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Parag Khanna

Based in Singapore

  • Managing Partner of Hybrid Reality Pte Ltd and CEO of Factotum
  • The leading next-generation voice in geopolitics and global markets
  • One of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century”
  • Senior Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
  • Managing Partner of Hybrid Reality Pte Ltd and CEO of Factotum
  • The leading next-generation voice in geopolitics and global markets
  • One of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century”
  • Senior Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Parag KHANNA is a leading global strategist, world traveler, and best-selling author. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He is also the Managing Partner of Hybrid Reality, a boutique geostrategic advisory firm, and Co-Founder & CEO of Factotum, a leading content branding agency. Parag’s latest book is Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State (2017). He is author of a trilogy of books on the future of world order beginning with The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (2008), followed by How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance (2011), and concluding with Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization (2016). He is also co-author of Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization (2012). In 2008, Parag was named one of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century,” and featured in WIRED magazine’s “Smart List.”

Parag has been an adviser to the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 program, and served in the foreign policy advisory group to the Barack Obama for President campaign. From 2006-2015 he was a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation. During 2007 he served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a senior geopolitical adviser to United States Special Operations Forces. From 2002-5, he was the Global Governance Fellow at the Brookings Institution; from 2000-2002 he worked at the World Economic Forum in Geneva; and from 1999-2000, he was a Research Associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

A widely cited global intellectual, Dr. Khanna provides regular commentaries for international media. He is currently a CNN Global Contributor. His 2008 cover story for the New York Times Magazine titled “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony,” is one of the most globally debated and influential essays since the end of the Cold War. His articles have appeared in major international publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, TIME, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, The Atlantic, Quartz, Foreign Policy, Harper’s, BusinessWeek, The Guardian, The National Interest, McKinsey Quarterly, The American Interest, Stratfor, Esquire,, and Die Zeit. He is a contributing editor to WorldPost and serves on the editorial board of Global Policy and as a consultant to the National Geographic series Origins.

He also appears frequently in media around the world such as CNN, BBC, CNBC, Al Jazeera and other international broadcasters. In 2010 he became the first video-blogger for and from 2010-12 co-authored the Hybrid Reality blog on BigThink. From 2008-9, Parag was the host of “InnerView” on MTV. He spoke at TED in 2016, TED Global 2009 and was a guest host of TED Global 2012.

Parag lectures frequently at international conferences and gives executive briefings to government leaders and major corporations on global trends and scenarios, systemic risks and technological disruptions, and market entry strategies and economic master planning. He is a subcommittee member of the Singapore government’s Committee on the Future Economy. He is currently involved in two Silicon Valley start-ups as a Senior Advisor at Globality and Advisor at Teleport. He also serves on the advisory boards of Graticule Asset Management Asia, the Duet Group, and East India Capital Management, and previously on the Innovation Advisory Board of DBS Bank.

Dr. Khanna holds a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics, and Bachelors and Masters degrees from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. For 2017, he has been awarded the Richard von Weizsaecker Fellowship of the Bosch Foundation. He has been a Senior Fellow of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Visiting Fellow at LSE IDEAS, Senior Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Distinguished Visitor at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin, Next Generation Fellow of the American Assembly, Visiting Fellow at the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, Non-Resident Associate of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. He has received grants from the United Nations Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and Ford Foundation.

Born in India, Parag grew up in the United Arab Emirates, New York, and Germany. He is an accomplished adventurer who has traveled to more than 100 countries on all continents. Some of his lengthy journeys include driving from the Baltic Sea through the Balkans and across Turkey and the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea, across the rugged terrain of Tibet and Xinjiang provinces in western China, and eight thousand miles from London to Ulaanbaatar in the Mongolia Charity Rally. He has climbed numerous 20,000-foot plus peaks, and trekked in the Alps, Himalayas, and Tien Shan mountain ranges. Parag is also a competitive tennis player.

Parag has been honored as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and has served on the WEF’s Global Future Council on Mobility, Global Agenda Council on Geo-economics, and advisory board of its Future of Urban Development Initiative. He also serves on the Council of the American Geographical Society, advisory board of Independent Diplomat and board of trustees of the New Cities Foundation. He is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, International Institute for Strategic Studies, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2002 he was awarded the OECD Future Leaders Prize. He speaks German, Hindi, French, Spanish and basic Arabic.

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All eyes are on China’s ongoing two sessions, seeking clues about the future. The meeting is also likely to look ahead for international cooperation.

As China prepares to convene world leaders and members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing this May, the geopolitical ground is shifting ever further in support of this initiative.

Already the many planned projects to connect the many countries of the Eurasian mega-continent together represent the largest coordinated infrastructure investment program in world history. What is more, over the past several years, European trade with Asia — meaning the Eurozone countries trade volumes with China, India, Japan, South Korea, ASEAN and Australia — has grown larger than Europe’s trade with the United States.

