Globalisation has been driven by transformative financial and economic advancements after WWII, liberating countries from colonial and outdated industrial-age mindsets of production and consumption. These shifts have not only fuelled wealth creation but have also elevated the lifestyles of billions. Enhanced global healthcare, improved food production, and expanded trade have led to a staggering increase in the global population, soaring from 2.5 billion after World War II to over 8 billion in 2024, with significantly fewer deaths attributable to wars.
Importantly, globalisation implies collaboration. In my work, this often means breaking down silos, getting people to work together horizontally across departments, disciplines, levels of government, countries, and so on. This starts at grassroots levels, working from the bottom up, hence my interest in working with cities (smart cities). However, collaboration only works if it is based on trust, and this was a major contribution to the success of the post-WWII World Order. It established trust between people, societies, and governments, at least in the western world and large parts of East Asia.
The communication industry has als been a beneficiary of the Global Order. Information Communication Technology (ICT) progress has been nothing short of extraordinary. The ICT sector is now by far the largest economic sector with a value of over US$2.3 trillion. The world has arrived in a new, techno-driven economy.Tech is now critical across various economic sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, administration, energy and agriculture. Information technology, in particular, has witnessed groundbreaking developments, bringing people closer together through the internet. Mobile phones, now nearly as ubiquitous as the global population, have empowered individuals with computing capabilities in their pockets. This contrasts sharply with the limited telephone penetration in developing countries before the mobile phone explosion, which mostly hovered below 20% of the total population based on households (mobile penetration is measured based on individual people).
These advancements signify a diminishing relevance of organising within strict national borders. The urgency of global collaboration is underscored by challenges such as pandemics, exemplified by COVID, the international impacts from wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the adverse impacts of climate change. It is increasingly evident that our only viable path forward is concerted global cooperation among all of the Earth’s inhabitants.
However, amidst these positive strides, there are noteworthy emotional repercussions. ICT, while connecting people, has also given rise to misinformation, increased hate speech, racism, misogyny, and other negative elements. Even in a developed and well-educated nation like the UK, the decision to pursue Brexit raises concerns about the impact of populism and nationalism fuelled by social media and the internet. The attack on the US Capitol in 2021 is another scary example of what populism in combination with ICT (social media) can lead to. This influence, often directed at creating division and chaos, poses a significant challenge to a positive progression of globalisation. We don’t yet understand if and how the use of social media and digital media in general have an effect on human psychology As we navigate this complex landscape, it becomes crucial to address these often-emotional challenges and foster a more inclusive approach to global integration.
Good and evil have been integral to humanity since its early days, and this duality is equally evident in cyberspace. In an environment where trust is eroding and constantly under siege, the consequences are profoundly serious. Furthermore, cybercrime and spam are already more lucrative than the illegal trade in drugs, attracting ever more criminal consortia. Just think of what AI will have to offer them in this realm Addressing these issues must be a top priority across all levels of our society to uphold the World Order. Just as regulations followed previous technological innovations such as mail, telephone, and broadcasting, we also require regulations in the new world of cyberspace, encompassing Artificial Intelligence (AI), Mixed Reality (MR), the Cloud, and beyond. These processes and laws need to be based on the values that are instilled in us people, and businesses and governments need to be held accountable for doing the right thing based on that principle. I am talking here about the values that are deeply ingrained beliefs and principles that guide individuals in their attitudes, behaviours, and decision-making. These values contribute to the moral and ethical foundation of individuals and society, shaping character and influencing interpersonal relationships and societal norms.
Communication is equally under threat. Our communication networks such as submarine cables, satellites and international data centres all depend on trust in the Global Order. ICT will become an easy target if the Global Order deteriorates. If we think that we currently have problems with cybercrimes, data breaches and privacy issues, think what problems can evolve if there is a further decline in the Global Order.
What is required is a new economic order that slowly replaces capitalism and its current move to cloud capitalism based on creating some sort of techno-feudalism. This latter has actually little to do with capitalism, as both users and commercial customers can only participate on these platforms based on the conditions set by these Big Tech companies, there is no competition, no invisible hand of the market, instead pure extraction of personal data on one side and fees on the onder side (hence the reference to feudalism). The world need a new economic system based more on collective benefit rather than individual wealth. Technology can play an important role in this process as well but it can’t be simply based on a few rich individuals and their Big Tech companies. Surely solutions can be assisted by yet unknown advancements in the combination of Mixed Reality (MR), especially in areas such as medicine, education, and manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in areas such as (crisis) forecasting and increasing time productivity, and quantum computing, tackling complex areas such as cancer treatment, global warming, but also space travel and other areas that require the massive crunching of data. However, the development of these technologies need to be based on the common good and not on what is good for the Big Tech companies. Only when this is based on a more democratic tech system – and not based on the current techno-feudalistic system – can sophisticated algorithms also assist in creating personalised solutions.
These technologies will also play a central role in creating (social) wealth, reducing the direct role human time and effort has played in the industrial revolution. Think 4-day work weeks, Universal Basic Income (UBI), passive income, etc. New ICT and network innovations will happen, and they are crucial to understanding what is coming beyond ‘value-extracting capitalism’.
At the same time, history teaches us that serious crisis situations invariably result in restrictions on personal rights, the suspension of human rights, a lack of comprehensive economic and social security, and, generally, the suffering of ordinary people. To prevent this, we as a global society must establish new processes and enact new laws that restore trust and ensure people feel secure. However, the world is currently missing the political leaders and the political will to do this; instead, we see everywhere the rising tide of populist leaders worldwide. This put a big question-mark on the quality of the decision making processes of such leaders and the implementation of the right processes and laws that are required to update the current world order to avoid a large-scale global crisis.
I have written a more comprehensive essay on these topics titled: “What comes next after the end of the’ golden’ post-WWII era?”