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The global economy is undergoing through several major alignments at the same time. What might the future hold? This is our attempt to describe the challenges ahead, and in a new format, FGAnimate.
Our intern, Yiran, just completed her project titled “Technology, Salvation and the in-between”. This is a survey of what prominent individuals are forecasting for the future of technology and highlight the divergence of opinions in technology continuing to deliver ‘salvation’ in the next thirty to forty years.
This is a classic artifact from the future. This is WoHa’s projective Strange Times, part of DesignSingapore’s Design 2050 Studios – created as a “gateway to the future” to hub a creative community to create future design propositions on various aspects of life in 2050 – which sets the island state of Singapore in the year 2050 in times of rising sea levels and shortening fuel resources. What imagination!
(yes, this came out in 2009 and I’ve always wanted to post the softcopy of the newspaper, here it is.)
I’m reading “The Making of Northeast Asia” by Calder and Ye on the rapid stitching together of Northeast Asia into an organisational bloc to be reckoned with.
I saw an intriguing map of a network of high speed rails tying up the region together, titled the Big Loop, proposed in the early 2000s by Mr Shioya. Fast forward a decade later and we see China’s high speed rail system going their own way and also stitching up the region along the way too.
The comparison with past policy plans, and actual implementation on the ground years later, is always fascinating.
What are the new lucrative routes of 2030? What routes will drop in importance? Where are the centers of this new trade landscape? More in this PWC Future of World Trade routes (2030).
The World Economic Forum has released an excellent global risks report
The interconnectedness map shows how one event ripples to another. The value here is it forces the risk monitoring units to look beyond their narrow definitions of operational risk to systemic risk. If corporations or nations can contextualise it appropriately, and setup platforms across Ministries or departments, this may help lower shock. Now the hard part is for trans-national platforms if we are entering a post-American G-zero world.
When I was growing up, I read an intriguing Amar Chitra Katha story on how Indra, king of heaven, tricked a virtuous asura king into giving up his throne. To cut a long story short, the asura king had achieved high level of virtue and displaced Indra from his heavenly throne. Indra disguised himself as a traveling pilgrim, visited the asura king, gained his confidence and was given a boon. Indra asked for a small thing from the asura king (I think it was authenticity or something like that). The asura king gave it, but he soon found out that his other earthly powers of might, reason and so on all depended on this small thing to exist, and these powers quickly departed him, and soon the asura king weakened and died. Indra returned triumphant to heaven.
What does this have to do with America’s rebound? There has been plenty of confidence in the reinvention of America, it’s taken for granted that America will once again awe the world with its transformation. But is there one small thing where everything hinges on, that becomes the slippery slope of decline?
The excellent Mr James Fallow of Atlantic Monthly tackles this here. Which I’ll quote at length below.
“The main concerns boil down to jobs, debt, military strength, and overall independence. Jobs: Will the rise of other economies mean the decline of opportunities within America, especially for the middle-class jobs that have been the country’s social glue? Debt: Will reliance on borrowed money from abroad further limit the country’s future prosperity, and its freedom of action too? The military: As wealth flows, so inevitably will armed strength. Would an ultimately weaker United States therefore risk a military showdown or intimidation from a rearmed China? And independence in the broadest sense: Would the world respect a threadbare America? Will repressive values rise with an ascendant China—and liberal values sink with a foundering United States? How much will American leaders have to kowtow?
So it’s jobs. Once that social glue that middle class jobs provide is gone, a lot of things go too in slow decline. Mr Fallows goes on to describe reforms that are needed in American government needed to adapt to the world.
Here I am reminded by a colleague who came back from many years in Tokyo and his take on Japanese polity’s current inability to adapt to a myriad of small changes (the boiling frog syndrome) unless there is a coherent, overwhelming external shock that pushes Japanese polity to slam the reset button. Commodore Perry’s ships did that, so did the two bombs. And Japanese polity adapted admirably, and then fossilized.
Mr Fallows goes on to state that addressing the menu of problems is within America’s current means. I echo Mr Fallows here when he says American society is fine, but not American polity. The current governing system is simply not able to deliver. 2001 was an admirable time to push the reset button, but it wasn’t used. A fine crisis wasted. Mr Fallows wraps up by saying America should try to reinstitute a multigenerational perspective in planning for the future, and honing its still unmatched strengths. It sounds sensible, it also sounds like muddling through, but perhaps that is the best and more realistic option available.
When I was in CN last month, we were showed the outline of a pilot reform program by the central govt to reform Pearl River Delta into ‘Asia Pacific’s most dynamic city cluster’ by 2020. That was quite an audacious statement, and you probably know that a ‘pilot reform’ by the China central govt means they set the large directions but leave it to the city governments to work out the details, and more importantly, best practices of what works will be replicated across China to guide the formation of their mega city clusters. What makes PRD 2020 interesting is they are gearing to go head on with Korea in terms of advanced manufacturing, creating a services hub that will be augmented with HK (if they get it right) and the number of global Chinese MNCs they want to create. I’ve combed through the outline and with some help from HK’s Civic Exchange group on slideshare here it is!