When the term "global village" was coined in the early '60s by the Canadian Marshall McLuhan, the world was nowhere near the technological artificial Intelligence revolution that we are swamped by …
When the term "global village" was coined in the early '60s by the Canadian Marshall McLuhan, the world was nowhere near the technological artificial Intelligence revolution that we are swamped by today. The term referred to how the big world was becoming one where connectivity was the aim: everybody in the planet would be connected. The connection meant, for some, an improved life and also, very important, the possibilities that an open society gave to everybody. How we could enhance our horizons, how we could get to know and appreciate different fellow creatures in distant lands and thus enrich our own lives.
Today, the term global village is more appropriate than ever, because both terms are applicable. "Global" because the technology has made it and continues making it every minute more global, with a few people calling many shots and with little control by the many to stop the few. "Village" because no matter what we do on the ground or in space, the world continues to be a village.
To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, a village is a village, is a village, is a village …
I have been fortunate in my life because I had the opportunity to visit many villages in all directions on the planet, whether for work or because I have always been interested in learning about new places and new people (no, I will not name any because I do not want to be accused of omissions or commissions!).
Big cities are also villages, albeit large living hubs. Some villages are tiny and not easily accessible. Some are surrounded by natural beauty; some are lacking many essentials like water and electricity. And there is no question that there are villages that are more user-friendly both to their own and to outsiders. But all share one thing: a deep sense of social cohesion.
"Villagers" today have so many tools, gimmicks and toys to broaden their horizons, to become better acquainted with others that may be far off physically. However, one thing is access to foreign lands and people, another is everybody's sense of belonging to their village, their customs, their leaders.
The incredible thing about villages and villagers today is that in spite of all the advances in technology and the intrusion of artificial intelligence in our lives with the consequent loss of privacy is that villagers - each one of the human species - still hold to what their society dictates. Still adheres to old social, economic and political norms that have shaped and have given coherence to their lives. Villagers still look for leadership, counsel, example, order in their own milieu.
However, there seems to be a contradiction in terms. The more "globalized" the one big village that is our planet becomes, the greater the atomization of society. Instead of the human species reaching out over the every day smaller universe, it engages in greater individuality disregarding almost completely the needs of the neighbor.
Today's globalization has achieved in many respects exactly the opposite of what I think McLuhan was talking about. The technological advances have helped develop the "me" world again with an intensity unknown and capable of great harm and damage.
But, whether we like it or not, we have become a global village. A village that needs many corrections that may be painful. But the village will withstand the shock and hardship. The human species must help it along and not create any more damage.
The Spanish version of this column is on Page C4.
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