I am expanding on an earlier post since I find that there is much loose thinking when it comes to what people perceive as the sins or benefits of globalisation. The globalisation pundits forget that without local there can be no global
Where “globalisation” should have been “think global, act local”, it has instead degenerated to become “decide globally, impose locally”. It is part of the classic balance between centralised and distributed, between society and the individual. What should have been an increase in local decision-making in the light of being better informed about global consequences, has instead become decision-making at the global level with consequences being imposed on or coerced from the much smaller local entities. The “anti-globalisation wave” currently ongoing is the reaction from the “local” entities which feel imposed upon. It applies as much to individuals in America’s rust belts to the Indian engineers being laid off in a multi-national corporate because avoided costs (not actual costs) are lower in Europe. It applies to the UK view of the EU which fuelled Brexit as much as to the protests in the state of Tamil Nadu against the banning of Jallikattu. This degeneration applies to the UN, it applies to the EU or the WHO or the IMF or the WB. It applies to “global” or “multi-national” corporations, to central governments, to multi-lateral trade agreements and even to scientific endeavour.
There are many analogies and examples available for the balance to be struck in the centralised control of distributed intelligences. Central power generation has given way – somewhat – to smarter, more distributed power generation. Main frame computing has given way to distributed smart devices as the intelligence and capability of each device has increased. Central telephone exchanges have given way to mobile telephony also as the mobile devices have become smarter. In health care, central hospitals will give way to distributed clinics as the capability and intelligence (by automation and AI) of smaller clinics increases. In Sweden for example, health care is still being centralised to the detriment of the local and lags in this evolution towards smarter, more distributed systems. But the move – globally – towards smarter local clinics is inevitable.
In modern power generation systems, which is what I am most familiar with, we used to have centralised controls ruling over individual, “idiot” pieces of equipment. But nowadays we have intelligence at the point of each piece of equipment and a centralised control which only determines policy at the highest level. It is distributed control which has revolutionised not only the efficiency of generation but also the health and life of each piece of equipment, and above all, the performance of individual plants in an inter-connected grid.
“Centralised” – as in the diagram above, is imposition of central power on local entities(UN, EU, Central government …), “decentralised” gives groupings of multi-lateral arrangements (NAFTA, NATO, ASEAN …). “Distributed” is the obvious choice when having a multitude of smart entities and consists of developing and emphasising the natural (adjacent) bilaterals. Swarms of birds or shoals of fish are good examples of decentralised swarms or shoals, where within each shoal a distributed but highly effective network applies, where each individual is only connected to, and responds to, its immediate (bilateral) neighbours.
The key for decentralisation is, of course, that sufficient intelligence resides at the local entities. Then the network becomes “smart”. This shift back towards smarter, more local decision-making is now overdue in international relations, in politics and in the corporate world. This is perhaps the main hope I have for the new Trump administration. With all his faults and all his bombast, if Trump helps reverse the current unsustainable trend and gets it to move towards smarter, distributed local entities, then he will have exceeded my expectations. In all international organisations (UN, EU etc), agreements and trade deals there is far too much decision-making at the global level. The local entities (say in African countries or Indian States or insular communities in Europe) are not necessarily smart enough yet, but that is no excuse to continue with the imposition of “global” decisions made very far away.
A smart world is not one with a global government as many Marxists and socialists dream of, imposing the lowest common standards on everyone and every thing. It is one where the individuals, the local factory or the local government, is smart enough and intelligent enough to make its own decisions for its own position within the global world it exists in. That would give the freedom and flexibility – which I judge absolutely necessary for the future of humans – for the local entity to fit into the global society it lives in as it thinks fit and is capable of.
Globalisation has to shift from centralised control to smart, distributed control. That will give “smart” globalisation.