Olivier Giscard d'Estaing looks back to reflect on the future.
If Jules Verne were alive, he might have written this book: “Le Reveil des Peuples”, a phantasmagoric though entirely plausible view of the future. Instead, it was written by one of Verne’s admirers and a man who has had a ringside seat on the events that made history over the past 50 or so years and who is himself a visionary: Olivier Giscard d’Estaing.
As one of the founders and the first dean of INSEAD, it was OGE who convinced the French government to let him use the Chateau of Fontainebleau as INSEAD’s first offices and classroom: “Monsieur, we are teaching the art of management to the world,” the legend goes.
In this book - and it's not his first - OGE writes a first-person fictional account of the CEO of a global company (an INSEAD graduate, it should be noted), who is a the citizen of the interconnected world: born in Hong Kong of a French father and American mother, a polyglot with multiple marriages and two homes (one in France one in Greece) who starts his career in a multinational company, then strikes out on his own to build his own global corporation.
The years are 2025-2075, and they parallel the period that OGE lived through as a young man, and which helped him shape his perceptions: 1930 to 1980. “When I think of this past century,” he told INSEAD Knowledge at the Leadership Summit Middle East in Abu Dhabi in January, “I realise that there are three groups that influence the world: there are the scientists, the business community and governments.” He realises that the three groups can come together in different ways. “I awoke one morning hearing of the (U.S. nuclear) bombs on Hiroshima, and I was very upset. Today, something like 80 percent of French electrical energy is nuclear.”
OGE also writes about an end to religious wars where one religion tries to dominate the others. “All will survive," he opines. “And ultimately we will leave behind this conflicting approach; but a religious war is not impossible…. with disastrous consequences.”
The book touches on possible scenarios of current situations and what they may look like between 2025 and 2075: conflict in the Middle East escalates, the economy worsens in China, the world of sports endures more dramatic terrorism, scientific progress brings changes in essential sectors: energy, water supply and health.
Finally, he forsees a World reunion. This world order idea is not new to OGE. As brother to one of France’s best-known Presidents, he witnessed his brother's creation of the G-7 as an international forum for world government leaders first-hand. In these days which embrace also the G-20, the idea of a World Union of 30 countries doesn't seem so out of reach. “The United Nations isn't in a position to govern the world,” OGE points out. "They are prohibited by their charter. But organisations like the G-20, representing three-quarters of the world population, are in a position to provide governance and leadership.”
This is one of OGE's key messages to readers of “Le Reveil des Peuple”. "We must be diligent to ensure the future of democracy,” he says. “And we must listen to what people want. The French revolution had some awful moments but it brought about necessary changes. And the revolutions we see today - the Arab Spring, for example - are happening because people are unhappy with governments and the governments have to respond to that.”
"The second message is to be optimistic," he continues. “Human beings have a huge capacity to innovate and adjust if you help them. And the results of this change can be tremendous.”
Le Reveil des Peuples Chronique d’un demi-siecle 2025-2075
Published by La Compagnie Littéraire – Bredys (Paris) 2011
Olivier Giscard d'Estaing is honorary chairman of the INSEAD Foundation. He was former member of the French Parliament and founding dean of INSEAD.