Abishur Prakash, a geopolitical futurist at Canada’s Center for Innovating the Future (CIF), focuses on one of the most pressing issues of our time: technological geopolitics. Prakash’s fifth book that recently came out is The World Is Vertical: How Technology Is Remaking Globalization attempts to capture this significant development. He had a recent talk with ET’s Nirmal John. They modified excerpts from the book.
Why the title, The World is Vertical?
Globalize design has been about integrating the entire world. The universe has have been connected, as has providence, and monetary systems have are all linked. There have been huge benefits, except for three issues that have developed due to the tens of millions of individuals who have been rescued from poverty. They are –
- The first are countries that believe they have lost their sovereignty.
- Second, governments have thought they are unable to compete economically.
- The third point is that as conventional borders fall away and the world becomes more integrated, governments have lost their sense of identity and culture.
For many years, the status quo was that you were alone if you didn’t like favour globalization, which was driven mainly by the West. Then there was technology, such as 5G, AI, and cloud. Governments have developed a new mindset: why are we using other people’s ecosystems, currencies, software, and platforms? Nations can now almost opt out of globalization because of technological advancements.
As a result, instead of the world being as open and accessible as it has been for decades, it now has a vertical border of technology-based walls and obstacles.
Is technology the main driver of this change?
There have been two triggers in recent years. The first is the competition between the United States and China. Now the world is separated into regions that support China and those that support the United States. Both are employing technological means to obstruct each other in some way.
China, for example, is effectively urging the entire technology sector not to rely on US financial markets by refusing to allow its companies to list in the West. The pandemic was the second catalyst, as it forced countries to recognize the importance of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and localization. And now that idea has been applied to technology.
Where does India fit into this game of tech sovereignty?
Because India is one of the drivers of a vertical world, it gets its chapter in my book. India has discussed creating a data market that is open to anyone. It comes highly recommended. Because India doesn’t want foreign firms to have too much power, it is recommended that India not wish foreign corporations to have too much power. It’s a brilliant concept: whether you’re Google, Facebook, or Alibaba, you must share your data with Indian firms.
Take, for example, India’s proposal for all drones to receive a firmware upgrade. Companies like DJ have stated that they will not update their drones following the Indian government’s wishes.
As a result, this has become a tool for India to counteract Western dominance in consumer drones. What India is doing is writing a template for other countries that wish to make sure that globalized technology does not harm them in any way. That is why India has been aggressive in localizing e-commerce suppliers.
There has always been some apprehension about dealing with foreign corporations. Walmart, for example, has tried for years to open a store in India. In the sphere of technology, this is also true. The rise in tensions with China has been a critical driver of the vertical world for India, compelling it to respond.
What is the current state of affairs?
Governments have realized that if they want to stay relevant, compete, and maintain international peace, they will have to employ technology to enforce their will. Technology, I believe, is providing countries with a new means of enforcing their will.
Let’s look at global institutions as an example. After World War II, the allies held the authority to shape the postwar world. The United States founded the significant institutions that underlie globalization. The Americans made strategic moves in establishing and designating the International Monetary Fund, or World Bank. They could have named it the American Monetary Fund, but they wanted to convey a statement to the entire world, signalling their belief in globalization.
In contrast to China, countries like the United Kingdom propose ten democracies that will determine global 5G rules. So it isn’t as though countries are retaliating against all aspects of globalization. Instead, governments now can employ technology to shape globalization in their favour.