The Force Awakens!

The Badger partied with members of the local community recently. It was a very enjoyable occasion with young and old from all walks of life. There was merriment, music, and – unexpectedly – a captivating game that put people randomly into teams to come up with two words. The first word was to describe the world in 2018, and the second was to predict the public mood in 2019. Each team verbalised the rationale for their words to the crowd for a minute or so, and at the end of the game everyone voted to decide the best words. It proved enlightening!

The winning word describing 2018 was ‘Putrid’. A great word! It won by a mile and crystallised deeply held sentiments on nerve agent use in Salisbury, murder in Saudi’s embassy in Turkey, Mr Trump, fake news, misuse of personal information by FANGs, corporate failures like Carillion, and the playground antics of UK and European politicians relating to Brexit. Phew…,but no real surprise! One party-goer pulled no punches and said ‘putrid’ described ‘elites’ for what they are – over-moneyed, over-propertied, pampered, self-serving, self-interested, power-crazed egotists! The Badger wouldn’t go that far, but the sentiment had lots of support!

The winning word predicting the public mood for 2019 was ‘Rebellious’. Party-goers wanted there to be a popular backlash against everything ‘putrid’ in 2019. A push-back against the wolf-pack nature of the press, fake news on social media platforms, and societal impact of FANGs were ambitious objectives in the case made for the word.
The Badger wasn’t in the winning teams, but it’s hard to disagree with the winning words. As Yoda said, ‘You must feel the force around you’, and the Badger certainly felt a ‘Force Awakens’ moment in fellow party-goers! They were not anti-technology, anti-FANG, anti-internet, anti-business or anti-change, just intent to have a say and emboldened by the power they realised they could wield. Most wanted 2019 to be about things that really improved their lives and not about making fabulous amounts of money for distant, greedy organisations.

Martha Lane Fox recently said ‘Tech became darker and muddier in 2018’. The Badger agrees. 2019 looks set to be similar unless even more people pressure speeds up the debate on whether FANGs are too big, too powerful, and too monopolistic to be trusted. When the ‘Force Awakens’ in people things tend to change. Facebook is already suffering and public pressure is influencing tech giant regulation which is high on the political agenda in many countries. Interesting times ahead!

In the right hands, technology focused on solving life’s problems is good for everyone. So, in 2019 let’s focus more on software and technology in the health, life, materials and environmental sciences, and in manufacturing, engineering and energy that positively benefits our lives. Let’s not get consumed by social media’s failings, crass computer games and greedy elites. Remember, the Force Awakens! And on that note, ‘May the force be with you’ in 2019…

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