19 The not-very-famous last words: it is 2025, and I am at 42,000 feet…


    “…in the next five years, English on the Internet will no longer be the dominant language. Chinese will take over.”
    Eric Schmidt, ex-CEO of Google

    This is a quote by the former CEO of Google from 2009. I remember it well because I made a trip to China that year to research my first book. When I flew back to The Netherlands from China this week, I was reminded of this again. My first book was published in 2011 in The Netherlands, and in 2014 internationally. This book Society 3.0 is still being read a lot in China, as well as in many other countries. That is why I like to travel there, to share our European experiences and thoughts with the Chinese knowmad community, if only to prevent them from leaving Europe behind in their still-speedy development. That would be disastrous for us.

    All predictions that were made about China about ten years ago have come true, and some have exceeded the wildest expectations. I have been fascinated by China for years now. I find it an impressive country. In the past decade, its Gross National Product has risen phenomenally and Chinese banks have become the largest banks in the world after the demise of the American banking elite during the financial crisis ten years ago. On the tech front, some U.S. companies are still relatively dominant, although one could state that companies such as Microsoft-Cisco, Apple, and Google-Oracle have become more global companies than US companies. They have to share the global stage with the Sony/Samsung combination, and with relative newcomers, like Xiaomi and Huawei. All these tech corporations have absorbed the traditional broadcasting and publishing industry all right. Amazon.com is still the largest e-commerce shop in the world. E-commerce? That has become a traditional expression. Forgive me.

    As a result of the hyperinflation in China, peaking in 2017, the resulting meltdown of the U.S. dollar in 2018, and the subsequent launch of the new U.S. dollar, the loyalty of China towards the U.S. dollar will dwindle. Combined with the global consciousness that the American national debt will never be paid off, China has made a definite choice to say goodbye to this New Dollar and has been setting the pace for years by dealing, in their currency, in bilateral trade with the other BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia and India. The Chinese economy is now the largest in the world. China has amassed quite an arsenal of unique raw materials (metals), which Western companies desperately need to produce, for example, catalytic converters, cruise missiles, windmills, cellphones, and flat screen televisions. Because they own 90% of the global supply of these materials, China is virtually a monopolist in this field. You can safely say that China is run more as a multinational than a nation, with a government acting as the Board of Directors. However, they have become more connectors, serving their 300 mega cities in their leading roles in the new world.

    This is how China fundamentally differs from our familiar, stale, Western democratic model. Our view of China as a centrally run, planned economy is not always right. It is not the former East Germany or contemporary Russia. Chinese people respect the centrally-made decisions, and deal with them, in their own way, on a local level. The policy, launched in the beginning of this century, that forced Western companies to share their intellectual proprietary knowledge with local Chinese partners was very successful. That is how the government smartly made use of the Western capitalistic short-term thinking. In these times, the foreign multinationals were so afraid to lose a bit of sales growth in China, that they almost carelessly bargained their intellectual property away. For this, and other reasons, China has slowly moved to the global zenith of technological innovation. So, pretty soon, they will only need us as a market.

    It is fascinating to see that video and Internet gaming is still big business in China. The modern Chinese love it. On one hand, because national TV is still very boring, and on the other hand, because, besides in the large cities, there is not much to do. Millions of Chinese play the game Legend in countless Internet cafés, a so-called “serious” game that has been successful for 20 years. Legend once started out as a virtual world game, comparable to the then Western World of Warcraft, and has since evolved into a game where the virtual world is alternated with assignments in the real world. So, it is an alternate reality where forming teams and working together still forms the basis of the game. One of the companies I visited on my journey supplies a game management system to 170,000 Internet cafés. Cafés? You can hardly call establishments with 1,000 to 5,000 computer terminals cafés. And, computer terminals? These holographic humanity screens, filled to the brim with augmented reality, no longer look like screens we used to call computer terminals. There are screens almost everywhere. Also outside, as glasses, lenses, clothing, windows, and more. Alternate reality gaming, using the physical city itself as the playground, has become extremely popular, especially for tourists who, while playing their game, interconnect and meet local peers in real life. By offering the most spectacular local games, content and interaction, Airbnb, recently bought by Amazon.com, has become the largest tour operator in the world.

    The super-Seats2meet.com locations with its Serendipity Machines in the mega cities have become more like urban meeting places of the new urban Society 3.0 citizen. These value creation locations replace old shopping malls, as the concept of a retail branch has almost disappeared under the influence of Web shopping. These hives are places to game, connect, and are always open to facilitate the process of meeting new people. Many urban people work, date, study, and sleep here regularly. Not only in the 300 mega-cities in China; it is a development in the world’s largest cities. In that sense, the development of value creation within social networks, with both on-line and in-real-life meetings, has surpassed my wildest expectations.

