Cities of the Future and Civilization 3.0

with Parag Khanna

In today’s episode of Trade Wins, Parag Khanna, author, strategist and founder of FutureMap, joins us for a conversation about the concept of “Civilization 3.0,” what that might look like, and the best ways to get there. Parag discusses his new book MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us and how strategic planning can now make a difference in the stability of civilization in the future. Parag also discusses generational viewpoints, the evolution of sovereignty and the global passport.

Highlights of this conversation include: 

  • Parag discusses how he immerses himself in each culture where he lives and becomes part of each one, enabling him to have a better intercultural understanding in both business and social settings. 2:36
  • Parag shares his vision for the next evolution of urban life, including the recognition of climate oases and sustainability factors that will need to be taken into consideration in order for civilizations to continue long term. 6:18
  • Parag discusses globalization, the sovereignty of countries, and how these factors will impact the future of migration.14:24
  • Parag explains his views on the new city movement as well as the track record of various new city efforts that have been conducted around the world. 25:07
  • Sustainability is a large factor in planning for the future and we already have the technology to be designing and building for the future. 27:59

Trade Wins is a podcast designed specifically to be thought-provoking and to provide insights from leading experts to help us navigate today’s changing environment. We aim to contribute to the empowerment of our global membership and their business networks in the world of global trade and investment.

Transcription

Robin van Puyenbroeck 0:07
Welcome to Trade Wins. I’m Robin van Puyenbroeck, your host. My guest today is Parag Khanna. He’s an incredibly sharp mind who is a world traveler in the true sense, a prolific writer and one of the world’s leading strategy advisors on things like dissecting global trends, analyzing systemic risks and economic masterplanning, just to name a few. He is also the founder of FutureMap which is a data and scenario-based strategic advisory firm. We will talk about a lot of things today and certainly also about his latest book, MOVE: the Forces Uprooting Us. Parag, welcome to the program.

Parag Khanna 0:42
Robin, so great to be with you.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 0:44
So good to see you again. What would you want people to know about you? Who is Parag?

Parag Khanna 0:50
Oh, well, that’s a big question. You captured the most important word — “travel.” I sort of live by this Cartesian motto, “I travel therefore I am.” It’s been a paradoxical time over the last year and a half with being largely grounded. I grew up traveling all over the world, pretty much everywhere, living in many countries as well. My academic work, research and professional work have taken me all across the world. I was in the US military as an advisor, deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve been a student and lived in Germany. I did my PhD in the UK and my undergraduate degree in the US. I’ve taught at universities across the world, including here in Singapore, where I live right now. I’ve worked with governments. I’ve been an academic. I’ve worked with think-tanks in Washington and London such as Brookings and New America. My books and consulting work have pretty much carried me all over the world as well. We divide our work at FutureMap between sovereign governments and city municipal governments, provinces and then also corporate work doing long-term, strategic planning. We use scenarios and big data as intensely as possible in terms of mapping out various futures and helping our clients think about how they want to be more effective in high-growth markets and develop their strategies for the future.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 2:18
I’m always intrigued by the notion of intercultural understanding. You’ve lived in India, UAE, Germany and the United States. From a cultural perspective, how are these places, from your experience, fundamentally different or alike from a cultural perspective of doing business and living there?

