I had the fortune to study International Relations in an exciting time of our history. It was just after the end of the cold war and the fall of the Berlin Wall, in a decade when a new world order was enlightened. The beginning of the 90s found us studying unpublished facts with the newspaper, since most textbooks were beginning to be outdated. The teachers were facing a new world, for the students the new was the norm. I remember that it was like a space for debate about what happened and where we would go. The teachers reminded us of the past we came from and we imagined the future we wanted to go to. In any case it was an exciting time.
Over the years one learns that the history of our society is like that of a pendulum. It is never in the same place, it oscillates permanently, going from positive cycles to negative cycles and vice versa. A becoming of the new to the old where man tends to repeat mistakes. Man is the only animal that stumbles twice on the same stone, and blames the stone. Perhaps the idea of the pendulum is that of the perception that man is created; that is to say, more than a reality, it plays what is perceived about it. The same reality can be perceived in a thousand different ways. In the Digital Age, the construction of a new imaginary and new perceptions is available to almost everyone. Are we facing a new world order or a new global transformation? Neither the new is so new, nor the old so old.
Boosting all this by the phenomenon of the so-called “fake news” (the false news) that still run like wildfire through the wick of social networks. We are convinced that the perception we have of the outside world is correct. It is interesting the phenomenon of the man who chooses to deceive himself so as not to have to deal with the prevailing “reality”. Everyone believes that what they are seeing is the real thing, but in this world of multiscreen images and in real time, there is nothing more uncertain than reality. There is some evidence that would confirm that stimuli related to the Internet can distort the perception of time due to the mechanisms related to attention.
Do you remember the political uncertainty that reigned in Spain until the end of 2016? Today seems to be a distant memory. Spain seems normalized, stabilized and growing. To such a point that even the influential newspaper The Washington Post was encouraged in an editorial to ask him to take the leadership in the heart of the European Union. Is Spain so well today? Is the world such chaos? Is Europe so bad?
At this difficult juncture it is important to have a long-term vision of the global social and economic perspectives. The truth is that despite so much technology, data and algorithms are, in fact, very difficult to predict. It was evident when The New York Times, based on intelligent formulas, predicted the triumph of Hillary Clinton (85% probability versus 15% of the current President of the USA). Nor does it make us remember what happened with the Brexit or with the referendum for peace in Colombia.
The new world order is neither new nor ordered.
The first use of the term new world order appears in the document of the Fourteen Points of the North American President Woodrow Wilson after the First World War for the creation of the League of Nations. This new order referred to the beginning of a new period of history in which deep changes are manifested in political ideologies and in the balance of powers.
About sixty years later, this expression returned to the headlines of the media, especially with the end of the Cold War. The then presidents of the United States and the Soviet Union, George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev used the term to try to define the nature of the post-Cold War and the spirit of cooperation that was sought to materialize among the great powers.
Recent events seem to usher in a new era for international geopolitics. We are in the presence of a new new world order (since it would be the third time we will use it). For some a new world (dis)order.
It has been above all four events that have accelerated this new process. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the rebirth of Russian influence (just in the centenary year of the Russian Revolution and 150 years after the publication of “The Capital” by Karl Marx) and extremist terrorism. There are other factors of concern, such as global warming, whose impact is more worrying than all the previous ones combined, but it has not yet reached the people and, therefore, is ignored by the majority.
In these days of futurology and predictions nobody can say with certainty what the new (dis)order will be like.
But if our society wants to commit itself to forging a promising future for generations to come, then the great effort it will take to stop the environmental degradation of the planet will dominate world affairs for decades to come.
None of these five factors are new. All have been part of long incubation processes that have now manifested. But let no one be confused, all these facts are intimately related.
The year 2017 will add to the prevailing change the presidential elections in France (according to The Economist “the next revolution fracesa) and the general elections in Germany and above all the Congress of the Communist Party in China. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a trade war “would not benefit anyone and that it does not make sense to blame economic globalization for the world’s problems.”
Many countries and each one with its vision, its objectives, its allies and its commitments. In a complex and volatile global scenario, we see how countries seek refuge in the face of uncertainty. At the same time a total of 211 countries and / or territories are part of FIFA, although their number is fluctuating in line with the birth, reunification or disappearance of the states. In The FIFA / Coca-Cola World Ranking, the 2010 South African World Champion appears in the tenth place. And if we talk about Coca Cola it should not surprise us that in more than 200 countries the brand of the Atlanta multinational is located. Some time ago I was told by a manager of the multinational that “there are more Coca Cola Embassies in the world than in Spain.”
Since 1990, the world population has increased from 5,200 to almost 7,400 million inhabitants. By the year 2050 it is estimated that the world population will be 9.7 billion inhabitants, 8% of whom will speak Spanish as their main language.
The good news is that, despite the increase in population, the number of poor has dropped from almost 1,960 to less than half (702 million). The decrease in the percentage of the population that lives on less than $ 2 per day (the World Bank’s reference measure to define extreme poverty) is of such magnitude that relative and absolute figures fall.
Perhaps in this Digital era, talking about poverty is strange, but it is not. What we should do is join efforts to the goal of international organizations to reduce the extreme poverty rate below 3% in 2030 (we are closer to the year 2030 than the year 2000). Below that 3% the World Bank believes that we could speak for the first time about the end of poverty.
