Cheer up: David Rothkopf says we're on the brink of a new Renaissance

There's technology in our lives today that we never could have imagined just two decades ago -- think social media, mobile payments, machine learning.

These new options for acting out basic work, communication and economics are already changing our sense of personal and community identity and David Rothkopf argues it's time to ask what it all means for our society at large.

In his hew book, "The Great Questions of Tomorrow", David Rothkopf says we need to learn from the opportunities -- and mistakes -- of civilizations throughout history. But his message is less a warning against messing it all up than it is an invitation to see what wonders technology is achieving.

Rothkopf is the editor and CEO of Foreign Policy. He talked with MPR News senior producer Tiffany Hanssen.

Use the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

David Rothkopf on what we're missing:

"For the past 20 years in the Unites States, we've been focused heavily on terrorism; we've been focused heavily on a very limited threat from a very limited number of people; we are focused on our daily headlines -- the drama in Washington or the follies of the Trump administration. And we're not seeing that within ten years, we're very likely to see a change that's as big as the Renaissance was -- one that literally changes the way society works at every level."

...On what to expect this year:

"The biggest change that's going to happen in the world in 2017 has nothing to do with Donald Trump. It has nothing to do with Vladimir Putin. The biggest change that's going to happen in the world this year is that hundreds of millions of people who were not on the Internet are going to get a smartphone and an Internet connection and they are all of a sudden are going to be connected to the planet for the very first time -- able to see everything that happens everywhere else, reach out and touch anyone anywhere else at anytime. And that's happening every year."

...On optimism:

"Progress is a constant throughout history. I don't think you can actually be a rigorous student of history and watch it as the number of wars decline and violent deaths go down and lives get longer and people get better education and quality of life goes up and wealth goes up...and not say, 'I'm fundamentally an optimist'. I think being a realist requires you to be an optimist. But I do think we have to be aware of some of the hick-ups and disruptions and sometimes catastrophes that come along with that progress."

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