"Liberalism has no obvious answers to the biggest problems we face: ecological collapse and technological disruption. Liberalism traditionally relied on economic growth to magically solve difficult social and political conflicts. Liberalism reconciled the proletariat with the bourgeoisie, the faithful with atheists, natives with immigrants, and Europeans with Asians by promising everybody a larger slice of the pie. With a constantly growing pie, that was possible. However, economic growth will not save the global ecosystem; just the opposite, in fact, for economic growth is the cause of the ecological crisis. And economic growth will not solve technological disruption, for it is predicated on the invention of more and more disruptive technologies.

"The liberal story and the logic of free-market capitalism encourage people to have grand expectations. During the latter part of the twentieth century, each generation — whether in Houston, Shanghai, Istanbul, or São Paulo — enjoyed better education, superior healthcare and larger incomes than the one that came before it. In coming decades, however, owing to a combination of technological disruption and ecological meltdown, the younger generation might be lucky to simply stay in place."

"We are consequently left with the task of creating an updated story for the world. Just as the upheavals of the industrial Revolution gave birth to the novel ideologies of the twentieth century, so the coming revolutions in biotechnology and information technology are likely to require fresh visions. The next decades might therefore be characterized by intense soul-searching and by the formulation of new social and political models. Can liberalism reinvent itself yet again, just as it did in the wake of the 1930s and 1960s crises, emerging as more attractive than ever before? Can traditional religion and nationalism provide the answers that escape the liberals, and might they use ancient wisdom to fashion an up-to-date worldview? Or perhaps the time has come to make a clean break with the past and craft a completely new story that goes beyond not just the old gods and nations but even the core modern values of liberty and equality.

"At present, humankind is far from reaching any consensus on these questions. We are still in the nihilist moment of disillusionment and anger, after people have lost faith in the old stories but before they have embraced a new one. So what next? The first step is to tone down the prophecies of doom and switch from panic mode to bewilderment. Panic is a form of hubris. It comes from the smug feeling that one knows exactly where the world is heading: down. Bewilderment is more humble and therefore more clearsighted. Do you feel like running down the street crying 'The apocalypse is upon us'? Try telling yourself, 'No, it's not that. Truth is, I just don't understand what's going on in the world.'"