Michael K. Spencer on Dec 31, 2018

Whatever your opinion on what the World Economic Forum calls the 4th industrial revolution, their narrative of “Globalization 4.0” has some utility in the way we think about the future of the world.

I’m always stoked in January with two conferences in particular, the Consumer Electronics Show and the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. I appreciate their emphasis on openness, transparency and public inclusion and global cooperation in an age of technological global competition.

Here the crisis is not just technological disruption, but the failure of human leadership, communication and political rapport on larger issues such as climate change, income inequality and shifting balances of power from America to China for example.

The need for new kinds of consensus and soft skills for human leaders has never been greater. A future globalization is emerging that will feel fundamentally different.

Things like 5G, IoT, the smart home, UBI experiments and the rise of Asia economically and with companies of global scale changes the reality of globalization in the coming decades.

In an era of technological authorities our relationships with human rights might change. The original values of Europe and America are on the decline in a populist world of anxiety. As we approach 2020, there is a crisis of leadership and a conflict of power globally.

The economic foundations of globalization are in the spotlight, with a looming global recession projected to occur in 2020 (or possibly late 2019). The way we think about the interconnectivity of the world needs to change, just as Brexit, the Trade War and stock market volatility is showing how fragile the world order truly is.

Global GDP has trebled since 1980, yet the share of wealth that people get for their work has declined. Political leaders are more extreme and polarizing than ever, with Neo-nationalism rising in places like China, where all-out tech and AI wars for supremacy are likely, and the likely winner not being America.

We discovered a gigantic ice crater on Mars, but are unable to even regulate our own relationship with global warming as a species.


The theme of the Davos meeting in 2019, is a world at a cross-roads. We are more globally intertwined as a species than ever, yet continue to live in a debt-based economy practicing outdated national rivalries that belong to a past age. Yet our institutions of democracy, capitalism and even our economic systems appear to be fragile. Globalization 4.0 to me is a time of great vulnerability for the survival of the human species.

From spontaneous riots in France to utter confusion over Brexit in the United Kingdom to Germany propping up a Europe in decline to Trump’s antics in the United States, only China’s progress seems to be solid in the 21st century. In fact, only China and the Chinese Government appears equipped or interested in embodying the elements of what Globalization 4.0 might mean and might require for a smooth adoption of the future itself.

The 4th industrial revolution has a certain destabilizing effect. How do human beings regulate things like gene-editing, artificial intelligence and algorithms and deep learning principles it doesn’t even understand. The manipulation of collective sentiment has never been so profound — where an entire nation’s democracy can be hacked — on the back of an American company that profits from mobile Ads.

Trust in Governments, rampant corruption, dictator like heads of state — all point to a breaking down of our institutions amid mounting pressures. The natural selection of a Globalization 4.0 means we’re in store for some radical events in the decades ahead. It’s a changing of the guard as Baby boomers retire and where governments struggle to find the skilled workers to replace them amid a fluttering labor pool and higher medical costs of their extended lifespans.

Politics, technology, business and the entire world are converging increasingly at a faster rate. Globalization 4.0 isn’t an economic equation anymore, it’s a multi-disciplinary simulation of how humanity navigates tensions in time, and rising existential threats like artificial intelligence, climate change, automation of jobs and economic cyclic volatility.

With an innovation-driven economy of data connectivity, new business models require the Cloud infrastructure, IoT devices and AI-chips to mature at an accelerating rate. Globalization 4.0 is about an even more connected world, where a ripple in South-East Asia is felt all around the world, and where new solutions replace the old: electric and autonomous vehicles, smart stores, universal basic income programs. The automation of repetitive tasks will occur in the next twenty years, changing the course of Billions of human lives.

I believe that future globalization will be very different from the globalization we know today, and the globalization we have known in the past. We need to invent a decentralized governance model, as an alternative to our corporate structures of leadership (that have failed us in accountability). We need to take regulation and audits of algorithmic platforms and artificial intelligence and biotechnology (like gene-editing) more seriously.

We need to break up companies that violate the spirit of human rights, like possibly Facebook or Huawei. We need to not lose the element of social justice once so important to the Western world. Otherwise as a spin-off of the Globalization 4.0 period, we could land in a dark age of technological control. Where global citizens lose many of their basic freedoms to the state. We must unite the very best of collectivism and individualism, because the degradation of either could result in dystopia states augmented by sinister uses of artificial intelligence.

The unprecedented pace of technological change means that our systems of health, transportation, communication, production, distribution, and energy will be altered for the better forever. But in such a different world, we’ll need new laws, ethics, codes of conduct and governance norms that are “upgraded” as well. So far, there’s no indication that this is occurring and many signs we have actually regressed in the 21st century in human leadership.

This fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres needs responsible custodians. Leadership in Europe and America is in decline. The world must trust China’s ability to economically sustain, innovate and help the world bridge the gap till the next technological and global era. This won’t be easy and is fraught with much potential for abuse, anxiety, retaliation and conflict. America in not wanting to lose its supremacy might act rashly, Russia in the tech wars might exploit the situation, and many other scenarios and so forth.

Technology is augmenting globalization 4.0, and we are beginning in 2019 to have some sense of what this will mean. E-commerce, autonomous vehicles, the smart home, artificial intelligence, the Cloud — and dozens of new sub industries are all growing at a frantic pace, as we transition from market capitalism to technological and data capitalism. The world needs to think about the future it wants for its descendants and take more long-term views. This is because the world we inherit is fundamentally imperfect in how we have dealt with such major long-term dangers. We need to learn from our experience and history as a species.

We cannot talk about technology in isolation from economics, politics, globalization and the natural selection of data capitalism. We need to embrace transhumanism just as we become better custodians of the physical world, living more sustainably on Earth.

Globalization 4.0 challenges us to continue to evolve ethically, and not simply materially and with improved machine learning systems. It’s not just about digitization of human services, but about how the “black box” of artificial intelligence changes our very humanity. We cannot be overly optimistic without talking about the dangers. We cannot afford to be nihilistic either, but see the macro trends of where humanity is actually heading and deal with that.

The way we approach global inequality and global governance in the next fifty years will determine if our species survives. If our integration with artificial intelligence becomes our downfall in the age of biotechnology and rapid mutation into trans-humans. This is not just an economic determinism but an ethical spectrum, not simply of Euro-centric nations but of the younger Asian parts of humanity whose consumers will guide our next steps.

It’s theoretically possible the development of artificial intelligence will transcend human ethics, leadership, technology and human organic control itself.

Collected at: https://medium.com/utopiapress/globalization-4-0-trends-c58365ef73df

7 thoughts on “Globalization 4.0 Trends”

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