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Editorial of the Day: A global order as technology’s much needed pole star

Context: The article discusses the challenges posed by technology to the traditional notion of a nation-state and the need for a global regulatory framework. It highlights how technology has blurred geographical boundaries, making it difficult for nation-states to enforce laws and maintain sovereignty. The power and influence of large tech companies, particularly in terms of data control, are also addressed. The article calls for a principle-based global order to govern technology and emphasizes India’s opportunity, as the current chair of the G-20, to lead in establishing such regulations.

Global order as technology’s much needed pole star background

Technology and its evolution

  • Technology refers to the application of scientific knowledge and tools to create practical solutions or improve existing processes, systems, and devices.
  • It encompasses a wide range of fields and industries, including information technology, electronics, communications, transportation, medicine, and more.
  • Evolution of technology:
    • Technology has evolved tremendously throughout human history.
    • From early tools and weapons to the monumental achievements of the Industrial Revolution, each era has brought innovative advancements.
    • The 20th century witnessed the rise of electricity, telecommunications, and computing, setting the stage for the Information Age.
    • In recent decades, smartphones, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology have emerged, transforming communication, healthcare, and various industries.
  • The impact of technology is vast, revolutionizing how we live, work, and interact in a rapidly changing world.

Technology as a double-edged sword

  • Technology is often described as a double-edged sword, capable of both remarkable benefits and unintended consequences.
  • On one hand, it has revolutionized communication, knowledge sharing, and economic growth. It has improved healthcare outcomes, enhanced productivity, and connected people across the globe.
  • On the other hand, technology has raised concerns about privacy, cybersecurity, job displacement, and the digital divide. It has the potential to amplify inequality, create social isolation, and harm the environment.
  • The key lies in responsible and ethical implementation, addressing these challenges, and ensuring that technology is used as a force for positive change, benefiting all of humanity.

How technology is shaping contemporary geopolitics?

  • Technology is at the heart of contemporary geopolitics, shaping global alignments and defining the contours of global engagements.
  • Countries are investing heavily in emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and 5G, which are expected to have transformational impacts on the global economy.
  • Technology is driving both cooperation and competition among nations, leading to the formation of tech-based partnerships and alliances.
  • However, technology is also fragmenting the world order, with differing norms and standards causing conflicts and disruptions.
  • Democracies face challenges from authoritarian regimes’ pursuit of tech supremacy and the influence of Big Tech companies. The competition between democracies and authoritarian regimes in the tech race is reconfiguring the power balance.

What is the 2000 Dot-com bubble burst?

  • It refers to a significant market crash in the technology sector, particularly in companies involved in internet-related businesses.
  • During the late 1990s, there was a rapid rise in the valuation and investment in these companies.
  • However, many of these dot-com companies had little or no profits or sustainable business models.
  • As a result, investor confidence started to decline. In early 2000, the investment bubble burst, and the stock prices of many dot-com companies plummeted.

Decoding the Editorial

  •  The article acknowledges that the rapid development of technology since the Dot-com bubble burst in 2000 has brought significant transformations to societies and daily lives.
  • It recognizes that technology has made life easier in many ways but also points out that it has presented complex challenges that require a reevaluation of fundamental notions in politics and governance.
  • The article suggests that the impact of technology on various aspects of society necessitates a reconsideration of existing political and governance structures to effectively address the challenges posed by these advancements.

Challenges posed by the technology to notion of nation-state

  • Transborder Externalities:
    • Technology-enabled activities, like cyber-attacks, transcend geographical boundaries and challenge the socio-economic and political existence of nation-states.
    • This disrupts the conventional notion of a territorially bounded nation-state and necessitates new approaches to address cross-border threats.
  • Enforceability of Geographically based Rules:
    • The declining significance of physical borders in the digital age makes it challenging for nation-states to enforce their laws and regulations on virtual activities.
    • Lack of globally-accepted norms and difficulties in gathering evidence across geographies hinder effective law enforcement.
  • Inadequate Government Capacity:
    • Emerging technologies reveal the nation-state’s limited capacity to administer and regulate them.
    • Multinational corporations and supranational organizations, operate independently of traditional administrative and regulatory institutions, diminishing the government’s control and influence in various domains.

Data is the new oil

  • The article emphasizes that data has become a critical and highly valuable resource in the modern technological era.
  • With a valuation of more than $4,100 billion, the five largest American tech companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft) have symbolically surpassed Germany’s GDP (the world’s fourth largest economy) in terms of valuation”. One of the most important levers of these companies is data and their use.
  • These companies are referred to as “meta-platforms” because their immense size enables them to continuously analyze and enhance algorithms that shape and potentially control individuals and their activities.
  • The article suggests that the concentration of data in the hands of these companies has granted them unprecedented control and influence over society.

Way ahead: Principle-based global order

  • The article suggests that a principle-based global order for technology is needed to address the challenges posed by the borderless nature of technology and the anonymity of actors involved.
  • Such an order would help streamline enforceability challenges, guide emerging economies in defining their sovereignty, and facilitate the adoption and diffusion of technology.
  • It emphasizes the importance of a global regulatory system that is trusted by all countries, particularly developing nations, to establish a data-sharing ecosystem based on privacy and the free flow of data.
  • The article implies that India, in particular, requires a data transfer and data privacy law, but emphasizes that these laws alone are not sufficient without a globally accepted framework that ensures trust and cooperation among nations.
  • With India, as the current chair of the G-20, this is the perfect opportunity to take leadership in this as it has done earlier in green initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance or the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

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