GEOG 479
Cyber-Geography in Geospatial Intelligence

Information - Global Growth and Impact


Information - Global Growth and Impact

None of the Most Important Weapons Transforming Warfare in the 20th Century –the Airplane, Tank, Radar, Jet Engine, Helicopter, Electronic Computer, not even the Atomic Bomb –owed its initial development to a Doctrinal Requirement….or Request of the Military.”

John Chambers, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Military History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999)

James Gleick, in his book, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood (Gleick, James (2011). “The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood,” Pantheon Books, New York. Prologue, pp 3-12, and Epilogue, pp 413-426. ISBN 978-0-375-42372), provides an interesting perspective on how information has changed our view of the world and how it impacts the way we go about our daily lives. Gleick points out the following facts in this book:

  • In May 1948, Bell Telephone Laboratories announced the invention of the transistor which has had far-reaching significance in electronics and communication.
  • At Bell Labs, Claude Shannon had been working on a theory for information and later that year released a 79-page monograph, from July to October. It outlined “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” which chose the “bit” as the fundamental unit of measure of information.
  • Shannon’s theory made a bridge between information and uncertainty; information and entropy; and between information and chaos.
  • Information is what the world runs on: the blood and the fuel, the vital principle. It pervades the sciences from top to bottom, transforming every branch of knowledge.
  • According to evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins, “What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, no warm breath, not a ‘spark of life.’ It is information, words, instructions. . . . If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology."
  • Physicist, John Archibald Wheeler, last surviving collaborator of Einstein and Bohr, put it this way, “It from Bit.” Information gives rise to “every it – every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself.”
  • Information measured in terms of a bit can be treated as a commodity that can be processed, bought, and sold.
  • In cyberspace, almost everything lies in the shadows. Almost everything is connected, and the connectedness comes from a relatively few nodes, especially well linked or especially well trusted. However, it is one thing to prove that every node is close to every other node; that does not provide a way of finding the path between them.
  • Every new medium transforms the nature of human thought. In the long run, history can be thought of as the story of information becoming aware of itself.

Since ancient times, people have used maps to represent information about real places. This allowed them to visualize and think about these places while not actually being physically present. Information becomes displayed at a reduced scale organized by a cartographer. It expresses a view of extensive regions impossible to see from a single vantage point and communicates information about the represented space.

Today, in western societies, more people are employed collecting, handling, and distributing information than in any other occupation. Computers, optical fiber, copper wire, and electromagnetic waves link people to the vast array of information handling devices. Our society is truly an Information Society. Our time is the Information Age.

Over forty years ago, Hans Singer highlighted the technological divide between rich and poor countries. The term “New World Information Order” (Singer, H. (1970). “Dualism Revisited: A New Approach to the Problems of the Dual Society in Developing Countries.” Journal of Development Studies, 7, 60-75, was used by UNESCO to describe the disparate flows of information and lack of Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure (UNESCO, 1978). Manuel Castells (1998) (Castells, Manuel (1998, second edition, 2000). “End of Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. III.” Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0631221395) has argued that the information age has further exacerbated the social rifts among the classes with the result being the creations of “dual cities” – a two tiered society where the residents have access to different sets of information.

There remains a technology divide both within and between countries, notably in developing countries. Adequate infrastructure also remains an issue, especially in rural areas and regions of poverty, though the rise of mobile technology is starting to change the story. The Pew Internet Project states: “Groups that have traditionally been on the other side of the digital divide in basic internet access are using wireless connections to go online.” Many millions more will go online via mobiles in the next few years – we’ve already seen this trend in Africa. There is little homogeneity in mobile phone use and ownership within developing societies. Gillwald, et al (Gillwald A., Milek, A.,& Stork, C. (2010). “Gender assessment of ICT access and usage in Africa. Towards Evidence- Based ICT Policy and Regulation, 1(5). Retrieved from Reasearchictafrica ) found that in a range of African countries, income, education, and whether you lived in an urban setting were significant factors for owning a mobile phone or an active SIM card, but age and gender mostly weren’t. (Note: when the Pew Internet Project first began writing about the role of the Internet in American life in 2000, there were stark differences between those who were using the Internet and those who were not. See the Pew Internet Project report: Digital Differences)

In the US, the Internet access gap closest to disappearing is that between whites and minorities. Differences in access persist, especially in terms of adults who have high-speed broadband at home, but they have become significantly less prominent over the years. (Why only these groups? See: “Problems associated with surveying small demographic groups”.)

