The Straits Times says

Tackling the world's driving forces

Former foreign minister George Yeo recently highlighted four driving forces in the world today. They are the social-media revolution, the fragmentation and reconfiguration of human society, growing wealth and income inequality, and "mass manipulation by new masters of the universe". The last force refers to the way in which big data and social media are being used to manipulate people's thinking. Law and the market are necessary but not sufficient for the organisation of human society in the face of this fourfold challenge. Mr Yeo noted that moral systems, which include religion and ideology, needed to adapt to the new challenges. Moral leadership remains key in a period of rapid change.

This indeed is an imperative for countries both large and small that are faced with forces outside the control of any one economy or polity. States navigating their way in the new world need to renew habits of the heart that bind citizens to national wholes. There is a dual challenge here. The first is to remain open economically so that countries can benefit from the optimisation of economic production and distribution that globalisation makes possible. The second challenge is to equip citizens with competitive skills so that an economic divide, particularly between digital haves and have-nots, does not split society into supporters and opponents of globalisation.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2020, with the headline 'Tackling the world's driving forces'. Print Edition | Subscribe