Civilization is a computer game series in which the player starts off with one settler and one warrior in the ancient days, then work their way up to be the greatest nation or empire on Earth. There are a few victory routes to win the game – such as a score victory, diplomatic victory, religious victory, science victory, cultural and of course the most favoured domination victory route.
Civilization is a game which mirrors the real world concepts quite closely. To expand, one needs to ensure there is sufficient food for the population to grow, territory to farm resources, military to defend against hostile forces, money to keep the economy running, production capabilities to get things out, science to scale up the technology tree and so on. Religion, espionage, allied treaties etc also come into play. Focus too heavily on one, and you will meet your downfall as the balance tilt over. Focus on everything equally, and you will lag behind the others because you do not have one critical advantage.
Of so many factors, science and production always come up as the top consideration. As you scale up the technology tree, you unlock certain powers which other empires could not have. The use of firearms against the traditional bow and arrows gives the Western powers an overwhelming advantage as they fought against and plundered China’s Qing dynasty as well as the native Americans. Production capabilities enable one to continually produce better things at a faster rate. The Soviet’s high military production rate ensured that their tanks were always new and sufficient in numbers when going against the German’s dwindling damaged tanks in World War 2. When one has an upper hand in technology, numbers do not make a difference. When both have similar levels of technology, production rate will be an important factor.
However, battles do not only take place in physical land with tanks and rifles. From science to production capabilities, from economics to influence, countries are constantly fighting an unseen war underneath the seemingly peaceful society. On the influence battlefield, media is the central figure. From news, movies, games, songs, even soccer, the country which gets more coverage in those areas wield a higher influence. That is why we believe in the US and not Zimbabwe, we take time to understand the Japanese more than Papua New Guinea. For economics that is quite clear – mega corporations and central banks of the respective countries team up and fight against others all over the world. Hostile takeover of foreign assets, crippling of competitors’ companies, stock market manipulation are just some of the examples.
The above requires talent from each field. But more than any other field, the science and production sector require real solid human talents who are able to contribute and advance the agenda of the country. In Civilization, the presence of a Great Scientist or Great Engineer is able to boost the climb up the technology tree greatly or to advance the production of a great project significantly. In any agenda you take in the game, there is always a Great Person whom you can recruit to give you a boost.
US – the land of the free, had attracted many talents worldwide for the past 50 years. Outstanding talents from every field dream of going to the US, and many has gone over. What each country has groomed for decades, the US had successfully lured them over with promise of glory. Of course, there is no wrong in US for doing that and I am not criticising them. The other countries only have themselves to blame for messing up their society so much that people do not want to stay. With these talents, the US had advanced to be the number 1 in various sectors too many to mention here.
Naturally, each country also knows the consequences of a brain drain. Yet, efforts to attract and retain talent were superficial at most. Except for the past 5 years and especially in the last 2 years, more than ever, countries are becoming more aggressive in attracting talents. Because we are going into another upward shift in the technology and production capabilities. The advent of the industrial revolution allowed for mass production and a dramatic increase in power. But what we have achieved since then was simply more efficient ways to produce things. If one is to ask me what will be the next critical step forward, it will be artificial intelligence. One look at the jobs market and trends, what comes up as a severe shortage? Sectors in data engineering and analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence etc. In short, the use of machines to process insane quantities of information. Remember what they always say in the movies? Information is the most critical aspect in war.
The UK has opened its arms to Singapore graduates of the top 2 universities – National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. Australia had lowered its immigration criteria. China offered housing and guaranteed jobs for domestic talents in order to retain them. Russia offers an attractive package to talents of a few select fields who relocate there. It is now easier to move to Canada than before. The list goes on. Countries are aggressively wooing talents.
Mass production has successfully helped the capitalists save a lot of money and gave them a tighter control on the labour pool. However as a drawback people are becoming gradually incompetent. Gone are the days when people go out to learn a skill fit for their job and hone their craft over the years. Everyone now has become keyboard warriors superb at doing Powerpoint slides and giving a speech, but not able to achieve anything else. Countries realised they no longer have sufficient skilled people to advance their agenda.
Secondly, as we are nearing a crisis, countries need dependable people to be the pillar of support to walk out of the dark times. Perhaps people has not yet felt it, but it is my firm believe that the Russian-Ukraine war + Covid + cyclical recession will drive the global economy down on an unprecedented scale on par with the Great Depression. We have not bottomed out as many has claimed. In fact we are far from it. Just as teams need capable people in order to solve problems and achieve success, so it is with countries. However this big team consist of natural born useless team members whom they cannot depend yet unable to get rid of. The need for foreign talents is therefore necessary.
I have mentioned the consequences of not having a hard skill on the individual level, so I will not repeat here. We will now look at what happens to countries when they are unable to compete. Countries are big geographical teams made up of people, so the actions of a country often times mirror the behaviour of a person. Imagine now we are in a class (the world) with many students (the countries). Some of the students are smart, some are physically strong, some are peace-loving, some resort to violence easily, some are rich, some live in their own world etc. I am pretty sure you can easily tag a country to any of the above description easily.
In a class there are always cliques led by the strong leaders, either through charisma (influence, religion), pure strength (military), money or a combination of the above. The cliques may be at odds, but if their strengths are on a similar level, they generally do not go on an all-out war with each other. Weaker students generally attempt to join a clique in order to get companionship (protection). Weaklings who failed to join any of the cliques will be open game for all, while weaklings who successfully joined a clique will also be forced to contribute in various ways. For simplicity’s sake, I will combine these 2 different situations in the next paragraph.
What happens when there is a weak person in the class? He will be bullied. Bullying can come in many forms. From outright beating (constant armed conflicts), demands for money (extracting resources freely), ordering them around to run errands (cheap labour), using them for sex (women and children trafficking) etc. The list goes on and the way countries behave are indeed very similar to the common human behaviour we are so familiar with if we scale it down.
The industrial revolution had put certain countries ahead of others for a few hundred years, of which many struggled to catch up and some never managed to do so. Among those who caught up, significant concessions had to be made, such as Japan and South Korea. In this leap up another tier in the technology tree, it will be even harder to catch up, as countries will now seek to cement their power and authority. If one is unable to catch up, one might be doomed to sink in the pits forever.
In terms of human behaviour, how do we translate that? Sinking one into debts so that he has no choice but to keep working for you to pay off what he owes. Forcibly injecting drugs into the body so that the woman has no choice but to continue prostituting herself. Crippling a person for good so that he or she lose the will to fight on and the ability to improve. If one understands current affairs enough, one will be able to easily come up with a few ideas on how the above is being played out on the international stage. Winners had always attempted to shut off the gates once they have climbed up another level to prevent others from achieving the same success, such as possessing the nuclear bombs. It was more difficult in the faraway past because technology improvements were slow, but as technology improved especially in the last few hundred years, losers have found it increasingly more difficult to get through the gates to the next tier which the winners try to shut. And such a situation will only worsen.
Many may think that it is unlikely that a country could be swallowed up that easily. But history over thousands of years told us that nations and empires rose and crumbled just as easily. For every Babylonian or Roman empire which people famously remembered, how many more smaller countries were wiped out, never to be remembered again? The borders of countries were constantly redrawn. Even if the countries as we know today are not wiped out, being swallowed could come in other forms as well, such as my favourite example of Japan and South Korea.
Civilisations rise and fall. As an individual, we cannot influence the grand scheme of things. That is why as an individual you must be able to take care of yourself. As to how to do so, that is the whole purpose of this blog and every article in here is telling you how to do so, bit by bit.