Tony Blair is thinking about revolutions. The Industrial Revolution in particular weighs heavily on his mind. He sees the changes sparked by the steam engine more than two centuries ago as a preview for the digital transformation remaking our world. He also thinks about the political revolution of the 19th century. The strife that forged the modern nation-state is a taste of what’s to come if policymakers do not get ahead of the technological revolution.
The former British prime minister came to the US in March to visit Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and companies. After inhabiting 10 Downing Street for a decade, he says he wants to convince leaders in technology and politics to rewrite the social contract for the digital future. “There’s not a lot of help for [politicans] out there,” Blair said speaking to a group of Silicon Valley founders and executives hosted by the startup fund and accelerator Y Combinator. “If they’re not educated—what you’re ignorant about you fear, and what you fear, you want to shut down.”