Kishore Mahbubani is dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and professor in the Practice of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
Kishore Mahbubani on
In my view, we are living in the best of times ever in human history. In fact, not since human history began have so many people seen such a dramatic improvement in their standard of living as we are seeing today. When I grew up in Singapore, I grew up in a poor family in a poor country. Now I belong to a comfortable middle class in a very happily prosperous country like Singapore.
The number one ethical priority we should make today is to get everyone to be aware that we live in a small global community. When you live in a small global community, we should be aware of the impact of our actions on the rest of the people living in the same global community.
Before, when you had 7 billion people living in 193 separate countries, it was like living on 193 separate boats, so you only had the rules to make sure that the boats didn't collide with each other. But now the 7 billion people don't live in 193 separate boats; they live in 193 separate cabins on the same boat. So if you live on the same boat, you clearly want to create a code of conduct among everyone to ensure that you don't sink the boat, because if you sink the boat everybody is going to be affected. So you've got to balance national interest against global interest. I think that's the direction in which global ethics is going to go.
I actually think that world peace is not just possible, it's highly likely in the years to come, because there is absolutely no reason today to go to war with one another because you can succeed and become a thriving, prosperous country—in fact, you are more likely to succeed in becoming a thriving, prosperous country—if you avoid wars.
If you want to ensure that the next 100 years are much better than the previous 100 years, we must take some really bold steps. One of the boldest steps we can do is to go eventually towards a zero-nuclear-weapon world. But long before we get there, let's cut the numbers down from thousands to the hundreds, from the hundreds to the tens, and that's all you need for deterrence today.