Daniil Shukhman

Russian View Publisher

When eternity is not enough, one asks for a minute more. As Edgar Faure, who was twice Prime Minister of the French Fourth Republic, said, eternity in politics does not last more than 20 years. What has happened to the world for the past reporting period? In a figurative sense, it has moved “five eternities back”. 

In 1917 – 1920, Russia earnestly contemplated abolishing money. Money is bound to come into disuse, as the ideologists of both war communism and communism in general argued. The communism did not work out. Yet a hundred years later the idea won over the minds of the “advanced users”. 

The mining of cryptocurrency, which serves as an alternative to real money, is actively discussed in the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of IT professionals around the world are working round the clock to develop special algorithms and receive their reward in digital currency — bitcoins, etheriums or one of the many others. Today even Russian stock exchanges accept digital currency. This is not a war communism with its coupons and stamps-based distribution system, as bitcoins can buy you anything priced in dollars, euros or rubles online. Most importantly, deposits in this currency are completely decentralized. This money is not controlled by any bank. 

Is this a progress or the minute’s deferment? Let us not hurry with an answer. 

Five “eternities” ago, in the early 20th century, the world faced an oil boom. Hydrocarbons boosted the development of the world automobile industry, technological progress, and the global modernization in general. It would be no exaggeration to say that the 20th century was an oil age. Yet in the 21st century new reality has emerged to compete with hydrocarbons, as the Internet and mobile communications have conquered the world. Not making part of this reality would mean fall out of reality at all. 

Saudi Arabia, the world oil flagship that has ruled in the global hydrocarbon market for decades, intends to cease its dependency on oil. Yet things are not that easy. First, it does not plan to cease it all at once, but rather do it within an “eternity”, that is, next twenty or thirty years. Second, there is more than just an ambitious IT development programme. The kingdom does not intend to forgo its world energy leadership. It is to become an advanced “global solar and wind energy power” and start exporting electric energy, as well as fossil fuels. Its logic is clear: over one billion people across the world have no access to electricity, and the demand for oil will remain considerable for the coming years. Saudi Arabia itself is the major oil consumer in the Middle East. As the Citigroup’s report prepared as far back as in 2012 said, if Saudi Arabia’s domestic demand for hydrocarbons continued to grow at the same pace, by 2030 it would become an oil importing, rather than major oil exporting country. 

Hence the oil remains. And so does real money. Neither of them excludes pro­gress, as these phenomena are not inter­changeable. 

South Korean researchers have made a notable conclusion. They believe that the invention of the washing machine has changed the world much more than the Internet has. It has relieved women from part of their housework and brought them to the labour market, changing the economy, while the Internet is often used exclusively as an entertainment. 

The progress does continue. Researchers, both in the West and in the Russian Skolkovo, have developed self-cleaning fabrics. And the availability of spare labour force, as well as increased human labour productivity are no longer considered the driver of the progress. There is talk, for example, about the option of making Friday a day off. Indeed, people have little work at fully automated and computerized production facilities. However, this is highly unlikely to happen either now or within the next “eternity”. 

Meanwhile economists, politicians and political scientists, both in Russia and in the West, look at really big things: where their countries should go with all the technologies and hydrocarbons they have got. We could not help taking part in this discussion.

Enjoy your reading!