Growing up a couple hundred miles from the U.S. border in Canada’s smaller province, I’ve always had a sense that we in Canada have a unique vantage point on the United States of America. From here, we can see that America is a large beast, but we are too close to see the whole thing. Sleeping with an elephant, we sometimes say.
I grew up with a feeling that America was the center of the world. There were people in the rest of the world, but that was just the backdrop to America. Maybe someday, the whole world would come to be like America.
More recently in my life, I’ve become aware that while America lumbers on, still the center of it’s own universe, the rest of the world isn’t paying attention anymore. America is becoming irrelevant.
The American military is without equal. That sounds good, until you realize that a massive military without an equal means you have an irrelevant army. America is building a missile defense system after being attacked with domestic civilian aircraft. America sees the world in need of policing, while the world sees America as something from which you should protect yourself.
Europe wants its own global positioning system, because they know better than to have their governments and companies rely on a system being run by an increasingly isolated America. China wants its own software systems, because they know better than to build their economy with tools built in an increasingly isolated America.
Economically, America is clearly still a massive power. However, thanks in large part to the success and growth of large American corporations, economic power no longer respects international borders. Great American brands like WalMart, CocaCola, and General Electric, know that there is money to be made in the rest of the world.
We use American institutions and companies as a barometer for the adoption of open-source software, while the power of open-source software is happily moving on without the US.
While the coming US election seems like the potential turning point inside the US, and the rest of the world will move regardless of who sits in the White House next year. The future lives in Asia, South America, Europe, Africa.
Meanwhile, America responds by talking louder, listening less, and tightening it’s borders. In ten years, or fifteen, or twenty-five, the lights in America will dim and it will see beyond its own glare, look around, and see that it is no longer the center of the world and that the rest of the planet has moved on without them.