One interpretation, made by Thomas M. Barnett in The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century, Berkley Trade, 2005, ISBN 978-0425202395, is that “connected” societies require less need for US military interventions. As shown in Figure 1, those in the technology divide are where US forces have typically been involved in major operations over the last 20 years.

Listen to the Experts

In the first talk (2005), we hear Dr. David M. P. Barnett describe his view on Geopolitics in the last 20 years. In his book "The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century," Barnett draws on a fascinating combination of economic, political, and cultural factors to predict and explain the nature of modern warfare. He presents concrete, world-changing strategies for transforming the US military -- adrift in the aftermath of the Cold War and 9/11 -- into a two-tiered power capable not only of winning battles, but of promoting and preserving international peace.

In the second talk (2016), we see the view of global theorist Parag Khanna - who travels the world with his eyes open -- seeing patterns emerging from the chaos of today’s complex world. In his book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, he redraws the way humanity is organized according to lines of infrastructure and connectivity rather than our antiquated political borders. This emerging global network civilization holds the promise of reducing pollution and inequality — and possibly even overcoming geopolitical rivalries. In this talk, Khanna asks us to embrace a new maxim for the future: "Connectivity is destiny."

Thomas Barnett: Rethinking America's military strategy
Click here for transcript of the TEDtalk.

I get asked a lot what the difference between my work is and a typical Pentagon long-range strategic planners. And the answer I like to offer is, what they typically do is they think about the future of war within the context of war. And what I've spent 15 years doing in this business-- it's taken me almost 14 to figure it out-- is I think about the future of war within the context of everything else. So I tend to specialize on the scene between war and peace. 

The material I'm going to show you is one idea from a book with a lot of ideas. It's the one that takes me around the world right now, interacting with foreign militaries quite a bit. The material was generated in two years of work I did for the Secretary of Defense, thinking about a new national grand strategy for the United States. I'm going to present a problem and try to give you an answer. 

Here's my favorite bonehead concept from the 1990s in the Pentagon, the theory of anti-access, area-denial, asymmetrical strategies. Why do we call it that? Because it's got all those A's lined up, I guess. 

This is gobbledygook for if the United States fight somebody, we're going to be huge, they're going to be small, and if they try to fight us in a traditional straight-up manner, we're going to kick their ass. Which is why people don't try to do that anymore. 

I met the last Air Force general who had actually shot down an enemy plane in combat. He's now a one-star general. That's how distant we are from even meeting an air force willing to fly against ours. So that overmatch capability creates problems. Catastrophic successes the White House calls them. 

And we're trying to figure that out. Because it is an amazing capability. The question is, what's the good you can do it? 

Theory of anti-access, area-denial, asymmetrical strategies-- gobbledygook that we sell to Congress. Because if we just told them we can take anybody's asses, they wouldn't buy us all the stuff we want. So we say area-denial, anti-access, asymmetrical strategies, and their eyes glaze over. And they say, will you build it in my district? 


Here's my parody, and it ain't much of one. Let's talk about a battle space. I don't know, Taiwan Straits, 2025. Let's talk about an enemy embedded within that battle space. I don't know, the million-man swim. 


The United States has to access that battle space instantaneously. They throw up anti-access, area-denial, asymmetrical strategies-- a banana peal on the tarmac. Trojan horses on our computer networks reveal all our Achilles' heels instantly. We say, China, it's yours. 

The problem with this approach-- largely a geographic definition, focused almost exclusively on the start of conflict. We field a first-half team in a league that insists on keeping score until the end of the game. That's the problem. We can run the score up against anybody, and then get our asses kicked in the second half-- what they call fourth-generation warfare. 

Here's the way I like to describe it instead. There is no battle space the US military cannot access. They said we couldn't do Afghanistan. We did it with ease. They said we couldn't do Iraq. We did it with 150 combat casualties in six weeks. We did it so fast we weren't prepared for their collapse. There is nobody we can't take down. The question is, what you do with the power? 

So there's no trouble accessing battle spaces. What we have trouble accessing is the transition space that must naturally follow, and creating the peace space that allows us to move on. Problem is Defense Department over here beats the hell out of you. State Department over here says, come on, boy, I know you can make it. And that poor country runs off that ledge, does that cartoon thing, and then drops. 

This is not about overwhelming force, but proportional force. It's about nonlethal technologies. Because if you fire real ammo into a crowd of women and children rioting, you're going to lose friends very quickly. This is not about projecting power, but about staying power, which is about legitimacy with the locals. 

