above ever comes to pass. Rather, I implore the reader to make note of these five risks and remain mindful of them throughout the upcoming year. The first stage of preparation for difficult times takes place on the mental level. Simply being aware of these possibilities will provide us with an extra layer of resilience not available to those caught unaware. There is nothing to lose in planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

And on that note, I wish my readers all the best and hope 2017 is happy and prosperous for everyone!