During the middle of the 15th century, a period marked by the belief that a new technology from Asia (movable-type printing press) would help strengthen the two dominant powers of the time (the Catholic Church and the Germanic Roman Empire), and would impose a language—Latin—as the only means of communication for the entire West. In reality, printing led to, on the contrary, the disappearance of the Empire and the rise of nations (including the Kingdom of France); lasting weakening of the Church, caused in part by the emergence of the Reformation; and the disappearance of Latin, replaced by local languages, including French. In less than half a century, completely different point of view/relationship related to nations, as well as their economy, art and culture were established.
Today, many are making the same mistake by predicting that because of the development of digital and artificial intelligence at a vertiginous pace, the world will be dominated by the English-speaking Big Four (GAFA) or their Mandarin-speaking Chinese counterparts.
There are even some people who think that these companies could impose a single world currency, issued by one of them (such as Facebook’s Libra), a single world language, English, and a single culture, the peak of homogeneity and globalization.
In reality, however, my opinion is the opposite is most likely to happen:
First, each entity, company, city, and region will want, and already wants, to have the means to retain their customers and partners, and will want, contrary to the prevailing forecasts, to issue their own currency, which new technologies will easily enable them to do; all these currencies will be automatically convertible to another.
Furthermore, each human group, however small, will want and will be able to build, at very low costs, radios and televisions; and they will be capable of producing broadcasts, films, videos, podcasts, books in all the languages and dialects of the world, including those that are now in danger of extinction. And increasingly powerful machine translation software will help everyone seclude themselves into their own world.
We will therefore emerge from standardization, of which globalization has been accused; and everyone will be happy about it.
But we could go even further and it will be tragic: the demand for proximity will be increasingly requested and fulfilled; each region will choose all the dimensions of their own culture; each smallest human group, as well as each individual will be able to isolate themselves from the rest of human beings. Everyone will live in their own world, with less and less communication with others. We can already see it in the behaviour of the youngest among us, who are becoming more and more isolated and whose only contact with reality and others is through video games.
We are therefore not moving toward homogeneity through globalization, but on the contrary toward a “microbalkanization” of the world.
It will not happen without immense upheavals; nations will defend themselves. And it will not be against threats coming from above anymore, but rather from below, and particularly from within.
The occurrence of these events will be particularly tragic for France. It will, firstly, lose any chance of promoting the “Francophonie” project and will then have more and more difficulty maintaining its identity, based on a language, culture, history, way of life, and conception of social order and secularism, which will lose all meaning in this juxtaposition of solitary narcissism.
We can still avoid this situation, provided that we do not confuse our enemies, defend the necessary diversity of the world, and do not fear its demise, which is an illusion.
My editorial for the Journal des Arts