2020 has been full of events that have made it quite different from previous years, and its end will also be exceptional with the cancellation of celebrations around the world as the closure restrictions continue due to the Coronavirus crisis.
In an article published in the British newspaper Telegraph, writer Roger Butel says that he usually writes this period about the most prominent events of the year that ended, and reviews his expectations regarding the new year, but all this seems to be useless under the world’s experience this year.
So, in his final article for this year, Bootle believes it is better to present his vision of the most important lessons of the 2020 events.
The first lesson we have learned, according to the author, is how the sudden events have affected our lives, or what former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called in his memoirs the Unknown unknowns. The crisis of the Corona virus has been a second major shock to humanity in less than a decade, and we are expected to see more sudden events and major shocks in the future.
The writer adds that we also learned that there are no limits to the government budget deficit in a country that prints its own currency, as the old rules on controlling the budget and keeping a low debt ratio seem to have turned upside down.
The problem is that this approach can be applied only when the economy is at a standstill, and as life returns to normal, the “magic tree” will melt, die, and the politics of increasing debt will not be the best solution to economic problems.
Remote working model
The writer believes that 2020 has also taught us much about the value and development of communications technology, as people have been able to work remotely following the imposition of closures, which was not easily anticipated before the crisis.
But we also learned that there are limits to technology, as the crisis began, people became so excited about the idea of working from home, and many talked about the end of the office era, but it soon became clear that remote work was depriving us from the human communication that we most need.
Although the office business model from 9am to 6pm, 5 days a week, has actually ended – as the writer says – and most employees still need to go to the office at times.
Over the past years, companies and employees have been able to move away from the office business model but have not, and the Corona crisis has given way to the development that should have happened anyway. The pandemic also imposed an online shopping and payment model, a trend that already existed, but spread widely in 2020.
Limits of technology and artificial intelligence
The writer adds that 2020 has provided important lessons about technological development in robotics and artificial intelligence. Over the past year, technology companies have promoted more of the use of robots in everyday life, but each time we can observe the limits of technology.
In his book Economics of artificial Intelligence, Bootle says that one thing robots and artificial intelligence cannot do better than humans is to be human.
In his view, the evolution of robots and their ability to help humans accomplish many tasks cannot eliminate the importance of communication with humans, which has been proven by the remote work experience.
One of the most prominent limits of technological development – according to the writer – is the stumbling progress in the field of self-driving automobiles industry, which clearly shows the superiority of the human brain and the difficulty of replacing it with machines and artificial intelligence, even in relation to simple tasks like driving the car.
Conflict between Beijing and Washington
The writer believes that the most prominent lesson at the international level is the pros and cons of globalization.
In his view, globalization is not a new phenomenon, as some believe, but rather a multi-wave of globalization that ended for different reasons, has benefited humanity in some respects, and has been damaged in others.
As for globalization in its current form, it showed signs of weakness even before 2020, seemed to be closing, and the intense conflict between China and the United States seems to be ending, as the writer says.
In his view, it goes beyond trade and technical warfare and the Coronavirus crisis, where the basis of the conflict is a divergence of views on how to manage the global economic and political system. The world countries cannot – according to him – ignore this clash, and countries like the United Kingdom will have to choose between Beijing and Washington.
The writer concludes that egregious events of 2020 have made it clear that we are far from adopting a common global model and unified values for managing societies.