California will enter the New Year as it has entered almost every other one before it—a trend-setter for the nation with goofy notions, and a suspicious outlier to those regions which will never catch up.

It is the cranky uncle who takes comfort in watching others squirm and finds nothing wrong with creative disruption in an increasingly disorderly world.

In a nation divided, California prides itself in what divides us.

While a tradition of social liberalism along with flinty-eyed pragmatism has marked much of California’s history, the great economic weight it carries in the nation and beyond gives the distinctions with its sister states a larger-than-life quality.

This casts a glaring spotlight on the reforms pouring out of our legislature year after year which draw admiration from many and open scorn from equal numbers.

As Californians, we take all this in stride and show little interest in changing our habits.

Innovation and change—social, economic, ecological, institutional, technological and governmental—both good and bad—is not novel. It was built into our DNA from the moment the first pioneers settled here.

Whether as the progenitor of one of the most radical cultural changes of our time—the wholesale acceptance and universal legalization of same-sex marriage—or as author of the toughest gun control measures in the 50 states, California takes the honors.

And it hasn’t stopped there:

A law signed only last year gave school administrators the power to determine whether employees with concealed carry permits could bring their firearms onto campus is now overturned.

For now on anyone convicted of a hate crime will lose their right to possess a gun for 10 years.

Proposition 63, a gun and ammunition control initiative on the November ballot, would require instant background checks for the sale of ammunition statewide. It has a good chance of passing.

Over the vehement opposition of federal law enforcers, pot/sessions-end-obama-era-policy-legalized-marijuana, Californians are welcoming in a new era of pot use permissiveness with the potential of spawning a multi-billion dollar industry that could rival liquor after prohibition was lifted.

Voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 with Proposition 64, and now it is available for retail purchase. Adults 21 and older can buy up to an ounce of weed and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrates, though only in cities, like Sacramento, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oakland, that have issued permits to stores.

Of course, the culture police now running the federal government cast a dim eye on such licentious activity while willing to look the other way as millions of young immigrant children who probably think weed is crab grass are being readied for possible deportation.

Californians will be in the forefront of other states with large student immigrant populations, who overwhelmingly protest this abrogation of a law, Dream Act of 2017 | Congress that offered nothing more than conditional residency and a chance to become productive citizens.

More controversially, the state will now extend protections to others who the Administration view even less kindly, under a new law which will prohibit police from asking people about their immigration status or from participating in federal immigration enforcement actions thus making California a sanctuary state.

Jail officials could still transfer inmates to federal immigration authorities providing they have been convicted of certain crimes. But this will not sit well with strict law-and-order crowd who may see no punishments too tough when it comes to criminal offenders.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over a decade ago followed by a previous and current Governor, Jerry Brown, instituted the toughest air quality control and clean energy laws in the nation even as the climate change troglodytes in the U.S. Capitol work hard to dismantle them.

Another new law establishes the initial stage of a “free college” program here, waiving the first year of fees for any first-time student who enrolls full-time at one of California’s 114 community colleges.

If this shows success, free tuition could be extended to cover ones entire education—a sound investment in a failing education system along with enhancing vocational education training while congressional hand-wringing continues over what can be done to create more jobs.

California will have no reason to feel shame if it jumps wholeheartedly into this cause.

Sure it will take money. Lots of it.

So does probing space for new planets, eradicating poverty, rescuing cities and countries devastated by floods and fires, curing cancer and other diseases, creating sustainable water supplies, developing redundant weapons systems—and many would add—fighting needless wars);

Hula Hoops, Cobb Salads and Irish Coffees, juke boxes, denim jeans and slot machines, surf boards, Barbie Dolls and the Nicotine Patch (and let us not forget the Pet Rock) did not change the world though these California inventions made their creators millions and brought questionable fame to the Golden State.

The Apple Computer however founded in 1976—a product of Silicon Valley– changed civilization and is now the most valuable publicly traded company in world history.

The technological revolution, along with global warming and globalization (in which California has also played a major role) has changed the world perhaps forever, as renowned author/columnist, Tom Friedman, opines in his latest book, “Thank you for Being Late.”

California remains a giant economic engine awash in private capital with no end in sight that, if partnered with public financing and not dragged down by irresponsible federal tax “reform,” could spearhead solutions not yet imaginable!

But these solutions should not come at a cost which enables us to progress in many realms while creating divisions that dishonor our heritage as a free-wheeling, problem-solving yet compassionate populace that envisioned abundance and opportunity without discrimination.

These are the attributes which Californians and people everywhere should want to boast as our legacy for future generations.

Meanwhile as we enter 2018 the homeless are still roaming the streets and neither the feds nor California has announced a war on homelessness;

– the housing crisis is just beginning to draw earnest legislative attention;

– Even with some of the lowest unemployment in the nation, the job scene remains bleak for millions incapable of or have given up on adjusting to the realities of a rapidly changing workplace;

– the state’s exploding pension system has yet to be brought under control;

– trying to unclog our streets and highways by encouraging less cars—the biggest source of carbon emissions— while rebuilding our transportation infrastructure could be a temporary boon for those out of work, but seems somewhat counter-intuitive (even with the advent of the electric car).

The national outlook presents a much grimmer picture:

– inequitable gerrymander laws still rule local politics and the archaic Electoral College appears destined to rule our highest public office indefinitely;

– the Super-Haves are certainly gaining over the growing middle class Have-Nots who are falling further behind;

– the future of health security for many Americans is still a subject of open debate with the preservation of the Social Security System also on a downward flight path;

– our foreign policy actions seem to be lacking any cohesive guidance system;

– threats of nuclear war are generating doomsday prophecies of incomprehensible magnitude.

– and if these weighty matters were not enough, the overriding concern is the investigation of criminal activities that could have implications for the American presidency itself.

California has made its name as the premier innovation state. But as with all innovations there can be unintended consequences.

Robots being designed today in California laboratories might take over many of the tasks now performed by humans but they cannot be taught to have human feelings.

A new group of leaders are emerging and beginning to take office in California, in Washington and around the world who will be looked to for more than their crowd-pleasing skills and political wizardry.

They will need to grapple with the evolving human condition in a profoundly complex and perilous age. It is not clear how many are ready.