Starting with Russia in the nineteen-teens and expanding to Eastern Europe post-WWII, the Soviet Union took a bunch of agricultural countries like Poland and Bulgaria and forced them to industrialize. It financed this by de-industrializing (i.e. “stealing”) everything that wasn’t nailed down in Central Europe, but anyway, it sort of worked.
What if someone did that today? Clamped down on an industry-based country like Saudi Arabia or China (or indeed the Russian Federation) and forcing them to transition to the next generation, a service economy? What would that look like?
This “forced servicization” couldn’t happen now, because we still don’t exactly know how service economies work, or how they will evolve. But once we transition to the next big thing (a nanotechnology-assisted intellectual rights economy?) we’ll know enough about service in hindsight for it to be possible to shove entire countries through the transition.
If the transition went like the transition from agriculture to industry in Bulgaria, it would be both great and terrible. Oil fields dug up and replaced by enormous call-center arcologies, helping clients around the world troubleshoot problems too peculiar or marginal for AIs to handle. Wide-scale demolition of factories to make way for entertainment jungles to cater to the needs of tourists with ever-more specific tastes. Massive public spending on the arts to create content, any kind of content, that people will pay to experience.
Well, there goes my buzzer. Time to pack up and head back into the story-mines.