Globalism 2.0 Service Pack 3
An aging epoch of globalism seems to be suffering life-extension
I just landed in India, transiting via Singapore, where I had a long layover. Since I last transited through Singapore in 2018, they've built a weird egg-shaped pseudo-arcology1 called Jewel right next to Changi airport. It feels like a preview of what Neom might be like if that ever gets built, except of course it screams Southeast-Asian Consumerism rather than Middle-Eastern Despotism. The digital surfaces of Jewel (the website, app etc) are an explosion of discount promotions, deals, and advertising. The thing itself is a hypertrophied junkspace of global and local retailing and dining with some amusement-park elements thrown in. It is basically a simulated indoor rainforest crossed with a dramatically over-extended airport mall. It boasts the largest indoor waterfall in the world.
I suppose from the air (which is a major actual perspective from which one can look at it), Jewel might look like a literal gemstone, hence the name. But from the inside, it is 60% shopping and dining, 30% spectacle-from-nowhere-and-nowhen, and 10% rather weaksauce experiences (you can cross the bridge in the photograph for a fee).
In being named for the impressive birds-eye-view spectacle rather than the less impressive worms-eye-view experience, Jewel is a spiritual descendant of Vegas. There too, you go from an on-the-nose outer signification (New York, Paris, Egyptian pyramids, Caesar’s Palace) to an inner experience that brusquely sets themes aside to focus on pure amusement.
Like most Vegas Strip hotels, Jewel is an amusement park in the wrapper of a theme park.2 There is no jewel-themed payoff to be found on the inside, any more than there is a Roman-themed payoff to be found within Caesar’s Palace. To add a bit more nuance, Jewel has a kinship with the second generation of Vegas experience hotels, such as Aria and the Wynn, which dispense with legible themes altogether, and aim for coherent but nonspecific vibes (processed, theme-like substances) that remind you of being reminded of things, but don’t actually remind you of anything. Like those hotels, Jewel at Changi embodies an abstract uniqueness with a non-specific provenance. Architects among you will know what to call these things, but to me they seem to combine elements of decorated sheds and ducks on a grand scale. In the future, such things will be designed by 3d text-to-CAD prompt engines.
The metro runs right through Jewel, so you’re basically not allowed to miss it if you exit the airport. Jewel is a sort of Mandatory Super Phun Thyme, which makes it an appropriate symbol for the state of globalization. It feels like a content-free part of an era of globalization that has been overextended way past its design lifespan because a suitable replacement has not yet been found.
Jewel is a part of Globalism 2.0, Service Pack 3. Globalism 3.0, based on a brave new consciousness, which is what we’re all waiting for, has been delayed. So the previous major version has been granted yet another life extension. The third if I’m counting right. It ran out of meaning 20 years ago, but it is still functional enough to keep extending indefinitely, so long as you’re willing to accept the growing fragility.
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