Features & Columns

A Year in Review - 2018

Intro | Year in Review

Looking back on it now, Elon Musk's launching of a Tesla Roadster into space serves as an apt metaphor for 2018.

The year began with a puff of smoke as California's legalization of recreational cannabis use went into effect on Jan. 1. Everyone from cardholders to newbies and recidivists lined up outside of pot clubs all over San Jose—the only South Bay city to allow dispensaries.

Even those who don't indulge in the devil's lettuce could be forgiven for wondering whether they were in the grips of some kind of terrible trip. Paranoia and the kind of magical thinking many of us engaged in while listening to Pink Floyd in our freshman dorm rooms seemed to be the norm in 2018.

Over the course of this year, it has become painfully clear just how much influence social media has over our daily lives. (Government shutdown anyone?) January began with Facebook introducing major algorithm changes. In an effort to combat the proliferation of fake news and foreign influence campaigns, the social network de-emphasized all news—effectively emphasizing your crazy uncle's meme rampages and your ex-lover's vaguebooking.

And it's only gotten worse from there, as continued revelations of tech giants playing fast and loose with our personal data have continued to surface. Google even tried to build a search engine for China, codenamed "Dragonfly," that, according to The Intercept, would require logins before searching, track user locations and archive personal search histories with a Chinese partner that would have "unilateral access" to the data. Google CEO described the initiative as "early stage" since only 215 employees, according to an internal memo that Google ordered recipients to delete, were working full-time on Dragonfly.

And then there's Elon Musk. The man behind everyone's favorite electric car and those awesome reusable rockets started the year by shooting a Tesla Roadster into space. He proceeded to make headlines by smoking a blunt on Joe Rogan's podcast, beefing with rapper Azealia Banks on Twitter, messing with global markets through a series of erratic tweets, planning to go to Burning Man with girlfriend and electronic music composer Grimes, then announcing he would not go to Burning Man on account of an SEC investigation into whether he had misled investors. In September he accepted a $20 million handslap but was redeemed for all his craziness when the Model 3 started breaking sales and safety records.

Beyond the foibles of the tech industry, there was plenty more to shake our heads about. The #MeToo movement took down Dominic Caserta; a subcontractor working on a downtown development used slave labor to erect a pair of highrises; and Stanford professor Christine Blasey Ford stood up to the now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by recounting her memories of a high school party where she says he forcibly groped her.

Boxy apartment complexes sprouted on the former sites that once gave the valley its character, San Jose lost two more hardware stores, Lowe's and Orchard Supply. Someone even stole the freakin' old neon sign! Now, where are people going to buy blue tarps to live under?

Oh, and electric scooters absolutely took over Silicon Valley.

It's enough to make anyone's head spin. This final issue of the year is all about looking back on all the strange, infuriating and preposterous things that went down in 2018 and saying, "Sayonara!"

continue to 2018 Year in Review