While advances in science and technology are rapidly propelling human achievement into the future, Ian Goldin says history shows us how to handle the changes occurring in the world today.
In this podcast, Goldin, Professor of Globalization and Development at Oxford University in the United Kindom, discusses his recent book, Age of Discovery, which compares present-day upheavals with the social and political instability of the 15th Century.
“We are now at a crossroads for humanity,” he says. “This could be the best century ever for humanity, but it’s also a very dangerous time. This duality is manifested in longer human life spans, poverty reduction, and higher literacy, but also by intolerance, fears of terrorism, and environmental concerns.”
Goldin says the 1500’s brought an explosion of genius and creativity across Europe and the world with advances like the Guttenberg printing press. This period also saw destruction and extremism, like religious wars and persecution, because policymakers had difficulty keeping up with the information revolution. Today’s growing influence of social media, globalization, and inequality, mean those disadvantaged by change also feel locked out of opportunities.
“It is not those places where change is occurring that are revolting against change; it is the places that are left behind,” he says.
As societies and policymakers seek change, so should global financial institutions, which need to continue asking whether the right structure is in place to help people deal with disruptions.
“We need to focus on how we can solve 80 percent of the problems with 20 percent of the actors, and they won’t always be governments,” he says. “They could be pharmaceutical or energy companies, cities or states. We are going to have to be more flexible when deciding with whom we engage.”