2022: The Year
the World Ends?

No. But one thing is clear: 2022 is going to be a challenge for us all. We're in the middle of an ongoing global transformation: Economic, social, cultural – while our ecological habitat is at stake and we're hopefully recovering from a painful pandemic.

As we are mourning our losses from the virus, we are being overwhelmed by trends, currents, and influences, by a multitude of new insights, research, and developments, as well as unforeseen risks and threats. 

In other words: In this challenge lies a tremendous opportunity for us to profoundly learn, grow, challenge ourselves – and invent. Invent solutions! For people. For us. For our communities. And our society.

What will this New Year bring?

✨ As every year, a plethora of Emerging Technologies – from wildfires like Web3 and NFT's to the rise of tech-influenced subcultures like Afrofuturism or new dev communities. NFT trading volume has already clearly surpassed $13 bn in 2021 (according to The Block research) and is still on the rise, while tech innovators, experts, and VCs are passionately debating the Web3 paradigm shift of the internet in scattered Twitter Live and Clubhouse groups. As these debates go on, we are seeing new generations leap-frogging technological developments and embracing novel abilities to connect, transact, and communicate - and create their own cultural identity. Emancipation is on the rise throughout our global landscape, giving birth to self-confident subcultures and movements. Indigenous communities are becoming their own voices within this transformation.

✨ Geopolitical turmoil with escalating stand-offs and threats of new military conflicts, to a rise in cyber warfare and technological surveillance. Since the cold war, geopolitical confrontation has fundamentally changed. With pockets of geographically contained armed conflicts, 'bot wars' and semi-automated cyber warfare have started to dominate the global arena of enforcing international political and economic interests. Destabilization has become the new deterrent. And we are wondering if we are still the masters of an increasingly derailing social media cluster bomb, manipulating public sentiment, influencing foreign elections, and unhinging whole regions - to automated killing machines, that are now being deployed in missions without human control as we have seen with the recently reported field operations of the Turkish Kurga-2 drone, equipped with AI and facial-recognition. It is safe to assume that every financially potent nation is involved in researching and developing these technologies - and it will be exceedingly hard to differentiate between defensive and aggressive strategies. The lines are blurring.

✨ Ongoing fight for gender equality with technology providing increasing opportunities for girls and women to seize promising careers and develop their talents to the best. Since the "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen" by Olympe de Gouges in 1791, two years before her execution, it has taken more than 200 years to establish simple voting rights for women more or less internationally - though still today, with geographies and nations reluctant to acknowledge the most basic human rights for women. As long as we don't embrace this as a systemic challenge there is much to be done. While technology is evolving in hyper-speed, the transformation of society regarding the most obvious inequalities seems to be in slow motion. But there is hope: We are seeing more and more girls in STEM, women reaching for equal careers, involved in the public debate and political institutions, increasingly serving as thought leaders, decision makers, and influential role models. These individual female success stories will hopefully become a commonplace in the near future for our next generations.

✨ Battling racism, corruption, and intolerance from the dark shadows of online hate speech and darknet to a more positive outlook of digital empowerment and transparency. These last years have been ugly years regarding hate speech, cyber bullying, and darknet criminality. Even in the pandemic, we've witnessed the ungoverned explosion of conspiracy myths, manipulation schemes, and the rise of previously marginalized extremist voices to center stage of public media perception. Leading to an increasing divide within society, technology has not been kind in the hands of those with an agenda. At the same time, connectivity and digital citizen empowerment have provided first-hand testimony of racist or discriminatory violence, creating indisputable transparency and documentation. The power of an inconspicuous cell phone clip.

✨ Democracy taking the stand: caught between the global competition of political and economic systems, is it worth the paper it's printed on from the declaration of human rights to basic constitutional frameworks – how does technology fuel this debate, what does citizen empowerment mean, and how do we define Ethics in Technology? The current centrifugal forces within Europe tell a story of constant mitigation across 27 nations. With a new European digital agenda, finally addressing some core issues on data ownership, European investments in key technologies, building digital champions and major platform economies, we are seeing Europe being quoted more often (and even lauded) internationally for advanced ethical guidelines and governance in the development and deployment of new technologies.

✨ More transparency on our global information and resource divide, despite increasing connectivity we are seeing the access gap widening – so, providing technological infrastructure and education remains key to bridge the gap. With over 4.6 billion people connected over the internet today, we seem to be increasingly divided in incompatible opinion bubbles, levels of access to technology, wealth, and information. The price of an iPhone has quadrupled over the last ten years, IoT and sustainable energy installations in private homes remain a luxury in mainly developed economies, as half of our global population struggle to survive with less than $5.50 per day.

✨ Climate change remaining as our no. 1 threat with even more data, smart algorithms, but also an amazing global feat to develop and deploy technological solutions and decarbonization strategies to ward off its most dire consequences. NASA, ESA, and other national space agencies have been productive contributors of images and data visualizing our global climate impact. Especially during the pandemic, the fluctuations in GHG emissions and other pollutants were obvious, temperature maps achieved unprecedented details, and the deforestation impact in Brazil, for example, vs. the reforestation efforts in India or China were clearly visible. COP26 in Glasgow has been an important highlight of last year, though falling short of conveying the immediacy needed to stay within the 1.5-degree trajectory.

✨ Forced migration due to wars and conflicts, suppression and persecution, climate impact and bleak economic outlooks – and how technology and knowledge transfer can provide new perspectives for local prosperity. By November 2021, according to UNHCR, more than 84 million people were subject to forced migration, mainly due to unprotected exposure to violence. These numbers are projected to increase as we are seeing climate change and resource scarcity fueling local as well as international conflicts or rendering regions ecologically inhabitable. Conflicts absorbing civilians, families, children. Conflicts disrupting lives, perspectives, and hopes. On the other hand, as an example, there is a rise of innovation hubs well over 650, according to Briter Bridges and Afrilabs, across continental Africa from Lagos to Accra, spurring a plethora of tech startups, new jobs, and a vibrant subculture. This is impacting industrial as well as agricultural development and is key to providing local prosperity and a road to relative peace. The international community needs to step up its support regarding global climate initiatives and combatting local resource exploitation.

✨ And at last, the rising centrifugal forces of populism and anti-science movements – an undeniable call for even more education beginning in our kindergartens and schools. 11% of primary-age children and 20% of secondary-age children are not in school, often impacting girls and young women the most, and with twice the likeliness for rural vs. urban children. With a median age in sub-Sahara Africa under 20, as well as similar demographic shifts across large parts of Asia as well as South and Middle America. As our next generations will not only inherit and face the brunt of our mistakes, they will also have their own demands and expectations towards their lives, their environment, and their outlook on a desirable future. They will only be able to master this increasingly mounting task with capabilities to lead, decide, shape, and design - to ultimately take over the helm of steering into an uncertain future.

Education for our children is the best investment in humanity.

2022 will be a special year indeed! Never stop inventing.

Wishing us all hope, inspiration, and solidarity. Look out for your loved ones and treat yourself kindly.

Yours,

Pascal

about the author

Growing up between cultures and looking back at a career in IT, Technology, Media, and Innovation as an Executive and strategist for Fortune 500 companies and industry leaders has given me a unique perspective. In my article series “Journey to the Future” I want to open perspectives and help develop a deeper understanding, to enable readers to become their own explorers in this flow of change and complexity.

Growing up between cultures and looking back at a career in IT, Technology, Media, and Innovation as an Executive and strategist for Fortune 500 companies and industry leaders has given me a unique perspective. In my article series “Journey to the Future” I want to open perspectives and help develop a deeper understanding, to enable readers to become their own explorers in this flow of change and complexity.