Who do you access in this transition space? You have to create internal partners, you have to access coalition partners. We asked the Indians for 17,000 peacekeepers. I know their senior leadership. They wanted to give it to us. But they said to us, you know what, in that transition space, you're mostly hat, not enough cattle. We don't think you can pull it off. We're not going to give you our 17,000 peacekeepers for fodder. We asked the Russians for 40,000. They said no. 

I was in China in August. I said, you should have 50,000 peacekeepers in Iraq. It's your oil, not ours. Which is the truth. It's their oil. And the Chinese said to me, Dr. Barnett, you're absolutely right. In a perfect world, we'd have 50,000 there. But it's not a perfect world, and your administration isn't getting us any closer. 

What we have trouble accessing are outcomes. We lucked out, frankly, on this election. We face different opponents across these three. And it's time to start admitting you can't ask the same 19-year-old to do it all, day in and day out. It's just too damn hard. We have an unparalleled capacity to wage war. We don't do the everything else so well. 

Frankly, we do it better than anybody, and we still suck at it. We have a brilliant Secretary of War. We don't have a Secretary of Everything Else. Because if we did, that guy'd be in front of the Senate, still, testifying over Abu Ghraib. The problem is, he doesn't exist. There is no Secretary of Everything Else. 

I think we have an unparalleled capacity to wage war. I call that the Leviathan Force. What we need to build is a force for the everything else. I call them the System Administrators. What I think this really represents is a lack of an A-to-Z rule set for the world as a whole for processing politically bankrupt states. 

We have one for processing economically bankrupt states. It's the IMF Sovereign Bankruptcy Plan. We argue about it every time we use it. Argentina just went through it, broke a of rules. They got out on the far end, we said, fine, don't worry about it. It's transparent, certain amount of certainty, gives a sense of a non-zero outcome. We don't have one for processing politically bankrupt states that, frankly, everybody wants gone, like Saddam, like Mogabe, like Kim Jong-il, people who kill in the hundreds of thousands, or millions, like the 250,000 dead so far in Sudan. 

What would an A-to-Z system look like? I'm going to distinguish between what I call front half and back half. And let's call this red line, I don't know, mission accomplished. 


What we have right now-- at the beginning of this system is the UN Security Council as grand jury. What can they do? They can indict your ass. They can debate it. They can write it on a piece of paper. They put it in an envelope, mail it to you, and then say, in no uncertain terms, please cut that out. 


That gets you about 4 million dead in Central Africa over the 1990s. It gets you 250,000 dead in the Sudan in the last 15 months. Everybody's going to answer to their grandchildren some day what you did about the holocaust in Africa. And you better have an answer. 

We don't have anything to translate that will into action. What we do have is the US-enabled Leviathan Force that says, you want me to take that guy down? I'll take that guy down. I'll do it on Tuesday. It'll cost you $20 billion. 


But here's the deal. As soon as I can't find anybody else to air out, I leave the scene immediately. That's called the Powell Doctrine. 

Way downstream we have the International Criminal Court. They love to put them on trial. They've got [INAUDIBLE] right now. What are we missing? A functioning executive translate will into action. 

Because we don't have it, every time we lead one of these efforts, we have to whip ourselves into this imminent threat thing. We haven't faced imminent threat since the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. But we use this language from a bygone era to scare ourselves into doing something, because we're democracy, and that's what it takes. And if that doesn't work, we scream, he's got a gun, just as we rush in. 


And then we look over the body, and we find, like, an old cigarette lighter. And we say, well, Jesus, it was dark. 


You want to do it, France? France says, no. But I do like to criticize you after the fact. What we need downstream is a great power enabled-- what I call that Sys Admin Force. 

We should had 250,000 troops streaming into Iraq on the heels of that Leviathan sweeping towards Baghdad, what do you get then? No looting. No military disappearing. No arms disappearing. No ammo disappearing. No Muqtada al-Sadr making his bones. No insurgency. 

Talk to anybody who was over there in the first six months, we had six months to feel the love, to get the job done. And we dicked around for six months, and then they turned on us. Why? Because they just got fed up. They saw what we did to Saddam. And they said, you're that powerful, you can resurrect this country. You're America. 

What we need is an international reconstruction fund-- Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post. Great idea. Modeled on the IMF. Instead of passing the hat each time, OK? 

Where are you going to find this guy? G20-- that's easy. Check out their agenda since 9/11-- all security dominated. They're going to decide upfront how the money gets spent. Just like in the IMF, you vote according to how much money you put in the kitty. 

