“Globalization” isn’t a popular word in political circles these days, but authors Parag and Ayesha Khanna are making it their life’s mission to change that. In their new e-book, “Hybrid Reality,” the couple argue that the burgeoning forces of worldwide connectedness and shared innovation will open opportunities to all who understand and embrace them.
Look at it this way: We already make decisions based on the experiences and expertise of other people. We shop, plan trips and pick restaurants based on the advice of people we’ve never met. We manage our health care, sharing our conditions with others who have “been there.” We form our opinions about the world based on blogs and videos posted by everyday people reporting from the ground. And we supplement our children’s education with tips, classes and tutoring posted on YouTube.
(Courtesy of Ayesha and Parag Khanna) - Ayesha, left, and Parag Khanna, co-authors of the eBook ‘Hybrid Reality.’
And these, the Khannas say, are just the early steps in an unprecedented process of creating human connections — what they call “hybrids” — through technology.
The result, they argue, will be that “a balance of innovation” will define a nation’s future more than military power and GDP size. “When technology so permeates our physical and social lives,” Parag says, “we cannot make policy about education, health care, the economy, security without taking it into account as the driver.”
It would be hard to find two people better equipped to prepare us for these changes.
Parag is a leading expert in global affairs, having worked for influential think tanks and as Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s only civilian adviser “down range” in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Ayesha is a sought-after adviser to major financial institutions and urban planners, to whom she explains the role of technology to improve lives and make them more secure. He has a PhD in political economy from the London School of Economics; she is studying for hers in information systems and innovation at the same school. He emigrated as a boy from the Punjab area of India, by way of the United Arab Emirates, to Chappaqua, N.Y. She came from a similar middle class background, also Punjabi, but from the other side of the border in Pakistan.
A chance meeting in New York City in 2005 turned into hours of conversation on how the world was changing. “At some point we realized that we understood our own worlds better in the context of the other’s domain. That’s when our friendship turned into an intellectual partnership,” Ayesha recalls. Now married with two young children, they have logged hundreds of thousands of miles together, traveling nearly 300 days last year alone, paying their way through extensive consulting and writing. They interview, write about and advise some of the world’s leading thinkers, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs and policymakers. Among those they have advised: Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jeremy Bailenson, who runs Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
Over a cup of tea in a D.C. hotel restaurant before sprinting to his next plane, Parag speaks quickly about his travels as if everyone leads his life.