Culture, it seems, is simply a set of ideas and how those ideas manifest in the world are based on the agreements we make to one another based on those ideas. We make agreements about how we will treat each other in public. We agree on property rights, traffic lights and pulling over when an ambulance needs to pass. We agree on the law that constitutes a crime or else we have conflict and political turmoil. When we disagree on what constitutes a society where we can live well, culture ceases to become something that brings us together.
We've found ways to successfully make and maintain agreements on the national level, but what about our global agreements? Most of our most pressing problems in the world today are just that; worldwide. In an interconnected world that is decentralizing year over year, there will be very few problems left that are merely national.
Let's point to 3 global problems often cited as monumental challenges:
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
The intersection of healthcare and tech
Climate recognizes no arbitrary borders. Wild-fires, ice caps melting and the warming of our planet do not recognize how we have chosen to divide ourselves. Climate is global. How are we to combat the rise of temperatures to potentially devastating levels if we don't agree on the cause or course of action? If the Europeans are on board but the Americans are not, how are we to ease industrial productivity and re-imagine a climate-conscious economy. Can we agree, even, on what measure of productivity and CO2 production is appropriate? Do we measure the threat per person, as the Indian government would like us to, or do we measure overall emissions like the Americans? Global concerns require global agreements.
Automation and artificial intelligence may not feel like they are a part of your daily life yet but it's almost a sure bet they are in some capacity. The argument we've all heard to date is whether AI is a threat or if it's a blessing. Again, it will likely come down to how we agree to use it. We have nuclear arms today because one nation decided it must and another followed suit, it's hand having been forced by the threat of disruption and destruction. Are we in line for a similar future when it comes to AI and automation? How one nation chooses to harness this immense power will likely determine how the rest will.
Healthcare and the human life are irreversibly intertwined with technology and the relationship is in its infancy. We've all, to this point, likely heard of CRISPR-cas 9; our first ever reliable gene editing tool. Will the Nigerians select only for boys and within them only the strongest and robust? Will the Chinese choose to commercialize the technology so any wealthy couple in their home can design their baby? Will the Canadians fear that we've gone too far and move to make the technology illegal? Will there be an international coalition of medical experts that come together to decide how the technology should be used responsibly?
In Globalization 4.0 Klaus Schwab offers 10 keys to future prosperity and every one of them begins with the words ‘Global Dialogue.’ The problem is that we could argue a truly Global Dialogue has never happened and is bordering on the impossible. It certainly is not, and will never, happen on Twitter or Facebook.
You could point to the United Nations as our one hope for global agreements but we’d be forgetting two key things; it assumes the voice each nation is bringing to the table is actually the voice of it’s people and not a narcissistic dictator and it assumes we can reach consensus.
There has likely never been a time in human history where our global agreements will be more important than in the next 50 years.