Here's my challenge to the Defense Department. You've got to build this force. You've got to seed this force. You've got to track coalition partners, create a record of success. You will get this model. You'll tell me it's too hard to do. I'll walk this dog right through that six part series on the Balkans. We did it just like that. I'm talking about regularizing it, making it transparent. Would you like Magobe gone? Kim Jong-il, he's killed about 2 million people. Would you like him gone? Would you like a better system? 

This is why it matters to the military. They've been experiencing an identity crisis since the end of the Cold War. I'm not talking about the difference between reality and desire, which I can do, because I'm not inside the Beltway. I'm talking about the 1990s. 

The Berlin Wall falls, we do Desert Storm. The split starts to emerge between those in the military who see a future they can live with, and those who see a future that starts to scare them, like the US submarine community, which watches the Soviet navy disappear overnight. [GASPS] 


So they start moving from reality towards desire. And they create their own special language to describe their voyage of self-discovery and self-actualization. 


Problem is, you need a big, sexy opponent to fight against. And if you can't find one, you've got to make one up. China, all grown up-- going to be a looker. 


Rest of the military got dragged down into the muck across the 1990s, and they developed this very derisive term to describe it-- military operations other than war. I ask you, who joins the military to do things other than war? Actually, most of them. Jessica Lynch never planned on shooting back. Most of them don't pick up a rifle. 

I maintain this is code inside the Army for, we don't want to do this. They spent the 1990s working the messy scene between globalize parts of the world and the non-globalizing parts of the world, what I call the core and the gap. The Clinton Administration was interested in running us for eight years after screwing up the relationship on day one, inauguration day, with gays in the military, which was deft. 

So we were home alone for eight years. And what did we do home alone? We bought one military, and we operated another. It's like the guy who goes to the doctor and says, doctor, it hurts when I do this. 


Doctor says, stop doing that, you idiot. I used to give this brief inside the Pentagon in the early 1990s. I'd say, you're buying one military, and you're operating another. And eventually, it's going to hurt. It's wrong. Bad, Pentagon. Bad. 


And they'd say, Dr. Barnett, you're so right. Can you come back next year and remind us again? 


Some people say 9/11 heals the rift, jerks the long-term transformation gurus out of the 30,000-foot view of history, drags them down into the muck, and says, you want a networked opponent, I got one. He's everywhere. Go find him. It elevates MOOTW-- how we pronounce that acronym-- from crap to grand strategy. Because that's how you're going to shrink that gap. Some people put these two things together, and they call it empire, which I think is a bone-headed concept. 

Empire is about the enforcement of not just minimal rule sets, which you cannot do, but maximal rule sets, which you must do. Not our system of governance. Never how we've sought to interact with the outside world. I prefer that phrase, System Administration. We enforce the minimal rule sets for maintaining connectivity to the global economy-- certain bad things you cannot do. 

How this impacts the way we think about future war. This is a concept which gets me vilified outside through the Pentagon. Makes me very popular as well. Everybody's got an opinion. Going back to the beginning of our country, historically, defense has meant protection of the homeland. Security has meant everything else. 

Written into our constitution, two different forces, two different functions. Raise an army when you need it, maintain a navy for day-to-day connectivity. A Department of War, a Department of Everything Else. A big stick, a baton stick. Can of whoop ass, the networking force. 

1947, we merged these two things together in the Defense Department. Our long term rationale becomes, we're involved in a hair trigger stand-off with the Soviets. To attack America is to risk blowing up the world. We connected national security to international security with about a seven-minute time delay. 

That's not our problem now. They could kill 3 million in Chicago tomorrow, and we don't go to the mattresses with nukes. That's the scary part. The question is, how do we reconnect American national security with global security, to make the world a lot more comfortable, and to embed and contextualize our employment of force around the planet? 

What's happened since is that bifurcation I described. We talked about this, going all the way back to the end of the Cold War. Let's have a Department of War and a Department of Something Else. Some people say, hell, 9/11 did it for ya. Now we've got a home game and an away game. 


Department of Homeland Security is a strategic feel-good measure. It's going to be the Department of Agriculture for the 21st century. TSA-- thousands standing around. 


Just be grateful Robert Reid didn't shove that bomb up his ass. 


Because we'd all be gay then. 


I supported the war in Iraq. He was a bad guy with multiple priors. It's not like we had to find him, actually killing somebody live to arrest him. I knew we'd kick ass in the war with the Leviathan Force. I knew we'd have a hard time with what followed. But I know this organization doesn't change until it experiences failure. 

What do I mean by these two different forces? This is the Hobbesian Force. I love this force. I don't want to see it go. That plus nukes rules out great power war. This is the military the rest of the world wants us to build. It's why I travel all over the world talking to foreign militaries. 

