The late Mancur Olson investigated data from wealthy and poor countries in order to understand why some are rich and some poor. The conclusion, given in his book Power and Prosperity, is that necessary conditions for prosperity are individual and property rights under law, and absence of predation by corruption or by special-interest groups abusing the legal process. Berman in his book Created Equal showed that in an ancient Middle East where people believed that natural phenomena resulted from manipulations by gods, kings being the sole intermediaries to those gods both universal and parochial, and where ordinary people were to heed every whim of the king, the Hebrew bible coalesced emerging beliefs into a revolutionary idea, that there was one God external to nature, who created nature, and that every individual was equal, with the status of a king, under that one and universal God. This is the basis of modern society and enabled the development of modern science.
Message number 1: Human welfare depends on societal organization more than on technological development.
When the modern concept of national sovereignty was developed, the impact of any process within a single country on its neighbors was minimal. A few examples from among many are: the world population was around 1.2 billion people, and the pollution per capita was less than today so the effects of pollution were not felt; the distance that military force could be projected from within a country was the range of an artillery piece; ideas traveled slowly since they were transmitted on paper that had to be transported to a population where many were illiterate. We introduce the concept of a country having many borders, one for each mode of influence on its neighbors; in those days all the borders of influence of a country coincided with its physical borders.
Today every country influences another. A few examples from among many are: pollution from every country has influence beyond its borders. Military destruction can be projected without reference to the border of the projecting country; Iranian rockets can reach Europe and India, and American rockets can reach anywhere; soon many countries will have that capability. A scene photographed on a cell phone can be rapidly shown anywhere to the illiterate as well as the literate, generating riots and upheaval. There are hence many borders of influence for each country, and these do not any more coincide with its physical borders. Sovereignty is becoming distributed.
It is not surprising therefore that nations are committing aspects of their sovereignty to international treaties and bi- and multi-lateral agreements, but this is still seen as a perturbation or add-on to the fundamental concept of absolute sovereignty. The new and developing concept of 21st century distributed sovereignty is replacing 20th century absolute sovereignty.
Message number 2. Fundamental concepts and methods of political organization will inevitably change in the 21st century.
These paradigmic issues will be important innovation challenges for the 21st century