2012 was a great year for me personally but also one that points to big challenges ahead for all of us.
On the personal side we moved back to Manhattan after nearly 10 years in the suburbs and couldn’t be happier. Chelsea has turned out to be terrific not just because of proximity to the USV office and the kids’ school but also because it has a wonderful neighborhood feel. For the first sixth months of the year we home schooled our kids which was a wonderful experience that also served to confirm everything I have feared about the inefficiency of regular schools. I hope the kids will eventually want to return to home schooling.
On the big challenges ahead, three topics continue to be on my mind and all had major activity in 2012: coping with climate change, keeping the internet open and smoothing the transition into a post industrial economy.
- On the climate side, 2012 brought us many unfortunate records, starting with a record hot March. June also brought a heat wave that caused havoc for the corn crop. Then of course we had hurricane Sandy, the first storm of a scale that qualifies for the “super storm" label. Sadly, the Durban Climate Conference ended with only an agreement to negotiate further (and that barely got done). That is all the more discouraging as we are dealing with a time delayed system where the impact of today’s emissions won’t be felt for several decades.
- The openness of the internet continues to be under assault from all sorts of different corners. 2012 started with a major success though in defeating PIPA and SOPA, legislation that would have given copyright holders undue power over the operation of the internet. More recently we had an attempt by the ITU to take over regulation of the internet and to make deep packet inspection a default practice. Meantime back here in the US, Congress and President Obama re-approved warrantless wiretapping under FISA without even a modicum of congressional oversight added.
- Also this year we saw a lot more attention paid to the global rise of wealth and income differences. I wrote a four part mini series to explain how much of this change is driven by the impact of technology on the role of labor in the economy. Thankfully mainstream economists are finally waking up to this issue with much of the credit going to Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee for pushing this with Paul Krugman a recent convert. And if you still believe that we are in some great technological stagnation you might want to check out this review of 16 futuristic predictions that became a reality in 2012.