Mini-Multilateralism and “connectography:” “Generation Now” looking ahead in a networked “infosphere”

ICM students presenting at ACUNS conference, Coventry University, UK, June 25-27, 2020 – Virtual Conference

James Wheatley, Sara Rabelo-Tacher, Quiana Criales, Natalie Affenita, Hope A. DeVito, Basilio G. Monteiro

                                 Academic Council on the United Nations System

Covid-19 have exposed the deep flaws of the structures of all aspects of global society, and now, like all pandemics before, it offers us opportunities to imagine a new world that is more equitable and content. The younger generation impacted by this pandemic will not allow the world to go as usual. Globalization has been a convenient camouflage to lull us into feeling that prosperity is upon us… In fact, it was and is “helicopter-globalization” – which benefited only those with good tele-connectivity and tele-port, regardless of geographical location.

The inevitable challenges of climate change and its disruptive consequences are upon us. Any deliberations about economy, geopolitical relationships without taking into account climate change will be an exercise in futility.

Our students’ presentations are framed in the context of mini-multilateralism, with focus on regional supply chain, while keeping loose connections with larger globalization as demanded. The trust in economy has collapsed. Trust, is a human virtue, and cannot be managed by sophisticated protocols, checks and balances, cannot be technologized. Trust is nurtured in frequent close human proximities, which nurtures familiarity (unrelated to business gatherings).

Parag Khanna in his book Connectography: Maping the Future of Global Civilization states that Connectivity is destiny – and the most connected powers, and people, will win. Climate change is going to change some of that connectography. When he wrote his book, he did not anticipate the COVOD-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, there is a foresight in this thinking and worth paying attention to. He believes there are two main megatrends shaping the world we live in today: urbanization and connectivity, and the precarious of both this pandemic has exacerbated. And, together, they dictate human behavior every bit as much as – maybe even more than – any other force or factor we’ve seen previously.

Connectivity really comes down to the enablement of supply chains, both physical and digital, which are now the conduits of our economies. What we have seen is that – in a very uncoordinated, unsynchronized yet simultaneous decision-making process – billions of people are gravitating toward infrastructure and the supply chains they enable. (https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2018/06/connectography.html).

Here, in our panel we are advocating for regional supply chain, which will have inevitable impact on mitigating economic inequality as corporations need not go around the world foraging for inhumanly cheap labor; regional supply chain with improved regional transportation  modalities will mitigate carbon emissions, and will de-urbanize our glass-cities which increasingly are becoming, given its high density population, incubators for all kinds of epidemics.

We advocate for re-thinking the tourism industry, which is driven by neo-liberal economic impulses and has created sustainability disasters in most part of the planet earth.

The post-pandemic world will grapple with some fundamental questions: Who are we, and how do we relate to each other? Luciano Floridi, one of the leading figures in contemporary philosophy, argues that the explosive developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is changing the answer to these fundamental human questions. As the boundaries between life online and offline break down, and we become seamlessly connected to each other and surrounded by smart, responsive objects, we are all becoming integrated into an “infosphere”. Personas we adopt in social media, for example, feed into our ‘real’ lives so that we begin to live, as Floridi puts in, “onlife”. This metaphysical shift represents nothing less than a “fourth revolution.”

The pandemic and post pandemic living as brought us to the realization that “onlife” defines more and more of our daily activity – the way we shop, work, learn, care for our health, entertain ourselves, conduct our relationships; the way we interact with the worlds of law, finance, and politics; even the way we conduct war. In every department of life, ICTs have become environmental forces which are creating and transforming our realities.

Economist E. F. Schumacher in 1970s, who was an important voice then at the United Nations, advocated an economic model of Small is Beautiful as if People Mattered. May be in this pandemic it is time to dust off his little but perceptive book. He advocated for the end of the excessive consumption, inspired movements such as “buy locally,” Fair Trade, and strongly opposed casino capitalism.

The presentations of the students in this panel are located in this framework. They are the “generation now” thinking radically and eager to grab the opportunity painfully unfolded by COVID-19 and seeking to shape a better world for themselves and the generations to come.

James Wheatley

in his presentation on hyperloop and the future of travel made a compelling case for regional supply chain, without compromising global alliances, as a way to address climate change, income inequality, de-urbanization and particularly to nurture the trust essential in any economic activity. He highlighted the evolving new modes of transportation, particularly the Hyperloop experiment in the Netherlands, to underscore the feasibility of regional supply chain.

Sara Rabelo-Tacher

examined COVID-19 trajectory and argued that in times of global crises, nations must prioritize communication and collaboration in order to overcome the issues together. She paid significant attention to the issues of national pride and the position of countries in the hierarchy of geopolitics, which compels the nations to control the information about the pandemics and thus fudge the essential information in detriment to global community.

Quiana Criales

examined the complex dangers of technology in the post-COVID-19 era. She examined the dangers of a complex system of ICT, threats to national economic system, national security, civility, and call for simplicity. She argued that the multilateral dependency can be fatal in pandemic times as she pointed out that given the accelerated climate change, the frequency of pandemics will be in short cycles. Her analysis of technology capitalism highlighted how the monopolies are significant threats to national security. She underscored that public services and essential resources, specifically within technology sector have become privatized commodities.

Natalie Affenita

in her presentation on Travelers and NOT Tourism she argued that post-COVID-19 world must be different for the sake of the health of the planet earth and it is inhabitants. The global pause imposed by COVID on human movement rejuvenated the environment at the pleasant surprise and satisfaction of all. She clearly distinguished between a traveler, who seeks to know and learn the people and places, versus a tourist, who seeks enjoyment by doing and seeing things packaged by the tourist agents for a given price, without regard for local culture and history. She anticipates the younger generation will develop a wholesome attitude to travel and safeguard the rapidly deteriorating environment.

Hope DeVito

as a vibrant member of “generation now” examined the prospects of Globalization post COVID-19, which led to some poignant questions for further study: what will the global stage look like after this? Will the countries with long standing power find themselves on the backburner while the middle or smaller power countries bounce back faster from the pandemic? How will globalization change? Will it become more digital with knowledge-based economy? Will the easy flow of travel, resources, etc. be the same? How will the rise of new generation affect power and the economy will be seen?

Basilio G. Monteiro

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