It has long been taken for granted that the US-EU transatlantic trade relationship is the world’s largest commercial area, and a foundational aspect of the Western alliance alongside NATO. But as I have written in Connectography, “culture across the Atlantic now competes with connectivity across Eurasia.” Indeed, European countries, such as Germany, which have even larger trade surpluses as a share of GDP than China, are very keen to continue their industrial export driven model because fast-growing Asian economies are very strong customers for their high-quality goods. Hence Germany’s leaders are not listening to the US Trump administration on issues such as joining AIIB or on revising their economic policy.

In the reverse direction, China has increased its foreign investment in Germany faster than to any other country. This has much to do with the very high quality of German engineering tools, machinery and other products. As a scholar of both German and Chinese political models, I have long argued that China can strongly benefit from Germany’s experience and lessons in social democracy, industrial quality, sustainable urbanization, welfare state policies and other aspects of governance. It is perhaps not well-known in China that the phase “Silk Roads” originates with the German Friedrich von Richthofen, who spoke of the “Seidenstrasse” in 1832.

The emergence of this Euro-Asian axis validates my fundamental thesis that geopolitical relations are driven less by ideology and culture than by economic complementarities of supply and demand. In geopolitical discourse it is often argued that security is the world’s most important global public good, and that America’s alliance system has been the foremost provider of it. Today, however, dozens of countries in Eurasia feel that infrastructure is the most important public good — and China is the leading provider of it.

The American security role and Chinese infrastructure role should not be seen as rival public goods. To the contrary, they are highly complementary. I believe that a world order in which American, European and Chinese economies work in tandem while their resources help develop the markets and societies of the rest of the world is as close as one can imagine in geopolitics to the stars aligning. We must all work together towards that vision of a world of symmetry rather than hierarchy.

The connective infrastructure across the Eurasian landmass, as well as the “maritime Silk Road” developments across the Indian Ocean, enable a thriving Eurasian and African commercial expansion that encompasses more than two-thirds of the world’s population. However, to fully achieve the potential of these regions in the 21st century will require much more continued investment in the rapidly urbanizing societies across the developing world. This is the main ambition of the Belt and Road Initiative and it is an effort in which all countries of the world should actively participate.

By: Parag Khanna
Source: China Daily, March 9, 2017

The best candidate for the office of president of the United States wasn’t on the ballot last November. It was Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing engine. Watson would be a president of intelligence and integrity, temperament and dedication, working round the clock to devise solutions to our toughest domestic and international challenges. In stark contrast to any human leader, Watson is a not a political animal or stylish personality, rather he is a policy machine made of pure substance. For a brief flicker in early 2016, a private foundation not affiliated with IBM actually launched an online campaign advocating “Watson for President”—too bad it wasn’t taken seriously. America’s political system needs much less Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and much more Watson.

Western democracies are succumbing to populist movements promising little more than nostalgia. Jobs are supposed to “come back” from abroad that were actually lost to technology, or won’t exist within a few years. The paradox of populism is that it makes narrow appeals to aggrieved segments of the population—appeals that make little sense on a national scale. It glorifies the interests of a minority over the majority.

The political class, rather than combating these tendencies, has succumbed fully to them. Hillary Clinton’s flip-flops on the Keystone XL Pipeline, Trans-Pacific Partnership, and immigration are just a few examples of how even the more qualified presidential candidate—who surely knew better—changed tune in order to please specific voter demographics rather than sticking to what is in the collective national interest. And still she lost.

Since there is no pillar of society left defending the honor of reason, I propose we use technological automation to get rid of some politicians’ jobs as well. We don’t need most of them. We need facts, analysis, scenarios, and strategies. We need to consult the public, study proposals, model outcomes, weigh costs and benefits, factor in potential reactions and consequences, and make long-term decisions. This sounds like a job for experts, not hacks.

This is where Watson comes in. IBM began to show off its AI prowess when its Deep Blue computer took on Gary Kasparov in a series of chess matches two decades ago, scoring its first win in 1997. By 2016, IBM’s cognitive machine had defeated the world’s leading Go champion, China’s most complex board game. Watson’s analytical tools are currently deployed in hospitals personalizing cancer treatments, in school systems tailoring student curricula, and in China suggesting smog reduction strategies.

Watson was also watching the 2016 presidential debates, using its tonal analysis tool to compare them with videos going back to the Kennedy-Nixon 1960 debates, and found that the level of civility amongst candidates has declined markedly over time. At the same time, IBM’s Debating Technologies searches massive troves of research to generate and concisely summarize the pro and con positions on thorny issues such as pipeline projects, tax policy, and the regulation of violent video games. Rather than fact-free debates, bringing data into deliberation makes democracy more rational, rather than overly emotive.

Now that we have technologies that help us think, we need a government that’s designed to act.

