Seeking the answer to the question who the winning nations, communities, leaders and powers of the current era will be, the book Geo-moment guides readers in the global world of the 21st century by means of maps. The task of the explorers and geo-strategists of the 21st century is to give guidance on the world full of global economic and social challenges. New maps are required, which incorporate the wisdom and the tools of the old ones, but are complemented by today’s knowledge. It answers the question how we can anticipate global processes on the basis of the latest geographic and economic interrelations.
Parameters are important at each birth. The book Geo-moment was born with 1,500 grams, it is the size of an iPad, although it is thicker: it has 408 pages, 6 parts, 24 chapters and a summary with a “geo-manifesto”. The book, which includes 100 exciting and spectacular figures, maps and infographics, seeks the answer to the question what our world in the 21st century is like. This book is an essential collection and selection of the professional work carried out in the last 5 years.
If the genre of the book was to be presented with two words, I would say it is a special guidebook; if with ten words, I would say it is a special guidebook to explore our world in the 21st century. It is a guidebook because it builds upon the thoughts of the latest and most important books, mems of thinkers, different places, and guides towards the unknown future. When the manuscript was finished, the cover was ready, and we had the title – Geopillanat in Hungarian -, we realized if we shuffled the letters of the title we got Lonely Planet, the world’s leading guidebook… thus the definition of the genre was obvious.
The book places a map and a compass into the hands of the readers, and, just like in the case of a guidebook, you can open it at any page, still, everything converges by the end. It is about the moment – the geo-moment in which we live, which is nourished by the past, which creates in the present and builds upon the future.
The main question of the book is who the winners – nations, leaders, communities – of this special geo-moment will be. Will they be the small ones or the large ones; the strong or the fast; centres of peripheries? Countries possessing knowledge, i.e. knowledge-intensive economies located in the old peripheries may be the new landmarks. It requires new perspectives, extensive knowledge and creativity, since we live in the age of fusions, networks and geo-economics. At the Tacitus Lectures event held in February 2016, Paul Tucker, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England said that such nations and countries would be competitive which aligned their monetary and economic policies with their geopolitics.
WHAT MAKES THIS GEO-MOMENT SPECIAL?
The 2008 economic crisis created a new world order, a new value system, with new participants, new co-operations, new places; former centres got to the periphery, and former peripheries became centres. Earlier recipes and dogmas have failed; we need a new mindset and new methods. The 21st century is the era of knowledge, talent, technology and innovation, the currency of which is ideas and innovations. After the age of globalization, the age of technology has set in, and the main question of the book is what role places will play in this technology-driven age. If we merge technology, knowledge and geography into one word, the main question of the book is: how to navigate in the age of tech-knowled(ge)ography?
GEOGRAPHY IS A TOOL TO EXPLORE THE WORLD
My book enquires into the main drives of the major geopolitical and geo-strategical challenges of the 21st century, and turns to geography for an answer. For me, geography is a tool to explore the world, since geography does not just mean memorizing places on our maps, but the knowledge of geography implies a complex exploration of the world. Not everybody thinks the same, though. At the end of the 1990s, Richard O’Brian wrote his book Global Financial Integration: The End of Geography, which is about the role of geographical space in our globalized world. He thinks, thanks to modern information technology, millions of dollars can be transferred from one corner of the Globe to the other in a matter of seconds. Thus, the future in which “location no longer matters in finance” is not far away. Well, today we can assert that O’Brian was not right. A decade later, the geopolitical guru of Stratford, Robert D. Kaplan focused on the definitive role of territoriality in global processes, with his book The Revenge of Geography, which can be read as a response to O’Brian. In his book, Kaplan argues that we may forget about the power of geographical factors but they do not cease to exist. Even technological development is incapable of it, although many thought so; technological development has not brought about the death of geography, but attributed a higher value to the significance of geography. Although his approach is slightly different, Thomas L. Friedman, author of the great book The World is Flat has a similar opinion. In 2013, he claimed that in our world we should not talk about developed and developing countries, but countries which are inspiring. These are the countries that will matter in the future.
