2023: In Hindsight
Jayan Luharia - Jan. 2, 2024 - 11 min read - #Culture
As the new year dawns and we begin to enter the thick of the 2020's and all that the turbulent decade has to offer, it is time to reflect on the events that defined the passing year. For each calendar month, there is a specific topic of focus selected: these topics vary in subject and include natural disaster, conflict, the film industry and more.
This year has been an extraordinary year for AI. Not only has AI grown exponentially through the usage of such tools as generative AI like ChatGPT and DALL-E, but it has also firmly entered domestic life and has become a tool at the ready disposal of anyone and everyone. In particular, ChatGPT has particularly impacted 2023 in the AI world, reaching an estimated 100 million monthly active users in January - a mere 2 months after its launch in November. The growth of ChatGPT is a never-before-seen phenomenon, with UBS analysts writing: "in 20 years following the internet space, we cannot recall a faster ramp in a consumer internet app". In 2024, we may expect the continued implementation of AI into everyday life as the industry develops.
FEBRUARY: Türkiye-Syria Earthquakes
2023 was a year rife with natural hazards and disasters, with the Türkiye-Syria earthquakes being a notable example. On the 6th of February 2023, an earthquake with a Moment Magnitude of 7.8 struck southern and central Türkiye and also northern and western Syria. A few hours later, the earthquake was followed by a 7.7 earthquake 95km from the epicentre of the first. This natural disaster had drastic consequences on the Turkish and Syrian populations, with an estimated 14 million people affected. Furthermore, the UN estimated that about 1.5 million people had been left homeless by the disaster, with the destruction requiring the building of 500,000 new housing units to compensate for the severe damage and destruction. In perspective, this was the deadliest earthquake disaster worldwide since the Haitian earthquake 13 years prior.
MARCH: UBS buys Credit Suisse
A monumental moment in the world of banking and finance occurred in March 2023 when Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse agreed a bargain price of $3.25 billion to be bought by UBS. Effectively, this was a rescue attempt orchestrated by the Swiss authority in order to prevent a potential meltdown of the banking sector, both on a national scale but also on an international scale due to the reach of the two corporations. UBS agreed on the 19th March, with the takeover creating a bank with nearly $1.7 trillion in assets and an international financial crisis being averted.
APRIL: Sudanese Civil War
After long-boiling political tensions in Sudan, war began on the 15th of April 2023. The conflict is between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The SAF is lead by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the current de facto leader of Sudan whereas the RSF is lead by Hemedti, one of the most powerful Sudanese statesmen. The media presentation has lead to the view of this conflict stemming from a disagreement between these two men - it is worth noting that al-Burhan and Hemedti were actually allied in the 2019 coup d'état in which Omar al-Bashir was overthrown. The cause of disagreement (and essentially the entire civil war) was over the proposition of the incorporation of the RSF into the national army, of which Hemedti strongly opposed as it would limit his powers and influence over Sudanese operations. The political instability in Sudan shows no sign of ending, with UN Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths calling it "one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history".
MAY: Coronation of King Charles III
A historic day in the British calendar in 2023 was the coronation of King Charles III on the 6th of May. This was an event not seen since 1953 with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and was the subject of much attention on both the national and international stage. Perhaps, it is the spectacle of British tradition in action that makes the coronation such a landmark event. Alternatively, it may be that taxpayers want a glimpse of what they are actually paying for. Regardless, viewing figures remained high, with an average of 18.8 million people tuning in to watch as King Charles III was crowned at Westminster Abbey, making him the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned there.
JUNE: Affirmative Action Ruling
A significant ruling in American politics occurred on the 29th of June 2023, with the US Supreme Court (of which there is a 6-3 conservative supermajority) ruling against affirmative action in Higher Education. Affirmative action was intended to raise the number of underrepresented minority students at selective US higher education colleges and universities, including the much-coveted Ivy Leagues. Despite this, the Court ruled that affirmative action is a violation of the US constitution's equal protection clause, thus leading to a reversal of the progress made in order to provide an equality of opportunity in the US education system. Whether affirmative action is the correct route to attaining this is debatable, however.
JULY: SAG-AFTRA Strike
The strike of the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors' Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and the WGA (Writers' Guild of America), beginning on the 14th of July, lead to the biggest interruption to the American film and television industries since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic 3 years prior. The strike was for better pay and working conditions due to the present nature of streaming in the entertainment industry and the growing threat of AI - AI without regulation could be used to reproduce an actor's likeness or performance, reducing the autonomy of the individual actor.
AUGUST: The Barbenheimer Phenomenon
Amongst all the unease in the American film industry, the greatest cinematic event of the year occurred. "Barbenheimer" was the word in everyone's mouths in the summer of 2023, with the event helping provide a much-needed boost to box-office revenue in an industry impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent strikes. Barbenheimer was centred on the idea of watching the films as a double feature, and collectively the two films grossed nearly $2.4 billion, with Barbie passing $1 billion at the box office on the 6th August and Oppenheimer passing the $500 million mark at the same date.
SEPTEMBER: Mummified Aliens
In September 2023, two bodies believed to be evidence of alien life were presented to the Congress of Mexico by journalist and UFO researcher Jaime Maussan, with Maussan claiming that the mummies were non-human specimens not related to any other species in our world. The event reached viral status on social media, drawing in much commentary, debate and general scepticism, with Brian Cox stating that the artefacts were "way too humanoid" to be real.
OCTOBER: Israel-Hamas War
The current ongoing war between Israel and Hamas began on the 7th of October 2023, with the conflict mainly occurring in and around the Gaza Strip. Hamas stated that this attack was in response to a number of factors that have lead to the restraining of the Palestinian people: the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements as well as Israeli settler violence. The resulting war has affected the lives of many Palestinians and Israelis, with many Palestinians and Israelis losing their homes and the death toll ever-rising. The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed that 21,978 people had been killed in Gaza as of January 1st, 2024. It is important to note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing since 1948, and is one of the world's longest-continuing conflicts.
NOVEMBER: Javier Milei's Election
In a truly historic political turn of events, Javier Milei beat Sergio Massa to the post, being elected as the President of Argentina in November 2023. This came as a surprise to many, as Argentina has historically been associated with labour and left-leaning/centre-left Peronism. The election of Javier Milei represents a paradigm shift for the country - a swing from left-wing to right-wing. Milei has promised drastic changes, including the dollarisation of the Argentinian economy by ditching the peso and the removal of the central bank in an attempt to reduce inflation which was at a stratospheric level of over 160% in November 2023.
At this year's climate summit, hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, there was a couple of key conclusions representing a gradual shift in the direction towards climate action. One of which was a collective agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. Furthermore, an agreement to fund assistance for those impacted by climate change (loss and damage) was reached. The fund will initially be managed by the World Bank.
There are many notable events that occurred during 2023 that didn't make this list, such as the sinking of the Titan submersible and the BRICS agreement to add 5 new nations to the group. However, as we enter the new year, we can expect a whole host of new events in all walks of life to grab our attention and engage discussion. With that said, here's to 2024.