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What will 2008 bring?

Internationally speaking, we have been largely self-centred agenda-pushers over the past year. We have not hesitated to do away with those who offer a philosophy that is distasteful to us and thereby interfere with our political or religious beliefs.

In this context, we seem to have exceeded ourselves and reached a new high by seeing 2007 off with a bang, with the assassination of a charismatic leader.


Violence in Kenya

Although predicting the future is a difficult task, hopefully, all this might change, according to Daniel H. Pink, who, in his wonderful book A Whole New Mind (why right-brainers will rule the future) published in 2005 by Riverhead Books, New York, says that the past few decades have belonged to specialists who employed the left side of their brain (computer programmers, lawyers and MBAs for example) which offers the power of analysis and structured reasoning.

The future, according to Pink, will belong to those who use more prominently their right lobe which gives a holistic view, such as creators and empathisers, designers, poets, artists, storytellers, counsellors and consolers.

This shift of focus is inevitable and its significance to the political world would be nothing short of phenomenal.

In this context, the inference (which cannot necessarily be attributed to Pink) may well be that political leaders will not just listen to argument but listen to the whole story, which is really what the world is crying out for.

To quote Pink’s words, “when our lives are brimming with information and data, it is not enough to marshal an effective argument. Someone, somewhere will inevitably track down a counterpoint to rebut your point. The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative.”

The renewed sense of empathy and understanding will be valuable in the context of the most pivotal concern of most parts of the world, which is responding to terrorism. There will be more emphasis on cooperation between cities and more concentrated efforts on counter-terrorism.

The realisation that the achievement of peace does not lie in just the absence of war, nor in the achievement of conquest, but in the ensuring of safety of a community will go hand in hand with dialogue and understanding.

One example could well lie in a possible bargain between the United States and Iran to respect each other’s point of view and influence, particularly in the Middle East.

The Economist says this might not be likely, but it is certainly not impossible. A confrontation between the two would be disastrous, not only to the two parties concerned but for everyone else.

Again, it is empathy and design that should triumph over rigid analysis and polarisation. Such an agreement would be grounded on the understanding of the story of the other side and not any more on ideology and confrontation.


Melting icebergs

The situation in Iraq, the other nation at issue, is already showing signs of improving due to the higher injection of foreign troops which has lessened the rate of suicide bombings. 2008 may well facilitate the easing of war damage in this troubled region.

As the Dalai Lama has said, in today’s interdependent world, war is outdated and destroying other countries or communities brings no benefit but creates human suffering, trade disruptions and environmental problems. He calls on compassion and love in 2008.

Most intellectuals argue that 2008 will bring the last chance for a workable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. This is because of the growing differences between the Fatah pragmatists on the one hand and the Hamas on the other within the Palestinian ranks.

This split is further aggravated by the outside world, particularly in the Arab world, which is a divide between moderates leaning towards the western world and fundamentalists leading towards Iran. As the one in between, Israel has a real challenge to forge a pragmatic agreement.

In many regions of the world, the new trend will continue which has shifted the focus from war being an interstate conflict involving military activities between governments to a paradigm shift of war amongst the people, where, as British General Rupert Smith says the utility of military forces would be anchored on the ability of the forces to adapt to complex political scenarios constantly monitored by critical public opinion and press coverage.

The year 2008 will see a new threshold of warfare where aggression against terrorism will be increased and there will be a more focused attempt at the use by world leaders of elite models of diplomacy involving governments and intelligentsia.

The neo-post modernist trend of involving all key players including business leaders will be at the forefront of political and social intercourse. Governments who are making headway against internal strife will increasingly depend on technocrats to carve out models for reconstruction and development.

The year 2008 could also give added impetus to the power of what is now termed ‘lawfare’ by which the law is used as a means of realising a military objective.

In this context the importance of the combined triad of the government, the people and the military forces acting in sync within the parameters of the rule of law against terror activities of non-State actors will gain increasing prominence through the year.

It is hoped that in 2008, the current global trend of secularism and divisiveness can be countered by a holistic approach to politics where empathy and design attenuate the whole story, whether it pertains to terrorism, self-determination, globalisation or just plain dissatisfaction.

Speaking of globalisation, 2008 will continue the trend of expanding population, disparities in wealth and the exponential growth in demand for food and energy.

Within this picture, there will be a Presidential Election in the United States and the Summer Olympics in Beijing. E-commerce will rise to a new crescendo, there will be new class of entrepreneur and China will overtake the United States with the largest number of internet users.

The year 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations will continue to be the moral conscience of the world in what Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls the spirit of principled pragmatism.

The world will still have the spill-over challenges from 2007 crises in Darfur, Somalia, Iraq and the Middle East. The perennial challenge of building Africa would persist. One of the actions taken would be that the United Nations will deploy 26,000 peacekeeping troops in Dafur.

