How Fleas Define the Changing World Order | Guest column


As a kid growing up in 1990s India, “chip” usually meant crispy, paper-thin slices of potato fried and salted to perfection. Intel microprocessors, unassumingly hidden in bulky personal computers at the time, were far from potatoes in the latter’s popularity as “chips”.

Fast forward to the present day, semiconductor chips are the new oil the world can go to war over.

With the global shortage of chips, compounded by the pandemic, global tensions are palpable both internally – with countries adopting plans to become self-sufficient in terms of chip production – and internationally with changing relations. among the world’s superpowers.

Beyond economics and international relations, the chip simultaneously defines today’s human physically, mentally and spatially with the evolution towards a post-digital era of haptic gloves, neural implants and the metaverse.

So the question is, how do fleas define the intra-pandemic world?

Economic repercussions and international relations

Most of what constitutes our current material world, namely data centers, computers, airplanes, electronic vehicles, smartphones, automobiles and missiles, etc., is based on semiconductor chips.

These tiny circuit boards are so crucial to our economies and daily lives that a shortage of chips can impact even buying a car or computer globally. With the increase in demand for electronic devices due to social distancing, the race to manufacture and design chips can determine both economic development and political influence of one country over others in the world. world.

Take for example the effect of the global chip shortage on auto giants like Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volkswagen which limited vehicle production, closed factories and laid off employees in 2020-2021, due to the unavailability of chips. Additionally, different sections of the consumer electronics industry, including smartphone makers, have also been affected by the chip supply disruption.

At the same time, the global chip shortage has also come to define international relations between world powers. In its next five-year plan, China has pledged to make chip production its top priority. Following US sanctions against Chinese chip giants like SMIC and Huawei, due to national security concerns, SMIC and Huawei have teamed up to build a new semiconductor manufacturing facility in China.

Meanwhile, many have attributed rising tensions between the United States and China to the two superpowers’ reliance on Taiwan, home to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) – a company renowned for producing not only the most most advanced in the world, but also being the world’s leading chipmaker. At a broader level, the growing demand for chips can therefore lead to substantial changes in international relations between countries. It can also drive a country forward in the race to become the world’s superpower.

On the other hand, at the national level, flea addiction can affect the internal policies and economic health of a country. It is due to the growing reliance on chips, technological advancements and unpredictable international relations that many multinational technology companies are trying to become more independent in terms of chip design.

Custom chips and metaverse

There is a surge in demand for custom chip designs from companies like Tesla, Meta, Apple and others. Apple’s M1 processor, Tesla’s Dojo chip and Baidu’s Kunlun 2 are all results of this need for customization and control of chip functions and integration.

Additionally, with pandemic-affected society heading towards hope for a metaverse and advancements in AI, chips will come to reshape core human values ​​and social trends.

Take for example our love of art or a common human inclination to own property. These, like many other core demands and values, have already found replication/reconstruction in the metaverse through reproducible digital art (NFT) or real estate investments in virtual spaces like Decentraland or Snoopverse.

With Microsoft’s possible presence in the metaverse, NVIDIA’s Omniverse, Intel’s commitment to “lead the Internet of tomorrow”, the basic human interactions, fueled by some of these metaverse companies, will find their fuel in chips. But there is more, because beyond the realm of socio-economic interactions, the chips will also tap into the human mind.

Chip implants: the human cyborg

In the July 1945 issue of The Atlantic, the editor summed up the thoughts of the then director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Dr. Vannevar Bush, in the following terms: “For years inventions have extended the physical powers of man rather than the powers of his mind. The jackhammers that multiply the fists, the microscopes that sharpen the eye… are new results, but not the final results.

While the human mind has been open to manipulation throughout history and continues to be manipulated via social media, Bush’s argument about the lack of inventions to augment the powers of the mind is still valid. However, it is safe to say that Elon Musk’s brain implant startup Neuralink promises a pathway for the mind to take tangible control of physical actions through implanted microchips, and thus ushers in a way to contribute to the powers of the mind obliquely.

Chips implanted in the brain could therefore allow the mind to initiate interactive actions simply by thinking about it. Although that’s still a far cry from Bush’s assertion that there are no inventions that can “duplicate… [the creative agility of] mental process[es] artificially,” this could be considered a humble beginning.

Unlike the mind, the human body has received the most scientific attention, thanks to which the chips have already found their way into the hands of thousands of people in Sweden who have opted for scannable subcutaneous implants in their bodies to ease the hassle of personal transportation. pieces of identity. Chips have thus been shown to support and accelerate the proliferation of human cyborgs, as man and machine become more and more integrated.

We’ve come a long way from the naivety of chips to our daily addiction to semiconductor chips. Looking back at unassuming microprocessors hidden in the folds of bulky 1990s PCs, I no longer visualize mechanical circuit boards – but what I see instead is a mechanical substitute for food that not only feeds machines but also humans. and human societies in general.

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray’s research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, rhetoric and composition. Before teaching in the United States, she worked as a writer at Routledge and taught English at colleges in India. She is a resident of Kirkland.

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