You know how every year you say, tweet and think: ‘next year’s going to be my year’ and ‘new year, new me’, well in 2017 don’t bother. Because if you thought 2016 was bad, then just take a moment to consider 2017. All we’ve had so far is the aperitif; 2017 is the year that Donald Trump steps off the campaign trail and becomes the most powerful man in the world; 2017 is the year that the UK stops posturing and has deal with the consequences of a hard Brexit, soft Brexit or perfectly boiled Brexit. 2017 is going to be a hell of a year.
But for the moment 2017 remains just a massive rain cloud in the distance. A massive raincloud that looks set to waterboard us all in 2017 (did we mention Trump wants to bring waterboarding back), but a raincloud that hasn’t hit us yet.
So for now let’s consider 2016, and let me start by saying 2016 was not a year to be an entertainer. This year we lost: David Bowie, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Victoria Wood and countless other cherished entertainers. The rate at which entertainers were dying became so bad that when Bob Dylan neglected to acknowledge his Nobel Prize in Literature, most people assumed he had also been struck down by 2016, and even now paramedics are staking out Elton John and Stevie Wonder’s houses because we just can’t afford to lose anymore.
If you were an actor that made it through 2016 then you probably had a pretty good year. That statement is definitely true if you had the sense to be a white actor in 2016
If you were an actor that made it through 2016 then you probably had a pretty good year. That statement is definitely true if you had the sense to be a white actor in 2016. For white actors opportunities were bountiful, and you got to attend the 88th Academy Awards with a chance of winning an award rather than just being there to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s disappointed face (not this year though, congratulations Leo).
While black communities around the world definitely have bigger problems to contend with, the battle for representation and equality in an industry dominated by white people is an interesting barometer to measure how far minorities still have to go. Since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has taken steps to create more diversity amongst its members, but Scarlett Johansson was still cast as a native Japanese woman in Ghost in the Shell and producers of a film about 13th Century Muslim poet Rumi said they’d love Leonardo DiCaprio to take the role, so perhaps we’re not there yet.
In science and technology 2016 was actually a pretty good year. Solar Impulse 2 became the first solar-powered aircraft to circumnavigate the Earth, hyperloop technology continued to develop apace, with high-speed routes being explored in the United Arab Emirates, and Elon Musk’s Tesla revealed its Model 3, the company’s affordable electric vehicle. All of which means that in the future you’ll be able to travel from war zone to war zone faster and more efficiently than ever before.
The past year, though, will be remembered by many as the year that Britain said it wants to leave the European Union and Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. To paraphrase the Guardian journalist George Monbiot, when the American people were given the choice of electing the same old shit (Hilary Clinton) or an entire vat of shit (Donald Trump) they went for the entire vat of shit, and Britain pretty much did the same.
We don’t really know how deep or how potent 2017’s shit will be yet, but we know that it’s coming, so for now let’s concentrate on some more positive election results. Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants to the UK, became London’s first Muslim mayor in May. His victory was a win for progressive politics and sent a message that immigrants are welcome in the UK regardless of what some pro-Brexit campaigners would tell you.
Having conquered chess in the mid 90s and destroyed humans at Jeopardy in the early 2010s, AI took on an ancient Chinese strategy game that almost no one had ever heard of before called Go. AlphaGo, developed by Google Deepmind, beat one of the world’s top Go players Lee Sedol by four games to one.
The machine’s achievement was undoubtedly impressive, but if you asked AlphaGo to do anything else, including caring about its victory, then it wouldn’t be able to, and that’s not intelligence by any definition. Having said that, if an AI system can ever write a funny episode of Two and Half Men, even if it can do nothing else, then I’ll know we’ve cracked it.
In between revolutionising travel on Earth and getting people excited about solar roofs, Elon Musk found time to devise a way to colonise Mars. In Musk’s mind, Mars could have a million-strong population within a century, served by a massive colonial fleet of interplanetary spaceships, “kind of like Battlestar Galactica”.
From anyone else that kind of talk would be derided, but with Musk at the helm perhaps we can make it to space by the end of the century. If 2017 continues in the same vain as 2016 then we might need to figure out a way to get to space much faster. As you can probably tell I’m feeling pretty pessimistic about 2017, but in 2018 I promise: new year, new me.