Countries are about to end. We’re converging back to Pangea.

Credits: Open Culture

Though geology might tell a different story, it’s pretty clear now, more than ever, that the world is heading back to Pangea. That is, as people, the historical barriers of country and nationality are becoming less and less relevant.

This idea may sound crazy when we think about it through the mental models we have today. We are all citizens of countries, pay local taxes, cheer for our national teams, and speak different languages. However, if we analyze the thousands of years of human history, we realize that concepts that were obvious at a certain period can become absurd later, and vice versa. Ideas such as geocentrism and mythology were obvious to Ancient Greeks, but don't make sense today. Or in other cases, such as universal suffrage or freedom of speech, ideas that were not accepted 100 years ago are common sense in most places today.

This is caused as new developments in society, economy, and technology constantly reshape the world. Just think about how the Industrial Revolution changed many societies across the globe, catalyzing, among many other things, massive migrations from farms to cities. We’re living in one of these moments.

And yet, all over the world, we continue to see people and institutions cling to these antiquated notions of “us” versus “them,” unable to accept the inevitable and unable to adjust to the world that is to come. But, as it happened many times when massive forces collided and changed the world, it can’t be stopped.

The undeniable trend of human connection and movement

Technological advances in communication, such as internet, social media, and in transportation have connected the world and accelerated migration trends. According to the United Nations, the number of international migrants — persons living in a country other than where they were born — reached 244 million in 2015, an increase of 71 million (41% ) when compared to 2000. This represents 2x the population growth in the same period.

This number is expected to increase. According to a Global Talent survey published by Boston Consulting Group, 64% of workers are willing to move and work abroad. This number is as high as 90% for some countries as France and Netherlands. In a similar survey, PwC found that about 70% of graduates in the US and in Europe want to work abroad.

When we analyze the age of these international migrants, we see that they are younger than the general population, as shown below:

Source: United Nations, International Migration Report 2015

This is not surprising, as young people have always been associated with new trends of their times and tend to be more mobile. What is different now is that the connectivity brought by technological advances made current youngsters, the 1.8bi Millennials (born 1980–1997[1]), the first global generation. As Ben Tyrell, founder of Move Hub says:

“Young people are not developing the strong connection to their place of birth but rather see themselves as part of a global community. They move to China with the same ease our grandparents moved to Kent.”

What’s special about them? They have a completely new mindset when compared with older generations. They belong anywhere and share most traits regardless of where they were born. Trends in areas such as fashion, entertainment, and politics go viral in places such as Facebook and Snapchat.

Pop culture has no country boundaries for Millennials. Think about Psy’s Gangnam Style, which reached 2bi+ views on Youtube and the top of hit parade in 30+ countries. Or The Dress (#dressgate), the viral meme that took social media by storm in multiple countries.

They speak their native languages and are proud of their heritage, but enjoy having a lingua-franca to communicate with peers all over the world. They are always connected, which makes geography almost irrelevant. They don’t want to settle down, they were born to explore the world.

Countries are so old fashioned

Why do humans organize in countries? To put very simply: security and survival. For the long version, read two of my favorite books: Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.

The short version: as soon as our ancestors settled down in agricultural communities and created wealth they needed protection from invaders, or “others”. It was a race for survival where the “us vs. them” mentality was the only option. Small communities grew into towns, then into cities, which eventually evolved into kingdoms and empires. Many centuries and wars later, countries emerged as the dominant political organization, with religion, nationalist/militarism, and culture as amalgamating components.

Grouping people by place of birth made a lot of sense in a world where geographic barriers isolated human groups that needed to survive and thrive in isolation. Humans formed culturally and ethnically homogeneous groups that competed for global resources in a zero-sum game, potentially killing each other in the process.

However, technology and migration are making this distinction irrelevant. The internet has facilitated a never-before-seen degree of connection across the planet and transportation and logistics lowered the barriers for physical integration. The acceleration in migration flows blended populations within country boundaries. The resulting globalization unified culture and tastes from completely different realities and backgrounds.

So, why do we need divisions in a world where customers from different places have similar cultures and demand the same products and services? In this context, boundaries harm customers more than help. People from some countries are lucky enough to enjoy the full benefits of the latest innovations, while their neighbors do not.

Consider the entertainment industry, which has become digital and global. TV shows have a global audience and can be distributed at zero cost over the internet, but are only available in few countries. For instance, a fan of Game of Thrones would not be able to watch the show in many countries, as HBO is neither available there nor licenses its content to a local provider. Their only resource is piracy, which is a lose-lose solution.

However, Millennials, the first global generation, are coming to age soon and will be the catalysts of a fundamental change. They will shape politics, society, and business based on their global view. Government and private firms will be redesigned to stay relevant. They will bring Pangea back.

It won’t be easy… but it will be worth it

The road ahead will be full of barriers, such as nationalism, xenophobism, and protectionism. Some sectors of the population, particularly in developed economies, are actually going towards national entrenchment. According to a BBC article,

“In these richer nations, the concept of global citizenship appears to have taken a serious hit after the financial crash of 2008. In Germany, for example, only 30% of respondents see themselves as global citizens.”

The Brexit referendum is a case in point. Regardless of the result, it shows that a considerable part of the British population wants to leave the EU, putting one of the most important experiments of country integration at risk. The good news is the “Leave” vote is significantly lower amongst Millennials when we compare with older age groups.

The ride back to Pangea is just starting, but will shape the future. A truly connected world will improve the lives of millions of people who don't currently have access to all the benefits of developed countries. For companies, it will remove the friction when accessing new markets and serving customers anywhere. This should create a meritocratic system where the wealth would be allocated based on competence and results, not on the lottery of birth. Humanity would be better off.

It will be a long journey and many barriers will have to be removed before making this dream come true. This process will create huge opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies that want to redesign the global economic system. There will be winners and losers, as in any change, but the balance will be positive.

We can, and should build a better future. Just imagine, it is not hard to do.

[1] United Nations Populations Division

[2] Based on UN data extracted from http://www.geohive.com/earth/his_history3.aspx

Co-founder & CEO@Tint, HBS MBA’13, #insurtech advocate, entrepreneurship & travel fanatic

Co-founder & CEO@Tint, HBS MBA’13, #insurtech advocate, entrepreneurship & travel fanatic