Deepfakes and heatwaves, here comes the 2020s

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*A fishing boat sails along as Taal Volcano erupts on January 14, 2020 in Talisay, Batangas province, Philippines. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)* *Dear Peter,*
Feeling slightly overwhelmed even though it’s only Day 19 of the new year/decade?
We feel for you.
Only a few days after we cartwheeled into the 2020s, faster than a sip of Champagne came news that US President Donald Trump had almost started a war on Iran, wildfires were burning the Australian soil while Prime Minister Scott Morrison coolly declared support for coal and fossil fuels (climate crisis, what climate crisis?), the Taal volcano erupted in the Philippines and Eskom went right back into load-shedding mode.
But don’t despair (just yet). With the new year comes a new you; new resolutions and new hopes, courtesy of anyone from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop (detox and cleanse plan for the 2020s? Check), through astrologers (a new astrological era? Check) to scientists and thinkers.
In this newsletter, we explore what the new year look like according to the world *wild* web, with some bits about the decade mixed in. Spoiler: more tech, more sustainability, more space exploration, more electric cars, more data sharing, more human beings on the planet; it might turn out to be just as unpredictable as we predict it to be.
*“By working together towards the South Africa that we all want, sparing neither strength nor courage, we will progress and we will succeed.” President Cyril Ramaphosa, 2020 New Year message*
*A general view of an installation by renowned street artist Banksy on October 2, 2019 in Croydon, England. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)* *Surveillance capitalism*
*Hey, what’s up? *It’s been a busy decade.
*Explain.* Apart from world politics and social justice, the 2010s were a lot about tech reaching into our lives and our personal data being used and sold all over the globe.
*Big data?* Exactly. Since apps have changed the way we work, travel, pay, communicate, read, watch, exercise, meditate or experience our homes, it also opened the “big data” Pandora’s box, shaking the very fundamentals of our right to privacy.
*It’s that bad?* Former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris called it “the downgrading of humanity” *,* and “a product of the growing cadre of companies and technologies that profit off of renting access to manipulate us with increasing levels of precision” in *Fortune* .
*Where are we now? *In her book, author Shoshana Zuboff calls it the age of “surveillance capitalism”, defining it as, “an economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction and sales”. Read Yvonne Jooste’s brilliant story for more.
*Say more? *Jooste explains, “If we thought that at least our feelings, thoughts, emotions, conversations, rituals, habits and sense of home were a refuge, and as a sanctuary could not be possessed in capitalist terms, Zuboff shows us that the surveillance capitalist claiming of the digital realm has made it so.”
*Sjo.* Exactly – and with “the global ‘smart home’ market (…) valued at $36-billion annually” and expanding fast, we are now and will soon be even more connected – and surveilled? – than ever.
*Is that it for the 2020s?* Of course not! There’re also innumerable innovations, from health to space and automobiles.
*Citroën 19_19 Concept futuristic all electric concept car interior on display at the 2019 Concours d’Elegance on August 25, 2019 in Baarn, Netherlands. (Photo by Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images)* *Taxonomy of (few) things to come*
*5G*
2020 might finally be the year of super-fast, real-world speed internet; that is, if the Independent Communications Authority of SA releases licences.
*Smarter homes*
“In December, Amazon, Apple and Google came to what appeared to be a truce: they announced that they were working together on a standard to help make smart home products compatible with one another,” says *The New York Times* *’*s Brian X Chen . If it works, our all-connected homes might anticipate our needs before we even conceptualise them.
*All-electric*
Predictions as to when electric will eclipse the internal combustion engine diverge drastically, but Volvo hopes to have 50% of its sales fully electric by 2025 and Volkswagen aims to go all-electric by 2026. In South Africa, it ain’t that simple , says Malibongwe Tyilo.
*Online education*
“The question looms: Why do students need to sit in a physical classroom at all? And why must they pay so much for that increasingly dubious privilege? New technology has disrupted nearly every sector of the economy during the past few decades, and the university isn’t exempt,” says Christina Weyrauch in *the Wall Street Journal* *.*
*Climate crisis*
“2020 must be the year for co-ordinated, comprehensive climate action. But we’ve got a lot of work to do before then,” says the WWF. Meanwhile, 2020 is set to be one of the hottest years on record says the Met Office .
