Jan 29, 2019

The old era is dead. Now we're grappling with the new one

For more than two years, mainstream U.S. and European political leaders have experienced one, long bout of if-onlys — if only they had done this or that, Brexit and President Trump might not have slipped by.

  • But, gathered at Davos last week, members of the global elite told us that, even if Brexit were overturned in a second referendum and Trump defeated in 2020, they would change almost nothing in the big picture. As they told us in this video, the political and economic order would continue to unravel, and a new, as-yet unknown age continue to gestate and take shape.
"You would have people angry about the losses, and thinking that the elections are illegitimate. You would get potentially very divided politics going forward."
— Christopher Eisgruber, president of Princeton University

By comparison with such past such epochal transformations, this one is happening at lightning speed, we were told. The reason is technology, whose advances are a core reason for this dramatic shift.

  • Digitalization is speeding up everything, making us woozy and, often, unnerved.
  • That sensation underlies much of the angst felt in communities across the advanced economies, along with the political turbulence that flows from it.
  • Think of this: The American shift from an agrarian to an industrial society a century ago was hugely jarring, but occurred over 100 years or more. "The difference today is we're doing it over 10 years, 15 years, 20 years," said Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide.
"The speed at which this change is happening is blowing people's minds. And the leaders — political leaders, business leaders — are having a hard time getting their heads wrapped around it.”
— Gallagher

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