In retrospect, these seem like quiet, easy times, although of course they weren’t. Everything seemed to work. As a symbol, the 2008 Beijing Olympics were an unprecedented success: Spectacular (205 records beaten!), grandiose, popular (4.5 billion viewers, all screentypes considered), safe and very profitable! China did justice to its new status as a world giant. Sure, doping ran rampant, especially in China’s teams, and athletes and spectators alike came back to their own polluted metropolis feeling that nothing could really be worse than Beijing, Al Gore was touring the world with yet another frightening movie, but what the heck: We had fun; money, information and images flowed; innovation happened all over the place. The system worked.
Race to the top
That shared feeling gave Rudy Giuliani the U.S. presidency in November, 2008. Americans and others felt they needed leadership for growth and safety, not abstract, future-facing, planetary principles. «Clean» growth was fine, as long as it was fast growth. The fledgling discussions that should have led to a second Kyoto round by 2009 were soon abandoned when it became clear that neither Russia, nor the U.S. would sign, and when China, in its bid for greatness, announced it was giving up its «One child» policy.
Sure, we were aware of what was coming, although on an intellectual plane. TV news reported on extreme climate events, meters of rain in Britain while Eastern and Southern Europe suffered draughts and scorching heat. But most of it happened far away and was gone in a few weeks. It was hard to see the pattern clearly, however many blogs, prophets, reports and rockstars poked it right in your face.
But it was just too great a time. If you were into Web 2.0, 3.0, mobile or ubicomp, you could invent all you wanted and implement it, get funding and millions of users in a matter of weeks. With people interacting, cooperating, building things together online, it seemed like if the web’s original vision was coming true, and this time, with viable business models. Biotech, neuroscience and nanotech were making fast progress, yielding new cures and diagnoses, better GMOs, spectacular new materials and a few less publicized drugs and methods that mostly soldiers, movie stars and aspiring champions took. New products came onto the market all the time, consumers liked them, emerging countries contributed to growing the market and keeping prices down, while their population got access to western affluence and asked for nothing better.