Elon Musk, the Crypto Crash, and the Coming AI Takeover: 2022’s Tech Mayhem Radically Changed Our Lives

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In the early-20th century, long before there was Twitter and the internet, iPhones and AI, Bitcoin and ChatGPT, when the skies of the Industrial Revolution were filled with dark soot and smokestacks and the streets around the world were a cavalcade of trotting horses and carriages, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, then the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and the first head of the Soviet Union, said the following: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” If Lenin were alive today, I’m sure the saying would sound a little more like this: “There are minutes where nothing happens; and there are minutes where decades happen.”

Everything is now an endless scroll that even if you spend an inordinate amount of your day in that vortex of limitless content and news and videos and gifs, you’ll still miss a million things. What was once a day’s worth of news is now projectile vomited onto the internet a million times an hour. Who do we have to thank for this perpetual anxiety? Silicon Valley, of course. And I’m here to tell you this is about to get much worse.

This was the year of tech chaos. Just take a look at the busiest corner of the internet to see how quickly things can change in today’s technoscape. It has literally been less than two months since Elon Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion, and since then, more than 5,000 people have been let go from the company (or quit), advertising revenue is down as some companies have reportedly lost confidence in Musk’s leadership, the company has changed directions more times than I can count, and the net worth of Twitter, according to analysts, is now just a measly $13 billion. By the time I finish writing this column, Musk may no longer be CEO of Twitter (after all, he said, based on a Twitter poll, he would step down when he finds a replacement who is “foolish” enough to take over). 

Of course, Twitter is not the only vertiginous change over the past year. On January 1, 2022, a single Bitcoin was worth $47,738.59. Today, it’s since fallen 65% to be worth just over $16,000—and no one would be surprised if Bitcoin fell to zero, or rose back to $50,000, by the end of 2022. Remember NFTs? At the turn of the year they were all anyone could talk about. There were apes and penguins and movie stills and record albums and squiggly lines and John Cleese had an NFT bridge to sell you, and now, many of these things are in liquidation or have fallen by hundreds of millions of dollars. Jack Dorsey’s first tweet was turned into an NFT and purchased for $2.9 million in March of last year, and by April of this year, was worth only $280. Now the celebrities behind the BAYC, or Bored Ape Yacht Club, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jimmy Fallon, and Guy Oseary, are being sued in a class-action lawsuit for urging people to buy “losing investments.”

At the start of the year, Coinbase’s stock, which had just gone public a handful of months earlier, was worth around $250 a share. Today, it has fallen 85% to $34 a share. That’s a drop in market capitalization from $52 billion to $7.8 billion. Tesla stock, and market value, has been more than cut in half during the same time frame, shedding almost half a trillion dollars. The same is true for Meta, which lost hundreds of billions of dollars in value after Mark Zuckerberg decided the future of Facebook was the metaverse, and barely anyone on earth agreed with him. The entire NASDAQ composite, which started the year off at a high of 15,000 points is now bobbing around at about 10,000—compared to the last decade, where the composite has gone in the complete opposite direction.

There was some upside to all the tech mayhem this year. For decades now, we’ve watched tech companies trample over the laws, and generally just fuck over customers—us!—and get away with it. And yet this year, Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty on four counts of fraud and sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for her crimes. Sam Bankman-Fried, the creator of the FTX crypto exchange, who had espoused that he was running his financial institution worth over $30 billion at its peak only for “effective altruism” (as in, he was making money to give it all away), was arrested too, after he bankrupted the company in what appears to be a Bernie Madoff–level disaster, by allegedly spending billions of dollars of customers money.

And then there’s the biggest technological change of all over the past year, the advent of AI and ChatGPT, which didn’t even exist a month ago, never mind at the beginning of 2022. These artificial intelligent technologies may still be in their early stages, but the speed with which they are growing and the impact they could have on jobs (especially white-collar and creative jobs) is truly chilling and should give everyone pause. Seeing ChatGPT write legal briefs and short stories and screenplays is truly one of the most astounding—and terrifying—technological advancements I’ve personally seen over the past two decades as a technology reporter. 

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