Many of the new challenges go through the Internet
Among so many countries struggling for international dominance, a silent empire is emerging as the most influential global dominator: the internet empire. An empire that is absorbing the power and influence of the states. The companies of this new empire not only control the data industry, but also begin to significantly influence the global economy and, therefore, the social and cultural impact.
The Network became years ago the first most used medium on the planet; and the mobile in the first means of Internet access. Alphabet (Google), Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, will come to have the power to transform global economies with their transverse and increasingly ubiquitous presence. For Fast Company magazine “the new world order is governed by global corporations and megacities-not countries. As cities and businesses gain in influence and the power of nation-states diminishes, the world is undergoing a seismic transformation. ” Ask yourself, honestly: If Liechtenstein or Guinea-Bissau were to disappear from the face of the Earth, would you really realize? Now, what happens if Google disappeared from your Internet browser?
The empire grows, the threats also.
Spain is on the list of the 20 countries most attacked by cybercriminals, with more than 16,000 cyber attacks per day. The wars of the immediate future will not be conceived in the traditional way, but all wars will also be cyber wars. That is why several countries have created cyber defense armies, which add to the traditional land, sea and air. And that more has been talked about the group of Russian hackers than Trump’s triumph is a good sign of the coming times.
The level of complexity of this new scenario is such that security in cyberspace is increasingly higher in the lists of priorities in companies and governments. To visualize in real time the state of the malware in the world there are spaces like CyberThreat Real-Time Map, a global map of cyberthreats.
While the armies of the past conquered physical territories, the new digital geopolitics seeks to control information and the power of data. Digital platforms have already been integrated into offline life and are an essential part of the social and cultural life of most citizens of the 21st century. I was told by an expert in the material that digital penetration in China has nothing to do with the commercial but with the control. It is much less complicated to know that 1,200 million people are doing if they are connected than in an analog world. The new data economy is also connected to the new control policy. How the end of privacy and the disappearance of privacy will influence the habits and customs of a society.
Enthusiasm for new technologies is always accompanied by new concerns. It is necessary to find new, better and responsible ways of advancing towards digital futures where citizens, digital companies, governments and activists collaborate to create fair, equitable, open and transparent ways of coexistence.
Cyberterrorism and cyber wars are already a main subject for states.
Transiting chaos in the most orderly way possible.
Europe was alarmed by Trump‘s triumph. The truth is that at present one of the threats for Europe is that 72% of the budget of the Alliance with the United States (NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is the responsibility of the United States.
We peek into a first apocalyptic or chaotic phase, although as always in the history of the human being, there will be room for hope. I think historians will judge that these were one of the best hours of our civilization.
In the world there are currently 194 countries recognized by the UN. Spain is the twelfth economy in the world in terms of GDP in dollars without inflation. Considering that in 2007 Spain was the eighth, the pendulum leads us to think that Spain begins to climb again in the classification.
After seeing the global state of things, Spain seems to be in a small oasis of stability and tranquility. Or as we read in The Washington post: Spain now seems an “island of stability” in the midst of a general panorama of turmoil and uncertainty in the main countries of Europe, which has opened a “window of opportunity” for the country play a greater role at continental level and even be key in solving some of the great European challenges. “Who would have said it less than a year ago? The pendulum keeps moving.
Spain had in 2015 and 2016 a shake caused by a social revolt that began in the Puerta del Sol and grew as a result of various scandals of political corruption, added to the adjustments that at that time the EU established to the Government of Rajoy as a measure of crisis, which landed in a Spain tormented by the evictions and mass layoffs, produced by the breakdown of the housing bubble, resulting in an increase in the number of unemployed and increased demand for social assistance.
After having reached a second presidential election and with the fear of a third, a government was finally formed, not without the help of many Spaniards, who were the ones who prioritized Spain before any other ideology. And it was the democratic values as a whole that managed to endow Spain with a government that left behind the shadow of leftist populism that threatens the country (championing Chávez and antisystem policies), in pursuit of a joint construction and in keeping with constitutional principles.
Perhaps this is a good time for Spain, both to settle its place in Europe, while Europe exists, and to strengthen its place in the world as a country that before any partisan ideology has known, at crucial moments, put in value their respect to democracy and betting on joint progress.
The beginning of the 90s found me studying unpublished events was just after the end of the cold war and the fall of the Berlin Wall, in a decade that spawned a new world order. Communism has shrunk exponentially since then to its minimal expression. On the contrary, populism has expanded pendulously. Populism is not an ideology but a way to take advantage of specific situations to occupy spaces of power. No populist government has generated progress, wealth, equity or unity in society. The call for attention to the policy has already been given, the way in which the policy of always reacting to the demands of today will be essential to define what kind of future we will live.
Investing in forming a knowledge society and enhancing its practical usefulness will be a good antidote against formulas that promise quick and simple solutions to complex problems. The truth is that the future wealth of nations depends on their level of education today.
The perceptions can vary from one person to another and that is known by those who know how to create real or imaginary scenarios to make us believe in the one or the other according to the position of the pendulum. Nothing is as real or as normal as we perceive it, but that is not the important thing, but what we do with it.
We do not know today if the future will be good, or bad. But if we know it will be new.