Watson can also be a constructive tool for shaping major national policy such as infrastructure, healthcare, energy and drugs, or calculating the costs and benefits of various policies while studying cases drawn from all over the world. Watson’s research advocates proposals—such as single-payer healthcare, free university education, legalizing recreational drug use, upgrading infrastructure and public transportation, raising the minimum wage, and investing in renewable energy. By analyzing data and providing insight, Watson doesn’t replace government, but makes it smarter. IBM vice president Guruduth Banavar recently told CNN that, “Cognitive computing is about partnering between machines and humans, combining their strengths to solve big problems.”

Now that we have technologies that help us think, we need a government that’s designed to act.

As things stand, however, America’s government has too many representatives and too few administrators, too many lawyers who debate and too few professionals who actually do things. A better American system would be substantially more technocratic without being any less democratic. In my new book Technocracy in America, I argue that the ideal government for the information age is a “direct technocracy,” combining the direct democracy of Switzerland—where citizens dictate the national agenda through frequent plebiscites and initiatives—with the technocracy of Singapore, whose impartial civil service constantly researches how to improve the effectiveness of policies that benefit the public. As radically different as these two small countries are, they are the only two nations in the world that rank in the top tier of many important indices such as the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index, Infrastructure Quality Index, and Sustained Prosperity Index; INSEAD’s Global Innovation Index; and the World Bank’s Government Effectiveness Index. They have higher median incomes and life expectancy, and less corruption and unemployment than America.

Both countries also use a combination of data and democracy to steer governance far more effectively than America does. Census data, surveys, petitions, public consultations, and many other tools play a role in tweaking policies around taxes, immigration, education, retirement, and more. Rather than fact-free debates about stale ideological dichotomies such as “big” versus “small” government, they think issue-by-issue about how government can be most useful. In the US, by contrast, data-gathering has been much more a tool of politics than policy. The Democrats in 2012 and Republicans in 2016 used geo-located predictive polling to cleverly target campaign messages in battleground states. But in big long-term challenges like raising the savings rate, reforming education curricula, or mapping out national infrastructure, America is barely out of the starting gates.

Google’s Hal Varian once claimed that statistician is the sexiest career of the 21st century.

The Obama White House had made some efforts to beef-up the role of data and research. In 2016, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) created the Commission on Evidence Based Policymaking to promote better data gathering and statistical analysis in shaping regulation. America’s former CTO Todd Park and his successor Megan Smith were also strong advocates of integrating data tools into government agencies both to streamline them and encourage data-sharing across them. They also oversee a new Digital Service Corps of young tech talent on sabbatical from the IT industry who are the boots on the ground of integrating new technologies into old bureaucracies. But even as they have tried to make federal services such as Obamacare and veterans affairs more efficient, they have faced enormous bureaucratic barriers, multiple data systems across agencies, and conflicts across federal and state lines such that national e-government remains a distant dream.
In a good technocratic system, the civil service are the honest stewards of national data rather than consultants, contractors and pollsters. Other countries have engineers in politics; America has barely a handful. One explanation offered by science historian Edward Tenner is that distrust of government and a strong private sector have lured engineers away from government. Yet government needs more engineers—fixers and plumbers—rather than financiers. Google’s Hal Varian once claimed that statistician is the sexiest career of the 21st century. In Singapore, at least, he is correct.
Good governance often comes down to a combination of statistics and logistics: Analyzing data and getting things done. Rather than our obsession with political personalities and their net worth, we should make sure that whoever is elected or appointed to senior positions is trained in the technocratic art and science of using data to enhance governance for the people.

One step in the right direction would be more data availability on the workings of government itself. Civic initiatives such as GovTrack and Project Vote Smart allow anyone to go online and view in real-time all legislative sessions, bills up for authorization, statements made in hearings, voting records of Congressmen and, crucially, all available financial records of their campaign contributions. Such public-disclosure campaigns strengthen the hands of citizens to ensure their priorities are addressed. When survey data reveals that the elderly require greater choice in medical programs, and youth more education options, the action items should be more than talking points for the next campaign. A more digital society advances transparency in the service of accountability, without which democracy is just chatter.

There could hardly be a more pro-democratic technocratic measure than mandatory voting. Rather than politicians getting elected with 30% of the total voting-age population’s approval, mandatory voting guarantees a demographically inclusive process, and eventually a more informed populace as well. The US could save itself billions of dollars in voter registration drives, mechanical polling booths and other Election Day drama if American citizens at home and abroad had a one-week window to cast their votes electronically through a secure online portal. Estonia has had national internet voting since 2005, while e-voting is currently being rolled out across Switzerland. Leapfrogging to direct digital democracy is a simple matter of passing a mandatory voting law plus building an app.

But voting alone is far from the best means of capturing popular sentiment on an ongoing basis about the vast range of issues that concern citizens. For that we need more qualitative data from surveys and social media, and quantitative data such as demographic and economic trends. Data can be more comprehensive than election results for it is broader in scope (covering the full spectrum of issues rather than being hijacked by hot-button topics) and fresher (collected more regularly than infrequent elections). Scaling technology is easier than scaling trust, but the former can be a path to the latter. More substantive interactions—even virtual ones—between citizens and politicians could make a massive contribution toward reducing the trust gap in American politics.

