By Niclas Hvalgren
2017 was quite a year, was it not? There was Trump, the war in Syria. Mugabe was forced to step down in Zimbabwe, and Macron stepped up in France. We had too many referendumsto count. Brexit. Trump again. I will spare you the headache and not mention any details, but in the world of foreign affairs it certainly felt like we were taking a bit of a tumble – rather like the snowflakes in the blizzard outside my window.
But to make a snow-related metaphor, being stuck in a heavy blizzard now, will not prevent the seasons from changing. Rather than get completely blinded by current events it is good to take a step back and think about the big picture, trends, and ideas. (The development of, say, artificial intelligence will probably change society more than any number of angry tweets).
China is one of those topics that will come to affect us as far into the future as could possibly be imagined. Previously many assumed that rapidly rising living standards, the Internet, and globalization would eventually mean the end of the Communist Party. Instead, in 2017 President Xi Jinping was written into the Chinese constitution, becoming the most powerful president since Mao Zedong. Chinese companies are now outselling their Western counterparts.
Social change is another. #metoo was probably the fastest spreading movement in history; and while we cannot be sure of its final impact, we can hope that it leads to change for the better. We can also glimpse a future where values and opinions, spread across social media at literally the speed of light – through the fiber optic cables of the internet. There are also a number of technological changes emerging that will make our lives easier than ever before – and disrupt society in the process. From self-driving cars and virtual money, to extending the human lifespan, the days one could safely expect the future to be basically the same (but with smaller cellphones) are categorically over.
Disruption has struck UF in 2017, too – in a very positive way! We have started a new Career group to ferry members to their dream jobs, Uttryck has changed to more easily fit in your bags and fill your heads with thoughtful ideas, and our new logo will help us promote international debate through the digital noise.
Like with self-driving cars, or snowflakes in a blizzard, where our world will end up is difficult to know. But one thing is certain. From 1948, through 2018 and well beyond, UF will be there publish, lecture, broadcast and engage the entire way.
By Niclas Hvalgren