The Clash of Civilizations?

In 1992, the Harvard-based political scientist Samuel Huntington suggested that future conflicts would be driven largely by cultural differences. He went on to map out a new world order in which the people of the world are divided into nine culturally distinct civilizations.

His argument was that future conflicts would be based around the fault lines at the edges of these civilizations. He published this view in a now famous article called “The Clash of Civilizations?” in Foreign Affairs.

credit: Bogdan State et al.

credit: Bogdan State et al.

Now Bogdan State at Stanford University and associates have analyzed a global database of e-mail messages and their locations, sent by more than 10 million people over the space of a year, MIT Technology Review reports [link to original article].

They say he global pattern of connections reflects the cultural fault lines thought to determine future conflict, clearly reflecting the civilizations mapped out by Huntington.


Bye Bye Post Office

Remember one of the most retweeted chart of 2010? It was ripped off the Morgan Stanley’s Internet Trends presentation, and showed how social networking messaging systems have already surpassed email usage:

Chart from MS Internet Trends 2010 presentation

Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or some other social networking service, I believe the lighter weight communication paradigm (say less, reach more) is superior to email for many things. Nonetheless, email’s usage is still growing and IMHO is more suitable for long-form serious private conversations.

You may think that this trend is affecting only the way we send and receive messages on the web. What about the old, tangible, bunch of papers we find in our real mailbox? The Economist has a nice article depicting the volume of mail handled by the US Postal Office:

USPS - Letters no more

As ever more Americans go online instead of sending paper, the volume of mail has been plummeting […] Delivery costs are simultaneously going up. As a result, the post has lost $20 billion in the last four years and expects to lose another $8 billion this fiscal year […] As Christmas cards have gone online (and “green”), so have bills. In 2000, 5% of Americans paid utilities online. Last year 55% did.

USPS is planning to close post offices; up to 3,653, out of about 32,000. This month it announced plans to lay off another 120,000 workers by 2015, having already bidden adieu to some 110,000 over the past four years (for a total of about 560,000 now). It also wants to fiddle with its workers’ pensions and health care.

The post will have to stop delivering mail on Saturdays. Then perhaps on other days too.

USPS was born “to bind the Nation together”. Now it looks like there is a substitute: Internet.