Parag Khanna: So what should the future ide­al­ly look like? That’s a very big ques­tion. I think the future is actu­al­ly many futures, it’s not just one thing. We have this notion that ever since we’ve been able to see the Earth from the out­side and because we now have a dia­logue around issues like glob­al con­scious­ness, a col­lec­tive envi­ron­men­tal fate, a world econ­o­my, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of nuclear war, as if there is one future. But for most peo­ple on an indi­vid­ual lev­el most the time, their future still feels very dif­fer­ent from that of oth­er peo­ple. We live in a world, for exam­ple, of enor­mous income inequal­i­ty, right. So even though there is a glob­al econ­o­my, it cer­tain­ly does­n’t feel like one’s sort of day-to-day fate or des­tiny is linked to those of peo­ple around the world, even if it is in very invis­i­ble kinds of ways. So the notion that there is one future is very dif­fi­cult to sort of absorb and to sort of deal with and come to terms with.

So I think we might be mov­ing clos­er in that direc­tion. A hun­dred years ago these kinds of issues around a glob­al envi­ron­men­tal sys­tem and a glob­al secu­ri­ty order and so forth were very dif­fi­cult to fath­om and weren’t real­ly part of day-to-day dis­cus­sion. So we’re get­ting clos­er and clos­er to the idea that there is one future, but I think we’re still prob­a­bly a long way away from it.

If your ques­tion is what should it look like if there were one future, I have my own views of course about how the world should not be gov­erned by the sacro­sanct prin­ci­ple of nation­al sov­er­eign­ty based on juridi­cal prin­ci­ples, but rather on dif­fer­ent kinds of com­mu­ni­ties that demon­strate the capac­i­ty for respon­si­bil­i­ty, whether those are agrar­i­an com­mu­ni­ties and vil­lages, whether they are Internet-based cloud com­mu­ni­ties. Whichever kinds of iden­ti­ties and net­works exist that allow peo­ple to ful­fill them­selves should be part of what we enable and empow­er peo­ple to achieve and to strive for.

Eveline van der Ham: So what would your advice for the next gen­er­a­tion be?

Khanna: So, my advice to the next gen­er­a­tion, what you might call Generation Y or even Generation Z—today’s toddlers—is cer­tain­ly to real­ize that they have a capa­bil­i­ty to explore the entire world much more than ever was the case before. And that the phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions are real­ly dimin­ish­ing. Our gen­er­a­tion and our par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion grew up in a world that was very polit­i­cal­ly divid­ed. It was very dif­fi­cult to cross cer­tain bor­ders, if not impossible.

Today those bor­ders are real­ly com­ing down. There’s almost real­ly not a sin­gle coun­try in the world left that you’re not allowed to go to, that you can’t get access to. All soci­eties are open­ing up in vary­ing degrees to glob­al­iza­tion, which is the spread of ideas, of tech­nol­o­gy, of eco­nom­ics, of sup­ply chains. So it is real­ly remark­able that this gen­er­a­tion can real­ly expe­ri­ence the world and form an impres­sion much more broad­ly than their parochial con­text in which they’ve grown up. I think that’s extreme­ly impor­tant, to explore that as much as possible.

The oth­er thing is that the expec­ta­tions around cer­tain career tra­jec­to­ries have real­ly changed. One used to grow up and say, Well, I have to study to be a doc­tor or in bank­ing or med­i­cine or law,” in these rigid kinds of ways. And today we find that there’s enor­mous amount of cre­ativ­i­ty and scope for cre­ativ­i­ty that that’s pos­si­ble. And that very suc­cess­ful peo­ple today are those who have some expe­ri­ence in the pri­vate sec­tor, some expe­ri­ence in the pub­lic sec­tor, some expe­ri­ence with civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions, all at the same time. Or even form­ing bridges across those to pur­sue cer­tain goals, cer­tain objec­tives, whether they’re noble human­i­tar­i­an mis­sions or what­ev­er the case may be. So I think that is anoth­er exam­ple of how there’s so much poten­tial for young peo­ple today. 

Further Reference

How to Change the World?, the 2012 Nexus Conference event page