Taking the Limit
I have always enjoyed courses in history, history of science and philosophy in college. It just fascinates me what human civilization have accomplish in the past and I am always wondering what the future will bring? This is one of the reasons you will often find me speculating about future products and technology in my blog.
I enjoy watching science fiction movies. I am a fan of Ray Kurzweil, a brilliant futurist, who speculates on how computers will advanced over time. One of the blogs I follow, Emergic.Org, makes predictions on emerging technologies, enterprises and markets, with a major focus on India and computing.
One of the techniques that I use for extrapolating the future is to "take the limit," which is based of a common technique in calculus, except that it's not at all rigorous. From existing trends, what will the world look like at steady state. At steady state, the world has stabilized (ie, the rate of change in the world approximates zero, the value at time infinity).
In the late 1800s, according to a NY Times article, the economies of the different states of America mirrors the disparaties in the world today. Because the states formed a free trade zone with a common currency, the differences narrowed substantially a century later in the late 1900s, so that lifestyles in different regions have quite comparable. In addition, the American economy back then was smaller than that of individual European countries like UK and Germany; now it's larger than several of the them combined.
While we tend to be very patriotic about America, especially with its great constitution, freedoms, and technological and economic accomplishments (some of use even believe that the US has some divine mission), we, especially younger people, forget that the world is a dynamically changing place and that the same laws of nature apply to US as to the rest of the world.
I don't think the US had the same level of dominance as Rome had. It also seems to that to me, taking the limit, that both India and China are eventually poised to overtake the US economy this century from the combination of a high growth rates and a far larger population. Also, as those two grow in power, labor costs in those countries will necessarily increase, making those countries less attractive for outsourcing and manufacturing; countries in the southern hemisphere, such as in Africa, may thus become attractive, thereby spreading the wealth around and reducing the disparities between countries, just as happened in the states of America.
I am not an economist, but I find this scenario is believable.
In the area of software, I cannot help but feel that the era dominated of free software will arrive, though not anytime soon. If software ever does reaches maturation (all major technological problem such as AI, natural language, and so on having been solved) and all software patents and copyrights have lapsed since that point or sufficient time has elapsed for open source developers to replicate proprietary software, then software must be free.