Hopes and fears

In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. As Isabel Hilton asks: What does 2006 have in store? (Part one)
Charles Chadwyck-Healey
22 December 2005

I am buying a house in Orford on England’s Suffolk coast, on the marshes within a few hundred metres of the sea, so I am hoping that the effects of global warming will remain indiscernible. I expect that bird flu and global warming will continue to be over-discussed and hope that both will remain firmly in the future so that we can tell each other how important they are without having to do anything about them.

I am hoping that in the United Kingdom the Conservative Party will become a credible opposition and that new leaders in the UK and France will join Angela Merkel in bringing energy and intelligence to Europe’s sclerotic economies. I expect that General Motors will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and that Microsoft will make a major acquisition to protect its position.

In the UK the decline of the old industries and the growth of the new will be seen in the newspaper business where the migration of classified advertising from print to electronic will erode the profitability of regional newspapers and the viability of the national dailies they support.

The discontinuity between content and technology will show in the continuing decline in the quality and variety of programmes broadcast by the traditional UK networks while IPTV (Internet Protocol Television, in which digital TV programmes are delivered via broadband) will be adopted by consumers. This will transform the TV from a passive viewing box to an interactive gadget for downloading films, viewing and emailing digital photographs and home video and gaining access to an ever-increasing range of channels – with no guarantee of any improvement in content.

Digital photography will entirely eclipse chemical photography in 2006 and I am hoping that new papers, new printers, better inks and better digital cameras will compensate for the disappearance of old favourites made by Kodak, Ilford and Agfa. Old and new technologies can coexist. Irving Penn rediscovered and mastered the 19th century techniques of platinum/palladium printing in the 1970s and the exhibition of these prints at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 2005 confirmed him as our greatest living photographer.

I am hoping that by the fifth anniversary of 9/11 Americans will understand that their government’s reaction has been more damaging to western democracies than the event itself. I fear that by the end of 2006 Guantánamo Bay will still have inmates and that the US government will have been forced to admit that “extraordinary renditions” have taken place in Europe.

The first sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker since 1944 in the swampland forests of Arkansas in 2004 was the most exciting US ornithological event for sixty years since the bird was thought extinct. The woodpeckers are the most important thing to come out of Arkansas since the Clintons. A team from Cornell University are now searching for them before the trees are back in leaf. I hope that 2006 will be the year they find them.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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