Highs and Lows of 2017

Harvey Saga to Bitcoin Mania

As we stand ready to bid adieu to 2017, it is time for some retrospection on the highs and lows of the year.

What instantly springs to my mind is the global outrage against sexual predator and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, with Silence Breakers even winning the Time Person of the Year recognition.

As I had argued in a post here,“this is one hurricane where a Harvey is at the receiving end” with Harvey Weinstein having been “swept off the sway he had over Hollywood, with his sleazy past tumbling out of the closet and drowning him in ignominy.”

2017 was also the year when Mr Donald Trump, who had himself faced allegations from many women of sexual misdemeanour, became the U.S. President, trumping challenger Mrs Hillary Clinton.

Notoriety and Hypocrisy

Bitcoin Craze – Proponents and Naysayers

The Bitcoin mania scaled phenomenal heights this year, producing millionaires through easy money for some clairvoyant investors, a small list that includes some teens.

One of them saw a $5000 investment in 2013 reach a value of more than a million dollars in 2017.

It has produced billionaires too – like the Winklevoss Twins who used their payout from Facebook four years ago on the Bitcoin. Their investment was $11 million and in 2017 its value had shot up to more than a billion dollars.

New cryptocurrencies such as the Ripple are also making waves in the market.

Morgan Stanley Runs Down Bitcoin

Financial institutions and market analysts that missed the race are going all out to run down Bitcoins, betraying an inability to digest their lack of vision. Morgan Stanley, for instance, even had no qualms saying that the Bitcoin’s value is zero.

A flashback to 2014 brings up Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates being upbeat about Bitcoins. “Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient,” he was quoted as saying in an interview to Bloomberg.

Deep into philanthropy, Mr Gates also tempered his enthusiasm with some cautions that has stopped his foundation from using bitcoins. The main reason, according to him, is that “the poor shouldn’t have a currency whose value goes up and down a lot compared to their local currency.” He remains excited about the blockchain technology that powers the Bitcoin.

Anand Rapid Chess King Again

India’s chess superstar Viswanathan Anand reclaimed some lost glory earlier this week. He won the World Rapid Chess championship after a gap of 15 years at age 48, silencing both his detractors and fans alike who had been saying it was time for him to retire.

He also came third in the world blitz championship with Carlsen winning the title.

Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis

The Rohingya humanitarian crisis exposed the lack of compassion of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, bowing to pressures within Buddhist Myanmar.

While persecution, rapes and killings led to more than a million of the Rohingya population flee Myanmar and take shelter in neighbouring countries. Bangladesh was the most generous of the host nations, accommodating more than half a million of the refugees.

It was a year that saw many terror strikes as well, including one at Manchester at the Ariane Grande concert. But that was minor when weighed against the more than 7000 attacks worldwide, many of them carried out by ISIS, resulting in loss of around 8000 lives.

North Korea Nuclear Threat

North Korea continued to give the thumbs down to the democratic world, conducting nuclear tests at will and its leader, Kim Jung-un, audaciously refusing to listen to reason and counsel, holding out war threats. A weak Trump-led U.S. and a China that stands by North Korea continues to pose the risk of a nuclear war posed by North Korea.

On the technology and business front, Avaya became bankrupt and came out of it in 2017 while continuing to struggle to win business and retain existing customers.

Modi’s New Lows

The elections in the Indian State of Gujarat brought out the worst of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who shamelessly played caste politics by twisting a statement made by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Mr Modi hit out at the Congress, using vile language, with the allegation that party was trying to erase the contributions of Dr Ambedkar to the country. In response, Mr Aiyar said, in Hindi, it was low-level behaviour at an event that saw the opening of a centre dedicated to Dr Ambedkar. If that was unbecoming of a Prime Minister, Mr Modi sank to even worse depths by claiming that Mr Aiyar derided low-caste people. He also let loose a string of lies and nasty comments against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Cloud Wars

The cloud turf got bigger and more intense with Microsoft, Google and Alibaba becoming major challengers to Amazon. This amid outages involving the likes of Amazon and Microsoft bringing focus on the reliability of public clouds and drawing businesses to hybrid clouds.

Businesses also had their usual share of mergers and acquisitions. One of them was the merger of CSC and HPE Enterprise Services to become DXC.

Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, my employer, completed the acquisition of Interactive Intelligence to extend its sway over the Customer Experience space.

Sibling Squabbles Hit Singapore PM

In Singapore, the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, was caught in public embarrassment with some sibling squabbles spilling out of the closet. While it got international tongues wagging, Singapore is in safe hands and what is essentially a family spat has not been allowed to impact governance.

No change is anticipated in 2018 – and this may well be so globally, grappling with the same old issues from terrorism to the economy!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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