Today we think of data tools as aiding democracy, but eventually, democratic deliberation (whether elections, initiatives, surveys, or social media) become contributing data-sets among many that together help the government steer policy. For example, data that represents the unrepresented (those who don’t actively vote or participate in surveys)—such as their financial behavior and education status—are essential inputs for leaders to ensure they are taking everyone’s needs into account.

Data-driven direct technocracy is superior to representative democracy because it dynamically captures the specific needs of the people while short-circuiting the distortions of elected representatives, special interests and corrupt middlemen. In Switzerland, democracy is not something that is done for the people by representatives; they co-create and co-design policies. This means that the frequent Swiss initiatives and referenda are not lesser events in between more important elections; they are a form of habitual voting on all issues of importance.

America’s political system needs a managed evolution.

Both the Swiss and Singaporean examples prove that we don’t have to be ruled by data, but can balance it with democracy so they complement each other. Data can determine which policies are necessary, while democracy can modify and ratify them.
At a time when Americans have lost their shared view of reality, this is the juncture at which America’s political system needs a managed evolution. Many commentators have remarked that this election was the first time they’ve felt that America has become two countries, two divided voting blocks that simply hate each other and talk past each other. The electoral map has turned America into 435 battlegrounds rather than one United States. Listening to the campaign, one could mistaken for thinking that the American electorate was 300 million factory workers in the Rust Belt rather than the overwhelmingly services oriented economy the country actually is. Less than 10% of American workforce is employed in manufacturing while most of America’s 80 million millennials subsist in the gigonomy of multiple simultaneous jobs they find out about on their smart phones.

It is precisely at this moment then that we need big data to remind us that we are a big country and need a national conversation about what policies will bring the greatest good to the greatest number, and what states can learn from each other. Take trade. No country has reaped more financial gains from global trade than the United States, both in terms of cost savings from importing cheaper goods as well as profits from selling goods abroad. Furthermore, even in Ohio, jobs created by foreign investors pay higher wages than American companies do and provide better skills as well. And yet Donald Trump opposes NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have forced Asian countries to reduce their subsidies and allow more American firms to compete. In the hands of politicians, the fact that more manufacturing jobs are lost to technological automation than trade is conveniently overlooked in favor of equating trade deals with job losses. Scapegoating foreigners is a better recipe for winning elections than admitting that Washington hasn’t provided workers with the skill retraining programs they were promised four presidential elections ago.

Most of all, then, we need Watson to get ourselves educated. Americans are already geographically and historically illiterate. The media, for its part, has only compounded populist cleavages. The combination of electoral gerrymandering and soundbyte politics sowed the seeds for “filter bubbles” long before Twitter and Facebook came along. Indeed, “real media” is far more to blame for a divided society than “fake news.” It’s not Facebook or Google’s fault that the news media executives gave far more attention to Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server than to any policy issue. Let’s also not forget that it’s big media companies who have set-up white label content creation companies to help advertisers make their propaganda look like real news in the first place. No wonder a recent Stanford study found that 80% of young people can’t distinguish between sponsored content and journalistic stories–because mainstream media’s side business is booming.
At least Watson can easily tell the difference between real and fake news and won’t indulge in promoting it as our own president does. Unlike lazy humans, Watson would check to see the diversity of sources and references to “news” stories to determine if they were actually corroborated. Rather than blaming Facebook for spreading “fake news,” a Watson oriented society would be anonymously “listening” and analyzing thousands of legitimate discussions on genuinely participatory Facebook pages and groups to better understand public sentiments. China already does this with WeChat and Weibo. Though we shouldn’t condone censorship or surveillance, opinions that we share publicly can reveal what certain demographics are thinking and shouldn’t be ignored.

Given the widely cited decline in civic associations in America today—gatherings where, as Tocqueville put it, “people look at something other than themselves”—social media should become ever more a strategic tool for gathering knowledge about citizens’ priorities. After all, should popular sentiments always be filtered through the geographic lens of political constituencies when society has become so physically and digitally mobile? Americans are social creatures—Washington should pay attention to what they say in their new digital communities.

Government for a nation of millennials and their children has to evolve to cope with the technologies of today and tomorrow. For her part, my daughter, who rules an imaginary monarchy called Zarania located on the unclaimed slice of Antarctica, plans to include Watson in her technocratic cabinet. In the real world, Watson may not play more than auxiliary role in the coming years, but it represents a new generation of technologies that can encourage more reasoned discourse through presenting accurate information and realistic scenarios. Using Watson should become a reflex like talking to Siri or Google Home. These are not auto-pilot technologies that dull our sensibilities but rather tools that lower the cost of getting smart. Thomas Jefferson famously remarked that people get the government they deserve. If we use cognitive technologies wisely, we might finally become smart enough to build ourselves a better government.

