Last weekend, world leaders, security experts, and business executives flocked to the Hotel Bayrischer Hof in Munich for the 55th annual Munich Security Conference. What's the Munich Security Conference? Think of it a bit like Davos, but with policymakers in dark suits rather than billionaires in Gore-Tex.
This past year we've addressed some of history's most important innovations in our Today in Technology series. Our focus is always on what we can learn from the past and apply to today's issues.
Today we look back at more recent history – the past 12 months, to be exact. It was a momentous year for technology, with the phrase "Techlash" commonly used to refer not just to one but several issues which gave the public pause about the role of technology and the tech sector in people's lives. As the calendar turns to 2019, we consider what the last year will likely mean to what will surely be an important new year. Read our list of developments to think about.
1. PRIVACY: Privacy protection deepens in Europe and spreads to the United States
2. DISINFORMATION: The controversy roils social media
3. PROTECTIONISM IN THE PACIFIC: Tech comes between the United States and China
Speaking of trans-Atlantic rifts, we've written previously about the US pushback against Huawei, arguably the world's most geopolitically significant technology company. The Trump administration has been trying to convinceits European allies to ban the Chinese tech giant from their next-generation 5G information networks, citing national security risks. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even warned of consequences for countries that don't toe Washington's line on the issue.
Over the past 20 years, hundreds of millions of people in China have been pulled out of poverty by their country's staggering economic growth. Beijing today is a rising power on the global stage. That's all pretty great, and yet the country still ranks beneath war-torn Libya and perpetually melancholy Russia in the United Nations World Happiness Report. This week's Economist hazards a guess about what really makes people smile or scowl, but here's how China stacks up for joy against other countries.
Nigeria's delayed elections – State officials postponed Nigeria's presidential and parliamentary election just hours before voting was to set to begin last weekend. President Muhammadu Buhari said that anyone who would tamper with the results would do so "at the expense of his life." The opposition called this threat "license to kill" and a "direct call for jungle justice." The votes will now be held this Saturday, February 23. The risk of a disputed election outcome and a prolonged period of political uncertainty for Africa's largest economy continues to rise.
Rebel UK lawmakers – Eight MPs broke away from the UK's opposition Labour Party this week. Their newly formed Independent Group's chief gripes are Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's ill-defined stance on Brexit and alleged tolerance of anti-Semitism within the party. The dissidents also hope to attract anti-Brexit Tories to their centrist vision of "evidence-based" policymaking. Three members of governing party quickly joined their ranks. We are watching this despite a history of failed centrist breakaway movements in the UK and some early stumbles out of the gate. Anything that could potentially break two years of Brexit deadlock is welcome at this point.
378,000: The global shipping industry relies on the labor of 1.2 million professional mariners. More than a quarter of them – 378,000 – are from the Philippines. As competition has risen from cheaper crews elsewhere in Asia, the concerns of Filipino seamen, who are a huge source of remittances, are becoming an important issue in domestic politics.
80: Of the millions of migrants in Africa who leave their countries in search of security and economic opportunity every year, around 80 percent stay on the continent. Five of the world's top ten refugee-hosting countries are in Africa.
8: A new report from cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike says that Russia's hackers are the swiftest in the world – they can get into networks and start extracting data 8 times faster than their nearest competitors, the North Koreans.