Let me pick up where I left off ahead of Christmas by reiterating the fives themes for 2023 (‘War by Other Means’) that I had put together with David Skilling. The note details the trends we expect to materialise through the year as intense strategic competition between regions takes hold.
What has also become apparent to me over the holiday period – perhaps because I have simply had time to read more and reflect better, is that some of the contours of the post-globalization landscape are taking shape – the geopolitical realignment of the countries of the Middle East for instance, and the forming of currency based geo-strategic relationships, notably in the use of the yuan and rouble to settle commodity trades.
Another profound change that has been taking place is the relationship between humans and technology, in the sense that in many domains now humans are becoming far more effective in their work where they use technology cleverly and with humility. Additionally, still strong labour markets in the context of collapsing technology stock valuations suggest that humans have not been economically eviscerated by technology.
The trade-offs between technology and humans are not a new issue. As with many of the topics we grapple with today – military strategy, democracy and philosophy – the ancient Greeks established the benchmarks that most of us have struggled to keep up with since. With respect to technology, Greek philosophers spoke of automations (robots), engineers like Daedalus were said to have invented moving statues and models of animals, and Greek mythology conjured ‘Talos’ a giant, moving, bronze statue that guarded the island of Crete.
In modern times, the new frontier is where human professionals can use technology to help rather than replace them. For example, within the US military the use of various drones, intelligence centric tools and some weaponised machines by small units of soldiers is an area of keen study and practise, and it is now more than evident that the Ukrainian army has been given a leg up in deploying satellite and AI technologies in prosecuting its defence with increasingly impressive results.
The military use of robots and AI has potentially terrifying outcomes, which is why it is important that both the law and philosophy keep track with the use of technology and set boundaries to its use – to that end some universities are tackling this head on, such as the Centre for Ethics in AI at Oxford. In this respect, an interesting book that I have flagged before, is Aifric Campbell’s ‘The Love Makers’ (see AI – The Final Problem) which provocatively details a world where humans and robots are enmeshed, romantically and in other ways.
In this context, a really interesting recent paper by Cass Sunstein (‘The Use of Algorithms in Society’) highlights the role of AI in multiple domains such as dating, where he quotes the conclusion of a paper by the University of Utah’s Samantha Joel entitled ‘Is Romantic Desire Predictable? Machine Learning Applied to Initial Romantic Attraction’ which holds that the process of romantic attraction may be more “like an earthquake such that the dynamic and chaos-like processes that cause its occurrence require considerable additional scientific inquiry before prediction is realistic.”, a conclusion so clunky it must have been written by a robot.
The Sunstein paper is useful in illustrating how surgeons or judges can use AI and its related datasets in the support of their own roles, rather than competition with them, so that they are wiser, challenged in a data centric way, and hopefully society is better off.
Lurking behind the use of technology and specifically AI by professionals is the fear that it will disintermediate them. A recent development here is the arrival of ChatGPT an interactive ‘intelligent’ bot that has been developed by OpenAI (set up seven years ago to build socially constructive AI, and recently valued at USD 30bn). ChatGPT is catching on quickly, not least because students have found that it can write half decent essays.
I recently tested it out, asking for a response to the question ‘Is globalization over?’- the result is below, and in my humble opinion is a good rendition of the kind of response that a ‘two handed economist’ might give (‘on one hand…on the other’). I think I can just about do better, and if there is any lesson to draw it is for human writers to be more opinionated, quirky or style driven in how they write. I am not out of a job just yet.
Have a great week ahead,
It is difficult to say whether globalization is “over,” as the term can be interpreted in different ways. Some people use the term to refer to the increased interconnectedness of the world’s economies, while others use it to refer to the spread of Western culture around the world.
In terms of economic interconnectedness, it is true that globalization has slowed down in recent years. Trade growth has slowed, and there has been an increase in protectionist policies such as tariffs and trade barriers. However, it is also important to note that globalization has brought many benefits, such as increased economic growth and the spread of technology and ideas.
It is also worth noting that globalization is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, people and goods have been moving around the world, and different cultures have influenced one another. While the pace of globalization may have slowed in recent years, it is unlikely to come to a complete halt.
In terms of the spread of Western culture, it is also difficult to say whether this process is over. While it is true that other cultures and ways of life have been influenced by Western culture, it is also important to recognize that there is a growing appreciation for cultural diversity and the value of preserving cultural traditions.
In conclusion, it is hard to say whether globalization is “over.” While there have been some changes in the level of economic interconnectedness in recent years, it is unlikely that the world will become completely isolated from one another. Similarly, while Western culture has had an influence on other parts of the world, there is also a growing recognition of the value of cultural diversity.