What does this mean? It means you've got stop pretending you can do these two very disparate skill sets with the same 19-year-old, switching back, morning, afternoon, evening, morning afternoon, evening. Handing out aid, shooting back, handing out aid, shooting back-- it's too much. The 19-year-olds get tired from the switching, OK? 

That force on the left, you can train a 19-year-old to do that. That force on the right is more like a 40-year-old cop. You need the experience. 

What does this mean in terms of operations? The rule is going to do this. That's Sys Admin Force is the force that never comes home, does most of your work. You break out that Leviathan Force only every so often. 

But here's the promise you make to the American public, to your own people, to the world. You break out that Leviathan Force, you promise, you guarantee, you're going to mount one helluva, immediately, follow-on Sys Admin effort. Don't plan for the war unless you plan to win the peace. 


Other differences-- Leviathan-- traditional partners. They all look like the Brits and their former colonies. 


Including us, I would remind you. The rest-- wider array of partners. International organizations, nongovernmental organizations, private voluntary organizations, contractors. you're not going to get away from that. Leviathan Force-- it's all about joint operations between the military services. We're done with that. What we need to do is interagency operations, which, frankly, Condi Rice was in charge of. And I'm amazed nobody asked her that question when she was confirmed. 

I call the Leviathan Force your dad's military. I like 'em young, male, unmarried, slightly pissed off. 


I call the Sys Admin Force your mom's military, so everything the man's military hates-- gender balanced much more, older, educated, married with children. Force on the left, up or out. Force on the right, in and out. Force on the left, respects Posse Comitatus restrictions on the use of force inside the US. Force on the right's going to obliterate it. That's where the National Guard's going to be. 

Force on the left is never coming under the purview of the International Criminal Court. Sys Admin Force has to. Different definitions of network centricity. One takes down networks, one puts them up. You've got to wage war here in such a way to facilitate that. 

Do we need a bigger budget? Do we need a draft to pull this off? Absolutely not. I've been told by the revolution-in-military-affairs crowd for years, we can do it faster, cheaper, smaller, just as lethal. I say great. I'm going to take the Sys Admin budget out of your hide. 

Here's the larger point. You're going to build the Sys Admin Force inside the US military first. But ultimately, you're going to civilianize it-- probably 2/3. Interagency-ize it. Internationalize it. So yes, it begins inside the Pentagon. But over time, it's going to cross that river. 


I have been to the mountain top. I have seen the future. I may not live long enough to get you there, but it's going to happen. We're going to have a Department of Something Else between war and peace. 

Last slide-- who gets custody of the kids? This is where the Marines in the audience get kind of tense. 


And this is when they think about beating the crap out of me after the talk. Remax boot-- this is the history of the Marines-- small wars, small arms. The Marines are like my west highland terrier. They get up every morning, they want to dig a hole, and they want to kill something. 


I don't want my Marines handing out aid. I want 'em to be Marines. That's what keeps the Sys Admin Force from being a pussy force. It keeps it from being the UN. You shoot at these people, the Marines are going to come over and kill you. 


Department of the Navy-- strategic subs go this way. Surface combatants go over there. And the news is, they may actually be that small. I call it the Smart Dust Navy. I tell young officers, you may command 500 ships in your career. Bad news is, they may not have anybody on 'em. Carriers go both ways, because they're a swing asset. You'll see the pattern. 

Airborne, just like carriers. Armor goes this way. Here's the dirty secret of the Air Force-- you can win by bombing. But you need lots of these guys on the ground to win the peace. Shinseki was right with the argument. Air Force-- strategic airlift goes both ways. Bombers, fighters go over here. 

Special Operations Command down in Tampa-- trigger pullers go this way. Civil Affairs, that bastard child, comes over here. Return to the Army. The point about the trigger pullers in Special Operations Command-- no off season. These guys are always active. They drop in, do their business, disappear. See me now, don't talk about it later. 


I was never here. 


The world is my playground. 


I want to keep trigger pullers trigger happy. I want the rules to be as loose as possible. Because when the thing gets prevented in Chicago, with the 3 million dead that perverts our political system beyond all recognition, these are the guys who are going to kill them first. So it's better off to have them make some mistakes along the way than to see that. 

Reserve component-- National Guard, reserves overwhelmingly Sys Admin. How are you going to get them to work for this force? Most firemen in this country do it for free. This is not about money. This is about being upfront with these guys and gals. 

