Jeffrey D. Sachs Keynote Lecture

The ages of globalisation

On 16 February 2021, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the Master Lecture live on the Internet on entitled "The Ages of Globalisation" given by Jeffrey D. Sachs on the occasion of the publication of his book of the same title published by Deusto.

Jeffrey Sachs, Internationally recognised as one of the world's most influential economists, Jeffrey D. Sachs is currently Professor at Columbia University and Director of its Center for Sustainable Development. Previously, he was Director of the groundbreaking Earth Institute at Columbia University from 2002 to 2016. He is Chairman of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development, and SDG Advocate on the team of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, an environment in which Professor Sachs has been a permanent presence as Special Advisor to Secretaries-General Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-moon and António Guterres himself. His curriculum vitae is overwhelming. He has 47 awards and prizes, to which must be added 35 honorary doctorates, honorary degrees awarded to the professor by universities in all corners of the world, from Cambodia to Peru, from Tbilisi to Hong Kong, from Montreal to Baku. Jeffrey Sachs is the author and editor of countless works, some of which have topped the New York Times bestseller lists. These include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, and The Price of Civilization. Time magazine has twice included Professor Sachs among the 100 most influential world leaders, he has been ranked by the New York Times as the world's leading economist, and a survey by The Economist ranked him as one of the three most influential living economists. Before joining Columbia University, Professor Sachs spent more than twenty years at Harvard University, where he was a tenured professor, earning his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.

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On 16 February 2021, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised an online conference with Jeffrey Sachs, professor at Columbia University and director of its Center for Sustainable Development, entitled "The Ages of Globalisation", on the occasion of the publication of his book of the same title.

Sachs said that humans have always been interacting on a global scale, ever since they left Africa seventy thousand years ago during the Palaeolithic and dispersed around the world. The process culminated in the birth of permanent settlements in scattered villages and the Neolithic revolution with the discovery of agriculture about eleven thousand years ago. At first, only a very small proportion of humanity was engaged in permanent cultivation of the fields. Over time, more and more people settled down to farming, leaving behind their lives as nomadic hunters and gatherers. Thus, the Neolithic became the era of globalisation through agriculture.

The next stage of globalisation began in 3000 BC with the domestication of the horse. This enabled great journeys to be made, improved transport, brought animal power to agricultural work, strengthened military capacity and enabled rapid communications, which in turn created the ability to govern large areas under a single unified power. As a result, the first Asian and European empires were born. In the Americas, on the other hand, horses became extinct, so they did not have large animals for transport, for travelling long distances and for governing large territories. They only had the llama, but it was no match for the horse. This was the beginning of the divergence between the Old World and the New World, which did not begin to close until the arrival of Columbus in America, with the conquistadors riding horses.

The equestrian period was followed by the classical era, from 1000 BC, which lasted until 1500 AD. This period saw the birth of civilisations so dynamic that they laid the foundations of our world. Most of the world's major religions emerged at this time, as did writing and the great philosophical schools of antiquity. All this allowed the generation of new knowledge and the emergence and development of science. It also facilitated the emergence of great empires, such as Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire.

In the mid-15th century the world entered the oceanic age, the age of the great global empires. The invention of the compass and the development of better navigation techniques brought the two worlds, Europe and America, back together through the voyages of Columbus, at the same time as Portuguese navigators crossed the Cape of Good Hope for the first time to reach Asia by circumnavigating Africa. Spain became a global empire. This period also saw the birth of global capitalism. The English created global enterprises, financed by shares, although they were also very violent because they were based on the slave trade.

The invention of the steam engine at the end of the 18th century ushered in the next era, the industrial revolution. It is the invention that has had the greatest consequences, because it freed society from its organic limits. The industrial revolution multiplied energy, labour and military power. With it came industrial society. At the same time, Britain became the empire of the 19th century, conquering, creating empires everywhere that the British ruled because they had become the first industrial power. This produced the first economic divergence in history, as the gap between rich and poor countries went from one to five to one to a hundred because of industrial, maritime, military and arms power. This enabled the emergence, at the end of the 19th century, of similar imperial powers in Europe and Japan. The United States also became an industrial power after the Civil War, thanks to the development of railways, steel and other industries and the invention of the internal combustion engine.

The dark side of this phenomenon is the devastation of the industrial wars, the First and the First World War.
World War II, which ended European domination of the rest of the world. This opened up the possibility of convergence on the part of backward countries such as China, India and Latin America, some more successfully than others, because they could now attract investment and promote their economic development. As a result, China has become the world's third economic hub, alongside the United States and Europe, which do not quite see the emergence of these new economic powers challenging their global hegemony.

Since the year 2000 we have been in the digital era, the era of zeros and ones, which is transforming all aspects of our lives, of the economy, because machines can transmit, store and manipulate data with a capacity and speed unimaginable to the human mind. Moreover, these capabilities are developing at an unprecedented speed, doubling every eighteen months, according to Moore's law. In fact, a smartphone has more processing power than the set of computers used by NASA on its first mission to the moon.

The world now faces three major challenges. The first is the accelerating technological revolution. The second is that this growth is stretching the planet's environmental capacities to the limit, as climate change shows. We have, in fact, an environmental catastrophe. The positive side of all this is that knowledge is now no longer necessarily in the hands of a small privileged part of the world, but is spread widely across the globe, so that everyone can share in the prosperity it generates. To be able to achieve this is the third challenge.

The digital age can be a time of great hope for addressing these challenges. However, it should also be borne in mind that technologies can create conflicts, addictions, enable control of society, etc. But globalisation is a choice, it can go for better or for worse. Therefore, there is a need to share responsibility and global prosperity, as well as the solution to environmental problems and policies. We can escape from our usual trap of self-destruction.

Our big problems are global and we cannot solve them individually, they need to be solved on a global scale. The only chance is for the United States, the European Union, China, India, Russia, etc., to agree because we need global leadership. We also need multilateral processes and institutions to do this, like the United Nations. With it we invented something good. These institutions need support. We cannot solve problems with ideas like America first..

As human beings, we enter the 21st century with Stone Age emotions, Dark Ages institutions and 21st century technology. How can this work? We are on a collision course between technological advancement and society because technological change is disrupting society. We need to help society understand the role of technology, how it works. We need technology and expertise, but also democracy, democratising and humanising discussions about technology. We also need to understand that we need changes to, for example, decarbonise energy, which means disruptions and people may lose their jobs. So we need to cushion the effect of those forces, of market forces, to be able to do that. We need to make society more secure in social terms, to avoid that suffering that generates anguish, with the consequences that that has. We should not tolerate high levels of inequality, we need to make the rich pay taxes, we need to be able to understand how much disruption can happen and how it affects people's lives.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.