"Do we want to live in one world, or two?"

One of the great achievements of recent history has been a dramatic reduction in absolute poverty in the world. In 1820 about 85% of the world's population lived on the equivalent of a dollar a day (converted to today's purchasing power). By 1980, that percentage had dropped to 30%, but it is now down to 20%.

But that still means 1 billion people live in absolute poverty. A further 2 billion are little better off, living on $2 a day. A quarter of the world's people never get a cup of clean water.

Part of what globalisation means is that we have a reasonable chance of assuring that a majority of the world's people will benefit from continuing economic growth, improvements in health and education, and the untapped potential of the extraordinary technologies about which most of the Edge contributors write so eloquently.

We currently lack the political will to make sure that a vast number of people are not fenced off from this optimistic future. So my question poses a simple choice. Are we content to have two, increasingly estranged world? Or do we want to find the path to a unified, healthy world?

Lance Knobel is Adviser, Prime Minister's Forward Strategy Unit, London, and the former head of the program of the World Economic Forums' Annual meeting in Davos.