New Technologies as a Challenge to Stability in Greater Eurasia

Greater Eurasia, the “world island” in classical Anglo-Saxon geopolitics, is a complex phenomenon, whose internal structure has always been at the nexus of many dynamic processes that were formed at the intersection of economics, politics, trade, the art of war, intellectual pursuits, religions and ethnic contacts.

In terms of its dynamism, the modern era in Greater Eurasia is not fundamentally different from previous ones; the only difference is that never before in the history of Eurasia have there been so many technological centres entering into a competitive race for leadership in the new technological epoch. China, Japan, Germany and the EU as a whole, South Korea, Russia, India, Singapore, Israel, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran are developing and implementing various-scale technological programmes, which can be attributed to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR). To this we can add the participation in the technological race of the United States, despite it being geographically external to Eurasia. Central Asia, as represented by Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, is also taking its first steps towards technological transition.

The number of areas in which competition is emerging is very large, ranging from the introduction of artificial intelligence, the industrial Internet of things, autonomous vehicles, robotics, smart cities, to technologies which will create an orbital market for flights to the other planets of the solar system and cyborgisation.

Ode to Joy or Banality of Evil
Andrey Bystritskiy
Today’s world may have fallen into one of the most dangerous situations in its entire history. The world as we know it seems to face death. And the reason for this is the discrepancy between the intellectual capabilities of mankind and its power in the context of globality. From now on, the entire humanity has one destiny. But who is able to manage it properly? What type of rationality do we need to make decisions of global scale?
Message from the Chairman

The purpose of the development and implementation of new technologies is understandable – to increase the efficiency of national economies, provide a new impetus to scientific and technological progress, and open new horizons for the development of previously inaccessible areas, both inside the human body and beyond our planet. But, as history shows, any technological breakthrough has a downside, which can act as a source of numerous challenges. In case of the FIR, at least three groups of challenges can be distinguished that could potentially affect stability in Greater Eurasia before 2050.

First of all, these are the challenges to the stability of the prevailing world trade system, supply chains and the added value creation. A technological transition with an eye to leadership and the formation of proper technological zones based on the principles of FIR and sales markets will require from countries access to very significant resources, which in turn will increase the likelihood of numerous trade and currency wars. In the 20th century, such processes proceeded in an extremely acute form, causing enormous damage to the stability and human potential of Greater Eurasia.

Challenges will also come from the process of introducing massive innovative technologies in production, in the field of natural resources extraction and services. A large number of low- and medium-skilled jobs will be directly affected. According to Carl Benedikt Frey, an economic historian from Oxford University, the new industrial revolution will be based on “labour-replacing technology”, i.e. technology that will replace jobs that previously required human participation. Therefore, the governments that today are implementing automation, artificial intelligence, autonomous transport, and robotisation programs, need to think about developing programmes for creating new types of jobs, because otherwise workers and clerks who are supplanted by new technology can become a source of socio-political instability. Eurasia has already witnessed something similar. The first technological revolution, which was also dominated by substitutional technology, spawned a rebellious working class, which according to Frey, became a source of Marxism. There’s no need to say what political and humanitarian consequences this had for the 20th century.

A further profitability increase of the automated industries, while allowing them to be closer to consumers, could strike global supply chains and creation of added value, as well as reduce the need for cheap labour; many countries continue to place their hopes on inexpensive workers in their “catching-up” development agendas. A change in growth drivers could also lead to a decrease in the chances of many developing countries reaching a higher level of technological development and well-being, with all the consequences that follow from the “drain” of qualified personnel from regions that rely on their aptitude. In an extreme scenario, players who find themselves left behind in the global technological transition may face an increase in domestic socio-political instability.

A Case for a “Technological Layer” in Global Governance
Yaroslav Lissovolik
The exact contours of a new layer of technological governance in the global economy are yet to be defined, but a key role in this formation may be played by international technological and scientific networks, including alliances formed by leading universities. The emerging technological layer of global governance needs to be not separate but intertwined with other layers of global governance.

Technological progress can have a powerful impact on the situation with established value systems in Greater Eurasia. The successful implementation of innovative methods in medicine based on genetic engineering, nanotechnology and 3D printing can strengthen the position of supporters of scientific immortalism and transhumanism in the public space, and, as a result, provoke various kinds of opposition to them from supporters of traditional value systems that deny immortality in the current earthly existence.

The indicated groups of challenges, so far, are only beginning to reveal themselves, and therefore, they are often not taken into account by analysts, who rely on assessments of traditional risks and challenges facing Eurasia in their long-term forecasts. However, the reality of scientific and technological progress will certainly make its own adjustments, making FIR one of the key components in the process of forecasting processes in Greater Eurasia.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.