Parag Khanna 2:36
These are very unique civilizations, you might say. You might even say within Western civilization, continental European practices are not as dissimilar from America as they are from China. As you know very well, there are nuances to every society. I think of these places not first and foremost according to their business cultures per se because business culture is derivative of their deeper essence and that kind of social structure. I don’t approach them from that outside-in lens. The “MO” of my life is to embed, to immerse and to become as local as possible. When I’m in India, I’m Indian; when I’m in America, I’m an American; when I’m in Germany, I’m a German; when I’m in Singapore, I’m a Singaporean. That is how I’ve lived my life. I see the differences, obviously, in each place, but I don’t treat them as barriers that cannot be overcome. A key to success in business is becoming as native as possible. In a way, what’s interesting about where globalization is going, it’s not that globalization is at risk and we have 20 years of people denouncing the end of globalization. September 11th, the financial crisis, Trump and Brexit, the pandemic, that’s four times in the last 20 years that people have been quick to say globalization is dead. Of course, they’re always wrong. What is happening with globalization is that you have more localization of global forces. If you are an asset manager, investor, retail company, consulting, whatever the case may be, you do have to adapt more to local laws. Data localization, for example, is the most obvious, prominent example today. Because Trade Zones are also fragmenting, you also need to localize more, do a joint venture, become a locally-registered company and not just be doing sales from abroad. This is also because of the rise of competition from within these economies and markets. I see globalization thriving but in new ways. The new globalization is embedding your global everywhere and trying to make those strong contributions.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 4:55
It’s interesting that you say that and go back to the localization because I agree with you. Globalization is on the one hand becoming more of a digital globalization and on the other hand more localized. Let’s talk about that aspect of urban life. I remember last year at the Member Forum we spoke about the cities of the future from a perspective of talent acquisition, where young people are moving to, immigration. The city is, of course, only as good as it’s able to manage and survive Mother Nature. We were just talking that New York received quite a shock to their system when Hurricane Ida swamped the town, so to speak — flooding subway stations, people were sleeping in the subways. It seems as if those nightmare scenarios of extreme weather are becoming much more commonplace. It’s keeping city planners up at night. In your upcoming book MOVE, you argue for sustainable new settlements of movable 3D printed houses in the Great Lakes area because of the city’s vulnerabilities to climate change. It’s a critical question here — what is next for urban life? If we can’t survive the nature of the environment that we inhabit, then we can come up with all the planning and the theories that we want but we can’t necessarily fight nature there. What is your vision for what’s next for urban life?

Parag Khanna 6:18
We’ve certainly taken stable habitats in our present geography and human geography, our distribution around the world for granted. This is because we’ve had almost 10,000 years since the retreat of the last ice age and have had relative stability within this so-called climate niche. You can see the maps behind me that kind of point to the shifts in that climate niche, shifting northward as climate change accelerates. We have not been operating from the perspective of the precautionary principle, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We have not been sufficiently conservative or prudent in terms of mapping out the impact of the worst-case scenarios for climate change and acting accordingly. It’s only this year that FEMA and HUD in the US are reducing payouts to people who have lost their homes in coastal areas from natural disasters. Up until very recently, they would just go back and build in the same places.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 7:24
Yeah, exactly.

Parag Khanna 7:26
Enough is enough. Here is your relocation grant, your check, your payout. You cannot come back to this area. Move inland at least 15 kilometers/miles. That’s the way it needs to be. What I do in the book is look at the geographies that I call climate oases, places that are relatively stable. Again, everything is relative on an issue like climate change that has a complex effect that impacts the entire planet. What are the relatively stable climate oases where you could imagine larger populations cluster? Of course, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes, inland West, Canada and, of course, much of Europe, Russia and Japan. There are climate oases everywhere. Let’s bear in mind, as I point out in the book, demographically we have 8 billion people. We’re not going to have that many more people. I don’t think the world population will ever even reach 9 billion people. We have 150 million square kilometers of terrain in the world. Let’s say that about a quarter to a half of it is unlivable, but you still have 75 million square kilometers of livable, habitable terrain where there are water supply, riverbeds, estuaries or water systems, if you will, freshwater systems where people can survive. The mission that I set for myself is how and where should people go — not in a borderless world, but in a pragmatic world of incremental or gradual shifts in population? And then, how should we live because this is our last chance to move people to stable geographies without destroying those geographies. You don’t want to have the tragedy of the commons. If a billion people move to Sweden, we’ll probably destroy Sweden based upon our current construction habits and practices.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 9:22
The Swedes won’t like it very much either.