By: Parag Khanna
Source: Quartz, Jan 23, 2017

President Trump has taken over the Oval Office and signed a raft of executive orders to make good on his various “First 100 Days” campaign promises: pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, freezing federal hiring, rolling back Obamacare, curbing environmental regulations, and more. But like most things in American politics, the “First 100 Days” is just a gimmick, a grab-bag of bumper-sticker priorities that says little about how the new president will govern. Some traditions are best left to die.

Rather than short-term distractions like the “First 100 Days,” the president, media, and public should be thinking about how to modernize the entire government to meet the needs of the working-age population, especially America’s 80 million struggling millennials. Trump got elected by targeting disgruntled rust belt voters, promising to bring back jobs that will never return—jobs that America’s next generation never had nor want anyway.

The priorities for this generation—alleviating student debt, building affordable housing, implementing wage insurance and portable healthcare, establishing centers for technical and digital skills training, combating climate change, and others—were barely heard on the campaign trail. Though millennial voices weren’t necessary to win the electoral college, they will be essential to win the next election.

Even before Trump’s surprise victory, American millennials—who largely favored Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders—were increasingly disillusioned with our democracy. The most recent World Values Survey reveals that since World War II, the percentage of American (and European) citizens who feel it is “essential to live in a democracy” has fallen from two-thirds to under one-third. Meanwhile, the proportion of Americans who believe that “experts should decide what is best for the country rather than the government” has risen from 32% to 49%. America’s current political circus therefore needs a serious overhaul to avoid further alienating America’s future.

It is clear from the 2016 elections that millennials want to see a serious third party. Nearly one in ten millennials voted for either Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein, three times more than third-party voting millennials in 2012. According to one major survey on the eve of the election, nearly 60% of millennials seriously considered voting for a third party candidate.

American youth are being given a binary choice between two ossified parties in politics when in every other aspect of their social lives choice is blossoming: They can choose to belong to a third gender, yet no third party has a seat in Congress. Yet worldwide, almost all of the nearly two dozen countries that rank ahead of the US in indicators ranging from civil rights to government functionality are multi-party parliamentary systems. The lack of a third party that actually represents millennial priorities is a major factor behind America falling behind many of its peers in the respectability of its government.

In terms of actual policy priorities, some things never change: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Jobs and inequality topped the list of concerns among millennials polled over multiple years by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Jugding from the themes of the presidential campaign, one would think that all Americans worked for General Motors. But already twice as many Americans wake up each morning in the “gigonomy” of digital freelancers than work in factories. And while many of them are entrepreneurial and nimble in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, millions more need a serious boost in digital skills, Internet bandwidth, and getting matched to employers.

Some companies like General Electric and Starbucks have filled the gap by setting up their own “universities” to train qualified young professionals and integrate them into the workforce, but Washington needs to work with states, business groups, colleges and universities to massively boost the availability of so-called “nano-degrees” for millennials eager to build a better future for themselves. Americans have invented many of the disruptions that are threatening their own employment base. It would be a pity for Americans to be among the last to take advantage of them.

There are many more technocratic fixes that should be implemented fast and held firm rather than becoming political footballs: lending for small businesses and first-time home-owners, wage supports, and affordable healthcare, to name a few. Small countries with a focus on human talent and services sectors such as Sweden have found ways to balance public regulation and private markets to deliver a high quality of life to all even in tough times. As I outline in my new book Technocracy in America, there is much that the US can learn from smaller societies that have little margin for error and therefore never lose their focus on the future.

Republicans now control the White House and chambers of Congress, but they would be foolish not to generate a package of policies that shows that Washington can graduate from antiquated electoral shenanigans to meaningful and inclusive governance. The 2016 election featured the angry rust belt voter. Unless Trump and his allies come up with a new deal for the next generation, the 2020 election will give rise to the angry millennial.

By: Parag Khanna
Source: Quartz, Jan 27, 2017


American democracy just isn’t good enough anymore. A costly election has done more to divide American society than unite it, while trust in government—and democracy itself—is plummeting. But there are better systems out there, and America would be wise to learn from them. In this provocative manifesto, globalization scholar Parag Khanna tours cutting-edge nations from Switzerland to Singapore to reveal the inner workings that allow them that lead the way in managing the volatility of a fast-changing world while delivering superior welfare and prosperity for their citizens.

The ideal form of government for the complex 21st century is what Khanna calls a “direct technocracy,” one led by experts but perpetually consulting the people through a combination of democracy and data. From a seven-member presidency and a restructured cabinet to replacing the Senate with an Assembly of Governors, Technocracy in America is full of sensible proposals that have been proven to work in the world’s most successful societies. Americans have a choice for whom they elect president, but they should not wait any longer to redesign their political system following Khanna’s pragmatic vision.