The United Nation’s theme of work for the year 2008 would be ‘peace and security’ which is the cornerstone of the Charter of the world body.

Economically speaking, investment portfolios built by Governments will buttress stock markets. These sovereign wealth funds will enable States to fund pension schemes and welfare packages.

The more powerful funds wielded by countries such as the United Arab Emirates (in particular Dubai and Abu Dhabi) will enable the sheikdoms to consider wielding greater influence in the world money market.

In foreign exchange markets, the issue of durability will be paramount, and it will remain to be seen whether the trend to borrow in low yielding currencies to invest in high yielding currencies will continue.

The private equity industry, which has reached its greatest height, will continue to expand in 2008 despite the recent retrenchment in the credit markets. Private equity firms throughout the world are reported to have the capability of financing acquisitions that are worth over $ 2.1 trillion, which is a 50 per cent increase over the past two decades.

The Economist, in its publication ‘The World in 2008’ posits that two broad trends will direct the fluid growth of private equity. One would be the trend towards becoming even more a mainstream industry. The other would be that the globalisation of private equity will expand and accelerate.

Technologically, smart phones will take over many functions of laptops, making the latter somewhat redundant and obsolete. Prices of gizmos and gadgets which will continue their inevitable journey towards being more and more minuscule, will tumble.

For instance, the Visioneer Road Warrior and the Plustec OpticSlim M12 Corporate will serve as portable document scanners which will help professionals on the go with document processing. Both these items weigh less than ten ounces each.

A compelling advantage of these two gadgets is that they also double up as personal photocopier and fax machine and provide digital copies of printed documents which can be emailed as attachments.

In addition to these two marvels, the indispensable portable global positioning system (GPS) navigating system will act as a pocket navigator, directing the weary traveller to her hotel, restaurant or railway station in a foreign city.

The most attractive feature of these miniature devices is that they are easy on the wallet costing just a few hundred dollars.

The bounties offered by outer space resources will become more important in 2008. We have already gone beyond the threshold of realising that technology is reaching a critical point where space exploration is already recognised as an inevitable component of progress.

The leaps and bounds progress made by computer technology, which will undoubtedly continue in 2008, will inject tremendous impetus and render invaluable support to every other branch of technology.

There will be continued breakthroughs in rocket propulsion technology, and robotics will enable us to better understand and use the resources of celestial bodies. These resources in turn would assist in mankind’s constant quest for medical breakthroughs in incurable diseases.

Space tourism, which applies to the concept of travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere by paying customers, will continue to flourish.

Space tourism now includes not only the use of vehicles that take public passengers into space, but it also applies to the perspective of the ‘destination’ paradigm.

As such, the industry will induce planning with regard to earth-based attractions that simulate the space experience such as space theme parks, space training camps, virtual reality facilities, multi-media interactive games, and tele-robotic moon rovers controlled from earth.

Also included will be parabolic flight, vertical suborbital flights, orbital flights lasting up to three days, or week-long stays at a floating space hotel, including participatory educational, research and entertainment experiences as well as space sports competitions (i.e. space Olympics).

Aeronautically, 2008 will most probably be called the year of the A380, the largest civilian aircraft manufactured by Airbus Industrie and which is already in use. The A380 has two decks running throughout the fuselage and can accommodate over 550 passengers.

It has the widest cabin the world has ever known and a much larger cockpit than in any aircraft now in service.

It has been claimed that this aircraft, which sets the pace for a new generation of large aircraft, will afford even better standards of luxury to passengers than the standards which other aircraft types currently provide whilst increasing the operator’s return by 35 per cent.

The A380 will provide airline operators with a quantum leap in productivity and its increased seat capacity and cargo space, along with increased and extended range in distance will provide airlines with more seat miles on every flight.

Finally, it will be a busy year for those concerned with global warming. This is the international polar year which will draw together more than 60 countries to carry out over 200 research projects, and this will see more scientists in the Arctic region than in any other year in the past.

However, there will also be more awareness of the need for a balanced approach to global warming. As Bjorn Lomborg, Danish statistician and author of The Sceptical Environmentalist (2001) has said in an interview with Time’s Laura Blue, there is a need to address the issue in two ways.

One is to inquire into the status of global warming. Lomborg is of the view that global warming is neither a hoax not a catastrophe.

It is also not a conspiracy. The other is to put things into perspective realistically and not react with expensive solutions that would cost more to save less. Lomborg admits that global warming has to be fixed within this century, but it could be done gradually and should not be exorbitant.

All this goes to show that in 2008 we will continue our march of progress, which is essential for us if we are to ensure meaning and purpose in our lives. It is encouraging that we can hope to achieve our objectives with empathy and understanding than before.

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