Parag Khanna 9:25
Exactly, among other things. What I tried to do was to lay out even technologically, what does what I call “Civilization 3.0” look like? What do sustainable settlements look like in which you have rainwater collection and greywater recycling? You have solar, wind power and battery pack units that get switched out. You have hydroponic and aquaponic food production and agriculture. You can even physically move these settlements should natural disasters require that you do so whether it is storms or ground subsidence and all these kinds of things. Believe it or not, this may sound far-fetched, but we have all of the technology to do that today. We can physically move settlements of thousands of people or more and we can build them this way. Where should we build them, how should we build them, what’s the orderly process by which we should move people there? That’s the real pragmatic substance that I get into in the book.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 10:26
Two questions on that. On the one hand, you said, I don’t think that the population will grow to 9 billion. What makes you think that the population won’t creep over that number?

Parag Khanna 10:38
One of the starting points of the book is what I call peak humanity or others refer to it as demographic deflation. Let’s bear in mind if we back up just a little that roughly 25 plus years ago people were still predicting a world population that would climb to maybe 15 billion people, that we would have a Malthusian crisis of overpopulation and resource stress. What’s happened, of course, is urbanization, female empowerment, rising incomes with women’s rights in general and a massive decline in fertility. In the last 10-12 years, we’ve had two baby busts one after the other — the baby bust after the financial crisis and the baby bust of COVID. What we now can foresee with some degree of certainty is that generation Alpha, which is today’s toddlers, babies, will be smaller than Generation Z which is today’s tweens and teens. The fact is that Generation Z is alive and fully-formed today and is the largest generation that the human species will ever produce. It will go downhill because Millennials are not having kids, Gen Z won’t have kids, Gen Alpha won’t have kids because of financial insecurity, climate stress and so forth. These are among the many drivers of declining fertility. That’s not necessarily a pessimistic outlook, but instead a survival mechanism. There have not necessarily been too many humans, per se, but there has been too much consumption and resource stress by the existing stock of humans. Let us say that a controlled descent in the total stock of human beings is a good thing, especially if it’s the result of female empowerment which we should want more than anything else in this world. This is a good thing, but you don’t want to have a precipitous decline as a result of either the elimination of fertility because of ecological or economic factors or, of course, major climate catastrophes. This is why people use the phrase sixth extinction, that we may be creating mass extinction events. What’s the bottom line of our survival mechanism? There’s a term for this — “fight or flight.” Generally speaking, when you’re up against nature, you should not choose fight, you should choose flight. That’s why this book has a one-word title of four letters – “MOVE.”

Robin van Puyenbroeck 13:14
I’m intrigued by the title because you always try to think how people historically went from being nomads to settlers. Especially in the West, people are, besides a small group of expatriates, people are no longer used to moving around. That takes us back to two things here. On the one hand, I want to talk to you a little bit about immigration, and the aging and peaking of populations. When you talk about the choices we need to make about where to go and live, and where are these inhabitable places, when I look at the map behind you, I think the one on your left, whatever is red, is probably rather uninhabitable from a temperature perspective and so forth. Who will make those decisions? Can we still as a society in many countries make a decision that’s bigger than what suits the individual? In the United States, if you look at how hard it is to get through large infrastructure projects, buildings, it’s all “not in my backyard” type of situations. Can we still make decisions that may make individuals do things that at that level they do not want to do, but that benefit the greater good? Can we still make those decisions? Or will we make them at the end because we have no other choice?

