As I look back on 2017 I wonder why I didn't notice the stories that would normally have been on my radar? Did they burn up in the worst California fire in history, flood in Houston, die in Las Vegas, or disappear somewhere in the debate about fake news? Did they shrink in comparison to the bold re-emergence of the KKK, the Russia/Trump drama, or the disturbing threats from North Korea? Were they destroyed in Puerto Rico, confounded by tax reform, eliminated in the upending of rules and policy or strung out on opiods? No, as I review I realize they were happening each and every day while we were distracted by a barrage of tweets and shocking, often troubling, developments. Consequently I'll remember 2017 as the year I was blinded by too much news!
So much is happening that in some ways I think we're living in a new Renaissance---Renaissance 2.0. Ours is a time dominated not with the blossoming of art but with the flowering of scientific innovation. Advances in medicine, science and technology amaze and the discoveries around us trigger awe. We are at the dawn of so much transition facilitated by ongoing developments I mentioned in 2015 and 2016 year end reviews: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Quantum Computing, Gene Therapy, and CRISPR cut and paste style gene editing. Have you schmoozed with the AI mechanism called Alexa? She can do more than 15,000 things for you now if you'll let her. Or maybe you've seen gene therapy in action. The first two therapies were okayed by the FDA this year one for cancer and one for a genetic cause of blindness. Science finished mapping DNA at the start of this century now a private group has launched The Human Cell Project which will "..transform our understanding of how the body works and how to treat diseases," said Dr. Shalin Naikm co-leader of the endeavor. These are days of inventions that will change the world.
Our 2017 Renaissance isn't one of higher culture but of cultural change. We're experiencing revolutions in systems as fundamental as money. Cryptocurrencies mainstreamed this year. That revolt, led by the soaring price of Bitcoin, was the # 5 trending story of 2017 according to Google. Yet as virtual money soared in value our retail landscape continued to disappear at a stunning pace threatening the tax base of state and local governments across America. But perhaps the most fundamental change occurring right now is the collapse of normalcy and the revolutionary changes going on in our government. As unsettling as this year may have been ahead of us is a much broader and sweeping form of change. Some are calling this period of history the 4th industrial revolution. "Technological disruption in the 21st century is different," writes Jim Hoagland in the Washington Post, "Societies had years to adapt to change driven by the steam engine, electricity, and the computer. Today change is instant and ubiquitous. It arrives digitally across the globe all at once."
Head Spinning? You're not alone. 2017 embroiled us in big national issues that need resolve as we chart the way ahead: is there any place for hatred in this country? can we learn to understand one another or are we satisfied with polarity? how will we define sexual harassment and what kind of behavior are we going to tolerate between the sexes? are we willing to sacrifice the progress we've made socially, racially, and environmentally? Who are we and what do we want to preserve in our amazing future?
I understand if you'd rather escape into reading about George and Amal Clooney's new twins or Prince Harry's engagement. Maybe you'd prefer thinking about a long trip? 50% of Boomers traveled internationally last year. Life here is stressful. If it's not Equifax hacks we're dealing with it's healthcare. But maybe, like me, you've decided to stay engaged...to contribute to the national dialogue and strive for the future you envision. I hope so, we need all minds and bodies on board to steer our way into tomorrow.
Happy New Year, dear Reader, may we know peace and safety in the year ahead. May the nation be at rest.