- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

Much is made, especially by excited teenagers and small political magazines, of globalization, which they see as something about which we have a choice. I don't think we do.
The major changes in the world are usually driven by technological inevitability, not by human choice. So it is with globalization. It's going to happen. It already has happened to a large extent.
People who say that technology is a tool, to be used as we choose, are (I think) mistaken. Technologies, once invented, are used in the only way they can be. For example, once you have the automobile, you have to build roads, which leads to suburbs and shopping malls. The consequence has been a transformation of society. Whether this was good, bad or neither, it was inevitable.
Many of the bits and pieces of globalization, particularly of commerce, are obvious. It is in the aggregate that they amount to something new. The Internet and allied technologies are a big part of globalization. Let's glance at a few examples:
Anybody anywhere can read Pravda, The Washington Times or India Today online with equal ease. This is no longer news, but it erases national boundaries in a way recent to the world.
A phenomenon little examined but far from trivial is the global reach of Hollywood. American television is everywhere, particularly in countries that cannot afford to do their own programming, and so subtitle or dub U.S. content.
With satellites, covering the world with "Baywatch" is little more difficult than covering Virginia. The result is that in much of the world there is a contest between two cultures, the local and the American. The effect is a noticeable homogenization. American culture isn't by any means world culture, but it's making inroads.
Today you can live in a small town in Brazil and, using a bank account in Chicago, trade currencies in Europe and Japan. The same is true of trading stocks around the world. Suddenly we all have global reach.
Increasingly the employment of intellectual capital is separable from physical capital. The market for trained intelligence becomes ever more global.
Consider India, which has little capital in the usual sense but has vast numbers of smart people. They can handle, and by Internet are handling on a large scale, computer programming for companies in the United States. The American company gets good code for cheap, the Indians make lots of money and U.S. programmers lose jobs.
Intercontinental contracting of this sort tends to start with simple things, like maintaining commercial programs for banks in New York. But, the Indians and Chinese quickly move into more-sophisticated coding. Soon they are serious players, casually working around the world.
The implications go far beyond programming. It is not unusual for a company to design a microcircuit and have a plant somewhere else actually make it. The designing company can be in Argentina and hired by a company in the United States. The idea of contracted-out or collaborative design isn't new. The ease of doing it is. American industry could lose its pre-eminence in these things.
Computers make global commerce possible in ways not always obvious. Years back on a magazine assignment, I went to Seattle to cover the design of the Boeing 777. The company was designing the entire aircraft in big computers using CATIA, design software from Dassault. Something like 2000 workstations, which amount to high-powered personal computers, were hung on the mainframes for engineers.
I asked an engineer why engineers around the world couldn't collaborate on a big project like the 777, provided that they had good communications (i.e., the Internet). "No reason," he said.
Many conservatives, arguably with reason, fear the advent of world government. Predicting the future of mankind is above my pay-grade. I note, however, that technology makes administering the whole world fairly easy.
Want records on everyone in the world? (Governments do.) Let's assume that the world's population is 10 billion, which it isn't yet.
A commodity computer from Dell, with a 40-gigabyte drive, could hold the first four digits of an international "Social Security" number for everyone on Earth.
The administrative capacity for running a planet is there. Pressure for establishing international governing bodies inevitably will grow because, practically speaking, they will be needed. The more intimately nations interact, the more need there will be for means of handling disputes, tracking criminals, and regulating this and that.
It's going to happen. You may not like it, and I certainly don't, but in one form or another, we're going to get it.



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