Now available on

Praise for Technocracy in America:

“What can America learn from the more technocratic governments in today’s world? I don’t agree with everything in this book, but it is one of the most important and urgent rethinkings of what has gone wrong in the United States.”–Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and author, Average is Over

“Parag Khanna does it again, brilliantly pushing the boundaries of how we must rethink technocracy and democracy in our densely connected, rapidly changing and radically contingent world. And in such a world we will need a new generation of technocrats who are well versed in complexity science and deep listening skills. This book should be read by all of us especially in light of our recent experiences picking our next president.”–John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corporation and Director of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

“I love bold and crazy arguments–especially when (essentially) correct. TECHNOCRACY IN AMERICA is all that. Parag Khanna’s essential thesis is that America’s government is fatally broken — fatal for our society, not for the government. He argues for a radical change in how America is governed — less democracy, and more governance…. I completely agree with the diagnoses and the urgency in finding a remedy… Suspend the sensible judgment that everything he’s describing is politically impossible–because the end he is arguing for (a government that can actually govern for the public’s good) is absolutely necessary. We are nowhere close to having one now, regardless of the President.”–Lawrence Lessig, Professor, Harvard Law School

“American democracy is broken. But the best political practices of other countries can fix it. Read this book tofind out how!”–Daniel Bell, author of The China Model and Dean, Faculty of Politics and Public Administration, Shandong University

“Parag has produced yet another thoughtful and provocative masterpiece. His insights on technocracy, which focuses on performance rather thanpolitics, stems from an astute and up-close observation of theSingaporean and Swiss systems, and he is among the very few who has this unique vantage point. I would highly recommend this book to anyone whowants to understand how to run a high-performing country ororganisation. It will be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.”–Tan Yinglan, Venture Partner, Sequoia Capital, and author, The Way of the VC

A radical reappraisal of democracy and its decline in the United States. After a historically acrimonious presidential election, there’s been much hand-wringing about the health of American democracy on both sides of the ideological divide, and consternation over a general lack of adequate political representation. Khanna (Connectography, 2016, etc.), a senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, argues that American democracy has become indefensibly dysfunctional, and that it’s eroding the public’s trust in its chief institutions. The real goal, the author contends, should be a combination of meaningful representation with effective governance—one that requires a diminishment of democracy in favor of technocratic stewardship: “In western thought, a deep complacency has set in that confuses politics with governance, democracy with delivery, process with outcomes,” he notes. “But the ‘will of the people’ is not just to repeat their desires over and over without results.” Khanna recommends a combination of democracy and meritocratic rule—“direct technocracy”—which would chasten the demands of an often myopic public with the long-term judgment of the nation’s “best and brightest.” The author’s model for direct democracy is Switzerland’s, while his exemplar of technocratic oversight is Singapore’s, and he ably discusses both. Philosophically speaking, a combination of the two, he says, would encourage utilitarian outcomes that would ultimately generate the broadest benefits for the greatest number of people. The author provocatively offers a laundry list of governmental innovations to this end; the most notable and ambitious include the leadership of an executive committee instead of a single president; 10-year-terms for U.S. Supreme Court justices; and the replacement of the U.S. Senate with a “Governors Assembly.” Khanna’s judgments are sometimes peremptory and strident; for instance, he assumes, without argument, that Brexit is a “debacle” that represents “the triumph of politics over rationality.” Also, he asserts, when discussing the executive branch, that “Seven heads are better than one, period,” without referring to Alexander Hamilton’s arguments for a unified executive branch. Still, this book remains a powerful stimulant to a more searching discussion of the virtues and vices of American democracy, and it deftly combines philosophical discussion with concrete political analysis. A refreshingly original contribution to the ongoing analysis of the American political system.–Kirkus Reviews

“If we could start from scratch, how would we design the U.S. government? Would we preserve the electoral college, the18th-centurycreation that is so controversial today? Would we keep the Senate or the Supreme Court? According to Parag Khanna, an author known for pushing boundaries, the answer is no. In a new book, Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State, Khanna takes on the task of radically redesigning the U.S.government for the 21st century.”–Ana Swanson, Washington Post

Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State presents a common contention: that American democracy is broken. But, unlike most competing books, global scholar Parag Khanna looks beyond American shores for solutions to fixing it in an unexpected move that allows for some unusual perspectives. There are more ‘technocratic’ democracies in the world than the U.S., and their processes and successes hold many insights into America’s political and social woes. Khanna’s decades of living in other countries and studying their political arrangements leads to a book that advocates not a return to the past, but a forward-thinking vision where leaders would jointly manage the executive branch and where governors could unite in an entity that would enjoy more immediate powers and results than our current Congress. The author’s close-up observations of how the successful Singaporean and Swiss systems work forms the foundation not of a set of ideals and dreams, but for the basics of a working democratic process that has already been tested and fine-tuned, abroad. What factors connect these very different systems? “…what matters most is that Switzerland and Singapore are both verifiably democratic and rigorously technocratic at the same time. They both have a high percentage of foreign-born populations, national military and civil service, strong linkages between education and industry, diversified economies, and massive state investment in R&D and innovation.” Other nations who can’t afford to experiment with political processes have already identified their strategic niches and have put innovations into place that apply their inherent niche assets in new ways on the global arena. Technocracy in America may sound radical in some of its concepts, but its appearance represents perfect timing for America’s new government, which stands poised on the brink of revolutionary changes. Should they go in the direction of this book, many might come to believe that democratic processes could be preserved and enhanced, bringing the nation up to speed in a technocratic environment which other democratic nations of the world are already successfully navigating. Political and social science students, as well as concerned general readers, will find Technocracy in America satisfyingly specific in its examples and democratic in its focus, offering a different approach to change that acknowledges and enhances past successes while looking forward to a future that embraces technology and democracy in a different manner. –Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

