The next wave of globalization is being driven by virtual reality.
Globalization has been on the rise since humans hopped continents millennia ago. The speed at which it has increased has only ever accelerated, and it continues to do so.
The effects of globalization are everywhere.
A store in America has products from around the globe, the prices of which change based on events taking place a continent away. American’s quality of life are affected by the economies, climate changes, and social struggles experienced by every country we trade with. The majority of an American’s shopping cart comes from foreign soil.
From an economic perspective, the world is now one global entity.
One giant net of information.
High speed internet cables have been, and continue to be, strung between each and every continent and country around the globe. Entire infrastructures have been built for the purpose of reducing the time it takes for information to travel by mere milliseconds. A prime example being the communication lines built between Chicago and New York exclusively for the financial industry.
Some problems can only be solved when individuals are face to face in the same room.
Any one who has taken part in management meetings can attest to this. Problems that have lasted months can be solved near instantaneously when a group sits down with each other.
It is this power of presence that has lead to a boom in telepresence technologies. Video conferencing software like Skype and Google hangouts are examples of these innovations.
Companies such as Double Robotics are creating devices that allow a distant person to not only see and hear others in a conference room, but to move around the room themselves. A manager in New York City can inspect a factory floor in Shanghai, China. A team of executives spread across Europe, Asia, and the Americas can all “sit” at the same table in Tel Aviv.
While these technologies are not perfect, they are reducing the friction created by a need for human interaction.
Some specialized skills require physical presence of a professional.
An engineer with the skills necessary to repair or upgrade a machine may live half a world away. The company in need of this engineer will spend time and resources to put the individual or team on site. The knowledge of these engineers is not transferable enough to work remotely, and the company needs their operations online 24/7. Every moment counts.
Specialized surgeons are few and far between. In emergency cases we must hope a surgeon can be put on a plane and flown to the location where they are needed in time to save a life. Telerobotics, has made it possible for professions like surgeons to work remotely through machines. By controlling robotic arms remotely, a surgeon in Berlin can operate on a patient’s heart in Dubai.
Telerobotics allows an engineer in Dallas, Texas to pilot a robot in Mexico City, Mexico to fix broken components moments after a breakdown, not hours or days later.
If you wish to further investigate the upcoming wave of globalization caused by technology, take a look at Richard Baldwin’s book “The Great Convergence”. In it the author expounds upon the implications of two technologies that are driving a large shift in globalization: Telecommunications and Telerobotics.
Both of these technologies share a particular foundation; they are driven by innovations in virtual reality. Virtual reality being an umbrella term for augmented, mixed, and enhanced realities.
Businesses everywhere will no longer rely on the costly nature of human travel.
Controlling telerobotics becomes synonymous with being on site and in person. A user with a virtual reality interface can pilot robots that allow them to see the ground floor of foreign operations and interact with people on site.
Virtual reality allows for “in person” meetings as cheap as sending an email.
We might sympathize with true face to face interactions, and surely there will be value in such interactions, but a cost analysis will lead thousands of companies to abandon physical travel in favor of telecommunications.
The transfer of ideas and culture will have reached a cost point far lower than ever achieved in history. The implications of which are yet to be seen, but are sure to be felt.
Will virtual reality be the ultimate connector of culture?
As travel becomes cheaper, and commerce connects countries, westernization takes place everywhere engaged in global trade. Western countries have absorbed eastern thoughts and practices such as the growing trends of meditation and yoga in the USA.
The transfer of cultures from one country takes place through writing, movies, business, and all manner of media. Virtual reality allows users to step into another country’s culture for little to no cost.
How long will it take a society connected by a digital layer to coalesce into a singular culture?
Virtual Reality is the ultimate surveillance state.
In Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal’s book Stealing Fire, the authors speak about the power of virtual reality to alter a person’s mind state. Virtual reality is inherently the most effective way to collect data on human behavior that has ever been invented. The act of using virtual reality is itself a choice to submit one’s self to the most potent of surveillance states. Every action in virtual reality is being recorded as data.
Virtual reality provides a level of data gathering and user experience optimization never before seen.
Altering a user’s behavior has never been easier, given the massive amounts of user data companies can collect. All of this data, recorded by users from around the globe, will be used to create the most potent tools and experiences of collaboration ever known to mankind. And perhaps the most manipulative.
(For those that find fear in this, be reminded that your use of a computer, smartphone, etc. is also generating data every moment of every day and is itself a surveillance state. Privacy is long dead. Recommended reading: 1984)