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  • I've been thinking a lot about the world recently

  • and how it's changed over the last 20, 30, 40 years.

  • Twenty or 30 years ago,

  • if a chicken caught a cold and sneezed and died

  • in a remote village in East Asia,

  • it would have been a tragedy for the chicken

  • and its closest relatives,

  • but I don't think there was much possibility

  • of us fearing a global pandemic

  • and the deaths of millions.

  • Twenty or 30 years ago, if a bank in North America

  • lent too much money to some people

  • who couldn't afford to pay it back

  • and the bank went bust,

  • that was bad for the lender

  • and bad for the borrower,

  • but we didn't imagine it would bring

  • the global economic system to its knees

  • for nearly a decade.

  • This is globalization.

  • This is the miracle that has enabled us

  • to transship our bodies and our minds

  • and our words and our pictures and our ideas

  • and our teaching and our learning around the planet

  • ever faster and ever cheaper.

  • It's brought a lot of bad stuff,

  • like the stuff that I just described,

  • but it's also brought a lot of good stuff.

  • A lot of us are not aware

  • of the extraordinary successes of the Millennium Development Goals,

  • several of which have achieved their targets

  • long before the due date.

  • That proves that this species of humanity

  • is capable of achieving extraordinary progress

  • if it really acts together and it really tries hard.

  • But if I had to put it in a nutshell these days,

  • I sort of feel that globalization

  • has taken us by surprise,

  • and we've been slow to respond to it.

  • If you look at the downside of globalization,

  • it really does seem to be sometimes overwhelming.

  • All of the grand challenges that we face today,

  • like climate change and human rights

  • and demographics and terrorism and pandemics

  • and narco-trafficking and human slavery

  • and species loss, I could go on,

  • we're not making an awful lot of progress

  • against an awful lot of those challenges.

  • So in a nutshell, that's the challenge

  • that we all face today

  • at this interesting point in history.

  • That's clearly what we've got to do next.

  • We've somehow got to get our act together

  • and we've got to figure out how to globalize

  • the solutions better

  • so that we don't simply become a species

  • which is the victim of the globalization of problems.

  • Why are we so slow at achieving these advances?

  • What's the reason for it?

  • Well, there are, of course, a number of reasons,

  • but perhaps the primary reason

  • is because we're still organized as a species

  • in the same way that we were organized

  • 200 or 300 years ago.

  • There's one superpower left on the planet

  • and that is the seven billion people,

  • the seven billion of us who cause all these problems,

  • the same seven billion, by the way,

  • who will resolve them all.

  • But how are those seven billion organized?

  • They're still organized in 200 or so nation-states,

  • and the nations have governments

  • that make rules

  • and cause us to behave in certain ways.

  • And that's a pretty efficient system,

  • but the problem is that the way that those laws are made

  • and the way those governments think

  • is absolutely wrong for the solution of global problems,

  • because it all looks inwards.

  • The politicians that we elect

  • and the politicians we don't elect, on the whole,

  • have minds that microscope.

  • They don't have minds that telescope.

  • They look in. They pretend, they behave,

  • as if they believed that every country was an island

  • that existed quite happily, independently

  • of all the others

  • on its own little planet

  • in its own little solar system.

  • This is the problem:

  • countries competing against each other,

  • countries fighting against each other.

  • This week, as any week you care to look at,

  • you'll find people actually trying to kill each other from country to country,

  • but even when that's not going on,

  • there's competition between countries,

  • each one trying to shaft the next.

  • This is clearly not a good arrangement.

  • We clearly need to change it.

  • We clearly need to find ways

  • of encouraging countries to start working together

  • a little bit better.

  • And why won't they do that?

  • Why is it that our leaders still persist in looking inwards?

  • Well, the first and most obvious reason

  • is because that's what we ask them to do.

  • That's what we tell them to do.

  • When we elect governments

  • or when we tolerate unelected governments,

  • we're effectively telling them that what we want

  • is for them to deliver us in our country

  • a certain number of things.

  • We want them to deliver prosperity,

  • growth, competitiveness, transparency, justice

  • and all of those things.

  • So unless we start asking our governments

  • to think outside a little bit,

  • to consider the global problems that will finish us all

  • if we don't start considering them,

  • then we can hardly blame them

  • if what they carry on doing is looking inwards,

  • if they still have minds that microscope

  • rather than minds that telescope.

  • That's the first reason why things tend not to change.

  • The second reason is that these governments,

  • just like all the rest of us,

  • are cultural psychopaths.

