Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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.