The most successful, enduring model of productivity in the modern era is a commercial organisation with a profit motive. The structure of the commercial organisation typically has a CEO as leader. The role of the board in this instance is to appoint the most effective CEO, and to work closely with the CEO to provide support, governance, challenge and risk management, and ultimately to approve the CEO’s continuing engagement.
The rise of the corporation is challenging the notion of borders and nationhood. The largest organisations like Amazon, Apple and Google (Alphabet), have higher GDPs than two thirds of the nations on earth. Globalisation has enabled the shifting of capital to company coffers, and ultimately to shareholders’ balance sheets. The workforce has become mobile and virtual, with borders becoming increasingly irrelevant, and allegiance to company employers more common.
According to a Foreign Policy article, “in 2013, Balaji Srinivasan, now a partner at the venture-capital company Andreessen Horowitz, gave a much-debated talk in which he claimed Silicon Valley is becoming more powerful than Wall Street and the U.S. government. He described “Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit,” or the creation of “an opt-in society, ultimately outside the U.S., run by technology.”
With real power shifting to cyberspace, private corporations are racing ahead of governments which struggle to wrap laws around taxing multinationals, and containing their growth. Such is the threat, some US government representatives are calling for the break-up of Google.
The success of corporations is in no small part attributed to the talent that they are able to attract. Governments struggle to attract the same level of leadership talent, due to the scrutiny given to remuneration packages, and the onerous requirements of public life.
If we were able to take a global view of the planet, and acknowledge that despite decades of discussions and vetoes at the UN, G7 or G20, we struggle to solve the world’s problems of inequality and poverty, energy sharing, waste and conflict. As Elon Musk and SpaceX draw closer to a colony on Mars, and nations look to develop Space Forces, we are on the cusp of a new paradigm, where Earth is not the only habitable planet, and a true space race is commencing.
If one were to view the planet as a corporation, with a talented global CEO, empowered by a board that represents the nations, one wonders whether greater progress could be made to resolve our planetary challenges. Developing a purposeful mission, common values, clear vision, strategic plan, effective structure and specific priorities, the CEO would be given a clear mandate to affect the improvements required.
Nations would focus on the law of comparative advantage, ‘doing what you are best at’ as a contribution to the global good. With most conflicts about resources and ideology, the greatest contributors to global peace are prosperity, access to energy, clean water, plentiful food, housing, health services, education and security. Citizens would become shareholders,
Noah Harari, in his book ‘Homo Deus’ infers that whilst we are in the Age of Data, the next phase once AI, automation, quantum computers and robotics are mainstream, is the Age of Irrelevance, when humans are no longer required for production nor problem solving. Providing income and a sense of purpose for individuals will become a high priority, as medical advances extend life expectancy, but not for any productive reason.
In the absence of a new system, the US President will continue to act as a ‘default CEO’, protecting America’s interests wherever they may be, until the rise of China shifts the power to Beijing. The Belt and Road initiative as well as a strong cyber force will cement China’s influence as a global leader, protecting China’s interests. We need instead to recognize that we share a habitable planet, and our old model of competition for resources needs to be replaced with cooperation and collaboration.
Revisiting our current model of governance and sovereignty, and acknowledging its shortcomings, we must reach for a different model that reflects the new paradigm, where truly becoming global citizens or shareholders is the priority. Later this century, when someone asks where you are from, it is likely that a reasonable answer may well be ‘Earth’.