Even though the year 2017 did not bring the kind of disruptions as were witnessed in 2001, 2008 and 2012, the developments during this year are likely to lead to several far reaching consequences. That way, 2017 can be considered a year of silent revolutions, which saw great changes in human trajectories without violence or abrupt crisis. Here are the most important developments of 2017 – each having the potential of changing our lives and our world.
A lot gets changed every year between the two sets of New Year celebrations, the one with which we welcome that year and the other, with which we say goodbye to it. A few of these happenings attract a lot of attention – the high decibel events that are widely read and written about. However, there are many other developments that built up gradually during the year, piece by piece, till they begin to approach a threshold that can unleash a force capable of affecting the world in the long run. It is these changes that need to be watched more intensely, for our life and future are dictated by them!
2017 may be remembered as a year of silent revolutions, arising from the beginning of new trajectories that have the potential of changing the world. Here are some of the most important developments of the year 2017!
Eight different ways in which 2017 will change our world and the way we live!
It is the flow of energy that controls everything in this universe. The shadows of fossil fuels and their reserves have dominated the global economy and politics since the beginning of industrial revolution.
Not anymore! 2017 finally saw the markets coming to terms and accepting the commercial viability of solar energy, as price of solar electricity projects fell to levels that markets consider feasible.
Solar prices have been falling steadily since the beginning of this millennium, but it was in 2017 that they came to a level where they could be adopted by the markets without the clutches of government subsidy. This is a big development, because it brings into play the animal instincts of the market that govern all that we produce and consume. It will still take a few years before solar energy becomes the primary source for human needs, but from now onwards it is inevitable and merely a matter of time. The Solar revolution is not a conjecture anymore. It is the future facing all of us.
The potential consequences of the impending solar revolution are mind boggling. What makes solar energy unique is the greater viability of its decentralized production – it can be generated more efficiently by a small household unit having land and sunshine. This can turn the energy markets upside down. We can have rural households becoming the major producers of energy, with big industries buying from them. It can shift the economic power back to the villages, creating enormous potential for local entrepreneurship and development. It can mark the end of urban slums.
At the global level, it can shift the balance away from OPEC and other oil rich countries, with its consequent repercussions not just on economy and politics, but even issues like religious extremism. Empowerment of people across the globe can give rise to a fresh push for democracy, and people demanding greater say in governance. It can also provide a very welcome relief from the growing concerns related to economic inequality around the world. It also holds an answer to our environmental challenges. The Solar revolution will probably achieve what the Paris Deal could not!
The Sun was worshipped in most ancient civilizations. Its return to prominence is likely to be welcomed and celebrated by humanity in the 21st century!
As the financial experts scratch their heads about how to react with the ever rising prices of crypto currencies, it may come as news to many that the first bitcoins were created not for commercial use, but as a hobby. It may remind you about the story of hotmail a couple of decades back. If it does not, it should, for both crypto currencies and block chain technology are going to fundamentally change the way we live. You may wonder that bitcoins have been in existence now for almost a decade, so what is new about them, and the answer is that it was in 2017 that they caught the attention of the whole world.
Prior to 2017 too, there has been a growing interest in crypt currencies, as their value rose from a dollar in 2010 to US $ 1000 at the beginning of 2017. But what has happened since has made the contemporary “crypto-mania” one of the most spectacular asset bubbles in history, with bitcoin price crossing US $ 17,000, and the market capitalization in bitcoins approaching US $ 300 billion. This does not include other crypto currencies like Ethereum (US $ 65 billion), Ripple, Bitcoin Cash (each US $ 30 billion) and Litecoin (US $ 15 billion). At this rate, the circulating cypto-currencies may overtake many of the lesser known State currencies of the world very soon.
The repercussions for the world are immense, but they do not arise from this bubble. This bubble, like most other asset bubbles will subside in its own course. We may even see a major price correction in the coming months, but that is not what is important. What is important is the interest that has been generated in crypto currencies and even more than that, in the block chain as a new technology. From States to Corporations, from researchers to policy makers – all are now interested in using it. This human investment in block chain is what can change the world.
Potential implications are extremely wide. Block chain technology can drastically change the way people transact, giving rise to new business practices. Even more drastic can be its implication on the way members of a large society interact with each other. If currency can be decentralized, a lot more can be. A lot of things that we depend on the Government to deliver today can be handled by voluntary initiative through block chains.
