'You can't stop the revolution:’ 5 themes that will shape 2023

The job of Bank of America’s head of Global Thematic Investing Research is to predict the future. He tells the ‘Post’ what he sees.

 Haim Israel, global strategist and head of Global Thematic Investing Research for Bank of America. (photo credit: BANK OF AMERICA)
Haim Israel, global strategist and head of Global Thematic Investing Research for Bank of America.
(photo credit: BANK OF AMERICA)

According to Haim Israel, a series of world crises have dramatically accelerated the development and use of technology - and the future is coming faster than anyone thinks.

"We live in a world where things are happening so much faster," the head of Global Thematic Investing Research for Bank of America told The Jerusalem Post. "We haven't seen anything yet. It is just the beginning of the beginning."

Israel joined Bank of America in 2004; his role has developed into the bank's most important and strategic position. When he is in the country, Israel sits on the 35th floor of Azrieli Tower - from where his job is to predict the future.

"The way we as Bank of America look at thematics is that we try to see how the world will look - good or bad," he explained. "We identify the megatrends that will impact our lives and how they will turn out, and then come up with investment decisions and strategy on the back of that."

Israel looks at all possible influences, from technological themes such as big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and health tech to demographic trends, education, diversity and inclusion and climate change

 Bank of America (credit: FLICKR) Bank of America (credit: FLICKR)

He told the Post that from his perspective, "nothing new was invented" in recent years, but issues lurking under the surface were brought forward due to "tectonic changes" from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Ukraine war. 

"Nothing has changed, but the timeline has shortened dramatically," Israel said. "You can no longer talk about short-term versus long-term. You never know when the short-term ends and the long-term begins."

The role of technology

But there has been one consistent thing: The role of technology.

"When we had the COVID crisis, we went back to technology, which technically saved us," Israel explained. "Health tech, genomics, all of this stuff is what helped us to overcome the disease. Then, we have a food crisis and go back to technology. Finally, we have an energy crisis and are returning to technology. So, technological investment and adoption happen so much faster because of that."

In the last 70 years, Israel said the global population had increased twice. Food production is up three times. Energy consumption is up four times. And economic activity - global GDP - is up five times. He said that these data points had left the world in a challenging predicament: We have to produce more or consume less, and Israel does not believe that either aim can be achieved. 

"We cannot produce more because there are just not enough resources on the planet," he said. "At the same time, I believe we will never consume less."

The solution? Technology.  

"We are going to have to think about new technologies, smart aggregation, vertical farming, urban farming, protein adaptations," he continued. "We just need to think in new terms from now on. And to trust technology."

Israel identified five of the most profound themes of this generation, starting with energy. He said that if the original aim was to cut greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible by 2040, the timeline is now more like 2027 - not because people want to save the planet, but because they want to save money.

"We're going to get to net zero because the production of alternative energy solutions is becoming cheaper than fossil - sometimes 20% to 25% cheaper," Israel said. 

Energy independence

At the same time, he said there is a new geopolitical interest in moving to energy independence, primarily driven by the war in Ukraine. 

"Energy has been weaponized. Food supply lines have been weaponized. Technology has been weaponized," Israel stressed. "Everything is a weapon these days. So, you are seeing countries moving to any energy they can produce by themselves."

He admitted that today for every dollar invested in renewables, four dollars need to be spent on infrastructure, so technically, it is not yet less expensive. But with infrastructure eroding worldwide, countries would otherwise have to invest in existing infrastructure. 


The next theme is cybersecurity because "if the war in Ukraine has proved anything, it has proven that cyber threats are no longer my problem, your problem or my company's problem - they are a national security problem."

Billions of dollars are today required to fight cyberattacks. If a decade ago there were around 122,000 attacks every week, today there are 1.8 billion. And if these attacks used to be carried out by young hackers sitting in their mom's garage in Idaho, today the world faces robot hackers and algohackers. 

"The total economic damage of climate change in 2022 - extreme weather conditions, droughts, hurricanes - is around $3 trillion," according to Israel. "It's a lot of money, but the economic damage from cyberattacks was seven times more."

Food scarcity

A third theme is food scarcity

"Eighty percent of the countries on the planet do not produce enough food to feed themselves," said Israel, "while 40% of all global food is going down the drain - is being wasted because of supply lines, because of inefficiencies, lack of investment."

"Eighty percent of the countries on the planet do not produce enough food to feed themselves, while 40% of all global food is going down the drain - is being wasted because of supply lines, because of inefficiencies, lack of investment."

Haim Israel

He said that long before the war, Bank of America published research on food, highlighting that to feed the planet at its current standards, we would need to grow more food in the next 40 years than we did in 8,000 years. With the war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the COVID crisis, we are missing 500 trillion calories a month on top of the trend

Furthermore, the food that is being produced is harming the environment. According to Israel, 24% of all global carbon emissions are related to agriculture, as is a tremendous amount of water waste. 

"One kilo of steak equals 16,000 liters of water from the minute you start growing the animal until you eat," he demonstrated. "That's three-and-a-half months of showers every time you eat a steak.

"Food is becoming one of the biggest social, technological and environmental problems out there," Israel said. 

Artificial intelligence

A fourth theme is artificial intelligence (AI). 

The world generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily but uses only 1% of it. 

"What would happen if we used even 2% of this data?" Israel asked. 

He said that AI is the "ultimate tool" to start using this data in ways that could profoundly change the world. It is not just generative AI but fields like pharmaceuticals. He said that the cost of developing drugs doubles every five to 10 years and is rooted in trial and error. AI could cut this process dramatically.


Finally, a fifth theme is deglobalization.

"What we're showing right now is a reshoring of activities - efforts to bring back home everything from supply lines, national resources, automation," Israel said. "The US is leading this trend, and Israel will also be impacted."

Is the world ready for all of these shifts? According to Israel, this is "irrelevant." 

He said, "the future is coming whether we like it or not. You can't stop the revolution."