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  • Trump and the World

The election of Donald Trump as US president shocked the world, but actually represents the growing strength of a rising tide of unrest manifested in the Occupy Wall Street movement, Arab Spring, Brexit, and other turbulent events of the past decade. What comes next? Having served as a senior geopolitical advisor to US Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Khanna draws on his deep on-the-ground knowledge of the world’s hotspots to lay out the scenarios–both action and reaction–for American foreign policy in the coming years. Sharing the insights from his world-renowned book on grand strategy, The Second World, Dr. Khanna also lays out a vision for America’s world role resting on the four pillars of security alliances, energy exports, financial capital and advanced technology. With infrastructure playing a major role in Trump’s domestic strategy, Khanna leverages the deep analysis of infrastructure stimulus prescribed in his major recent book Connectography to explain the likely course of America’s coming overall. With enormous rifts appearing in the global economic system, how can American firms continue to access opportunities in the high-growth markets of Asia — and how should foreign firms navigate the America’s increasingly complex political system? With his newest book Technocracy in America mapping out the direction for the country’s political evolution, Dr. Khanna’s presentation is an up-to-the-minute guide for deciphering the unfolding Trump administration.

  • Rise of the Info-State

The rise of populism in Western societies in the form of Brexit and Donald Trump are a reminder that governance must constantly evolve to cope with complex 21st century challenges. Based on his two decades of observing and studying the best (and worst) governments around the world, Dr. Khanna presents the findings from his latest book Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State. He shows how the most effective governments in the world – from the Nordics, Germany and Switzerland to Singapore and China – blend democratic practice with technocratic management, balancing the interests of the public and private sectors to achieve high levels of security, prosperity and innovation. Government and corporate leaders will take away very significant insights into how business and government can better work together to achieve better governance for the turbulent years ahead.

  • Connectography

It is time to reimagine how life is organized on Earth.
We’re accelerating into a future shaped less by countries than by connectivity. Mankind has a new maxim – Connectivity is destiny – and the most connected powers, and people, will win.
Connectography completes Parag Khanna’s trilogy on the future of world order.
In this book he guides us through the emerging global network civilization in which mega-cities compete over connectivity more than borders. His journeys take us from Ukraine to Iran, Mongolia to North Korea, Panama City to Dubai, and the Arctic Circle to the South China Sea—all to show how 21st century conflict is a tug-of-war over pipelines and Internet cables, advanced technologies and market access.
Yet Connectography is a hopeful vision of the future. Khanna argues that new energy discoveries and innovations have eliminated the need for resource wars, global financial assets are being deployed to build productive infrastructure that can reduce inequality, and frail regions such as Africa and the Middle East are unscrambling their fraught colonial borders through ambitious new transportation corridors and power grids. Beneath the chaos of a world that appears to be falling apart is a new foundation of connectivity pulling it together.

  • Managing Risks in a Complex World

The global financial crisis, Fukushima nuclear disaster, and Arab Spring are all recent “black swan” events that have rocked markets, transformed energy policy, and destabilized swaths of the planet. They came without warning but in retrospect were predictable. Today’s intensely complex and uncertain world is generating more such disruptions, potentially from the slowing Chinese economy, stalling financial and regulatory reforms, Russian geopolitical aggression, or social unrest caused by heightened income inequality. How can companies prepare for the worst and insulate themselves from the spillover effects of rippling crisis emerging from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and other hotspots, while capitalizing on stable and undervalued markets? Drawing on insights from his widely acclaimed book How to Run the World and his years of experience building scenarios and conducting strategic foresight workshops for Fortune 100 companies and innovative governments such as Dubai and Singapore, Dr. Khanna excels at the connecting the dots for corporate leaders, tailoring his presentations to diverse industries, regions and risk factors, and providing actionable roadmaps to achieve resilience.