Last point-- intelligence community. The muscle and the defense agencies go this way. What should be the CIA, open analytical, open source, should come over here. The information you need to do this is not secret. It's not secret. Read that great piece in The New Yorker about how our Echo Boomers, 19 to 25, over in Iraq taught each other how to do Sys Admin work over the internet in chat rooms. They said, Al-Qaeda could be listening. They said, well, Jesus, they already know this stuff. 


Take a gift in the left hand. These are the sunglasses that don't scare people-- Simple stuff. Sensors and transparency, the overheads, go in both directions. Thanks. 


Credit: TED
world map showing technology divide and where US forces have been involved over the last 20 years
Figure 1. Thomas P.M. Barnett’s original characterization of “The Pentagon’s New Atlas.” This division between the connected and non-connected areas of the globe drew the association between the lack of the free flow of information and the areas where US military forces were most likely to be engaged. The author’s premise is that the more “connected,” the less likelihood of a need for military intervention by the US military.
How megacities are changing the map of the world
Click here for transcript of the TEDtalk.



PARAG KHANNA: I want you to reimagine how life is organized on Earth. Think of the planet like a human body that we inhabit. The skeleton is the transportation system of roads and railways, bridges and tunnels, air and sea ports that enable our mobility across the continents. The vascular system that powers the body or the oil and gas pipelines and electricity grids that distribute energy. And the nervous system of communications is the internet cables, satellites, cellular networks, and data centers that allow us to share information. This ever-expanding infrastructural matrix already consists of 64 million kilometers of roads, 4 million kilometers of railways, 2 million kilometers of pipelines, and 1 million kilometers of internet cables. 

What about international borders? We have less than 500,000 kilometers of borders. Let's build a better map of the world, and we can start by overcoming some ancient mythology. 

There is a saying with which all students of history are familiar, "geography is destiny." Sounds so grave, doesn't it? It's such a fatalistic adage. It tells us that landlocked countries are condemned to be poor, that small countries cannot escape their larger neighbors, that vast distances are insurmountable. 

But every journey I take around the world, I see an even greater force sweeping the planet, connectivity. The global connectivity revolution, in all of its forms-- transportation, energy, and communications-- has enabled such a quantum leap in the mobility of people, of goods, of resources, of knowledge, such that we can no longer even think of geography as distinct from it. 

In fact, I view the two forces as fusing together into what I call connectography. Connectography represents a quantum leap in the mobility of people, resources, ideas, but it is an evolution, an evolution of the world from political geography, which is how we legally divide the world, to functional geography, which is how we actually use the world, from nations and borders, to infrastructure and supply chains. 

Our global system is evolving. From the vertically integrated empires of the 19th century, through the horizontally interdependent nations of the 20th century, into a global network civilization in the 21st century. Connectivity, not sovereignty, has become the organizing principle of the human species. 


We are becoming this global network civilization because we are literally building it. All of the world's defense budgets and military spending taken together total just under $2 trillion per year. Meanwhile, our global infrastructure spending is projected to rise to $9 trillion per year within the coming decade, and well it should. We have been living off an infrastructure stock meant for a world population of 3 billion, as our population has crossed 7 billion to 8 billion and eventually 9 billion and more. 

As a rule of thumb, we should spend about $1 trillion on the basic infrastructure needs of every billion people in the world. Not surprisingly, Asia is in the lead. In 2015, China announced the creation of the Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank, which together with a network of other organizations, aims to construct a network of iron silk roads, stretching from Shanghai to Lisbon. 

And as all of this topographical engineering unfolds, we will likely spend more on infrastructure in the next 40 years. We will build more infrastructure in the next 40 years than we have in the past 4,000 years. 

Now let's stop and think about it for a minute. Spending so much more on building the foundations of global society, rather than on the tools to destroy it, can have profound consequences. Connectivity is how we optimize the distribution of people and resources around the world. It is how mankind comes to be more than just the sum of its parts. I believe that is what is happening. 

Connectivity has a twin megatrend in the 21st century, planetary urbanization. Cities are the infrastructures that most define us. By 2030, more than 2/3 of the world's population will live in cities, and these are not mere little dots on the map, but they are vast archipelagos, stretching hundreds of kilometers. 

Here we are in Vancouver, at the head of the Cascadia corridor that stretches south across the US border to Seattle. The technology powerhouse of Silicon Valley begins north of San Francisco, down to San Jose, and across the Bay to Oakland. The sprawl of Los Angeles now passes San Diego across the Mexican border to Tijuana. San Diego and Tijuana now share an airport terminal where you can exit into either country. Eventually, a high speed rail network may connect the entire Pacific spine. 

