Rewind 2020: Business, politics, social and professional impact, and what lies ahead

From business and politics to social and professional life, the world is changing due to the pandemic and a range of other converging developments.
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In this year-end article, we look at the broad array of changes witnessed in 2020, transformative forces, and future trends for 2021 and beyond.

Replacements

Some of the obvious developments for the year 2020 were offline or in-person meetings being replaced by virtual meetings, and travel and tourism being replaced by OTT and online binging. Office space was replaced by work from home.

Polluted air was replaced by cleaner air. Budget allocations for defence were reduced and budget allocations to stimulate the economy were increased. Going to schools and colleges was replaced by online classes or your teachers were replaced by ‘teachers from anywhere’. The swanky stores and fancy malls were replaced by online sales.

Changes and impacts

The most important change was that the GDP or the type of governance or the climate that a country had did not matter – this is what I call a level playing field for the world.

All the above changes were across all countries, across all continents, across all levels of the society. It did not matter if you were developed or not, it did not matter if you had a medical infrastructure better than the others, it did not matter if you were in the tropics or not, it did not matter if you were rich or poor, and so on so forth.

The underlying impact of all of this will be short term and long term, is great or will be greater. For example, corporates are questioning the need to travel or to have office space in swanky zip codes. Parents are questioning the high school or college fees that they have to pay.

Governments are realising the importance of the impact of sporadic growth on the environment. They are questioning if chemical warfare is the future or not, especially when one country can’t stay in isolation from the other.

The luxury goods sector is rethinking if expensive retail real estate space is needed or not. The most important of all the things is that everyone has realised that technology and advancement in technology will drive the world, will drive the world economy.

The country that rules the tech space will rule the world, will be the future economic power.

Whilst all of the above developments were happening on the ground, there were huge enhancements in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, facial recognition software, quantum computing, data storage, wearable devices and adoption of 5G.

Looking to the future

All of this combined will pave the future of the world that we live in. Based upon the above context, this is what I feel the coming year or two will be for all of us, or for the world at large.

  • ML and AI will rule everything we do. By everything, I mean everything. You name the sector or think of the sector or a subsector it will be there, and it will completely change the interface and experience that we as users have. Finance, medicine, agriculture, education, advertisement, marketing, retail, logistics, travel, food, climate, social relations, cybersecurity, cloud computing, quantum computing, robotics and content creation across verticals – all will be impacted. All of this is good for all of us, saves a lot of time, money and energy and hence will be cost-effective in the long run. And it will impact everything that we see and do and perhaps also impact what we think and feel.

The misuse of advancement in science and tech has also always had the negative impact on our future, form minor misuses on audio and video content distortion to the hacking of websites and passwords, to targeted warfare, I fear that the use of AI and ML by countries into social media or other digital means of communication can change the mindset of the society, a country or a generation gradually without them even realising it.

The predictive behaviour online of an individual or a group of individuals can be further directed into a more regimented/chaotic society by implanting the algorithms that one wants to, whether a political party or a country or a group of countries.

So, while we have to be careful on the use of or influence of online behaviour, especially social media, we also need to be careful of the fact that the countries will not trust other countries.

While tech has seamlessly flown from one part of the world to the other and made the world smaller, in the near future countries and governments will create roadblocks and barriers for tech flows. Fight for digital supremacy and even digital warfare is imminent.
  • Blockchain and facial recognition will change the financial world like no one else can, not just because of crypto but because transactions across financial institutions or individuals will become more secure and safe. Cybersecurity with both blockchain and facial recognition tools will be far more advanced. Healthcare and luxury goods like brands and diamonds will be safeguarded from fakes or pilferage at any point.

Land records and legal documents will be more authentic and safer. Tokenisation of investment in shares or equity, in land and property, and other assets will also revolutionise the world. Tokenisation will democratise investments across all sectors of investments. And many such things will be much more secure and easy to transact.

But will this lead to a new currency, an e-currency for every country and a new world order which will cashless and corrupt free? Would the countries or individuals that lose because of all this, let that happen? Not in 2021 or 2022, but we shall soon know of this too.

  • Wearable devices and 5G will change the world order in this coming year. The speed at which transmission will happen on embedded and IoT driven devices that are or will be in use will change our usage rampantly and the world will be without so many more gadgets that we see today.
Remotes, keys, switches, desktops, cameras, credit cards, drivers, and classrooms items will all disappear, and we will be in a hands-free, voice or thought modulated world. Pieces of jewellery, glasses, watches and embedded devices will be adorned by us.

While life becomes smaller and easier, our memories would fade, as we will be more dependent on devices, our abilities to be human will gradually diminish, more knowledge will be imparted to us than we need or can digest. The speed of growth of the human race will be enhanced multifold, meaning thereby what has changed in the last decades will take years to change. Good or bad is for all of us to see and live.

Furthermore, in my opinion, here are a few things that hopefully will not change or will make a strong comeback.

  • Travel and tourism: People are tired of sitting at home and they want to travel and travel they will, come fall next year or 2022 for sure. The world will see that there are more people who want to see the world than there ever were.
  • Social impact: The world being levelled across countries. Tech will impact not just the well-to-do but also the underprivileged, it will move to uplift them and bring them on par so that they can be the next frontier. The dual mileage of feel-good of social impact and making your future market will both push this sector tremendously.
  • Environment: The world focus on the environment will be stronger, and rightfully so. Energy prices across the world will fall further; oil and gas will not be worth much as it will not be needed – electricity will rule the world and will be almost free and easy to produce. The future will be cleaner and greener.
  • Medical and Healthcare: A sector that has proved its worth time and again will continue to get stronger and stronger. Age-defying and quality-of-life improving medicines, devices and innovations in the field of biotech will be coming at us in a much stronger way and sooner than you can think.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)