Yesterday evening in Munich I listened to a speech from the CEO of Boston Consulting Group Hans-Peter Bürkner about "globalization", an issue that has my natural affinity. Yet, the speech as such I found rather "moderately novel" as its main lines of thought were put forward by Thomas Friedman already 3 years ago in “The World is Flat”. Especially, Mr. Bürkner's part about the role of governments was more of wishful thinking than a reality-based account on the true interests of such a body which is depending on a free electorate.
Anyway, in case someone is interested on more vision and foresight in terms of "what's next" on the global scene, being addressed from an entirely different angle in the shape of a novel, I happily recommend 8W8. The author is Ralf Hirt whom I met in January after moderating the India-panel at the DLD-conference in Munich. It's instrumental to understand the background of Ralf to become clear on both his motivation and insight: He has held leadership positions in the internet industry for a decade and has lived all over the world, in his home town Stuttgart, Hong Kong, Sydney, London and currently New York. In crossing these two lines of experience extrapolating their status-quo plus visioning with lots of foresight, he conceived his first book 8W8. It is worthwhile mentioning that the book is indeed fiction, yet the concept of a "new world modelling engine" are not so far away that this book would fall into the category of "science fiction".
Well, what is it about? The storyline deals with 15 high calibre people from of the "Golden Sky", a community committed with the aspiration to change the world for the sake of good. These 15 people come from a whole array of diverse backgrounds, like Oskar Feller, an editor for a leading internet magazine, Maria who is a doctor developing high-scale programmes to fight HIV/AIDS, Priyanka from India who is an IT-crack working for a global media company or Emanuel, a philosopher and Taoist who has been named for the Nobel Prize. All the characters of the story are here on the 8W8-blog. This group of people is hosted by Winston Chee, a billionaire internet-entrepreneur from China in his island on Hawaii EA-RA.
In this serene and secluded environment, the 15 brains spend a whole week picking each other brains and inspiring each other to solve one crucial problem: How to make the interrelations of economies and people visible in a sort of virtual map-overlay on top of the existing geography. What they come up with is the new world modelling engine "8W8" which can be pictured as a virtual helicopter the "pilot" would use to fly over the terrain of the earth to make these invisible connections visible. Delving even deeper into the concept it transcends into a new form of radical constructivism as the vision the pilot would receive on his dashboard would be a crossover between absolute measurable truths and his set of values/selective perception. What the pilot would get to see is both on “earth level” and on “sky level” the “volumes” of a whole set of parameters. The former range from hard factors like population, GNP, metrics on infrastructure, public institutions to innovation, the latter comprise for example metrics for democracy, human rights, quality of living, level of terrorism and such.
Yet, what is more that beyond statistics on GNP or PPP which are available as top-level data today, 8W8 equally entails a bottom-up approach from the level of the “element” (individual) which will aggregate in “streams” into “Global Space Tribes” according to its interest, e.g. “MBA Jazz Wireless Tribe (MBAJWT)”, “Catholic Fast Food Blue Collar Single Mother of Four (CFFBCSMF)” or the “Taoist Tribe (TT)”. These become even more interesting if one looks at actual vertically positioned Web 2.0 platforms which either try to bring a community of like-minded people together like “Dogster” or provide a tool to define and organize a target group of any shape like Ning. Yet, both of these platforms have in common that they require someone to become a “member” by “registration” and do all these various steps actively online. In that context I do believe that there will be not in too far future a kind of “ambient computing” where the unconscious behaviour patterns will be able to bring people in a meaningful way together. Hence, aggregating this sort of behaviour and making it somehow visible is not that far away from 8W8’s concept of the “Global Space Tribe”.
One thing I had hoped throughout the whole story to occur, is a bit more of conflict, friction, sex: As Oskar and Theresa, a computer scientist, seem to come along very well, I waited for that forbidden kiss, the clandestine quickie to happen under the waterfall of perfectly pristine EA-RA. Not for the sake of sensation, but to portray people regardless of their brains and social status when they become most human: emotional to the extent of irrational. The figures appear prim and proper, and at best tease each other lightly in order to surely succumb to perfect harmony. Irrespective of that, what I liked from a storytelling point of view is the ability to portray a broad set of global citizens who find a common denominator to discuss a topic, be focussed in defining a goal, accepting each other’s variety of viewpoints, being non-judgemental and fully embark on the beneficial concept of diversity.
Altogether, I liked the book a lot as it is coherently able to explain the road ahead in globalization by the force of the internet and the road ahead of the internet by the force of globalization. What gave me food for thought via the concepts of “Global Space Tribes” was the decreasing influence of governments, because free people in a free world are able to cross-pollinate their ideas and aspirations regardless of the strangulating rigidity of what we call a country today. For someone like me who happily articulates his despise of today’s governments, the vision of 8W8 is one which deserves active pursuit.
Who is interested in buying the book, Amazon has it, either in print or for the Kindle.