Last December, 2019 was retrospectively named the year of ‘The Wager on Sustainability’. Given the events of this current year, it turned out to be a winning bet.
What was 2020 about? I am calling it the year of ‘The Advent of Virtuality’. The health crisis has shaken old habits and forced individuals to explore new ways of living: Socializing, shopping, entertainment, gaming, exercising, business meetings, coaching, corporate finance transactions and even travel have had to rely to an exceptional extent on virtual reality. While the experience has been virtual, some of the economic benefits have been tangible when considering the savings of resources and labor productivity.
George Berkeley (1685-1753), an Irish philosopher, argued that reality is perception as captured by his famous quote: ‘to be is to be perceived (or to perceive)’. In his master argument, he contended that no material things exist independently from the mind. It can thus be deduced that if reality is purely virtual, then virtuality can be real. ‘Ready Player One’ (2018) by Steven Spielberg illustrates how quickly the world could entirely migrate from real to virtual, as anyone owning a PlayStation or Xbox could imagine. Running a company? Buying and selling assets? Luring investors? Creating value for stakeholders? It will not take much time before this can be fully virtualized.
From that point, will digital assets need to have a real twin? Why would the world, once essentially virtual, be constrained by a physical reality? Future generations will have to decide how to reframe the meaning of life in that context.
For now, virtuality has been a partially satisfactory experience only, punctuated by ‘You’re on mute!’. Hearing and seeing in two dimensions have eclipsed 3D-vision, smelling, touching and tasting. A readjustment towards the physical reality is overdue, starting, where safely possible, with the year-end celebrations. And followed by meetings in person next year. Handshakes, hugs, and kisses. That is all I am asking for in 2021.
2020 vs. its peers
2009 – The Great Recession (MSCI index for global equities +30% after a terrible ‘08)
2010 – The BRIC Hope (+11%)
2011 – The European Meltdown (-6%)
2012 – The ‘Whatever-It-Takes’ Moment (+16%)
2013 – The Hypocenter of the ‘Lower For Longer’ Syndrome (+26%)
2014 – The Oil Price Crash (+10%)
2015 – The (Nitro) China Wobbles (+2%)
2016 – The Industrial Recession (+10%)
2017 – The Global Synchronized Recovery (+20%)
2018 – The Geopolitical Attack On Economics (-7%)
2019 – The Wager on Sustainability (+27%)
2020 – The Advent of Virtuality (+12% YTD)