The Arc of the World Bent In 2020

These are my reflections on the transformative year of 2020

The world shifted in an indescribable way in 2020, and its significance will continue to unravel for decades to come. It’s impossible for any individual to fully comprehend the profound changes that occurred. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to articulate some of the things that I’ve observed. Please join me on this journey, as it’s complex, and I hope I won’t stumble too much.

My perspective is that 2020 was a year of profound change, but it’s important to recognize that many of the trends and issues we saw were in motion long before then. In fact, some of the things that came to the forefront in 2020 were the result of underlying trends that had been building for decades.

One trend that had been developing since the 1980s was a decline in the rate of borrowing. By 2008, this decline had reached a historic low of nearly 0%. Despite this, the world continued to experience unprecedented growth in almost every area. People became accustomed to seeing growth in all aspects of life, which led to a perception that taking risks was not only safe, but necessary.

In 2020, the world was hit by Covid19, and as a result, governments started printing more money, leading to too much money in circulation. This caused inflation, and interest rates began to increase. Money custodians were left in a difficult position, and as a result, Bank 1 collapsed, followed by Bank 2, and Bank 3 was closed before it could collapse. These events have led to a period of higher uncertainties in the market, and no one knows for certain what will happen to interest rates, which is a terrifying prospect.

In addition to the financial uncertainty, Covid-19 also brought about an “employee market” where companies were aggressively hiring and competing for talent with higher pay. However, this was short-lived as the economic reality of higher borrowing costs and dwindling revenue set in. This led to thousands of layoffs, which continue to this day. Interestingly, even tech companies, which were previously seen as immune to such layoffs, are now partaking in them. It appears that these tech giants have become like any other mature company that needs to optimise its costs to sustain and continue to grow. In fact, some of them have even hired consulting firms like McKinsey to help them in this endeavour.

It’s interesting to note that tech analysts in 2020 were discussing how unexciting the tech industry has been in the last decade. There hasn’t been much groundbreaking innovation like the iPhone or Facebook. Even attempts to hype up Blockchain technology fell short due to its lack of utility beyond payment. However, there have been some recent developments that have caught the world’s attention, such as Mid-Journey, Dall-E, and the various iterations of ChatGPT. Suddenly, people are once again intrigued by what innovation may bring. This has put companies like Microsoft and Google on high alert, recognizing that it is no longer “business as usual.”

PhD students are starting to worry about the value of their research in light of ChatGPT and other LLMs. And I can understand why they’re concerned. It’s amazing how we now have access to all the knowledge in the world in a truly transformational way. Some even argue that AI alone is enough, and we don’t even need AGI. The possibilities are endless and within reach. It’s mind-blowing. And what’s even more incredible is that someone like David, who doesn’t even know Javascript, can build a functional website that can do everything he wants it to.

This is one of the most exciting things to happen in recent years! It’s incredible to think that we are now able to see more of the universe and gain a deeper understanding of it. The James Webb telescope has been in development for so long, and it’s amazing to finally see it come to fruition. With its advanced capabilities, we’ll be able to observe the universe in a way that we never have before. It’s truly mind-blowing to think about what we might discover and what new questions we’ll be able to ask about the cosmos.

Certainly, it is overwhelming to comprehend the magnitude of changes happening in our world. It’s like we are living in a new reality altogether, with new rules and new possibilities. The shifting world order, the rise of China, and the struggles of many African nations have added to the complexity of this new world.

As we try to make sense of it all, it’s important to ask ourselves where we fit in. What role do we want to play in this new reality? How can we adapt to the changing times and make a positive impact? These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves. It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the face of such immense changes, but we must remember that every individual has the power to make a difference in their own way.

So, let’s take a moment to reflect on our values, our strengths, and our aspirations. Let’s think about how we can use them to contribute to the world around us. We may not have all the answers, but by asking the right questions, we can start to carve out our place in this new trajectory of the world.