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Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization

24 Jun Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization

“Where does the word connectography come from? It is the intersection of connectivity and geography,” said Dr. Parag Khanna, Senior Research Fellow, Singapore Institute of International Affairs, explaining the title of his latest book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization. Dr. Khanna spoke at the SIIA on 9 June 2016, sharing ideas and answering questions from SIIA members. The event was the first session in the SIIA’s Global Citizens Singapore programme for 2016.


Date/ Time: 9 June 2016, 5.30 – 7.00pm

Venue: SIIA Office: 60A Orchard Road #04-03 Tower 1 The Atrium@Orchard, International Involvement Hub, Singapore 238890

It used to be said that geography is destiny. But modern transportation and telecommunications infrastructure has transformed the planet. Today, connectivity, not geography, is the driving force of the 21st century. We live in a world where supply chains are crucial. Even the most powerful nations recognise this, with China and the United States engaged in a new arms race to gain market access via trade and infrastructure initiatives. To date, Singapore has benefited from the world’s emphasis on connectivity, having greater gravity in the global economy than its size would suggest and an economic footprint that extends beyond its shores to Johor, Riau and further afield. But what can we expect from an even more supply chain driven world? In this seminar at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, SIIA Senior Research Fellow Parag Khanna offers his take on the new face of geopolitics and globalisation with insights from his new book, “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization” (2016).

Speaker’s Brief Biography:

Parag Khanna is a leading global strategist, world traveler, and best-selling author. He is a CNN Global Contributor and Senior Research Fellow in the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He is also the Managing Partner of Hybrid Reality, a boutique geostrategic advisory firm, Co-Founder & CEO of Factotum, a leading content branding agency, and Senior Research Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Parag’s latest book is Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization (2016). He is also co-author of Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization (2012) and author of How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance (2011) and The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (2008). In 2008, Parag was named one of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century,” and featured in WIRED magazine’s “Smart List.” He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics, and Bachelors and Masters degrees from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has traveled to more than 100 countries and is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.


According to Dr. Khanna, the world has evolved from maps of national geography to maps of political geography, with the emphasis on legal boundaries. But state borders are artificial constructs; they only matter because we say they do. “Maps are the world’s best propaganda tool,” argued Dr. Khanna.

Little has been done to map out functional geography, how we actually use the world – looking at physical infrastructure, trade flows, and other connections. Over the course of writing ‘Connectography’, Dr. Khanna worked with leading researchers and map experts around the world to produce new visual representations of these relationships.
“Why is functional geography more important than political geography? Because most countries never get to their hundredth birthday,” said Dr. Khanna. Today, we are seeing the gradual fragmentation of states such as Syria and Iraq – the oil pipelines that run through the region will outlast both Middle Eastern states.

“It is functional integration that allows Southeast Asia to grow into the sum of its parts. Now, ASEAN receives more foreign investment than China,” he said.

What does a connected world mean for people across the globe? 

In a response to a question on whether an increasingly connected world increases the gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, Dr. Khanna replied that globalisation and connectivity have resulted in a rise in income across the world, and international inequality has been substantially reduced. Life expectancy and access to goods have increased worldwide. Everyone has benefited to some degree from connectivity.

If there are winners and losers in society, it is domestic politics that is to blame rather than globalisation. “It is not the fault of China and Mexico that the United States does not have job retraining,” said Dr. Khanna.

The Occupy Wall Street phenomenon of recent years is different from the anti-globalisation protests of the 1990s – it is a public backlash against domestic inequality rather than international inequality.

Dr. Khanna acknowledged that there has been a rise of populist nationalism across the globe, with countries acting to defend their own interests or clamouring to close borders against refugees or migrants. But Dr. Khanna believes this is a mistake. “They have a right to screw up,” he said, noting that in the long term countries will realise, for example, that they need migrants to sustain their workforce.

The world is pulling together – but it is not entirely peaceful.

Answering a question on whether China’s One Belt, One Road initiative to extend infrastructure linkages is feasible, Dr. Khanna noted that there is indeed considerable risk. As China builds roads, railways and pipelines across Central Asia and towards the Middle East, there may be backlash, potentially even attacks and violence against Chinese construction projects. However, Dr. Khanna believes China will push forward despite any setbacks. The fact that so many countries raced to become part of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank also demonstrates that China’s underdeveloped neighbours are equally eager to have Chinese investment.

Dr. Khanna argued that an increasingly connected world is ultimately a hopeful vision for the future – but in the near term, conflict is still certainly possible. “Military spending will be devoted towards supply chain protection,” he said, pointing out that this is already happening. The new justification for military deployment will not be to protect borders, but to protect infrastructure.

Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization (2016, Random House) is available at Kinokuniya, MPH, other bookstores, and online retailers .