The Omicron lockdown, the invasion of Taiwan and Donald Trump's revenge
In 2022 the pandemic abated, but the omni-crisis rolled on. This was the year that Russia invaded Ukraine, the West was threatened with nuclear war and populism staged a comeback. In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson fell, Liz Truss imploded and, after seventy years as monarch, Queen Elizabeth II died.
In fact, so much happened that it’s easy to forget the things which might have happened — or were supposed to — but didn’t. These non-events matter, too.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
This time last year we were bracing ourselves for the impact of a new Covid variant, but the worst fears of epidemiologists about Omicron were not realised. In the UK, there was no return to lockdown; in the EU, governments that had laid the groundwork for compulsory vaccination stayed their needles. Instead, the frontiers of the biosecurity state were rolled back. Even the Chinese are relenting.
Speaking of China, there was no invasion of Taiwan this year. There were threats from Xi Jinping, but he resisted the temptation to strike while the West’s attention was occupied in Eastern Europe. Then again, it may have been the failure of Putin’s blitzkrieg that persuaded Xi not to launch one of his own. Or, who knows, the Chinese leader may retain a shred of human decency. We can always hope.
Meanwhile, the biggest thing that didn’t happen in the USA this year was a ‘red wave’ in the midterm elections. The Republican flop leaves only uncertainty in its wake. President Biden lives to fight another day, but may yet prove too doddery to run for a second term. The return to office of Donald Trump is less likely than it was before the midterms, but can’t be ruled out. And then there’s Florida, where the rise of Ron DeSantis suggests the red wave may be merely delayed, not cancelled. The fate of America still hangs in the balance.
Away from politics, this has been a great year for non-events in technology. For instance, cryptocurrencies won’t be taking over the world just yet. A sequence of mishaps culminating in the FTX fiasco has comprehensively pricked that bubble. As for social media, Elon Musk is turning Twitter upside down, but tech-wise what he’s doing there isn’t exactly rocket science. Nor is what we’ve seen of the metaverse so far — indeed, the most eye-catching announcement from Meta this year was literally pedestrian.
Ah, but what about artificial intelligence? Well, we’ve certainly had fun messing around with Dall-E and ChatGPT, but at some point we need to see AI change the real world — by which I mean our everyday lives. For instance, when will we get the self-driving cars we were promised? Not this year, that’s for sure.
Personally, I’d welcome our robot overlords (if they existed). But for the time being, we’re stuck with the human variety. UK politics in 2022 has certainly been eventful, but the premiership of Rishi Sunak feels distinctly anti-climactic. Both Johnson and Truss went out with a bang, but we need more than a whimper from the current premier. Sunak doesn’t have to call an election for another year or two, but unless he articulates some sort of vision he might as well hand over to Keir Starmer right now.
Admittedly, the PM’s been busy cleaning up the mess left behind by his predecessors; but to provide no hint as to what his wider purpose might be — no hint at all — is yet another non-event of the year.