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Q. You are most known for the ‘runaway world’ idea. Do you think the pace of change is intensifying to make our world even more of a runaway world or is there some prospect for moderation?
A. No, I think about 100 years from now the world is likely to be in greater control than it is at the moment. I think we're experiencing very big forces which are pushing us out of the past and we're learning how to manage that. I think in a hundred years time we'll have new institutions, we'll have a new framework for the world and I doubt that it will be a runaway world at the end of the next century.
Q. So who will be in control of it then?
A. Well, I think what we'll have is a more fragmented and unified world simultaneously. If you consider nation states for example; nation states have been around for what 500 years or so, and nation states will still exist 100 years from now, but I think they'll be joined by city states. Consider Hong Kong for example, becoming much more autonomous, they'll be joined by autonomous regions. There'll be new kinds of supra-national organisations. The European union I think is a pioneer, I would expect there to be other kinds of European unions well up and functioning 100 years from now.
Q. Someone sitting in your seat a 100 years ago predicting the geo politics of the globe a 100 years hence would have couched their prediction in terms of nations competing for superiority on agreed domains such as war and population and economics. Do recognise any of those criteria for geo politics in a hundred years time?
A. Well I think in a hundred years time the memory of war between nations, the kind of war that we've been brought up on, will be a distant one. I think a hundred years from now, there will still be wars, there will still be conflicts but they'll be wars where you're trying to contain local conflicts, where you're trying to protect the edges and cope with local ethnic divisions. I think it is very likely that organised war between nations will become something largely of the past and that'll be a big step forward for humanity.
Q. If you wanted to prove you were a top nation during this century or from 1900 onwards you would have looked at your output and your population and your performance in war and technology. Are those indicators going to be ones that somebody might recognise in 2100 looking back?
A. What will happen is that most of the indicators that we associated with nations will no longer be associated with nations or national blocks. For example: I don't think economic power is likely to be as important as defining even a block of nations, as it is at the moment because you will have more ways of managing world economy.
Organisations which for us are still quite shadowy organisations or marginal organisations like the IMF or a world bank, they'll be much more powerful.
Q. If there is a top nation, what do you think it will be?
A. If there is a top nation? Well I don't think there will be, I don't think a single super power will have the same form a hundred years from now.
I don't think for example, it will be China rising taking over from the US. A world of nation states - its been around quite a long while, but until recently there were all these other kinds of political formations, for example there were empires. The disappearance of the Soviet Union is perhaps a disappearance of the last form of empire. Well just as there were different forms of associations between nations in the past, different kinds of organisations that are not purely nation states, you will have the same thing in the future.
I think, there will be different kinds of alignments of groups, they won't be just an organisation of nation states where the most powerful nation somehow runs the world as the US does now. So, I don't think it'll be the American century but I don't think it'll be the Chinese century either.
Q. One of the scenarios that you sketched out is fundamentalism being an increasingly important matter that has to be dealt with by this world in the future. Can you tell me quickly how you think that might be something we should worry about or the scenario you're concerned about.
A. What is happening in the world, what are the trends that will be accentuated a hundred years from now? They are the expansion of a globalised cosmopolitan interaction of different cultures. The main difference between our lives now and 30 or 40 years ago even, is that now you are in immediate contact with people that have different values, come from different cultures from yourself, largely because of what people like you do, largely because of the impact of electronic media.
Well, with the rise of the internet, with other forms of communication, this will intensify. The battle around fundamentalism will be the front line battle through much of the next century because fundamentalism is really rejection of the kind of world which is coming into being, which is a cosmopolitan world, diversity of culture, the possibility of many people living alongside one another, different trajectories of development and, as I said before, different kinds of political organisation coming into being.
Fundamentalism is a refusal of that kind of world, it is a kind of implosion if you like. It is an insistence there is only one proper way of life, only one way of doing things.
We shouldn't think of fundamentalism as just religious fundamentalism, you can have ethnic fundamentalism, nationalist fundamentalisms. You can define fundamentalism as a refusal of dialogue in an intrinsically cosmopolitan world, so it will be a fundamental issue itself, fundamentalism for us.
Q. Necessarily a violent one?
A. I don't think necessarily a violent one but fundamentalism is edged with violence because if you say that ‘my way of life is the only one, others had better get out of the way, or they'd better agree with me’ – it is not the best situation.
I think fundamentalism's always edged with the possibility of aggression and violence, but it is also a kind of dialogue itself, because fundamentalists ask us to consider whether you can live in a world where nothing is sacred. In a cosmopolitan world you do have that issue as a recurrent issue. If you have to live with a diversity of cultures, in some sense you have to have cultural relativism because you must accept that Islam has its own claims alongside Christianity.
Q. If you imagine yourself looking back from 2100 to 2000. What do you think people are going to find the most bizarre and primitive and inexplicable about the way we are now.
A. Well I think actually we might see something quite profound . We might think as bizarre the things that we've simply experienced or put up with in the past. Such as many forms of illness, many things we associate with being a human being. You have these two big revolutions converging, bio technology and information technology and they're going to actually transform the very nature of who we are as human beings. So, I think our whole mode of existence might look sort of odd and primitive a hundred years from now.
Q. If you have a big fear about 2100, what would it be?
A. Well I think my big fear would be the other side of the genetics and information technology revolution. What will it do to us as human beings? Will we still be human beings? Without being too apocalyptic about it I think these two revolutions are going to change the nature of human life. It might not be human life any more. Supposing you can clone human bodies and you can download the brain on a computer; it could make human beings immortal, but would they still be human beings? It is very open to doubt.
Q. And if you have a great hope, what would that be?
A. Well my great hope would be the success of the second age of globalisation. The first stage of globalisation was the late 19th century. Everybody hoped for more effective world government and it collapsed in the face of two world wars. We're in the second age of globalisation, much more intense than the first, we should hope for a more integrated, effective, collaborative world community.
Q. What would be the most far fetched prediction that possibly might happen?
A. Well you don't have to be far fetched about predictions because the world faces bigger risks than its ever faced before, from any dimension of globalisation things could go wrong; financial economy, ecological management, global inequalities, they could cause the world to implode.