Monday, November 03, 2008

The Tower of Babel: Globalization and its Discontents

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech…. And they had brick for stone, and slime for mortar.

Once upon a time, major developments in technologies and computer software allowed individuals to connect with almost anyone on the face of the earth.

This web-enabled platform for sharing knowledge and work, irrespective of time, distance, geography or even language leveled the playing field and allowed people unprecedented access to information and knowledge.

As people experienced increasing global connectivity and interdependence in the economic, social, technological, cultural, political, and ecological spheres, the world began to integrate and grow smaller at an accelerated pace.

Every individual - created in the image of God - now had the potential to ‘plug and play’, join the global game and fulfill his potential. The genius born in China had as many opportunities as the average guy born in Poughkeepsie.

From Shanghai to Silicon Valley, from Beijing, Bangalore and Bethesda, more people in more places could play in more ways.

The whole world truly was of one language, and one global speech.

Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower…and said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them"

The opportunities for this new world were endless:

Furthering the fight against poverty and disease in the developing world;

Promoting children's education, women’s rights and proper working conditions;

Ensuring fewer people lived below the poverty line; that everyone had adequate shelter and access to safe drinking water;

That no one went malnourished or died from preventable diseases.

Yet this world of fantastic opportunities also provided fantastic dangers. As Nassim Taleb noted, Globalization 'creates interlocking fragility' A world in which the big can act small and the small can act big can be used for different purposes. The options are frighteningly endless…

And if rather than alleviating the suffering in the world, society decides to use its technological potential to 'make a name for themselves,' then a time will come when money (or bricks) are more important than people;

Or where the supply chain that facilitates Dell and Wall Mart will also facilitate Al Qaida and dirty bombs.

So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

(Last Year's Blog on the Tower of Babel - On Towers and Totalitarianism)

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