Parag Khanna 14:24
It’s a two-part challenge because, first of all, sovereignty precludes global coordination on migration. It’s the one area or arena of sovereignty left that is purely sovereign. Many countries don’t control their monetary policy, they don’t necessarily even control their laws as a result of international agreements and supranational structures like the EU and so on. You can’t control your borders against cyberattacks, against pandemics, but the one thing that countries can still claim and most can still enforce is the protection of their borders against primarily the flows of people. Even if you can’t prevent drugs from coming in, you can still prevent people. This is the one remaining sacred arena of sovereignty. Will we ever have a Global Compact around the free movement of human beings? The answer is not in your life, literally never. However, can we evolve? That’s the core subject of this book. Again, we run up against the biggest possible paradox. Can we incrementally, in the way that migration has almost always been, point to and expand the pairings of exchanges of people and the new vectors of circulation in a stable, orderly, gradual way. Some of this I track in the book — it’s the steady flow of Latin Americans in North America. It’s not only Arabs and Africans to Europe or even East Asians and South Asians all the way across Eurasia. It’s also South Asia to Northern Asia or Eurasia like Indians and Pakistanis in Russia and Kazakhstan. In the book, I report from all these places and I show the new intermingling demographic and ethnographic intermingling that is taking place. They remind me of the great genetic collisions that occurred approximately 25,000 years ago when you had various migratory streams mingling. That’s what gave birth to the Indo-European language family and so on. I do foresee that we return to a certain degree of nomadism but, of course, with 21st-century technology. I seek to remind people that for most of the past 100,000 years humans have been nomadic. It is very much in our nature. We should embrace it as a survival mechanism and potentially as a tool for building a more sustainable future as well.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 17:09
Yes. You were mentioning some of the cornerstones here. The ability to control the flow of people is one of the cornerstones of what it means to be a nation and the sovereignty of a nation state. Do you see the Treaty of Westphalia, how we define the nation state, do you see that fundamentally changing as we go forward? Or do you think that the notion of a government’s use of force, controlling of a line on a map, is there to stay? Sometimes nothing is here to exist forever. Do you see that changing into something much more fluid? I was talking to a second-grader, a seven-year-old who asked me that question. We were talking about travel restrictions now because of COVID. All of a sudden, it hit everyone right in their face, so to speak, why can’t people just have a global passport? That’s a very good question and I have no answer. Well, it is a long, complicated answer.

Parag Khanna 18:03
My daughter was already speaking about a global union when she was in second grade. Even the book is about generational psychology. Today’s youth are the most surveyed individuals in history. What is so interesting is what emerges from research on their attitudes and preferences is that the values of sustainability, connectivity and mobility are three things that pretty much all the 4 billion young people on earth have in common. That’s quite different. It reveals the gap between young and old within their own country because old people don’t share those values with young people who are their fellow citizens. Across this generation, they do so. The horizontal versus the vertical on values is a huge theme in the book. That’s youth. Then on sovereignty, we’ve massively overstayed the chronology of today’s system of ironclad national sovereignty. We date it to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 but, of course, that was just the early centuries of the colonial and the Imperial World. We lived in a world that was entirely run by empires that were not respectful of national sovereignty.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 19:27
Or of life in general.

