Home / Opinion / Columns /  2022's tech rumbles will be heard for a long time

As 2020 was defined by COVID, and 2021 by lockdowns, 2022 has been defined by wars. Just as we were dusting our clothes and throwing away our masks after a bruising battle with COVID, Russia decided to go to war with Ukraine. China is being bellicose towards Taiwan, and North Korea towards everyone else. An internal war has been festering in the US, which resulted in a brittle win for the Democrats in their mid-terms. Even sport is not immune: countries are wrangling with each other to win football’s greatest honour in the World Cup. As I do my annual column on key tech milestones of the year, the world of technology too seems to be going through its own internal skirmishes and, sometimes, outright war. Here are my Top 5 Tech Happenings in 2022, in ascending order:

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Five, is the Crypto crash. Bitcoin and cryptos seem to collapse seem to happen a few times every year, but this one seems to be different - what Janet Yellen called ‘a Lehman moment’ for the sector as its total market capitalisation crashed from $3trn in Nov 2021 to below $1trn now. The implosion of ‘stablecoins’ Terra and Luna set this avalanche off, and it culminated with the ignominious collapse of Sam Bankman Fried and FTX. There are still some stalwarts left standing – Coinbase and Changpeng Zhao’s Binance, but the question to ask is whether it is another crash, or an Extinction Event. I believe that crypto will be resurrected in some form, but for that the industry will need to stop fighting its internal battles, and mature with regulation and an ethical, grown-up way of working (more on this in a subsequent column).

Four, was the tech person who features in every single annual roundup of tech: Elon Musk, this time for his much-ballyhooed takeover of Twitter. Enough has been written about this melee by many people, many times ironically on Twitter itself. Musk won the war to acquire the social network, but it will prove much harder to win the peace. In fact, as I wrote in my last column, social media itself seems to have painted itself into a corner, with Mark Zuckerberg immersing himself into the metaverse and ignoring a sliding Facebook. Meanwhile, Musk and Twitter seem to be now spoiling for a fight with Tim Cook and Apple, a confrontation which could entirely reshape tech platforms

Three, is the Cambrian explosion of Large Language Models (LLMs) or generative models in AI. OpenAI’s GPT3, feeding on 175 billion machine learning parameters and released in md 2020 wowed the world with its writing capabilities. GPT 4, with possibly more than 100 trillion parameters, will be another quantum leap. But between the two versions have been a profusion of LLMs – OpenAI’s DALLE and Google’s Imagen creating luminous images, Stable Diffusion open-sourcing LLMs, Jasper for marketing, and now Meta’s Cicero which ‘solves’ diplomacy! This is the single most exciting development in AI, and perhaps in all of technology, as pundits proclaim this to be a path towards Artificial General Intelligence and Singularity. For evidence, check out the excitement around ChatGPT, the latest evolution of GPT, released just last week

Two, is the tech crash. As tech companies emerged from their post COVID riches, they were hit by global economic slowdowns, customer behaviour changes, inflation, and the Ukraine war. Big Tech lost hundreds of billion dollars of value, companies across the board laid of thousands of people. The same thing happened in China, but for a different reason: Xi Jinping's quest for Party supremacy and his vision of ‘common prosperity’ have throttled the ambitions of its tech sector, especially its tech giants – Tencent and Alibaba. The Party has waged war on Chinese Big Tech and won decisively, and this will have significant global impact in the years to come.

Number one, and something which will shape geopolitics for years to come, are the Chip Wars. The US and China are engaged in an all-out war in technology, specifically Artificial Intelligence. It started in Trump’s era, but Joe Biden has significantly upped the ante. Companies across the world cannot export critical chip making equipment to China, US nationals and even green card holders cannot work with Chinese companies and there are a series of bans on China’s chip, 5G and components manufacturers. China is effectively being cut off from semiconductor supply chain systems, a move which threatens almost every aspect of China’s technology advancement. No one expects China to take this lying down – we will see massive local investments, diplomatic muscle flexing and, most worryingly, perhaps an all-out war with Taiwan, the world’s most important chip manufacturer.

This year has served up other huge moments in tech – a potential cure for Alzheimer’s, Microsoft’s aggressive quest for gaming supremacy, significant breakthroughs in climate tech – but it has been a bruising year, and I except this trend to continue over 2023. More on that in my next column.

Jaspreet Bindra is the founder of Tech Whisperer Ltd, a digital transformation and technology advisory practice.

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