The challenges we face today are incomparable to those of yesterday. More than ever before, we face threats restricted not just to distinct parts of the world or to particular populations, but to the globe’s collective existence. Global warming is heating up the planet—our shared home—to dangerous levels; apocalyptic nuclear warfare has become an ever-looming possibility; and new technologies, like AI voice cloning, increasingly have the potential to upend life as we know it.
Unprecedented challenges call for unprecedented leadership. The world needs policymakers and leaders who can be flexible, incorporating new research and adapting to new crises as they emerge; who are disruptive and willing to embrace more ambitious, if less tested, solutions to policy problems; and who take an interdisciplinary approach to difficult challenges, combining methods and knowledge from a variety of sectors to identify the best way forward. And because the challenges of the 21st century are not only global, but also intergenerational, these decision-makers must be extraordinarily far-sighted. They will need to take into consideration how their decisions are likely to affect people across not just space, but time as well.
This may seem like quite a tall order. After all, many of us would be pleasantly surprised if our elected representatives managed to get through a term in office without being caught in a scandal. Why would we expect our leaders to tackle the world’s most pressing existential challenges?