chapter  4
22 Pages

Globalization and information and communication technologies

Technological change has been a driver as well as a consequence of globalization (as we have defined the process) since ancient times. The inventions of improved tools, better ships, more effective weapons, and sophisticated machines have been instrumental in shrinking space, making connections, and generally moving history along. Arguably, technological change has always been a necessary but not sufficient “cause” of globalization. Wolf rightly cautions us to beware the trap of “technological determinism” that he attributes to Thomas Friedman.3 Technology has provided the means,

although the main motives for forward momentum, as Chanda suggests, have been such factors as trade, religion, adventure, and war.4 Technological change has tended to be cumulative and often has reverberated across a wide range of human activity. The printing press, for example, revolutionized the diffusion of information and helped to undermine elite control of politics and religion. Of course, some subjectivity and, therefore, differences of opinion are inevitable whenever one highlights particular inventions and their effects. Rather than emphasizing the role of information technologies, for instance, Vaclav Smil argues that the “prime movers of [economic] globalization” were “high-compression non-sparking internal combustion engines invented by Rudolf Diesel” and gas turbines, owing to their role in making possible ever larger sea-going vessels and jet aircraft respectively.5