MAPS ARE IMPORTANT
In order to understand the processes of this new age, we need maps. Maps are important! Maps are continually changing, developing, but their meaning and their significance remain unchanged. Maps used to be important in the past, and will be important in the future. In the 8th century A.D., the Polynesians drew a map with the help of which they got to more than 1,000 islands within the triangle anchored by New Zealand, Hawaii, and the Easter Island. They knew the stars, the ocean currents, the sea routes. They made their maps by hand. They placed seashells on the junctions, representing islands, and this is how they navigated for centuries. But portolan charts made by European sailors were just as important maps; they described major places and ports in as many details as possible, and these maps meant the cartographical basics of the European explorations 1-2 hundred years later. Or the mosaic map found in the city of Madaba, Jordan, made of two million mosaics in the 5th or 6th century A.D., and containing the complete geographical description of the globalized world.
But what are our maps like today? If we look at the topography or the political-economic map of the Earth, the continents and the boundaries of countries are marked. This new way of thinking is supported by maps because if we look at the world from a different angle, we can adopt a new kind of viewpoint: what does our world map look like viewed from the perspective of Asia or the Pacific? What would it look like if we created our map on the basis of the routes of the world’s 182 airlines, outlining major economic hubs; and the same can be read from the network charts of the world’s cities. If we look at Joel Kotkin’s map, we can find an exciting theory. In his article entitled The New World Order, the American geographer divides the world into 19 regional tribal alliances, each expressed by a shared history and culture.
Norbert Csizmadia’s presentation at the book launch of Geo-Moment on 3 November 2016
WHAT WOULD OUR WORLD LOOK LIKE IF IT WERE A VILLAGE OF 100 PEOPLE?
When the world’s population reached 7 billion in 2011, 100people.org repeated the study carried out in 1990 by a pioneering American environmental scientist, Donella Meadows (1941–2001). She likened the world to a village of 100 people, representing the distribution of the world’s population by gender, age, culture and ethnicity.
Business Insider, however, examined the question from an interesting approach: what would happen if the world’s population decreased to 100 people? In this case, 50 women and 50 men would live, 26 would be children and 74 of them would be adults, only 8 of whom would be 65 and older. 60 of the 100 people would live in Asia, 15 in Africa, 14 in America and 11 in Europe. 51 people would be urban dwellers, 13 would speak Chinese and 5 would speak English as their first language. As for religion, there would be 33 Christians, 22 Muslims, 14 Hindus, 7 Buddhists, 12 people who practice other religions. 48 of the 100 people would earn less than $2 USD per day, 77 people would have a place to shelter them from the wind and the rain, but 23 would not. Only 7 would have a college degree, 22 would possess or share a computer, 77 would use a cell phone and 30 would be active internet users.
This outlines the map of cities and population density – with an Asian hegemony, and interestingly, if we examine the scene of 21st-century technology, innovation, patents and inventions, again, this region is the most predominant: Singapore, South Korea, Japan and China. Another predominant scene appears on maps: the Central European countries, called the new Europe. We can also see on 21st -century maps that invisible borders appear. In Europe, we are looking for the border of the Eurozone, of the European Union, or of Europe and of Central Europe. Yanko Tsetkov has created 20 maps on which Europe is divided by invisible boundaries.
AGE OF GEO-ECONOMICS
It is a major geo-political element of the 21stcentury that a new, multi-polar world order is emerging from the former, mono-polar one. It has three main protagonists: the United States, China and Russia; and two supporting characters: Germany and Turkey. Geo-economics, as a fusional meeting point of economics, social sciences and geography, determines the processes of world economy.
Today, we are witnessing the rise of geo-economics; a competition taking place in the language of commerce but according to the logic of wars. Geopolitical competition transforms global economy, the global balance of power and governance. Before the financial-economic crisis, geopolitics had a local role; in these days, however, conflicts between major powers have flared up again. The conflicts between the West and Russia, China and its neighbours, as well as the crisis of the Middle East, becoming increasingly manifold and multi-faceted, are the most prominent ones.
Although several wars are being fought in the world, from Damascus to Ukraine, nowadays economy is considered the most important battlefield. Military strikes are replaced by economic sanctions, military alliances by competing commercial systems. Currency wars are much more probable now than territorial conquest, and manipulating the price of certain raw materials (such as oil) proves to be more effective than a conventional arms race. Geo-economics may at once mean the antithesis of globalization and its greatest victory. Countries are so inter-dependent and interconnected that the opportunity of exclusion amounts to the gravity of an armed conflict. Geo-economic challenges highlight the powerful trends that are reshaping the world and change the circumstances of the competition between countries. All these outline a world in which the possession of power will be as important as the pursuit of profit, accompanied by an intensifying participation of the state; economic warfare will undermine economic integration; multilateral systems, instead of becoming global, will regress onto a regional level; the price of oil will be low and volatile; therefore, competition will take place for markets and not for resources.
