As rivers run dry, and glaciers melt into torrents, viruses shuttered in the ice, in lakebeds and in soils beneath Arctic ice are released after eternities of containment. Mapping the tree diagrams of these primeval viruses against the genealogies of possible hosts allow scientists at the University of Toronto to forecast possible viral spillovers.

Greta Thunberg is presently curating a toolbox of essays. Each chapter in the kit will be written by a renowned expert. The anthology will be a toolkit for those feeling anxious about climate change. But the change in the weather is not the only change we are witnessing. The human condition has changed using mRNA technology. Technological diffusion has changed the demographics of nation states. Moreover, over the last twenty-five years, humans have experienced some measure of more. Fewer famines. Fewer floods. Fewer outbreaks. Fewer occupations. Fewer wars. But this plenitude and peace is falling apart with the inversion of global demographics and the collapse of global order.

The American Post-war Order that triggered automation, globalization, mass consumption, perpetual innovation, omnipresent energy, and ever-present food is breaking apart. That Old Order is now melting and the associated geopolitical shocks have reshaped the demography of nation states, while spatial and economic inequalities remain unchanged. This breakdown is being experienced in different ways, and at different speeds, in different places. So even the breaking itself remains unequal. Countries will counter these changes in different ways. Ways determined by place. Ultimately it is place which determines all outcomes.

The geopolitics of this breakdown is a marker. Data lakes, server farms, crypto currencies for gas money, connected cars, and NFTs are the result of concurrent trends that are mostly unrelated. Trends that are parts of a larger ecology of innovations and advances, driven by design thinkers, who create libraries of solution components, and minimum viable assets. Everything remains incomplete. It is this openness of architecture that make the next steps plausible within the ecosystem.

The “work of nations” inside the confluence of the geopolitics of unfair competition, overconcentration, and monopolization, and the demographics of digital life, constitute the challenge clusters ahead, and they will shape the rise or decline of nations. Copyright and patent law as codified today looks like intellectual monopoly. Something quite distant from intellectual property, according to the Stigler Committee on Digital Platforms, at the Booth School of Business, (2019). The primary driver of technological innovation and diffusion is to give impetus to competition. Patents for digital technological advances that have been built incrementally using previous novelties can have a shorter gestation period. As they too fade rapidly. Alternatively, long patents seem fair for protracted and costly work on advances like mRNA technology.

This conundrum reminds us that nomothetic approaches for patent and copyright protections do not nurture innovation and development. One size cannot fit all. In advanced economies, copyright protections can run for seventy years and patents can linger for nearly twenty years. Reforming copyright and patent systems will promote a better balance between obligatory interests and the dissemination of innovation. Such changes have the potential to dismantle patent thickets and patent trolling tactics that keep the products of competitors off the market.

In July 2021, the United States established a White House Competition Council to address unfair competition and overconcentration. “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future” (2020) is a publication of the European Commission that proposes a new “Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act” as components of its Digital Future Initiatives. This new legislation will extend and support the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation. France, Australia, Germany, and the UK are also considering new Regulatory Bodies that concentrate on Digital Markets. These Regulatory Bodies will monitor pro-competition standards, rules, and codes of conduct around issues that may arise from AI and machine learning algorithms.

To level the playing field, nurture strong competition and monitor the growth of monopolistic structures, competition policy must reflect the realities of a digital age. Technology-driven shifts in product and labour markets have culled the ranks of small, less automated companies. And while smaller firms may have lacked the liquidity to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, tech giants further increased their market share. One result in retail is an unfolding wave of liquidations that is pushing more commerce toward big high-tech giants.

However, digital economies have encountered a plethora of fresh regulatory hurdles. These include regulatory responses to proprietary agglomeration of data in data lakes and data cooperatives, market concentrations arising from tech giants that resemble natural or quasi-normal monopolies, and competition issues related to digital platforms that are positioned as gatekeepers. Antitrust legal framework reform and stronger enforcement are therefore building momentum in both the EU and the US.

The new dynamics of digital markets and the filing of antitrust lawsuits suggest that softlaws and guidelines on horizontal mergers and acquisitions, and even those that are deemed to be non-horizontal, need to be updated to avoid anti-competitive practices. With speed, we are inching towards a new e-quilibrium. But the centre will not hold. And as the tide changes, it is clearer that the rising waters will not lift all boats equally, and place will determine all outcomes.