America's Northeastern megalopolis begins in Boston, through New York, and Philadelphia, to Washington. It contains more than 50 million people and also has plans for a high speed rail network. But Asia is where we really see the mega cities coming together. This continuous strip of light, from Tokyo, through Nagoya, to Osaka contains more than 80 million people and most of Japan's economy. It is the world's largest megacity, for now. 

But in China, megacity clusters are coming together with populations reaching 100 million people. The Bohai Rim around Beijing, the Yangtze River delta around Shanghai, and the Pearl River delta, stretching from Hong Kong north to Guangzhou. And in the middle, the Chongqing-Chengdu megacity cluster, whose geographic footprint is almost the same size as the country of Austria. 

And any number of these megacity clusters has a GDP approaching $2 trillion-- that's almost the same as all of India today. So imagine if our global diplomatic institutions, such as the G20, were to base their membership on economic size rather than national representation. Some Chinese megacities may be in and have a seat at the table, while entire countries, like Argentina or Indonesia would be out. 

Moving to India, whose population will soon exceed that of China, it too has a number of megacity clusters, such as the Delhi capital region and Mumbai. In the Middle East, greater Tehran is absorbing 1/3 of Iran's population. Most of Egypt's 80 million people live in the corridor between Cairo and Alexandria. And in the Gulf, a necklace of city-states is forming, from Bahrain and Qatar, through the United Arab Emirates, to Muscat in Oman. 

And then there's Lagos, Africa's largest city and Nigeria's commercial hub. It has plans for a rail network that will make it the anchor of a vast Atlantic coastal corridor, stretching across Benin, Togo, and Ghana, to Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast. But these countries are suburbs of Lagos. In a megacity world, countries can be suburbs of cities. By 2030, we will have as many as 50 such megacity clusters in the world. 

So which map tells you more? Our traditional math of 200 discrete nations that hang on most of our walls or this map of the 50 megacity clusters? And yet, even this is incomplete because you cannot understand any individual megacity without understanding its connections to the others. 

People move to cities to be connected, and connectivity is why these cities thrive. Any number of them, such as Sao Paulo or Istanbul or Moscow, has a GDP approaching or exceeding one third to one half of their entire national GDP. But equally importantly, you cannot calculate any of their individual value without understanding the role of the flows of people, of finance, of technology that enable them to thrive. 

Take the Gauteng province of South Africa, which contains Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria. It too represents just over 1/3 of South Africa's GDP. But equally importantly, it is home to the offices of almost every single multinational corporation that invests directly into South Africa and indeed, into the entire African continent. 

Cities want to be part of global value chains. They want to be part of this global division of labor. That is how cities think. I've never met a mayor who said to me, I want my city to be cut off. They know that their cities belong as much to the global network civilization as to their home countries. 

Now for many people, urbanization causes great dismay. They think cities are wrecking the planet. But right now, there are more than 200 intercity learning networks thriving. That is as many as the number of intergovernmental organizations that we have. And all of these intercity networks are devoted to one purpose-- mankind's number one priority in the 21st century, sustainable urbanization. 

Is it working? Let's take climate change. We know that summit after summit in New York and Paris is not going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what we can see is that transferring technology, knowledge, and policies between cities is how we've actually begun to reduce the carbon intensity of our economies. 

Cities are learning from each other. How to install zero emissions buildings, how to deploy electric car sharing systems. In major Chinese cities, they're imposing quotas on the number of cars on the streets. In many Western cities, young people don't even want to drive anymore. Cities have been part of the problem, now they are part of the solution. 

Inequality is the other great challenge to achieving sustainable urbanization. When I travel through megacities from end to end, it takes hours and days, I experience the tragedy of extreme disparity within the same geography. And yet, our global stock of financial assets has never been larger-- approaching $300 trillion. That's almost four times the actual GDP of the world. 

We have taken on such enormous debts since the financial crisis, but have we invested them in inclusive growth? No. Not yet. Only when we build sufficient, affordable public housing, when we invest in robust transportation networks to allow people to connect to each other both physically and digitally, that's when our divided cities and societies will come to feel whole again. 


And that is why infrastructure has just been included in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, because it enables all the others. Our political and economic leaders are learning that connectivity is not charity. It's opportunity. And that's why our financial community needs to understand that connectivity is the most important asset class of the 21st century. 

Now, cities can make the world more sustainable, they can make the world more equitable. I also believe that connectivity between cities can make the world more peaceful. If we look at regions of the world with dense relations across borders, we see more trade, more investment, and more stability. 