Parag Khanna 19:30
Exactly, right until the 1940s. The notion that since 1648 we’ve lived in a world of sovereign equality is about 300 years premature. You go to the United Nations, but even after the United Nations, you had Cologne, you had the Cold War hierarchies and you had a process of gradual decolonization. Only in the ’90s did you get the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago and the splintering of Yugoslavia. We have new states being born all the time, but you can roughly say that it’s in our lifetimes, your and my lifetimes, not the last 400 years that we have sovereignty. The truth is that the rules that govern our civilization as a species are always changing and evolving. Sovereignty has been significantly eroding in every UA, including migration to a large degree ever since. We will have, in my view, this is the normative view in the book, we will evolve from sovereignty to stewardship. Not, “I rule this place because these are the borders that have been there” but rather, “I am the rightful administrator of this geography and I administer it towards a certain common end of conservation and preservation and hopefully absorption and survival of this species.” Not every country will wake up tomorrow and be like Canada — where Canada is saying, “We have an obligation as, effectively, the world’s largest country alongside Russia, but a liberal democracy and one that recognizes the demographic deflation inherent in our fertility decline. We will increase our population by more than 1% every single year.” Not every country is going to flip a switch and be like Canada tomorrow. However, more and more countries will start to think in terms of stewardship of their resources. The final point is on the global passport. You asked three questions at once, all of which are big sections of the book — generational viewpoints, the evolution of sovereignty and the third is the global passport, which I do address. I’ve been party to efforts over the last five years or more to digitize mobility and to divorce mobility from nationality by having more of our data that we would voluntarily provide, be it blockchain or other kinds of databases, so that the more information you provide about yourself, irrespective of whether you’re Bolivian or Nigerian or whatever, that information then helps you to qualify to travel and cross borders based upon whatever criteria a country sets. If you digitize that and make it faster, then you move beyond a world where people are penalized for their identity and have to wait in line and prostrate at a consulate for weeks and pay thousands of dollars in fees. Instead, we digitize this. We can get there technologically. The message is that passports belong on the blockchain — this is my argument.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 22:36
Yes. It also relates to the whole notion that your identity may be much more affiliated now with culture rather than the actual location of where you are. Maybe an idea for you here, back in June I did a podcast with a class of fifth-graders here in New York. I asked them several questions about the challenges we’re facing today and how they would solve them. I also asked them to grade the adults on how we are taking care of our planet. The adults ended up with a C minus. We’re not in a good space there being graded by Gen Z and the Alphas coming up. This generation is extremely interested in all the topics that you covered. An idea would be to write a children’s book, to find a way to explain and visualize with all the great maps that you have something that children of that age can also learn from.

Parag Khanna 23:28
There is someone who is a step ahead of both of us. Simon Kuestenmacher, who is a German living in Australia. He is a major maps guru and he’s doing a children’s book of maps and curating, etc. Each one is explanatory on global sociology in some way and I trust his judgment very much on what maps he is selecting. He also has a young child. I’m on the board of the American Geographical Society and we work very hard to engage high school students and colleges when it comes to curricula. There’s a study guide on the website of this book. There is a very lengthy 80-90 PowerPoint slide study guide for AP human geography, which is, of course, a major AP course in America. It’s taken by more than 200,000 students every year. We’ve adapted this book MOVE via a study guide as a teacher’s resource for that class as of this fall.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 24:26
That’s great. Thank you for sharing that. I learned something here. I’ll look that up. As you know, Marc Lore recently announced this grand idea of a $400 billion city in which each citizen would receive equal access to healthcare, schools, parks, safe streets and transportation. It would be here in the west or Appalachia. What is your take on this kind of plan, this whole notion of starting new cities, megaprojects? Are they viable? We’ve seen some of these large, planned cities in China, so-called “ghost towns” that are now seeing their population grow. Is that a way to go or is it a lot of utopia?

Parag Khanna 25:07
I’ve been involved in the new cities movement, and have been analyzing and visiting a lot of these places over the last 20 years. I’ve been to a lot of the places in China and around the world that are startup cities or new special economic zones. You and I have spoken at length previously about how some special economic zones grow into full-fledged cities that no longer need a special designation because they’ve become settled, inhabited places where the laws wind up conforming to and, more or less, equalizing with the country. Shantou, China is a great example and Shenzhen, China is a great example. What’s happening in the United Arab Emirates is fascinating because they’ve gone from having more than 100 different special economic zones and administrative zones, which is about half the total number in the entire Middle East just in one country. Right now they’re in the process of folding it all together and saying the United Arab Emirates is a well-governed, well-regulated country governed by the rule of law and globally standard, commercial arbitration. We don’t need to have 75 different rule books and 75 different administrative zones. There’s just one national law and it’s one you can trust. Dissolving the uniqueness of those zones is all part of the process of modernization. Singapore went through that and the UAE is. China has also gone through that. That’s part of the evolution. When it comes to physical new cities, if one is designing them for a social or libertarian purpose in the sense of saying, we want to have an egalitarian society, access to services for free — that’s fantastic. Much of Western Europe enjoys that. It would be great to have all of America be like that, too. If not, you can do it one enclave at a time. When you’re doing it for an ecological sort of purpose or ambition I think that’s also interesting because these can be very novel experiments in sustainable construction, habitat design and so forth. One thing we need to think about is what is the combined population of all of the smart cities in the world that have these aspirations. My rough guess is less than 100,000.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 27:27
It’s a drop in the ocean.

