BMW i Future Thought Series - What will a truly globalised world look like? BMW i Future Thought Series - What will a truly globalised world look like?



The world in which we live is becoming more interlinked and complex, with social phenomena, technological advancements and political events echoing across our global society with increasing resonance and significance. While it has always been a hotly disputed subject, the arguments for and against globalisation are becoming increasingly prominent in our public discourse.

The questions are myriad. Some believe that humanity should aim for a global society that hinges less on the rules, identities and cultures of nation states. Others believe that we should seek to preserve the status quo that exists within individual, self-governing countries. Some believe that globalisation is an irresistible force that is coming irrespective of government policy or the fluctuating economic ties between countries. Others believe that the extent to which we are truly ‘global’ is overstated – both by scaremongers and idealists.


Amid this mesh of opinions and observations, it is true that for some, the rate of globalisation has felt too rapid. The future scenarios associated with such complexity are best explained by futurist Dan Burrus’ mantra: “The future won’t be ‘either this, or that.’” he explains. “The future will be ‘this and that,’” We are facing a hard trend of globalisation, but in some corners, there will be kickbacks, resistance and hiccups. 

The physical movement of people across the planet’s surface is at an all-time high. In the US, multicultural citizens are the fastest-growing demographic, according to the US Census Bureau, with around 120m multicultural citizens now living in the country. The bureau reports that the multicultural cohort is increasing by 2.3m per year, and by the year 2050, the US will be majority non-Caucasian. Globally, a record 232m people are now living outside of the country in which they were born, according to the UN. Capital cities illustrate just how integrated our cultures can be. For instance, in nearly every London borough, one hundred different languages are spoken, according to the UK Census.



The subject of language in our emerging global society is an interesting one. Linguistics experts from Columbia University in New York estimate that in the far future only 600 languages will remain. In other words, 90% of the languages spoken today will have vanished by 2115.

While we will have to wait over a century for language barriers to disappear of their own accord, in our nearer future, technological solutions will help us speak to people without a conversance in a second language. As audible technologies come to the fore, devices will get better at listening and translating in real time. Tech giant Google in its latest hardware unveiling introduced a new set of headphones and smartphone translation software that enable people to listen to, and speak in, different languages. Users can listen to spoken foreign languages and have them translated into their native tongue in real time. Currently, the system can translate forty languages.


Further on into the future, brain implants similar to those discussed in part four of this series will enable us not just to converse in different languages, but move beyond language altogether. Kevin Warwick, cybernetics professor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Coventry University, believes that brain implants will enable us in the far future to communicate in complex thoughts and images.

“After we augment our minds with chips, it will enable us to communicate telepathically,” explains Professor Warwick. “Our brains will adapt to the complexity of messages that will be thought, rather than spoken. This will add new dimensions to the way we think, increase our intelligence, and change the ways that our minds work.”

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The notion of citizenship in the future will change as many of us aspire to become more global. A recent survey of 500 people in the UK by legal advisory CS Global Partners showed that many people would like to become a dual citizen. Just 11% of the segment owned a second passport, but 89% said that they would like to. The main reasons listed for wanting to do so were increased freedom and human rights (28.57%), and business/career opportunities (16.48%).

In the tech world, there are people at work on a system that aims to replace the necessity of nation states altogether. Using Blockchain, the digital ledger on which cryptocurrency Bitcoin is traded, Bitnation, a digital community, aims to provide government services to people irrespective of where they were born, which country they are a citizen of, or where they are located on a map. This can include deeding land, incorporation, dispute resolution and other services that are traditionally provided by government.

The future path of globalisation will continue to be one of progress, retrenchment, disruption and often, disorder. However, the way we respond to these irreversible shifts will dictate whether globalisation is an empowering force for positive change, or a shift that alienates some corners of society.


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