LINKING LINES – THE NEW SILK ROAD
There is one more cartographic element on the map exploring the 21st century which is even more important than borders, and this is the lines extending beyond and linking locations and continents. These are infrastructural lines. In a TED talk, Parag Khanna claimed we have less than 500,000 kilometres of borders, one million kilometres of Internet cables, two million kilometres of pipelines, four million kilometres of railways and 64 million kilometres of roads. These networks will be the most important lines on our maps. It is not a co-incidence that China’s long-term geo-strategy is to shift the axis of world economy from oceans to the mainland again. It intends to regain its former historical, cultural, economic and commercial significance by rebuilding the New Silk Road. It is not a co-incidence that up to date 64 countries have joined the One Belt, One Road initiative, and it is not a co-incidence that with building the New Silk Road, China provides Hungary with a considerable role: three Silk Road networks meet at Hungary. The Silk Road used to be important in history because it transported the most important technological innovations and knowledge of the age, and quality products were exchanged.
WE LIVE IN THE AGE OF FUSIONS
We live in the age of knowledge, in the age of geo-economics, in a world of fusions. We can find fusions in gastronomy, music, science, architecture; fusions are important because something completely new can be born from encounters at the most unexpected places. In terms of gastro-fusions, we can talk about a fusion if the East meets the West. And in this fusional age, in this geo-fusional age big data will be the raw material of the 21st century; knowledge, creativity and experience will be the services; with new participants and from new co-operations the small ones become giants, as start-up companies, start-up cities and start-up nations have demonstrated. In a new Cambrian moment, we are witnessing a new technological-entrepreneurial revolution. If we have to highlight one map from the 21st century, this would be the map of Internet, with its networks and hubs.
GEO-MANIFESTO – EXPLORERS OF THE 21ST CENTURY
“Geopolitics is what makes you hit the bottom, and geopolitics is what gets you out.” The famous saying by George Friedman has become a motto to be followed by each leader in this century. Decision-makers of the 21st century are the ones who will be able to view the world from a geopolitical perspective, and dare to re-draw the maps. Philip Zimbardo, the father of the Stanford Prison Experiment said, ‘if one person withstands the world, he is mad; if three or four people do the same, it is a standpoint’. If one of our maps is incorrect, it is useless, might probably mislead us, but it is not a typical construction error, though; but three or four of them are the first sign of a paradigm shift. Leaders of the most dynamically growing multinational companies, professors of most successful universities and politicians with extensive international networks of relationships have already tossed their incorrect maps aside, and they are drawing their own system of targets and interpretation onto a blank sheet. Leaders of the world are building a close network with Eastern Europe, India and Southeast Asia to refresh their portfolios with the creativity of small start-ups. In the meantime, China is building the modern Silk Road crossing the Asian continent from the east. The directors of technological giants pay more and more attention to global social issues, putting pressure on such international political decisions such as space race, global warming or migration.
Science has also turned towards geopolitics: urbanism, territoriality, sustainability and social geography are also included in the economic and leadership studies of the University College London. In 2015, Stanford launched its global executive programme of $700 million USD, seeking answers to economic-social questions, globalization and technological challenges. At the Faculty of Social Sciences of the National University of Singapore, Asia’s best university, economics is complemented by geography, communications theory, psychology and politology. Similar processes have commenced at Hungary’s Corvinus University. The world’s leading economic, political and knowledge centres intend to redraw the maps of the world, adding their own interpretation kit and legend to them. These metropolitan areas and regions (Boston, San Francisco, Bangalore, Singapore…) intend to become such hubs that are inalienable from the data, knowledge and innovation networks influencing the decisions of the world.
Ultimately, it is always people and the decisions of people that are behind geopolitical turning points. And those will be the decision-makers, economic, political, scientific and technological leaders of the 21st century who are able to comprehend global connections and create hubs of creativity and information flow around them. Those who are brave, curious and creative enough to draw strength from crises and to reconsider the role of spatiality in global decision-making. Those who are seeking fusions and new border areas, may they be physical, natural or scientific. Those who build personal networks with other hubs and draw strength from the exchange of experiences with other cultures. They will be real explorers, global leaders, pilgrims of dynamic maps who, adopting a geopolitical viewpoint, reshape the world.