The Fluid Society

Digital Communities ?

Borders? Natural boundaries are clear. If a river cuts through a landscape, you may get different landscapes on either side of the river and partly different ecosystems. Apparently they are two different worlds. But if you observe more closely, you will notice that wind, water, birds, animals, dust and microbes effortlessly cross the river. It is therefore a world with two somewhat different landscapes, but interconnected by millions of migrating entities. Migration of animals, transport of water, dust or seeds is normally vital to keep ecologies healthy on both sides of natural boundaries.
It is not different in the world of humanity, but it seems that politicians do not see this. They still believe that you must manage your borders with a customs post and do everything to stop foreign influences. Our economy and all our laws and regulations are based on that basic idea.

Trans boundary influences. But neither climate nor digitalisation stops at physical boundaries. And it is very difficult to stop migrants to move when it is easy to get information where it is better to live. Such as elephants, zebras and wildebeest, migrate to other areas for food and water. Physical boundaries are given less meaning in a digitized world. They had no meaning in the past when people could just go where they wanted. That is only a few hundred years ago. They also have less meaning in a future in which people and organizations travel and work digitally, do international business, form digital communities regardless of location or nation. Digital migration is becoming vital for the progress of humanity in the digitized society.

Physical boundaries still have meaning, but it is ridiculous and stupid, as some populists suggest, that countries should hide from foreign influences behind stone walls. Building nations based on geography and customs posts becomes counterproductive. Countries that try to do that, such as China, Russia, the UK and even the US, will all be faced with the disadvantages in the long run. The modern world has been built and has made enormous progress in almost all areas in which humanity is active, thanks to the cross-border cooperation of thousands of companies, organizations and individuals. Of course we still need countries to care for people, to protect landscapes, to do business locally. But as in nature: foreign influences are healthy and are needed to gain new ideas, exchange knowledge and to give people the opportunity to make international contacts. We need more “semi-permeable” borders and a country-by-country agenda that clarifies on which topics countries should work across borders and on which topics countries should work alone. We are currently failing in international cooperation, while we want to exclude ourselves from others in an exorbitant way.

Anticipate on the digitalization of society. Politicians should in the first place accept the given of a digital society and should stop governing based upon physical borders. We urgently need laws and regulations for a number of topics at international level independent of location or nation. What we need is that international companies don’t “belong” to a single country any more, but should be governed by international laws, so they can operate everywhere under the same conditions in certain markets. What we need is that data privacy is guaranteed for every citizen in the world, under the same law. What we need is that cyber criminality is tackled by international laws and means, so national governments can really assist people and organizations in ransomware or other hostage taking occurrences. What we need, like Tim Berners-Lee ( “Contract for the Web” ) advocates, is that internet entrance becomes a human right for every citizen and companies should make that possible for a fair price. What we need is promotion of cross border sectorial cooperation on topics as health, sustainability & climate, education. We should synchronize national laws much more internationally. So the nightmare with fiscal laws that are different in every country can be solved. That can lead, as example, to a global health passport, entrance to basic knowledge or capital for every citizen in the world thanks to free internet entrance, to fair and common fiscal laws for companies operating in different countries, etc.

Digital communities. This all means we should start thinking more in cross border communities, independent of location or nation. Digital communities that fulfil certain authorized tasks for mankind in a specific area (climate, health, education, science, in the longer run: transport, energy, etc.), with a strong mandate independent of whatever country. Including digital protections of these communities against hackers, cyber criminals or nation states !

Challenges. So these are some challenges for serious politicians who want to make the difference. Looking far ahead ? Yes, but isn’t that what we expect from politicians, instead of only thinking about next elections ? A tremendous challenge for politicians that base today their legal mandate on national voting systems and whose genes are formed by territorial thinking. But also: urgently needed and unavoidable.

Companies and science are leading. At present, however, there seem to be more companies or scientific communities that understand the new world than politicians. We see that companies make CSR (corporate social responsibility) and topics such as sustainability a serious part of the management agenda. There are thousands of cross-border commercial partnerships, between a few or sometimes hundreds of companies. All this works peacefully, without intervention of countries. Companies also try to create equal cross-border working conditions for their employees within their own activities. Many international scientific communities also work more or less independently of countries. In long-term health research, in the fundamental sciences, in astronomy. These areas seem so far away from political thinking that even the most authoritarian regimes allow their scientists to work together.

However, the latest developments in politics are that we are seeing more and more populists. Typically the people who look backwards to go into the future. Which can lead to serious accidents or at least frustrated progress. Why do we give these people the opportunity to ruin progress in the world? It seems that we have to wait for politicians with a digital vision to lead us to the future of humanity. Just as we have digital change managers in companies, we need ‘digital change politicians’ in politics. The insight in the need to replace national or border thinking on a number of topics by (the development of) digital communities and international laws and regulations. These are desperately needed to protect citizens and organizations against authoritarian politicians and to prepare humanity for the future. And how should these digital communities, authorities or what we call them be governed? That is of course a major challenge. But we have other examples. Such as how we solved thanks to international cooperation the problems with the hole in the ozone layer. The cooperation within the IPCC (UN Climate Commission), which led to the Paris Climate Agreement, is another example that we can use for other subjects in the future.

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