The Age of Megathreats
For four decades after World War II, climate change and job-displacing artificial intelligence were not on anyone’s mind, and terms like "deglobalization" and "trade war" had no purchase. But now we are entering a new era that will more closely resemble the tumultuous and dark decades between 1914 and 1945.
NEW YORK – Severe megathreats are imperiling our future – not just our jobs, incomes, wealth, and the global economy, but also the relative peace, prosperity, and progress achieved over the past 75 years. Many of these threats were not even on our radar during the prosperous post-World War II era. I grew up in the Middle East and Europe from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, and I never worried about climate change potentially destroying the planet. Most of us had barely even heard of the problem, and greenhouse-gas emissions were still relatively low, compared to where they would soon be.
Moreover, after the US-Soviet détente and US President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in the early 1970s, I never really worried about another war among great powers, let alone a nuclear one. The term “pandemic” didn’t register in my consciousness, either, because the last major one had been in 1918. And I didn’t fathom that artificial intelligence might someday destroy most jobs and render Homo sapiens obsolete, because those were the years of the long “AI winter.”
Similarly, terms like “deglobalization” and “trade war” had no purchase during this period. Trade liberalization had been in full swing since the Great Depression, and it would soon lead to the hyper-globalization that began in the 1990s. Debt crises posed no threat, because private and public debt-to-GDP ratios were low in advanced economies and emerging markets, and growth was robust. No one had to worry about the massive build-up of implicit debt, in the form of unfunded liabilities from pay-as-you-go social security and health-care systems. The supply of young workers was rising, the share of the elderly was still low, and robust, mostly unrestricted immigration from the Global South to the North would continue to prop up the labor market in advanced economies.
To continue reading, register now.
Already have an account? Log in