If that happens, we may have very different Governments. Actually, we may not even need them one day!
President Trump was definitely the biggest news of 2016, but few expected that his actions can give rise to a very different world, and even if they did, it can be in such a short time. Well, that is exactly what seems to have happened in 2017. If there is any individual, who is on the verge of changing the world at large, not just United States, it is President Trump. In fact, since Michael Gorbachev led the disintegration of Soviet empire, no individual has had such influence on global affairs.
His decisions have changed a lot, both within the United States and abroad, especially when it comes to the multilateral bodies. His stand on immigration saw fierce debates within the United States, but by the end of the year the changes seem to be getting institutionalized. He has already rolled back several initiatives in health and environment, even though his attempted roll-back of Obama care has been stifled.
The biggest impact of President Trump is in the multilateral initiatives, which have been traditionally led by the United States since the end of the Second World War. For a long time, the United States also had the final say in deciding their course. This traditional role of United States is now under major transformation, with President Trump walking out of the Paris Deal, blocking progress in WTO, targeting immigration, rejecting the Trans Pacific Trade deal and narrowing down all international commitments on part of the United States. If that was not enough, his radical Tax Reforms will have strong global repercussions on the way multinational enterprises are taxed in future. Just as the year end approached, came the recognition of Jerusalem by United States as the capital of Israel – making everyone from the EU to the Gulf countries to sit up and struggle on how to deal with it!
If so much can happen in one year of Trump rule, one can safely predict that the world will not be the same place by the time he completes his full tenure!
Almost four years after the Islamic State (IS) came in existence by the capture of cities of Faluja and Ramadi and adjoining areas in Iraq and Syria, the disruptive organization seems to have finally run its course. On December 9, 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared in a conference that the Iraqi forces have freed all the Iraqi areas from the domination and control of Islamic State (IS). The declaration came two days after a similar declaration from the Russian Forces claiming a final defeat of IS in the adjoining Syrian territory. These claims, if accurate, mark an end to one of the most surprising capture of territorial domination by what was essentially a religious terrorist outfit.
The intervening four years have been one of the most tragic episodes of violence in the history of human civilization, with brutal killings of innocent civilians, unthinkable violence against women, destruction of precious historical archives including whole cities and blatant threats to peaceful societies. Ironically, these medieval and barbarian intentions were combined with use of latest weaps, highly sophisticated propaganda machinery, social networks and proxy wars. The worst was that it all happened in the name of religion, drawing vulnerable recruits from across the world, including the most developed countries!
Even as 2017 marks the end of one of the most brutal political formations witnessed in recent history, it may still not be the end of story. Those propagating the philosophies that formed its basis are still at large and unlikely to sit quietly in future. The big question now is whether the civilized human society will be willing to find the appropriate means to deal with such threats in future.
The battle for the territory of Iraq and Syria may be over, but that only shifts the battlefield. The next battle needs to be fought in the minds of the people, and it can be decisive!
Taxes are always such a sensitive matter, that even when they involve heated debates and discussions, big changes are not usually expected. Given the sovereign character of taxation, even the big changes, when they do happen, are usually confined to a particular tax jurisdiction, with local taxpayers being adversely affected in one way and getting compensated in another.
Not anymore, as 2017 saw a growing trend of tax overhauls across the world, the central to which were corporate taxes, especially those involving multinational enterprises. At the center of the global tax controversy were some of the largest companies of the world, who were accused of not paying taxes anywhere. The ire of parliamentarians and civil society led to a coordinated Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project by the OECD, which got implemented in June, 2017 with more than sixty countries signing a Multilateral Instrument that is expected to change most tax treaties around the world. Then EU asked Ireland to impose taxes on certain large corporations, followed by a string of new tax initiatives around the world. The last straw of this chain was the radical Tax Reform initiated by the Trump administration.
The way taxes are paid around the world after 2017 will be very different from the way they are paid till now!
On 18 October, 2017, President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China announced the changes that China is going to incorporate in its State policy. Foremost among them was the adoption of a new principal contradiction, which always holds a very special significance in Chinese State policy, determining how it deals with contradicting goals and objectives. Those who are aware of Chinese history and polity would know that ever since 1937, principal contradiction has been an important determinant of Chinese policy.
