Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs claims credit for thinking up the mnemonic Brics, which is now universally used as shorthand for the four fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.Speaking at an Institute for Economic Affairs conference in London on Thursday, he said that in the UK we simply don’t get the transformation being wrought to the global economy not just by the four big Brics but by 11 smaller briquettes following in their wake.O’Neill’s point is a good one. There has been so much navel-gazing going on in the west since the start of the financial crisis three and a half years ago that there has been a tendency to underestimate the shift in the economic balance of power that is now under way.Here are some of the relevant facts. The Brics and the so-called Next 11 (Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines and Vietnam) have a combined population of 4.5 billion, almost 75% of the global total. They are growing much more rapidly than the advanced countries of North America and Europe, with O’Neill predicting that the new Growth 8 (the Brics plus Korea, Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico) will grow four to five times as quickly as the United States between now and the end of the decade. China alone will account for half this growth.O’Neill drew three conclusions from these trends. First, it is no longer really tenable – and in fact a bit disrespectful – to call a country like China an emerging economy. As the second biggest economy in the world, it has emerged.Second, the events witnessed in north Africa and the Middle East in recent weeks are part of a movement that will be just as historic as the collapse of communism in the late 1980s. The Brics and the Next 11 have all seen economic reform over the past decade: now many of them will witness political reform as well.As the chairman of Goldman Sachs’s asset management, O’Neill’s final conclusion was perhaps somewhat predictable: investors should fill their boots with equities from the countries set to post high growth over the coming years.There was, though, one thing he didn’t explain. Does the world have the carrying capacity to cope with such rapid growth affecting such a huge slug of the world’s population? The coming years may well be marked by rapid growth in the Brics and the Next 11. But they will also be marked by rapidly rising commodity prices, a struggle for resources, higher levels of inflation, and – as things currently stand – immense environmental damage.