  • The Future of Globalization: Strategic Trends, Economic Competition & Technological Innovation

Globalization has withstood the financial crisis and continues to expand and integrate all markets and societies of the world. For the first time in human history, globalization is actually global, ushering in a new era of total connectivity and strategic competition. Drawing on his international bestseller The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, Dr. Khanna provides a tour de force of the foundations of the future world order including: The new geopolitical marketplace emerging with the expanding ambitions of China, India, Brazil and Russia and the opening of new markets such as Myanmar and Iran; the competitive geo-economic environment in which western economies struggle to achieve consistent growth while emerging markets struggle with productivity and inequality; and the rise of “geo-technology” whereby leading sectors such as biotechnology, nano-technology, alternative energy and robotics will re-shape the global balance of innovation.

  • Winning the Global War for Talent

A new class of global citizen is emerging led by over 250 million expatriates worldwide, more than ever in history. After decades of capitalizing on brain drain, fast-growing markets are reversing the flow of skilled managers in new directions, from North to South and West to East. Attracting the best and brightest to your country, city or company requires understanding the dynamics of global labor mobility and crafting an economic master plan to gain an edge in the war for talent. With his extensive experience advising the most innovative governments and globally distributed multinationals, Dr. Khanna provides insights and case studies that help you strategize your move up the value chain and train strong regional management.

  • Billions of People, Trillions of Dollars: How Asia Will Shape the World in the Coming Decade

With over $20 trillion in annual GDP, Asia has rapidly become an economic zone on par with North America and the European Union—but encompassing more than half the world’s population and sovereign wealth as well. Asia now needs to be understood beyond China and Japan, especially as India and the Southeast Asian ASEAN nations increasingly flex their economic muscles. Outward Asian investment is on pace to reach $200 billion per year by 2020, and has already reshaped Middle Eastern energy markets, African infrastructure, North American real estate, and South American commodities. In the decades ahead, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative constructing new Silk Roads from China to Europe will create the world’s largest economic and commercial area. From his unique perch in Singapore and constant travel to the most dynamic investment destinations, Dr. Khanna explains where Asian capital is flowing and how it is transforming strategic relationships and building markets for savvy global investors.

  • Mega-Trends: Technology, Cities and Map of the Future

Ubiquitous technology and urbanization are the two irrefutable mega-trends of the 21st century. Together they are remapping the world towards a hyper-connected matrix of densely populated city clusters and ultra-modern special economic zones (SEZs) that represent the new foundations of a global network economy and society. Elaborating on bold forecasts from his pioneering book Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization, Dr. Khanna provides unmatched clarity into the future and strategizes with clients to chart their own map to success.

  • How to be Global: From Multinational to Metanational

Globalization is entering a new phase in which emerging and frontier markets across all geographies are becoming fully integrated into the world economy. To succeed in this global marketplace, multinational companies must learn to become metanational: truly stateless. This requires thinking long-term about new growth centers, recruiting and training an international workforce comfortable across functions and locations, developing more locally tailored products and services, and restructuring management into partnership models that devolve authority. Leveraging his extensive experience advising some of the world’s foremost global companies, Dr. Khanna shares insights and strategies tailored to your sector and priorities on how to become a truly global company.

  •  Asia’s Next Decade: China & Beyond

Asia has defied historical cycles and expectations with its decades long growth boom. Even as China’s economy continues to steam ahead, the Asian growth mantle is now shared with the Southeast Asian ASEAN countries and India, which are also attracting enormous foreign investment as regional cooperation knits the region’s economies closer together. With connectivity rising, capital markets deepening, trade expanding, and economies diversifying, Western corporations need robust strategies for Asia beyond China, especially as neighboring regions benefit from Chinese infrastructure investment while competing with China for supply chains. Having relocated to Singapore and providing extensive guidance to the region’s governments and companies, Parag Khanna gives audiences an insider’s view of what the coming decade holds in terms of opportunities and risks in the world’s most populous region.

  • What Risks Does Chinese Capital Face Abroad?

China’s outbound investment portfolio is expanding rapidly despite the weaker RMB, with China launching the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and making large acquisitions in Western economies of equities in energy, technology, real estate, finance and other sectors. In many societies, however, there is growing backlash taking the form of investment restrictions, industrial policy, and contract cancellations. What do Chinese companies need to know about the political risks in each major market where it is making long-term investments? How should they navigate the obstacles to create mutually beneficial investments?


Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization
Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization
Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization
How to Run The World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance
How to Run The World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance
The Second World: How Emerging Powers are Redefining Global Competition in the 21st Century
The Second World: How Emerging Powers are Redefining Global Competition in the 21st Century
TECHNOCRACY IN AMERICA: Rise of the Info-State
Technocracy In America: Rise of the Info-State

















“Khanna’s scholarship and foresight are world-class. (Connectography is) A must-read for the next President.”

Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense

“I’m pleased that Parag was able to speak at our Sustainable Financing Forum. We have received exceptional customer feedback on the Forum. Customers and other attendees made special mention of the quality of the speakers, the depth and breadth of insights shared and relevance of the subject matter. Please extend my thanks to Parag for his valuable contribution and for sharing his insights with such clarity.”

International Financial Institution