In brief, the principal contradiction is one that the Government of China addresses first and foremost, even at the cost of all other challenges. Thus, it was the adoption of a new principal contradiction in 1981 – “the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people versus backward social production” which led to the large scale adoption of capitalist practices by the Communist State to achieve economic growth. The new principal contradiction in 2017 is “between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life”. On the face of it, is seems to be a move towards ensuring greater equity among regions and people.
With the largest population on the planet, and the second largest economy, the new focus on equity in China will change a lot, and with its increasing clout, whatever it does, will have serious impact for the rest of the world.
During the last century, every time a major exodus took place in South Asia, it was associated with big political changes that also changed the world in a big way. The first and perhaps the largest exodus of refugees took place in 1947 when the outgoing British rulers, declared in incomprehensible haste, the partition of India into two dominions, giving rise to a new State of Pakistan – the first instance of a religion based state in seven thousand years history of the sub-continent. Seventy years is probably too short a time to assess the implications of this great disruptive event, as its consequences still continue to unfold, and include China’s ascendance and global Islamic terrorism.
The second wave of mass refugees in South Asia took place in 1971, following a genocide that was unleashed in East Pakistan by forces loyal to West Pakistan in March 1971, killing around 400,000 and raping around 200,000 to 400,000 women (source Wikipedia). What followed was a fight back by people and an India – Pakistan war, which ended in the formation of Bangladesh, after the surrender of over 90,000 Pakistani troupes.
The third wave of mass refugees in South Asia happened following Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and affected nearly one third of its population. The next ten years of armed struggle between Afghan Mujahidin and Soviet forces saw more than 2 million Afghan deaths, while over 15000 Soviet troupes were killed and over 400,000 suffered casualties, half of which were from infections and other diseases. Its long term consequences include the break-up of Soviet empire, growth of Al Qaida, and a lot more, including the 9/11 attacks.
Now, in 2017, we are witnessing the fourth wave of refugees in South Asia. It is still early days. Myanmar had been a province of undivided British India till 1937, when the British rulers separated it into a new colony. This not only blocked people from having access to each other, but also practically broke the link between South Asia and ASEAN. The situation continued largely unchanged under the military rulers of Myanmar, but is rapidly changing now. It is here that this new wave of refugees becomes so important. Its long term consequences can determine the strength of interaction between South Asia and ASEAN.
It is still early days, but history tells us not to underestimate the importance of this fourth wave of refugees in South Asia.
Internet has come to become the lifeline of global community. It is the biggest newspaper, radio, television, telecom network, the largest club of the world, the largest site for holding public protests and challenging government policies. If that was not all, it is the biggest place of learning or getting spoiled with all kind of addictions, the biggest social laboratory and the largest human collaboration for joint technology developments. Before we forget, it is also fast becoming the biggest market place of the world.
In short, internet is gradually becoming the new world, and thankfully it has largely been free of the violent crimes that we risk in the real world, even though there are a number of immoral and unethical practices, like trolling, communalization and porn.
However, all that seems to have changed in 2017, with the growing awareness about how internet exposure can affect vulnerable minds, especially among youngsters. The credit for this sudden awareness goes to the Blue Whale Challenge, which attracted unprecedented attention, surprising all of us by the ease with which the minds of vulnerable children were controlled by abusers, most of whom were themselves amateurish to the extent that using the word ‘evil’ may not be appropriate for them.
The reaction to this new awareness about internet crimes is still yet to come, but can heralds a new era which is likely to give rise to a demand for a safer internet. No one knows what it means, but it would definitely mean a change – a change in the way we all interact on the net!
So then, it seems that in the last twelve months, we have witnessed a lot of history in the making. Having gone through so much, and been a part of it, it is time we take a break, before coming back to take up the issue of what we expect from the next twelve months of our story.
Till then! Greetings for a very happy Christmas and an even happier New Year!
With the world running out of fossil fuel, their prices skyrocketed in the last decade, while their emission externalities threatened with dire consequences. Just when energy scarcity had begun to look like the Achilles’ heel of human civilization, the acceptance of solar energy as a commercially viable option heralds a new era that will not only change businesses, but also impact politics, societies and culture.
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