    Almost the largest part of what we used to call the Gross National Product is now realized from these global mega-cities via their value networks. Many have their own currency, although informal trust-based global money transfer systems, like the Indian/African/Arabic Hawala, are still in place, as this has proven to be a reliable and cheap way to move money from one city to another. The sharing economy is still roaring. And why not? The mega-cities, with populations ranging from 2 to 40 million inhabitants per city, form a living Mesh, a real-life cluster of physical people, as a much-desired counterpart of the virtual social networks. This is how society has found a much better balance than a decade ago. These city-dwellers on all continents are connected to each other as real global citizens. They have gained knowledge of each other’s culture, and have developed a thinking and behavioral code of conduct that actually transcends the old national borders. The local and national governments gave up on any attempts to influence this a long time ago. Due to a lack of funds, the influences of the old governing institutes in society are waning. We see the new global citizens absorbing that local and national vacuum anyway. They realize that the physical living and working environment is just as important to them as the relationship with their virtual network. But it is because of this global connection that information and knowledge flows freely and local problems are solved globally!

    This movement is much more important than we realized in 2011. That year, we were confronted unexpectedly with uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria. In particular, the young generation in these countries were literally fighting for freedom and for a better future. At first, we thought it was a typical phenomenon in the Middle East. We did not yet realize that youth unemployment in these nations was just as high as in Europe: Yemen, 49%; Palestine, 38%; Morocco, 35%; Egypt, 33%; and Tunisia, 26%. It sounds staggering, but youth unemployment rates were then 20-40% across Europe. And in the USA, estimates ranged from 20-50%, “depending on how you count, and when,” according to the famous Harvard blogger, Umair Haque, in his blog in 2011. This is how he argued that youth were paying the price for the global economic crisis, which is still the case today. This brings a new perspective on the revolt that arose in the Parisian suburbs at the start of this century. Today, there is regular turmoil in Rome, Berlin, and Rotterdam. We have to keep taking these signals seriously because the 1.0 approach of 2010 and 2011 employed by the former European leaders has, ultimately, not solved the problem. Europe as a state will never be able to offer a solution. I find it important to offer this group of young people more space to determine their own future. They are more than capable of achieving that.

    The old forces still try to keep some form of control. The Halal Web is only being kept alive due to high funding form the Arab world, and countries like China, Vietnam, and others in that area could be called police states. However, that could be my subjective opinion, as I am still looking somewhat through my old fashioned “Western” glasses. The Far East is the central theater of the world these days, the US is also still around due to its almost genetic entrepreneurial powers, Africa is still more like a promise due to its sociopolitical structure, and Europe? It is considered, by the rest of the world, to be an interesting market, where age is the dominant factor, but it is also seen as a huge museum, theater, touristic destination, and global juridical super-mediator/judge, with the International Court of Justice in The Hague as its center.

    Technological developments are still moving forward at breakneck speed. Once the 2013 breakthrough by Austrian researchers using regenerative techniques to grow a miniature human brain in their lab still world news, but today almost everything can be reproduced artificially; almost in the same way as nature does it herself.
    We are starting to realize that issues like the liquid and semantic Internet are providing us with things such as customized service and information that will help us assert ourselves better in this society, but the downside is giving up our privacy. We are still seeking a new balance as the price of customized information supply and service is transparency.
    One of the results is a completely different type of crime, something that we are slowly starting to understand. Whereas the Europeans were ripped off between 2000-2010 through well-designed brochures and television programs selling investments that promised huge returns, like the Golden Sun Resorts in Turkey; or Palminvest selling real estate in Dubai; or Partrust promising to plant trees in Costa Rica, thanks to the Internet, the place where swindlers operate has changed. These hackers are leaving the consumer more and more alone, but they are regularly hacking the evermore poorly secured trading companies and deal in millions of digitally stolen emission rights certificates or hold the trade on the London Stock Exchange, where five quintillion Euros worth of stocks are traded daily, being held hostage like cyber terrorists.

    Enough daydreaming. It is time to relax on board this Dragon Spaceflyer, as the newest Chinese built aircraft is called. Will I browse in the virtual library, where even the book Feeling Logic by Arnold Cornelis can be found, or will I have an old fashioned drink at the bar with a few entrepreneurs whose mental tag-cloud on the in-flight serendipity machine shows enough things in common to strike up a good conversation? According to my avatar-agent-butler, I have 45 minutes before I have to virtually attend the annual meeting of the Society 3.0 Foundation. There are some great actions in the pipeline, and a discussion about the fact of how we are dealing with Society 4.0, which, according to my colleague trendwatchers of the Dutch Trendrede Movement, is approaching a lot faster than I predicted in 2014. Georgina, as I have named my virtual butler, has already booked and tested my video channel, linking my plane flying over Mongolia with The Netherlands. An amazing world isn’t it?

    Life is still fun and meaningful: Cada Dia Es una Fiesta!

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