Complex Made Simple

7 reasons to be optimistic about 2022 and beyond

We look optimistically at the events that will shape the planet in 2022

We could see the first large sustained decrease in electricity costs in over half a century We’re in a golden age of biotech wonders By March, as many as 1 billion vaccine doses are scheduled to arrive in Africa

Delta, Omicron, inflation, lockdowns, travel restrictions, and more were exhausting events in 2021.

But are better times coming? We look optimistically at the events that will shape the planet in 2022.  

1- Green energy costs down

In the past 10 years, the price of solar electricity has declined by 90% while the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries has increased by 90%. We could see the first large sustained decrease in electricity costs in over half a century.

2- Solving disease outbreaks

We’re in a golden age of biotech wonders, like mRNA vaccines. Within a decade, we could fully map out the genetic origins of complex diseases such as multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia and scientists have opened the library of the human genome, and we’re really starting to find our way around.

3- AI in media

The research lab OpenAI has built a program called GPT-3 that can, among other things, summarize articles, papers, or books of any length in plain English.   

4- Not greenwashing

Rebecca Henderson, Author of ‘Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire’ said that the pandemic highlighted how fragile things are and that you can’t just plan for business as usual. She added that companies are claiming they are going net-zero or totally zero by 2035 or 2050, and British Petroleum (BP) are in fact investing in wind, hydrogen, and solar. “Then I checked out all the other big oil companies, and they’re all starting to make multibillion-dollar investments. I was looking at this thinking even if it is greenwashing, it’s really interesting.”

5- Digital mental health

Emma Lawrance, Mental Health Innovations Fellow at Imperial College London, said that in many ways digital hasn’t yet lived up to the hype, with many tools either really effective but not user friendly, or really commercially appealing but not providing much real improvement. “My hope is that digital mental health will help facilitate connection, not be a replacement for it.”  

6- Vaccination goes global

In 2021, COVID-19 vaccines were shot into more than 4 billion arms worldwide, with most of those people receiving two or even three doses. But that unprecedented global campaign has also been grossly inequitable, with millions of high-risk people in low-income countries never receiving their first. In 2022, this picture will rapidly improve.

By March, as many as 1 billion doses are scheduled to arrive in Africa—in theory, enough to fully vaccinate 70% of the continent’s population, up from only 8% at the start of December. Global production capacity has ramped up, so that vaccines against new variants will be distributed more rapidly, and the next pandemic should see the unconscionable gap between high- and low-income countries close much faster.

7- Economies to bounce back

The most recent IMF numbers suggest the world’s richest economies shrunk by 4.5% in 2020 but grew by 5.2% in 2021. Barring an omicron-induced collapse, they are projected to grow another 4.5% in 2022. Those two years of strong economic performance will not only make up for the 2020 crash but also put advanced economies back about where pre-pandemic forecasts had them.

The picture is mixed for low- and middle-income countries: Despite stronger growth than advanced economies in 2021 and 2022, they’re still not expected to make up the gap to pre-pandemic forecasts. However, safety nets in countries around the world had more than 2.4 billion recipients, a sign that the world is getting better at handling poverty and economic shocks in the most direct and effective way possible: giving people cash.