Parag Khanna 27:31
The work that I do, I’m concerned about 8 billion people. The solution to the challenges of 8 billion people is not a bunch of new cities that are fixed in terra firma, especially if they’re fixed in places that are very low on water supply — that have dwindling groundwater resources and so forth. Certainly, they don’t need to have skyscrapers.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 27:56
It looks like a city needs to have a skyscraper to be a city.

Parag Khanna 27:59
I talk about the architecture of the future, “arcology” as some call it, ecological architecture. Skyscrapers are not part of that recipe by any stretch of the imagination. I love the innovation that’s going on. The Netherlands is doing some of this and the Nordic countries are also doing treated wood construction — you’re building with a carbon sink. These developments that we were talking about the key technologies earlier, where it’s all wastewater treatment and hydroponic agriculture and so on. I’d like to see that be the premeditated purpose of new cities because that’s actually what these geographies need. Again, it’s part of the American ethos, in many ways, to seek in a libertarian way to craft out a place with a new ideology because you have a highly devolved and federalized system. Therefore, in some ways, you have a right to do that whereas in European countries you don’t have parallel codes or laws. You have highly regulated political economies, social democracy and welfare states. There isn’t as much effort to cleave off communities without a higher sense of rights than what Europeans already enjoy. You can have ethno-nationalist, secessionist movements. That would be much more prominent in Europe than in the US. As I go to all of these new cities, whether it’s India or China, they don’t all have a high success rate. I’m a trustee of the New Cities Foundation. We work very hard to help to support and mentor city-level initiatives around universal access to healthcare, digital connectivity, education, mobility, sustainable mobility. We are part of that. Generally, where I come down on this is, don’t just focus on building new cities, focus on improving the cities that we already have and people live in provided that they are livable and that our climate models tell us that they will be inhabitable. If they’re not going to be inhabitable, then, of course, by all means, designate new geographies and prebuild, predesign supply-led growth and economic terms. Places that you know are climate-propitious so you can absorb the population. Even though I’m a big fan of experimentation and again, I’ve been involved in that movement for 20 years, in this book, I’m much more fascinated by the efforts of communities in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere that know that larger populations will come their way — climate refugees, domestically within the United States, or whatever, and are saying, “We are ready. Come. We’re setting up agricultural cooperatives; we’re doing low-cost housing; we want to have a kind of a new economic model; we want to be more self-sufficient; there’s plenty of space; we want to absorb populations in an equitable way; we want to make sure that we don’t have excessive gentrification and huge disparities and this kind of thing.” That is important. That is deeply, deeply important. We can pre-think this, pre-design it and that’s the term I use in the book. How do we pre-design the settlements and communities of the future from a utilitarian standpoint to maximize the number of people who will benefit from the inevitability of larger-scale migrations?

Robin van Puyenbroeck 31:33
Very interesting. As a quick follow-up on what you’re saying, you also write about the great misallocation of resources that many countries are engaged in. Can you give an example of how countries are misallocating their resources?

Parag Khanna 31:49
There’s a huge misallocation of resources when it comes to stranded assets and infrastructure. Think about countries that are still building oil and gas pipelines and cities and coastal developments or urban developments in coastal areas that are going to be sunk. Stranded assets cost us trillions and trillions of dollars a year, stranded assets not just geographically, but also in terms of energy composition. It would be much cheaper to invest in solar and renewables and so forth. I live in Asia and it is very gas dependent. Tons of new investment in gas pipelines. This accounts for huge current account deficits and budgetary outlays. It would be much smarter to leapfrog to renewable technologies and improve access to them. That’s an example of misallocation. We need to think in a fiscally prudent way about this because we have huge debt piles mounting as a result of the financial crisis, stimulus and bailouts, and now COVID stimulus and bailouts.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 32:58
They keep bailing out.