We all know the story of Europe after World War II, where industrial integration kicked off a process that gave rise to today's peaceful European Union. And you can see that Russia, by the way, is the least connected of major powers the international system, and that goes a long way towards explaining the tensions today. Countries that have less stake in the system also have less to lose in disturbing it. 

In North America, the lines that matter most on the map are not the US/Canada border or the US/Mexico border, but the dense network of roads and railways and pipelines and electricity grids and even water canals that are forming an integrated North American union. North America does not need more walls, it needs more connections. 


But the real promise of connectivity is in the post-colonial world. All of those regions where borders have historically been the most arbitrary and where generations of leaders have had hostile relations with each other. But now a new group of leaders has come into power and is burying the hatchet. 

Let's take Southeast Asia, where high speed rail networks are planned to connect Bangkok to Singapore and trade corridors from Vietnam to Myanmar. Now this region of 600 million people coordinates its agricultural resources and its industrial output. It is evolving into what I call a Pax Asiana, a peace among southeast Asian nations. 

A similar phenomenon is underway in East Africa, where a half dozen countries are investing in railways and multi-modal corridors so that landlocked countries can get their goods to market. Now these countries coordinate their utilities and their investment policies. They too are evolving into a Pax Africana. 

One region we know could especially use this kind of thinking is the Middle East. As Arab states tragically collapse, what is left behind but the ancient cities, such as Cairo, Beirut, and Baghdad? In fact, the nearly 400 million people of the Arab world are almost entirely urbanized. As societies, as cities, they are either water rich or water poor, energy rich or energy poor. And the only way to correct these mismatches is not through more wars and more borders, but through more connectivity of pipelines and water canals. 

Sadly, this is not yet the map of the Middle East, but it should be-- a connected Pax Arabia, internally integrated and productively connected to its neighbors-- Europe, Asia, and Africa. 

Now, it may not seem that connectivity is what we want right now towards the world's most turbulent region, but we know from history that more connectivity is the only way to bring about stability in the long run. Because we know that in region after region, connectivity is the new reality. Cities and countries are learning to aggregate into more peaceful and prosperous wholes. 

But the real test is going to be Asia. Can connectivity overcome the patterns of rivalry among the great powers of the Far East? After all, this is where World War III is supposed to break out. Since the end of the Cold War, a quarter century ago, at least six major wars have been predicted for this region, but none have broken out. 

Take China and Taiwan. In the 1990s, this was everyone's leading World War III scenario. But since that time, the trade and investment volumes across the straits had become so intense that last November, leaders from both sides held a historic summit to discuss eventual peaceful reunification. And even the election of a nationalist party in Taiwan-- that's pro-independence-- earlier this year does not undermine this fundamental dynamic. 

China and Japan have an even longer history of rivalry and have been deploying their air forces and navies to show their strength in island disputes. But in recent years, Japan has been making its largest foreign investments in China. Japanese cars are selling in record numbers there. And guess where the largest number of foreigners residing in Japan today comes from? You guessed it-- China. 

China and India fought a major war and have three outstanding border disputes, but today, India is the second largest shareholder in the Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank. They are building a trade corridor stretching from Northeast India, through Myanmar and Bangladesh, to southern China. Their trade volume has grown from $20 billion a decade ago to $80 billion today. 

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought three wars and continue to dispute Kashmir, but they're also negotiating a most favored nation trade agreement and want to complete a pipeline stretching from Iran through Pakistan to India. And let's talk about Iran. Wasn't it just two years ago that war with Iran seemed inevitable? Then why is every single major power rushing to do business there today? 

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot guarantee that World War III will not break out, but we can definitely see why it hasn't happened yet. Even though Asia is home to the world's fastest growing militaries, these same countries are also investing billions of dollars in each other's infrastructure and supply chains. They are more interested in each other's functional geography than in their political geography. And that is why their leaders think twice, step back from the brink, and decide to focus on economic ties over territorial tensions. 

So often, it seems like the world is falling apart, but building more connectivity is how we put Humpty Dumpty back together again, much better than before. And by wrapping the world in such seamless physical and digital connectivity, we evolve towards a world in which people can rise above their geographic constraints. 

We are the cells and vessels pulsing through these global connectivity networks. Every day, hundreds of millions of people go online and work with people they've never met. More than one billion people cross borders every year, and that's expected to rise to 3 billion in the coming decade. 

We don't just build connectivity, we embody it. We are the global network civilization, and this is our map. A map of the world in which geography is no longer destiny. Instead, the future has a new and more hopeful motto, "connectivity is destiny." Thank you. 



Credit: TED