took office during the 2008 financial crisis. He immediately set about
shifting federal funds to the market sector to stabilise the situation,
and also created new legislation concerning the government's control
over economic activities. Medvedev's vision of the economy was one focused
on technologies and innovation, while reducing the economy's dependence
on oil and gas revenues.
of his key policies was the fight against corruption, which he worked
towards with new laws concerning governmental self-awareness. One of
Medvedev's first moves in office was to appoint former president Putin as Prime Minister. Putin's extreme influence and high popularity
caused some to speculate about a "tandem rule," with Medvedev
and Putin in a duel-headed executive position.
to a poll conducted in September 2009 by the Levada Center, in which
1,600 people from across Russia took part, 13% believed Medvedev held
the most power, 32% Putin and 48% both (7% failed to answer). However,
Medvedev affirmed his position of strength, stating, "I am the
leader of this state, I am the head of this state, and the division
of power is based on this."
was a strong tropical cyclone that caused the worst natural disaster
in Burma's history. After forming in the North Indian Ocean it
moved quickly towards the coast. Upon making landfall it caused massive
destruction, with peak wind speeds of 135 mph (215 km/h), making it
a category 4 on the Saffir–Simpson Scale. It continued inland
for over a day before dissipating.
international aid was immediately offered, the unstable political conditions
made relief efforts difficult. The Burmese military regime initially
resisted foreign intervention, and afterwards continued to hamper efforts
to import food and medical supplies.
done was estimated at over $10 billion. The official death toll
was set at 138,366, but the actual number could have been
much higher, the government likely having minimised it to reduce political
fallout. Whatever the actual number, Cyclone Nargis was among the
deadliest natural disasters in human history.
prices hit a record high
July 2008, oil prices rose to a record high of $147 a barrel following
concern over recent Iranian missile tests. However, prices declined
to just $33 a barrel in December, less than a quarter of the peak price
reached four months earlier. A strong contributor to this decline was
the drop in demand for oil in the USA, as well as the global equities
Internet continues to boom
the ongoing financial crisis, the Internet continued to grow at a phenomenal
pace. By 2008, Google had processed over 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion)
unique URLs, whilst the number of individual web pages was growing by
several billion per day and the number of individual users
had reached 1.5 billion.
could now be accessed virtually anywhere, by numerous means. Mobile
phones, smartphones, datacards, laptops, handheld games consoles and
cellular routers allowed users to connect to the Internet from anywhere
that had a cellular network supporting that device's technology. Broadband
was becoming ubiquitous.
trends included the rise of social networking sites (such as Facebook),
social bookmarking (such as Digg) and a huge increase in blogging,
micro-blogging, wiki sites, music downloads, video sharing and podcasts.
gaming was now becoming immensely popular. It was no longer a niche
market, but very much part of mainstream entertainment – with some games
generating more revenue than blockbuster movies. Users could participate
in highly realistic battle simulations (such as the Call of Duty series), racing games, or MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role
Playing Games) such as World of Warcraft; or they could explore
and interact with entire virtual worlds (as in Second Life)
and engage in the trading of virtual goods and services.
high street retailers – especially those dealing in purely digital products
such as games, DVDs or music CDs – were now finding themselves increasingly
outmoded by online retailers who offered greater speed, convenience
and cost savings.
extract images directly from the brain
a major scientific breakthrough, a Japanese company developed a way
of analysing electrical signals sent from the visual cortex and converting
them to digital images on screen. In one
of the experiments, test subjects were shown the six letters in the
word "neuron". The computer successfully reconstructed the
word on screen by measuring their brain activity.*
Breakthrough in facial CGI
In 2008, new
modelling technology was pioneered by California-based Image Metrics, enabling the most minute details of facial expressions to be captured
and recreated. Overcoming a barrier known as the 'uncanny
valley' – the perception that animation looks less realistic as
it approaches human likeness – could now be seen as a realistic possibility. An example of this technology is demonstrated in the video below, which shows an entirely
computer-generated woman called "Emily". With further advances, the line between what appears real and what is merely rendered will
blur completely by 2020.*
hosts the Olympic Games
Summer Olympics were held in Beijing and featured a spectacular opening
ceremony. The choice of China as a host country was the subject
of criticism by some politicians and non-governmental organisations, however,
concerned about China's human rights record. China and others, meanwhile,
warned against politicising the Games. At the closing ceremony, IOC
president Jacques Rogge declared them a "truly exceptional
Games", after earlier asserting that the IOC had "absolutely
no regrets" in choosing Beijing as host. China won the most gold medals with 51, followed by the U.S. with 36. However, the U.S. won the most medals overall, with 110 compared to China's 100.