  • I don't mean to be rude,

  • but you know what a psychopath is.

  • A psychopath is a person who,

  • unfortunately for him or her,

  • lacks the ability to really empathize

  • with other human beings.

  • When they look around,

  • they don't see other human beings

  • with deep, rich, three-dimensional personal lives

  • and aims and ambitions.

  • What they see is cardboard cutouts,

  • and it's very sad and it's very lonely,

  • and it's very rare, fortunately.

  • But actually, aren't most of us

  • not really so very good at empathy?

  • Oh sure, we're very good at empathy

  • when it's a question of dealing with people

  • who kind of look like us

  • and kind of walk and talk and eat and pray

  • and wear like us,

  • but when it comes to people who don't do that,

  • who don't quite dress like us

  • and don't quite pray like us

  • and don't quite talk like us,

  • do we not also have a tendency to see them

  • ever so slightly as cardboard cutouts too?

  • And this is a question we need to ask ourselves.

  • I think constantly we have to monitor it.

  • Are we and our politicians to a degree

  • cultural psychopaths?

  • The third reason is hardly worth mentioning

  • because it's so silly,

  • but there's a belief amongst governments

  • that the domestic agenda

  • and the international agenda

  • are incompatible and always will be.

  • This is just nonsense.

  • In my day job, I'm a policy adviser.

  • I've spent the last 15 years or so

  • advising governments around the world,

  • and in all of that time I have never once seen

  • a single domestic policy issue

  • that could not be more imaginatively,

  • effectively and rapidly resolved

  • than by treating it as an international problem,

  • looking at the international context,

  • comparing what others have done,

  • bringing in others, working externally

  • instead of working internally.

  • And so you may say, well, given all of that,

  • why then doesn't it work?

  • Why can we not make our politicians change?

  • Why can't we demand them?

  • Well I, like a lot of us, spend a lot of time complaining

  • about how hard it is to make people change,

  • and I don't think we should fuss about it.

  • I think we should just accept

  • that we are an inherently conservative species.

  • We don't like to change.

  • It exists for very sensible evolutionary reasons.

  • We probably wouldn't still be here today

  • if we weren't so resistant to change.

  • It's very simple: Many thousands of years ago,

  • we discovered that if we carried on

  • doing the same things, we wouldn't die,

  • because the things that we've done before

  • by definition didn't kill us,

  • and therefore as long as we carry on doing them,

  • we'll be okay,

  • and it's very sensible not to do anything new,

  • because it might kill you.

  • But of course, there are exceptions to that.

  • Otherwise, we'd never get anywhere.

  • And one of the exceptions, the interesting exception,

  • is when you can show to people

  • that there might be some self-interest

  • in them making that leap of faith

  • and changing a little bit.

  • So I've spent a lot of the last 10 or 15 years

  • trying to find out what could be that self-interest

  • that would encourage not just politicians

  • but also businesses and general populations,

  • all of us, to start to think a little more outwardly,

  • to think in a bigger picture,

  • not always to look inwards, sometimes to look outwards.

  • And this is where I discovered

  • something quite important.

  • In 2005, I launched a study

  • called the Nation Brands Index.

  • What it is, it's a very large-scale study that polls

  • a very large sample of the world's population,

  • a sample that represents about 70 percent

  • of the planet's population,

  • and I started asking them a series of questions

  • about how they perceive other countries.

  • And the Nation Brands Index over the years

  • has grown to be a very, very large database.

  • It's about 200 billion data points

  • tracking what ordinary people think about other countries

  • and why.

  • Why did I do this? Well, because the governments that I advise

  • are very, very keen on knowing

  • how they are regarded.

  • They've known, partly because

  • I've encouraged them to realize it,

  • that countries depend

  • enormously on their reputations

  • in order to survive and prosper in the world.

  • If a country has a great, positive image,

  • like Germany has or Sweden or Switzerland,

  • everything is easy and everything is cheap.

  • You get more tourists. You get more investors.

  • You sell your products more expensively.

  • If, on the other hand, you have a country

  • with a very weak or a very negative image,

  • everything is difficult and everything is expensive.

  • So governments care desperately

  • about the image of their country,

  • because it makes a direct difference

  • to how much money they can make,

  • and that's what they've promised their populations

  • they're going to deliver.

  • So a couple of years ago, I thought I would take

  • some time out and speak to that gigantic database

  • and ask it,

  • why do some people prefer one country

  • more than another?

  • And the answer that the database gave me

  • completely staggered me.