*Tech & health*
*Time* asked a few healthcare experts about their thoughts on 2020. Predicted innovations ranged from “a more diverse global bio bank” created by a Nigeria-based start-up “sourcing genetic material from volunteers across the continent” to “a wristband that can read [the] mind”.
*Return to the moon and space tourism*
Fasten your seatbelt: Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin plans to take humans to space in 2020; “NASA stands on the verge of commercialising low-Earth orbit”; and Elon Musk was quoted saying he hopes to send people to Mars this year.
*Nostradamus*
The 16th century French astrologer behind a series of prophecies has been credited with predicting actual events (though many argue it was not really the case). For 2020, the seer gave us “a great earthquake in America, a global economic crisis and an abrupt rise of sea level”.
* Google’s database of face-swapped actors used to help build tools to track synthetic videos, also called ‘deepfakes’ (Photo Google)* *Is it a thing, ‘Deepfake’ future?*
It pretty much is. A deepfake is “an AI-based technology used to produce or alter video content so that it presents something that didn’t, in fact, occur”; as artificial intelligence is getting better and better, so are the deepfake videos that blur the line between truth and fiction, making it harder for people to discern true facts from lies. “Researchers are creating tools to find AI- generated fake videos before they become impossible to detect. Some experts fear it is a losing battle,” says the *New York Times* *’*s Cade Metz .
*A man wears a tourism guide on his head to stay cool near the White House during an excessive heatwave on July 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)* *In numbers*
*1.1: *The central estimate rise of temperature, in Celsius, in 2020, above the pre-industrial average, according to the Met Office.
*7.7 billion:* The world’s population in 2020. The expected world population in 2050 is 9.7 billion , with the population of sub-Saharan Africa expected to double by then.
*03: *In November, the 2020 United States presidential election.
*Best wishes *
“Just as the strongest steel is forged in fire, just as diamonds are forged deep inside the earth’s crust under the most extreme pressure, let us turn adversity into opportunity. In doing so, let us each play our part: for upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” *– President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2020 New Year address*
“We’re going to have a great year, I predict. I think it’s going to be a fantastic year. We had the best economic year, I think, in our country’s history. And I think we’re really set for additional growth and jobs and everything else. It’ll be great.” *– President Donald J Trump 2020 New Year address*
“Such a leap forward in developing the state-of-the-art national defence science would make our great military and technical strength irreversible, greatly promote the increase of our national strength, improve our power of putting the political situation around us under control and give the enemies the blow of serious uneasiness and horror.” — *North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s 2020 New Year address*
[image: Advertisement] *Also on **Maverick Life * *TECH: Are smartwatches still a thing in 2020?*
When it comes to smartwatches, we each have to decide for ourselves if the further exchange of our data and money for convenience, and potentially lifesaving health benefits is a fair one, says Malibongwe Tyilo here .
*LIFE: Shoshanna Zuboff examines surveillance capitalism and the astonishing speed at which a networked world was created*
In her book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of power, Shoshana Zuboff asks vital questions about our digital future, privacy and how our personal data is collected, and analysed. Click here for Yvonne Jooste’s full story.
*WELLNESS: Resistance training – Stretch your way to strength*
From controlled strength training to physical rehabilitation, resistance bands offer multifunctional benefits that could take your training to the next level. Read Nicole Williamson’s story here.
*SMALL SCREEN: This weekend we’re watching – 2019 movies still on circuit* In 2019, eight films grossed more than $1-billion, with ‘Avengers Endgame’ crossing the $2-billion mark. But 2019 wasn’t just about blockbusters. Here is a selection of not-to-be-missed movies that are still on circuit. Read Joshua Stockhall’s reviews here.
*LIFE: Last week in pictures – 14 December 2019*
An incomplete and yet highly enjoyable gallery of the wild wild world .

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