I was flicking through my old Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook again last night while listening to the football. Fascinating how different the world looked in the 80s. According to the timeline of the 'Night City' setting, there should by 2020 have been a nuclear apocalypse in Australia, a unification of Korea, a collapse of the United States, and a domination of the world economy by Japan and the EU. Meanwhile many events that were totally unexpected have occurred - in Cyberpunk 2020 the USSR is still a major power and China is still a Maoist backwater. (A lesson in epistemic arrogance if ever there was one.)
Of course, it's not really fair to criticise the predictions of a gang of RPG designers and cyberpunk novelists. They never made any claims to be soothsayers - or at least most of them didn't. But nowadays it seems incredible to think that people actually believed Japan would one day be the world's most important economy - especially if you know anything about the huge demographic nightmare which is fast approaching that country.
I have a friend who's something of an expert in economic migration, who did his PhD on the growing knowledge economies in places like Singapore, Mauritius, and the Seychelles. He was telling me over lunch about how the governments in those countries are attempting to create new economies based on human capital: essentially, because (in theory) anybody doing knowledge-based work can nowadays work from anywhere in the world (thanks to the internet), they are hoping that they can attract researchers, scientists, thinkers, from all over the world to live and do business on their territory. This is seen as the perfect developmental model for places like Mauritius, the Seychelles, even possibly Fiji and Cape Verde (not to mention tax havens like the Cayman Islands whose days are likely numbered).
In a future in which cyberspace is even more dominant than it is today, should we not be considering places like Singapore - high tech, agile, expert - to be the kings of the world? They'd be rich and advanced enough to employ armies of cyborgs and elite mercenary units to defend themselves; powerful enough in cyberspace to use it as a security tool and a weapon of war (teams of military programmers scouring the net and eliminating enemies with wetware); and insulated from crime and social decay by strict authoritarian government, communitarian values, and the sea. Food, material goods and menial labour would be imported from the developing world on vast oceangoing liners. Major corporations with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo would set up home there, rather than the chaotic and violent North America or the politically unstable Latin America and Eurasia. These tiny islands, isolated high-tech paradises, would be the utopias of a dystopian world.
Nice beaches, too.