Sunday, 7 January 2007

2.6 Is the world a village?

Any lingering feeling that you may have about being part of a separate culture will soon vanish if you think about the increasing pace of what has been called globalization.

Of course globalization is an ancient phenomenon. Ever since humans moved out of Africa about a hundred thousand years ago, there have been strong contacts between different parts of the world. Every day we are learning more about the strength of these exchanges and how humans have wandered and spread their languages, genes and cultures. Certainly since Alexander the Great penetrated down into India, or when huge numbers of goods and ideas travelled back and forth along the Silk Road between China and the West, worlds have met.

A further, even firmer, integration of the world was achieved by the Portuguese and Spanish in their sea borne Empires of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was fully completed by the British in their Empire upon which ‘the sun never set’. From the eighteenth century at the latest, humans lived in a truly global world.

Yet we do feel that we are more closely united in the late twentieth century as a result of electronic communications. The development of television, the Internet and the mobile phone, building on the earlier integration achieved by the land line telephone, the telegraph and radio, weave us all together ever more tightly. When our English banking is handled in India, our goods come mainly from the Far East, and our television images from America, it is difficult to retain a sense of great separateness. No man (or woman) is an island now.

So you are growing up in an extraordinary world where fashions, diseases or financial turbulence, spread from country to country in a few hours. The flow of money on the world market in one day is larger than the value of the whole American economy.

You can weave virtual networks of friends through the internet and learn to manage in cyber-space. You may one day be able to reach Australia or China as quickly as we now reach Edinburgh or Dublin. The ‘law’ whereby computer power doubles every eighteen months is altering everything. You will live in a world of genetic manipulation, nano-technology (microscopic machines) and cyber-reality which it is impossible to imagine.

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