As we reflect on the year 2023, it becomes evident that, once again, the world witnessed a series of key events that will shape the course of history. From overcoming the lingering challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to groundbreaking scientific achievements, geopolitical shifts, and environmental milestones, let’s delve into the top ten defining moments of the year.
Recovering from Covid: Navigating a post-pandemic world
2023 began with nations adjusting their strategies to respond to the global pandemic to mitigate risks and adapt to the changing landscape of the COVID-19 crisis. In a significant shift from its zero-COVID policy, China reopened for tourism, issuing foreign visas for the first time in three years.
At the same time, the Telehealth and Telemedicine Market has boomed in 2023, projected to hit $285.7 billion worldwide by 2028, fuelled by the rising demand for remote healthcare services post-COVID-19. Meanwhile, long-COVID challenges persist, affecting over two million in the UK.
Turkey Earthquake: A catastrophe unfolds
On 6th February, a 7.8 Mww earthquake struck southern and central Turkey, causing widespread damage, over 59,000 fatalities, and 121,000 injuries. An aftershock of 7.7 Mww furthered the tragedy as humanitarian aid rushed to help. This devastating seismic event, classified as “major,” caused extensive damage along a 100km fault line. The earthquake caught many off guard due to the region's lack of seismic activities in over 200 years or any warning signs.
The heart-wrenching events of February shook not just the ground but also the lives of those in southern Turkey and northern Syria. The earthquake’s aftermath underscored the need for rapid response and international solidarity in times of crisis.
A year of AI development
In artificial intelligence (AI), 2023 marked a significant leap forward. OpenAI introduced GPT-4, a language model for ChatGPT capable of responding to images and processing up to 25,000 words. In October 2023, the UN announced its AI advisory council, while November saw the EU AI bill be passed into an act, making it the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Also in November, the UK hosted the world’s first-ever AI Safety Summit. These developments demonstrate the global efforts to establish guidelines and regulations for responsible innovation and ethical AI.
The reach of AI expanded further as the Cambridge Dictionary incorporated new AI-related updates, naming ‘Hallucinate’ as the word of the year. This is because large language models (LLMs) have proven capable of generating plausible prose, but they often use false, misleading or made-up ‘facts’, coined ‘hallucinations’.
Ukraine-Russia war escalates: Finland joins NATO
Geopolitical tensions have continued as the Ukraine-Russia War enters another year. Finland’s decision to join NATO in April, marking the alliance’s 31st member, adds a new layer of complexity to the strategic landscape, reshaping alliances and amplifying global concerns.
A new monarch for the UK and Commonwealth, and Coronation celebrations
On 6 May 2023, the year witnessed a historic moment as the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth welcomed a new era with the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey, London. The event captivated the nation, drawing a peak UK television audience of 20.4 million.
Amidst celebrations and protests, the Coronation sparked ambivalence among the British public, as revealed in pre-event surveys. London and Windsor saw both enthusiastic crowds and demonstrations, with 64 arrests.
The Coronation was the first of a British Monarch in the 21st century and the 40th to be held at Westminster Abbey since the Coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066.
Stem cell scientific advancements: crafting synthetic human embryos
On 14 June 2023, stem cell research reached new heights to what seems like a science-fiction discovery with a pioneering breakthrough that could revolutionise the understanding of human development and open doors to innovative medical treatments.
Scientists achieved a groundbreaking feat by creating the first synthetic human embryo from stem cells, eliminating the need for traditional sperm or egg cells.
“Barbenheimer”: A unique cultural phenomenon
On 21 July (and many months leading up to it), the films Barbie and Oppenheimer captivated audiences worldwide, creating a major internet and cultural event known as Barbenheimer.
In a curious fusion of entertainment and culture, the pairing of Barbie and Oppenheimer generated widespread attention, showcasing the evolving culture of online and offline interactions as many flocked to the events dressed up in pink for Barbie or darker, solemn clothes for Oppenheimer.
Climate Change front and centre: Global agreements and records
On 1 August, New York City was declared to have the worst air quality globally due to Canadian wildfires. During the same summer, the world’s oceans reached a record temperature of 20.96 °C, while COP28 saw a consensus to transition away from fossil fuels, and the EU approved a ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2035.
Despite these environmental challenges, the world witnessed a call to action with unprecedented agreements and regulations to combat climate change. From local air quality concerns to global commitments, the year underscored the urgency of addressing climate issues.
Microsoft’s gaming power play: Activision-Blizzard acquisition
On 13 October, Microsoft’s monumental $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard finally received regulatory approval from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and reshaped the gaming landscape. This all-cash transaction, valuing Activision Blizzard at $95.00 per share, positions Microsoft as the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, trailing only Tencent and Sony.
The acquisition includes iconic franchises like “Warcraft,” “Diablo,” “Crash Bandicoot”, “Spyro”, “Overwatch,” “Call of Duty,” and “Candy Crush,” along with global eSports activities through Major League Gaming, involving nearly 10,000 employees worldwide. Beyond a strategic business move, Microsoft seems to be aspiring to be the ultimate gaming destination, akin to the Netflix of gaming, through its Game Pass service. As of 2023, this landmark acquisition is the largest in video game history by transaction value.
Israel-Hamas conflict: A persistent struggleThe ongoing conflict in the Middle East continued to capture international attention. Notably, the conflict escalated when the terrorist organisation Hamas initiated an attack on Israel at an electronic dance music festival on 7 October, resulting in 1,200 casualties and around 240 hostages. In response, the Israeli military launched air strikes on Gaza and a subsequent ground offensive, resulting in over 18,600 reported deaths in Gaza, as per the Gaza Health Ministry. Meanwhile, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) states115 Israeli soldiers lost their lives since the ground offensive’s commencement on 27th October, with a total of 444 soldiers killed since 7th October.
The UN General Assembly, on 12th December, overwhelmingly endorsed a non-binding resolution urging a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
Another year full of Strikes - Throughout 2022 and 2023, university staff, teachers, refuse workers in Edinburgh and Cardiff, doctors, nurses, ambulance workers, train drivers, railway employees, barristers, BBC employees, Telecom, and Royal Mail employees engaged in strikes over various issues.
Online Safety Act -The government passed the Online Safety Bill, making it an Act, a landmark legislation focused on enhancing internet safety, particularly for children.
Donald Trump was arrested - Former President Donald Trump was indicted and arrested in a number of states for his alleged attempts to subvert the presidential election. He's the first president in history to get a mugshot released.