The rapid pace of technological advances in recent
decades brought with it a change in the rules of the game
worldwide. Borders can no longer stop merchandise,
information, or people, and the resulting global market
affects international relations on a political, cultural, and
economic level, as well as touching the lives of each and
every one of us.
Although the term "global village" was only coined in the second half of the 20th century, the roots of globalization go as far back as the end of the 15th century, with the discovery of the New World. Based on the activities of local explorers, the Portuguese started to create a network of trade links reaching all the way to Africa, Asia, and Brazil. With the establishment of European colonies in Africa, international trade became even more widespread, involving the exchange of gold and spices, plants and foods, and even populations (including slaves) and cultures.
At about the same time another major revolution took place — the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. After the Gutenberg Bible — the first book to be printed — the way was paved for the mass production and circulation of printed books. As a result, knowledge became widely available and no longer the sole privilege of a small social elite.
Today some nations are closing in on themselves to preserve their own culture, but in most of the world the differences between cultures are being blurred. A good example is that of "Americanization" (though the term only refers to the influence of the United States and not of the entire continent). Big American corporations — fast-food chains, soft drink companies etc. — have infiltrated almost every single market in the world, and American brands can be found even in the farthest corners of the globe.