There was a lot of noise made in the recent US-China trade war. Its magnitude is beyond the massive F5 tornado and it is shaking the entire world, destroying everything in its path, including a long-term relationship with America’s strongest allies – Canada and the EU. 

News and photos of Donald Trump disrupting the G7 summit dominated the news. The Americans are going all out to win the war to balance their trade. In the frontline, agricultural products and raw materials are imposed with high tariffs. Billion of dollars are involved and it is driving everyday life items to their limit.

However, what interesting is, ABCD (ABC is American and D is French) is already in control of the world’s grain supply, about 75% to 90%, for a very long time. The Americans may be importing more than they are exporting, but their corporation is still the ultimate winner of profit and jobs. 

So, what was the commotion on the trade imbalance about?

When we read the news fussing all over this crisis-invoking issue, we may notice that the 5G technology was mentioned somewhere along the way. The world is too focused on the food prices and the cost of our next dream cars that we thought 5G is just another item on the list. 

But, what if 5G is the dominant cause – the one factor that pushed America to such an extent? 5G is the new generation of wireless technology, which promises us faster and more reliable Internet connection. In the past decades, China has been taking up the role as the world’s largest manufacturer and the dumpsite for industrial waste. They played their part quietly and obediently.

After years of skill-acquiring hard work, the habit of saving, the expansion of intellectual class and the return of experts abroad has pushed China to switch their gears. Combined with a strong President, China poured in a large sum of money in research funds and ventured into the high tech areas. From biotechnology to artificial intelligence, progressing to 5G and quantum computing, China made it crystal clear that they want to be a new power dominating the technology world.

Backed by billions from government fundings, companies in EU, US, South Korea and China engaged in a silent battle over the 5G technology. Last year, China (headed by ZTE and Huawei) announced that they have acquired the technology – armed and ready to deploy. It was a bad news to the business community and the politicians in the US as well as their western allies.

In the last century, American has dominated almost all the world-changing technologies; from the assembly line, GMO seeds, atomic bomb to the Internet! Inside the Washington DC’s corridor of power, the politicians and lobbyists couldn’t seize to imagine that the Chinese are making copies of the data going through the 5G routers and switches produced by Chinese firms. The Americans cannot stomach this reality!  

But, for the past years, Huawei and ZTE were already dominants players in producing 4G LTE routers and switches? Then, why the sudden ruckus? 

Well, to begin with, this may due to the reason that 5G is not just an evolution of 4G but a revolution of our telecommunication industry, or rather the world of technology and the world itself. It is going to be equivalent to the scale of the cosmic explosion and it may be the second cognitive revolution since 70, 000 years ago! 

A cognitive revolution aided by technologies. The Chinese, the Americans, in fact, the entire world leaders know that whoever is in control of the 5G technology controls the future. 5G or any data communication standards beyond 5G alone cannot change the world. It is the combination of all other emerging technologies and enabler that allow humankind to play God. 

And 5G may just be the right initiator and infrastructure that we need to change humankind forever. 

New Elements to Support Emerging Technologies

Apple’s upcoming 7nm A12 chip is the first mass production electronic chip at such scale. It packs more processing power yet promises more energy efficiency. A year ago, A12’s predecessor, A11, was a 10nm chip, and the previous year A10 – 16nm. At this rate, it is hard not to imagine 1nm chip or even a nanochip will be made available in not too distant future. This means smaller electronics to power sensors, memories and processors.

Many new materials are being researched to replace existing material used for casing and microchip. The most prominent among them will be graphene. Graphene is a new type of nanomaterial. It is the thinnest material known to a human being. Manufacturers are at their last leg of making graphene a mass production material.

It has a huge potential to be in everything, including being a microchip itself, replacing silicon. Breakthrough graphene may overcome the limits presented by silicon and as it is 10,000 times faster and efficient than the standard silicon-based chip. Graphene can be used within the human body as a versatile sensor since it is sensitive and responds well to the environment in a human’s body. 

AI or Artificial Intelligence has long existed. But it was not until recently that AI is going mainstream. All big tech companies are putting AI as their main R&D agenda. It was the humongous amount of data collected in the past few years, faster computers more advanced software algorithm that allows AI to emerge.

The Enabler

It is worth to mention another key enabler, the IPv6. Today’s data communication relies on the Internet Protocol or IP. For one device to be able to communicate to another device, it relies on its IP address. IPv6 contains 128-bit, or 340 undecillion combination or unique IP addresses. Undecillion is 1 followed by 36 zeros.

To put things into clearer perspective, most of us carry 2 to 6 devices that use IP address today. If we divide 340 undecillion by 7.5 billion world population, each of us can have up to 42.5 octillion of IP addresses. The human body contains 7 octillion of atoms. We are allowed to carry 6 times the atoms made up every single of our body cell. That is beyond astronomical!

Money has never as abundant as now. Investment into technology startups is at its unprecedented rate. Based on an estimation made by Crunchbase, total money pouring into startups was around USD213 billions in 2017. And they also predicted that it will skyrocket in 2018.

More and more “old economy model” companies are investing in technology startups. For example, BP is investing in solar and batteries technologies. GM and Toyota are investing in the ride-hailing company.

This may be an insurance policy but it will spur companies from other traditional business to follow suit.

Internet of Things

There is no lack of definitions when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT). The most immediate application is to make everything smart. Combining 5G with smaller microchips (for processing and sensing) and software, we can now replace traffic police with intelligent traffic lights. Our home appliances are now able to coordinate among themselves and start communicating with us. The same goes for pieces of equipment we have in our office, factory or warehouse.

We can now put microchips into our babies’ cloth to measure their comfort level or even to detect when they get sick. The microchip will pick up the data sent through the 5G network in which later it will be processed by AI on the cloud computing platform. 

Pretty interesting, right? But, let’s not stop there. With the combination of technologies mentioned above, we can put many “things” into our body. Things that measure our vital parameters or even things that can alter our biology.

Another technology worth mentioning is the advancement of neurosciences through the use of sensors to measure our brainwave and the capability of AI to help translate what those brainwaves. The data collected from our body will be transmitted through the 5G network to the server in real-time. 

Besides us and our closest relatives, there will only be doctors and our insurance company that are able to monitor everything about us. And now, imagine this scenario – the President of USA has his vital body data or brainwaves transmitted through Chinese made routers.

Do you have a better picture now? It is not about the potato. It is about the control of the data. It is about winning the future of our digital world. That is what this trade war is about. And it is only the beginning.

Maybe Trump is taking it too far.