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Review 02-01-2019 2

Year of the Dog

Interesting would be the politically correct way to summarise 2018 (is political correctness still a thing under Trump?), but I think that crazy is probably more appropriate. Barely anything has gone to script, and so we thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look back at the year that was.

The year in politics

What a strange year it has been, and mainly thanks to Donald Trump, who has ensured that the departure of Jacob Zuma as a political head would not result in any less unbelievable actions from a country’s president.

In case you forgot, Trump embarked on some GDP-crippling one-upmanship with China, laying on tariff after tariff in response to China doing the same, all whilst doing his best to distance himself from the legal mess created by his attempts to hush an alleged affair with an adult movie star from back in 2006. He did then take a break from that to cause some unnecessary international uproar at our own land expropriation debate, but then quickly got back to the real business of escalating a nuclear war with North Korea, capped off by what is by far my favourite tweet of 2018:

trump

It’s also been another rocky year for Brexit, with the lapse in collective judgement of 2016 still haunting the nation as it stumbles towards the official exit date of 29 March 2019 with no clear deal in sight. Despite Theresa May surviving a vote of no confidence from her UK counterparts, the EU don’t seem to be sharing a similar view, meaning the next few months will be critical in coming to some arrangement which does not significantly impact the British economy.

The year in SA

We certainly started with a bang, as nationalism, optimism and I’m sure some other ism’s boomed at the prospect of a year with a functioning president at the helm. We have seen a much-needed clean-up of the leadership of state-owned entities, corruption and its many miscreants being held to account (even JZ is being held liable for his own legal bills), and an unexpectedly effective inquiry in to state capture taking place.

Perhaps the impact has not yet been seen on our GDP (although this too seems to be moving in the right direction after a surprise uptick of 2.2% in Q3) or our unemployment stats (which went up to 27.5% as of Q3 2018), but we are clearly moving in the right direction. All is looking pretty rosy moving in to 2019 (the Cape’s dam levels are even at a swell 66.1% compared to 32.1% in 2017), so let’s just hope Eskom play ball.

The year in business

Step aside Steinhoff, have you heard of Theranos, the US company who effectively lied their way to a valuation of $9bn, sticking strictly to the ‘fake it until you make it’ approach to business, except never quite making it? It’s been dubbed the Silicon Valley equivalent of the Enron scandal, and let’s just say that a lot of people learnt a lot of lessons, and we aren’t as close to a device which can detect up to 150 types of diseases from a single drop of blood as we may have hoped.

Aside from that, we also saw the crown for the world’s first trillion-dollar company go to Apple (who have subsequently shed over 274bn in market cap since that achievement), and then Microsoft surprise everyone to overtake Apple as the world’s most valuable company for the first time since 2011.

But, whilst Apple, Microsoft and Amazon slogged it out for top honours, Facebook’s 2018 was far rockier, with the firm’s stock dropping from $175 per share at the start of the year to $135  (down 23%) currently, and the company just being rocked by scandal after scandal. Not to mention that every CEO of all their largest acquisitions (Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus) have all left. May not be the merriest of holidays at Facebook HQ this year.

The year in tech

It’s pretty much impossible to succinctly sum up all the exciting developments which have taken place in tech this year – the speed of innovation is now so rapid it would be futile to try.

However, there were some major breakthroughs, with Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic making its first commercial voyage in to space (depending on whether you agree with the American’s or the Russians on where space actually starts), which means space travel could become a reality quite soon (if you have $250k to spare).

There have also been significant strides made in the autonomous vehicle space, with Waymo (owned by Google) launching a fully-autonomous taxi-service in Phoenix in March 2019, and Lyft (Uber’s arch-nemesis) having completed over 5,000 self-driving rides for users in Las Vegas. (Uber themselves are preparing for a mammoth IPO in 2019, currently valuing the company at around $120bn despite never turning a profit.)

The big loser of the tech year is possibly Blockchain (as best demonstrated by the catastrophic fall in the value of Bitcoin from $15k in Jan to around $4k currently), as the promise of a decentralized ledger has failed to translate in to meaningful applications. That said, there is widespread belief that the technology is yet to prove itself, so watch this space in 2019…

The year in social media

Trawling the social media stats for 2018 provides some strange insights in to what the world was worried about, and this year it seemed to be mainly focused on soccer (with “World Cup” being the most searched term on Google thanks, I’m guessing, entirely to English football fans) and how to get your child to take a bath (the YouTube video “Take a Bath” has racked up 906m views this year as edutainment becomes the new way of convincing children to do things).

The Jenner’s are still keeping everyone on Instagram excited, with Kylie raking in over 18m likes for the photo she released of the birth of her child, Stormi, just pipping Justin Bieber’s pic of him confirming his engagement to Hayley Baldwin, and showing that America’s obsession with celebrities is still in full-force.

And, although not taking any top spots in terms of most-liked tweets of 2018, Donald Trump was the most-tweeted political figure this year, having continued to play his part in keeping the micro-blogging site popular by tweeting 3,447 times this year (so far), as he continues to use Twitter as the official communication medium of the US Government.

The year in film and music

Believe it or not, Canadian rapper Drake was the most streamed artist on Spotify again this year (he’s achieved the same in 2015 and 2016 already), amassing over 8.2 billion streams, with his song “God’s Plan” taking the top spot on Spotify and Apple music.

What’s a little disturbing however, is that emo-rap (whatever that is) has come out as 2018’s ‘Rising Genre’, and that most Spotify listeners under 30 are living in a constant state of being ‘lit’ (see below).

graph

On the movie front it was an enormously successful year for Marvel Studios, who had Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War occupy the top two spots this year, generating a cumulative total of $1.4bn in gross revenue. And that answers the questions about how superheroes maintain the lifestyles they do with no apparent income.

The year in the unbelievable

As unbelievable as 2018 was in general, there are some stories which just take the cake. For example (and don’t underestimate the significance of this) Boston Robotics were able to create the world’s first running and jumping robot, bringing the real-life Terminator a step closer.

We also saw a soldier lose an ear, only to have it grown back on her forearm using her own cartilage. A bit gross, but a whole lot better than no ear.

Oh, and then there was Michihito Matsuda, the robot who ran for Mayor in Japan and managed to secure 4,000 votes, despite losing.

So it’s been a wild ride, but perhaps my favourite statistic is that in 2018, more than ever before, people searched for the word ‘good’ on Google (watch the short clip here).

Take what you will from that, but I see it as positive shift in the global consciousness towards being generally better. And if 7 billion people all strive to be a little bit better, then I think things will be ok.

So, here’s to 2019. Be better.


By Nicholas Bowman


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