In the age of globalization, knowledge is supposed to flow easily between countries. Hence all countries should be able to benefit from innovation based growth. It is pretty obvious to agree. But, does this development have predetermined paths?
In his book The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman analyses how globalization has made geographical and historical divisions irrelevant and has created a level playing field in terms of business and commerce, wherein all competitors have an equal opportunity.
Globalization has resulted in a perpetual shift in how countries, companies and individuals operate and has forced them to adapt and innovate in order to survive.
Friedman has differentiated the various periods of globalization as:
With the advancement in technology and its deeper penetration, that is increasing by the day in all spheres of life, the next round of globalization, Globalization 4.0, will surely be led by information systems and artificial intelligence. Information and data are the new age wealth and the knowledge and skillsets to make meaning out of this voluminous big data will be the differentiating factor which ensures the survival of businesses, governance systems, and more.
Traditionally, knowledge was centred and concentrated within the hands of a few individuals, companies, countries and this was passed on/trickled down to others as per their discretion. Knowledge transfer happens with a lag, i.e. a certain technique is passed or trickled on to others only when a better-advanced technique is discovered. This lag is to ensure that nobody else has a competitive edge or power over the knowledge wielder.
But, with the advent of globalization, the competition has resulted in the transfer of knowledge on a timely basis with increased innovation and the edge to stay differentiated, relevant and dominant. As international/multi-national companies look to tap into new areas and markets, with the help of local players, the transfer of knowledge to a potential competitor in the future (the local player) is a gamble the MNCs have to consider.
From a humane moral point of view, the free transfer/flow of knowledge and innovation for the benefit of all countries is a must in order to attain a harmonious utopian world. But from a business moral point, innovation is an outcome of Research & Development by a company/individuals, and so it demands compensation for the efforts before the knowledge can be transferred.
Those that support the free transfer of knowledge argue from a humane point of view and those that support otherwise argue from a business point of view. So whether the free transfer of innovation or knowledge happens or not depends on the collective confluence of beliefs; the speed of innovation and the objective of the innovation enabler (R&D investor).
It ultimately depends on mankind’s collective conscience as a whole, whether he wants to live in a utopian world or in a power-wielding dominant world.
Everybody argues for a utopian world, but what determines whether it is achieved is how the lesser knowledged decide to act when they have the edge and a chance to lead the world; and how the present leaders in innovation react to the competition from the emerging player.