As 2021 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the past year

Prakash Narayan-

 

First, in this Season of delight, with memories warm and bright, here’s wishing all of you and your families Happy Holidays and a very Happy, Healthy, Joyous 2022.

2021 was certainly an eventful year – from vaccines and variants to droughts to fires. There were significant milestones in politics (first US female Vice President sworn in), sports (Tokyo Olympics), human rights (Climate Change resolutions). This article will, however, focus on Business and Technology. The pandemic has certainly enabled/accelerated the digital transformation of many industries – from healthcare to manufacturing.

We saw the Metaverse take shape in redefining how we interact with our digital devices. In a sense, we have seen three paradigm shifts: the first was in the 1980s with the graphical interface popularized by Apple’s Macintosh – led by the late Steve Jobs. The next was the emergence of hypertext links and the world wide web – led by Tim Berners-Lee. Even with these advancements, the paradigm was still flat screens, layered windows and icons. The Metaverse provides 3-D experiences with augmented reality glasses or virtual-reality goggles. The impetus for the adoption of augmented reality in 2021 was provided when customers could not shop in brick-and-mortar stores – due to the pandemic. They could not get the right feel when shopping online. Augmented reality provided them provided them better experiences when shopping for shoes, clothing or even cars. They could experience these products as if they were physically in front of them. It is evident that the future of retail is at home with immersive experiences.

While Artificial Intelligence has been used in several fields since the previous decade, there have been various concerns on the potential abuse of AI – with threats to privacy and dangers of mass surveillance. In November, 193 countries adopted the first global agreement on the ethics of artificial intelligence. This legal infrastructure and framework to promote human rights and ensure the ethical and inclusive development of AI technology, allows ethical AI developers to have a positive impact on society that builds a better world for everyone.

2021 saw the emergence of Web 3.0 to the mainstream. Web 2.0 was the era of social web – that combined mobile, local, social and cloud computing. The core concepts of Web 3.0 are decentralization, openness, trustless networks, powered by encrypted, accountable distributed ledgers. Cryptocurrencies, NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and blockchain will have roles to play and will redefine our everyday activities from banking, insurance, healthcare, government services. TiE Silicon Valley held a Summit on Blockchain and AI on October 14th.

2021 has been a remarkable year for Spaceflight – with three private companies launching non-professional astronauts to space: SpaceX (led by Elon Musk), Virgin Galactic (led by Richard Branson), and Blue Origin (led by Jeff Bezos). We saw the oldest person ever (90-year-old William Shatner) and the youngest person ever (18-year-old Oliver Daemen of the Netherlands). We also saw Sirisha Bandla become the third woman of Indian origin to travel to space – after Sunita Williams and Kalpana Chawla.

 

2021 marked several people of Indian origin assume the role of CEOs of major organizations. Arvind Krishna became Chairman and CEO of IBM in Jan. 2021 replacing Virginia Rometty. Parag Agarwal took over as CEO of Twitter after Jack Dorsey stepped down. Anirudh Devgan was appointed the CEO of Cadence after Lip-Bu Tan transitioned to the role of Exec Chairman.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2022 as the pandemic draws to a close. I for one hope that there is an increased focus on renewable energy. It is heartening to note that (according to International Energy Organization) renewable energy development and deployment has increased during the pandemic. We also need to closely measure and reduce our carbon footprint as individuals and organizations.