2023 was defined by conflict, innovation, disasters, and hope. Protracted wars continued while new ones flared up. Major leaps in technology prompted excitement and fear. Natural disasters caused death and destruction.
There were many significant events that I didn’t include in this list. Ongoing conflicts in Haiti, Ethiopia, Syria, Yemen, and others continue to wage on. Natural disasters in Mexico, Libya, China, and other places destroyed communities. There were incredible advances in science such as India landing a probe on the south pole of the moon. The business world was shook up with collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and FTX. Cultural phenomena also captured global attention, such as Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and Barbenheimer.
But this list of eight represents, in my opinion, the largest and most significant events that happened around the world in 2023.
1. The Rise of ChatGPT
Though ChatGPT was released on November 30, 2022, it really gained momentum and wide scale usage in 2023. In the first few months, OpenAI released newer versions of ChatGPT that significantly improved its understanding of questions, delivery of answers, and human-like conversation.
ChatGPT was widely used in all forms of content creation, including brainstorming ideas, writing articles and essays, developing code for apps and websites, answering complex questions, and interacting directly with people through support and chat programs.
Various forms of AI were being integrated into the software and apps we use everyday, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite. There was also an explosion of generative AI in media, such from images to video to audio.
While there was excitement in potential of AI for work productivity and advancements in science and medicine, it’s also been met with concern and criticism. Debate around regulation of artificial intelligence comes in the wake of AI replacing human jobs, generating fake content that’s indiscernible from what’s real, and copyright infringement due to generative AI taking both the creative works and the physical likeness of people.
2. Turkey-Syria Earthquake – February 6
On February 6, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the countries of Syria and Turkey (now known as Türkiye). It was followed by a second 7.7 earthquake hours later. The earthquakes were some of the deadliest in history, killing over 50,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless. Other countries and relief organizations rushed in to provide aid. However, it was more difficult to deliver aid into parts of Syria due to the ongoing conflict there.
3. Russia-Ukraine War Enters 2nd Year – February 24
February 24 marked one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. While Ukraine has held off Russia’s invasion for much longer than expected, battle lines have stalled on the southeastern border. Russia continues to bombard Ukrainian cities with missiles, while Ukraine is inflicting heavy damages to Russian military with drones.
The death toll continues to climb, with 10,000 civilians killed and 35,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed. 5.1 million people are displaced within the country and over 6 million refugees have fled. However, financial support for Ukraine is waning as war fatigue sets in with Western countries.
4. Finland Joins NATO – April 4
Part of Russia’s reasoning for invading Ukraine was to create more of a buffer country between itself and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) a military alliance of European and North American countries. Russia felt threatened by NATO’s growing membership and Ukraine’s sway towards Europe.
Yet Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted several neutral countries to apply for NATO membership in fear for Russia’s growing aggression. Finland was the first country to join NATO after the invasion, greatly expanding NATO’s border along Russia. Sweden is in process and Ukraine is aspiring, but cannot join while in active war.
5. Civil War in Sudan – April 15
On April 15, explosions and gunfire broke out in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum. The fighting occurred between two military groups: the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. Sudan was previously run by a council of generals with a timeline to transition to civilian rule. By that deadline passed and disagreements between two generals erupted in to conflict.
Fighting has spread from the capital throughout the country, making an alread dire humanitarian crisis even worse. 10,000 civilians have been killed. 5.6 million Sudanese have been displaced from their homes, with 1.5 million of them fleeing as refugees to neighboring countries.
Multiple attempts at negotiations have failed due to broken ceasefires. Violence against villages in Darfur have are raising concerns of a renewed genocide. Neighboring countries have begun taking sides in the internal conflict, sparking fears that this may expand into a regional war.
6. Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh – September 19
Nagorno-Karabakh is as an autonomous region within Azerbaijan with an ethnic Armenian majority. Over the past several years, there have been multiple conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan over this region.
When Azerbaijan attacked Artsakh, it surrendered within 24 hours and its government was dissolved. This led to a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians fleeing to Armenia for fear of persecution as Artsakh becomes absorbed into Azerbaijan. With a few weeks, over 100,000 ethnic Armenian refugees fled into Armenia, which was almost the entire population of Artsakh.
7. Israel-Hamas War in Gaza – October 7
Prior to this most recent war, Israel and Palestine have had a long history of conflict, along with proxy countries and groups, have had a long history of conflict. On October 7, Hamas launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip. They killed 1200 civilians and kidnapped 240 hostages, including women and children, with reports of rape and torture.
Israel retaliated with air strikes and ground assaults on Gaza that are still ongoing. As Israel controls the borders around Gaza, residents have nowhere to flee from the bombardment. More than 50% of Gaza has been destroyed, including strikes on hospitals and refugee camps. Over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed and 1.9 million people are displaced – about 85% of the population.
There is a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza as aid organizations struggle to get in through the border. Calls for ceasefires have failed, and both Israel and Hamas have intensified their attacks. Conflict with Israel has expanded to the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, igniting fears that this could turn into a full-scale war in the Middle East.
8. New Record for Global Warming
2023 was the hottest year ever recorded. Average global temperatures reached 1.46 degrees celsius above pre-industrial, making it the hottest it’s been in the 174 years we’ve been recording global temperatures. Combined with the El Niño phenomenon, there were devastating climate disasters around the world this this past year.
Have any of these events impacted you personally? Was there something else that should’ve been included in the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.