In 2001, when Apple came out with the iPod, I thought it was a Sony product and frankly became quite worried about the future of the industry. The essential purpose of audio equipment, of course, is to enjoy music. But if a device enabled listeners to easily download huge amounts of data and play it whenever they wanted, it would rock conventional wisdom.
Such changes subsequently swept through the industry in various forms and carried us into a worldwide borderless age. I feared that these changes were going to transform the existing unwritten rules of the industry and overthrow conventional wisdom completely. Today, the situation has become extreme.
I also believed that the emergence of Google and its search engine was going to change the world. I had my doubts about search sites like Yahoo!, which listed contents on its top page so that users had to access targets one after the other before finally reaching their goal. But in the case of Google, you just tapped in the word or related phrase you wanted, and a huge volume of information appeared on the screen instantaneously.
The Google search engine gained overwhelming support and can be said to have ushered in the age of the smartphone. Meanwhile, there is apparently a strong possibility that Yahoo! is going to register the first operating loss since its founding for the current fiscal year. The main cause of the slump is said to be its failure to respond to the structural change from personal computers to smartphones.
This borderless shift really has melted what passed as conventional wisdom before and brought about a new order. What’s more, I think it is going to fast transform the very architecture of the world and fundamentally change human society. At the same time, the negative side will proliferate as well. As the world becomes borderless, things are becoming uncontrollable.
This phenomenon is going to engulf human society and nation-states and spread beyond the limits of geography and time. For example, history, which began 2,000 years before Christ, is not going to be buried in the past but will be recalled to the present to the detriment of such things as human dignity and human rights. The emergence of the so-called Islamic State is a striking case in point.
This phenomenon is going to engulf the great powers as well. In face of the borderless trend, organizations like the United Nations are powerless to contend with events, and it is no exaggeration to say that the great powers are on their way to losing their status as powers too. Nation-states are becoming borderless. This is a case of liquefaction, no less.
Nation-states are made up of people, but there are also migrants (“boat people”) who, for instance, travel a long way from North Africa to Europe in search of safer places and greener pastures.
In the borderless age, information can be obtained via smartphones. Information moves beyond national borders. Because of the borderless trend, regional disputes now easily spin out of control. Eventually the very concept of national borders is going to crumble. In other words, the negative legacy of borderlines set in the age of colonialism is going to fade from people’s memory, and various unprecedented phenomena are going to emerge.
The dramatic borderless trend and phenomenon of liquefaction were sparked by Windows 95 just 20 years ago. Over the next two decades they are going to accelerate even more, and humankind will have to confront a world of entirely different values.