Earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook — two of the tech world’s most visible leaders — issued seemingly unprompted statements in favor of globalization. In fact, their words may not have been so unprompted. During last year’s presidential campaign, the candidates frequently debated the constraint of globalization. Surprisingly, both candidates agreed that pro-globalization policies should be avoided. Indeed, a wave of anti-globalization perspectives appears to be gaining ground internationally. Yet even as governments become more protectionist, technology continues to transcend borders and remove geopolitical barriers.
Zuckerberg’s manifesto and Tim Cook’s statement extol the need to continue to come together as a global community. Each outlines the ways tech companies should focus their efforts to help. It’s the right message at the right time. In spite of constrictive international trade policy we must continue the remarkable and very beneficial interweaving of the seven billion people on this planet.
Experts Warn Against Protectionist Approach to Global Economy
Economists continue to warn against the negative effects of protectionist policies. In a 2016 address to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Director-General Roberto “DG” Azevêdo remarked:
“Evidently, the last thing the global economy needs today is trade restrictive measures. They can have a further chilling effect on trade flows, with knock-on effects for economic growth and job creation.”
Other organizations have analyzed what might be the most surprising policy decision in recent memory — Brexit. The Centre for Economic Performance believes “all EU countries lose income after Brexit,” and that the new policy will reduce individual U.K. incomes by between 1.3 and 2.6 percent. The same report states that, “in the long run, reduced trade lowers productivity.” Due to Brexit, the U.K. is expected to realize a drop of 6.3 to 9.5 percent of GDP.
Technology Makes up for Policy Losses
Cook’s statement and Zuckerberg’s manifesto remind me of another famous quote from a technology icon, Marc Andreessen: “Software is eating the world.” Today I would say that technology is driving the world. No matter how isolationist global governments might become, technology will continue to remain an increasingly important driver of the world economy.
No matter what policies governments implement, technology-sector growth will continue to unify national and regional economies into one global market. Since 2007, tech R&D and exports have been growing steadily as a percentage of world GDP, a testament to the fact that tech innovation is a priority for many across the globe. Software — especially cloud-based software — can be quickly, easily, and cost-effectively delivered at global scale.
Technology Will Eat Everything; Shape Our Global Economy’s Future
Technology drives large portions of modern policy agendas, whether heads of state realize it or not. E-tailers like eBay, Amazon and Alibaba have gone from niche retail outlets to global powerhouses. Self-driving cars and other automated processes exist in numerous countries. Blockchain, the precursor to global, virtual currencies and payment solutions is more than just a viral meme. Digital services, marketplaces, mobile apps, artificial intelligence, drones and other technologies don’t see nations, states or borders. National boundaries aren’t going to stop how far these types of technologies can spread.
No civilization becomes great by implementing barriers. We must not be blind to the tremendous gains we’ve made as a global community as a result of becoming ever more interconnected. Our ability to interact, communicate and trade with one another has grown and flourished in part because of technology. Cultures only advance when isolationism wanes and global interconnectivity is alive and thriving. We must continue to focus our efforts, as businesses, as individuals, as communities, on improving and enabling the technology that has gotten us this far.