Parag Khanna 32:58
The tax base is eroding in many countries as a result of the dependency ratio rising and so on. We know that these things are happening and we know where the train wrecks are occurring. I wish that we could think ahead and avoid some of the mistakes that we’re making.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 33:20
That leads me to something else. You do a lot of advising. You work with a lot of governments. How would you work with different governments differently? As you just mentioned, this is a completely separate subject and conversation, of course, but the rising debt levels and things like that. It’s more of the question, you work with private clients, you work with companies, with individuals, but also with governments. How is that work different with different governments towards each other but also versus a private enterprise that you work with?

Parag Khanna 33:49
What’s interesting is the difference between federal governments and municipal governments, for example. When we work with governments on trade and investment and supply chains, it’s very global. We’ve worked with South American governments that have joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that are part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, and they’re seeking to increase the market penetration of their exports into Asia and to attract more capital from Asia. Traditionally, South America does not reach Asia for capital inflow. It’s happened on the back of China and now Japan, India and others are investing more in Latin America. That’s one example. We do some quite econometric and technical workaround trade composition, product development and what the intersection and market matching is there. When it comes to the sub-national level with cities, it’s interesting because we’re trying to design future infrastructure and the strategy around that infrastructure. In urban studies and architecture, we talk about master plans. What’s often forgotten is the economic master plan. You may have built a city, but what are people going to do there? What are they going to be educated in? Which employers are going to be there? Who’s making the investments? What supply chains are you connected to? That’s economic master planning. Fundamentally, that’s what we do. Those are the questions that we try to answer. We help to pre-design the right policies, what the regulations are going to be and so forth. We’ve worked a lot with the UAE, with Kazakhstan, the government of Malta, I mentioned Chile earlier, Japan, Singapore, so a lot of different governments at all scales in a way. Our technology platform is called Climate Alpha. It’s very relevant here because we can understand well in advance which geographies are going to be livable. You can use data from various maps and tools. You can look at the socio-economic and fiscal indicators that are also indicative of a sub-national level, city level, state level which places have the brightest prospects and start to generate sustainable policies in those places which is also a very big part of our work.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 36:10
Thank you so much. We could keep talking for much, much longer. I do want to come to a close. One thing I like to ask all of our guests here is, what can you share with us that you haven’t shared before? It could be something work-related, something anecdotal, something that you haven’t shared with anyone?

Parag Khanna 36:34
That’s an interesting question. Here is something that comes to mind. I’ve never gone this long without traveling. I can’t wait to get back on the road. If you’re going to be locked down in quarantine anywhere, Singapore has proven to be the ideal place for that. That’s just one thing. We’re fortunate even to be alive, you might say. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the local, not that I didn’t before. I’ve never spent this much time sort of “smelling the flowers,” you might say. Here’s another thing — I spent a lot of time with my kids, especially in the last year and a half. One of the pleasures has been, and this would not be known, helping my daughter as she has been writing her first book, her first travel book. How would a young girl get the idea that travel and writing go together? Beats me.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 37:36
But you would not know, of course.

Parag Khanna 37:38
I wouldn’t know. It’s such a joy to see her intuition be hereditary, I guess you could say, and see through that process and just be an observer as that unfolds. It’s been a pure joy.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 37:55
You’re ahead of time with your succession planning there. Well, good. Parag, thank you so much for your time. It was a great conversation. I look forward to continuing it. Thank you again.

Parag Khanna 38:08
Thank you, Robin. I really enjoyed it.

Robin van Puyenbroeck 38:12
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