I have a simple view of governing today: We are in the middle of not one but three climate changes at once to which government must help citizens respond — and Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue and China does.
We are in the middle of a change in the climate of the climate. We are going from “later” to “now.” Later is officially over. Later will be too late. At some point, the deforestation of the Amazon is not reversible.
We are the middle of a change in the “climate” of globalization. We are going from an interconnected world to an interdependent one, and in such a world your friends can hurt you faster than your enemies: Think what happens if Mexico’s economy fails. And your rivals’ falling becomes more dangerous than your rivals’ rising: We will be hurt a lot more by China’s economy tanking than by its putting tanks on islands in the South China Sea.
And lastly, we’re in the middle of a change in the “climate” of technology. We’re moving into a world where machines and software can analyze (see patterns that were hidden before); optimize (tell a plane which altitude to fly each mile to get the best fuel efficiency); prophesize (tell you when your elevator will break and fix it before it does); customize (tailor any product or service for you alone) and digitize and automate just about any job. This is transforming every industry.
Governing today is all about how you prepare your society to get the most out of these three climate changes and cushion the worst. Sadly, that’s not our society’s priority right now. In the age of Trump, we are treating governing as entertainment.
China takes governing seriously.
They have formulated a strategy — “Made in China 2025.” It’s a plan for building the infrastructure, investments, education and regulations that will enable Chinese companies to lead in supercomputing, new materials, computer-controlled machine tools, industrial robotics, space and aviation equipment — including drones — clean cars, clean energy, biomedicine and next-gen medical devices.
Only time will tell how much what China has wrong about governing will undermine what it has right.
By contrast, Trump hasn’t even named a science adviser. He pulled out of the Paris climate accord, and he proposed a budget for fiscal 2018 that eliminated the Department of Energy’s innovation lab and slashed funding for all of our key national science and medical labs, which provide the basic research for the very next-gen technologies in which China is now massively investing.
He’s spending the money on a wall. Is there anything more stupid?
And then you watch the health care debate.
And then you look at all the knife fights between Trump aides and you realize that none was over how to thrive in a world challenged by these three climate changes. They were all about who could get closest to and flatter our Dear Leader most. But our Dear Leader — as we saw in the health care debate — has done no homework on the future, either. He’s been too busy promising to restore the past.
This is so dangerous. When the pace of change accelerates in climate, technology and globalization all at once, small errors in leadership navigation can have huge consequences. It’s like a 747 pilot who enters the wrong coordinates. You can find yourself so far off course that the pain of getting back will be staggering.
We have such a pilot. It is time for the adult Republicans and Democrats in Congress to come together and take the helm.