20 march 2017
Francis Fukuyama: We Need a Common Threat
On March 14–16, Berkeley hosted Global Cyberspace Cooperation Summit organized by East West Institute and attended by over 150 experts, government and business representatives from a number of countries. RIAC website editor Maria Smekalova had a chance to ask Francis Fukuyama, the author of best-selling “The End of History and the Last Man” and Stanford University professor, about the crises global community faces as well as decline of traditional media following his speech at the event.
You often speak about the crisis of mistrust in the global community. Is there a way to overcome it?
I think oftentimes it takes a shock or an external crisis to get people to trust one another. You have to have a situation where there’s a common threat: financial crisis, war, terrorism or something like that, where people realize that they actually have to work together. That might be sufficient to break the cycle. Yet we did have a crisis in 2008 and it wasn’t big enough, it really didn’t solve the problem. I think the next one has got to be even bigger, unfortunately.
You also said that internet is the ‘wild west’ for social media with everybody using it to their advantage. It seems to be relevant for the Western world — Russia included — do you think that the developing countries are going to step in this direction as well?
I think that there’s really not that much distinction between the developed and the developing worlds with regard to social media. There are countries where Facebook is the dominant way people use for communicating. Not every developing country can do what the Chinese do, which is to have this really comprehensive way of sealing off their population, controlling what’s shown on social media. I think that most democratic developing countries don’t really want to do that.
Is there anything Western countries could learn from the Chinese experience, or it wouldn’t work anyway?
Chinese experience is not compatible with a free society. We do have these basic principles of freedom of speech, and we couldn’t possibly control the Internet. The other thing is how would we decide what it is that we really wanted to control? We’re so polarized that there would be a basic disagreement over the parameters of that. So if there’s a solution, it’s probably going to have to come from the private sector. It has to come from the companies and the purveyors of social media to steer it in a more productive direction.
If we talk about media in its classical sense, and the crisis that it’s facing now, is there a way out of that as well?
Well, the business model has really been deteriorating for the traditional media. I think it probably just needs revised: people have to realize that it’s actually worth paying for the services that a traditional media company offers. There are people who still read traditional media and are willing to pay for that. Yes, it means that it will be smaller and less dominant than it was, but I don’t really see any other solution.
Francis Fukuyama’s speech is available online.
“Francis Fukuyama: We Need a Common Threat,” Russian International Affairs Council, 20 March 2017, http://russiancouncil.ru/en/inner/?id_4=8841
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