Former prime minister Jim Bolger has told an audience in Washington the world will be "browner" in the future and the white race is dying out.
Mr Bolger was speaking at a lunch organised in his honour by the United States-New Zealand Council.
He says western nations need to improve their understanding of the Asia-Pacific, especially the region's Muslim populations.
Mr Bolger says the greatest challenge the world faces is to understand what its demography will be.
He said many people believe everything will return to the way it was before the global recession, but that was "dreamworld" thinking and predicted the future will be dramatically different.
Mr Bolger, a former ambassador to Washington, urged the US and other advanced societies to adapt, or face unrest.
"If anybody's satisfied with the status quo, well, stay with the status quo, and prepare for the revolution."
He said new answers are needed, and education and science must be funded, to provide them.
Asia-Pacific a key region
The former premier said Western nations need to improve their understanding of peoples of the Asia-Pacific, "not just look at them as a potential market ... for whatever we might want to sell or buy."
It was particularly important to understand the region's Muslim populations, he said.
Mr Bolger said the greatest challenge the world faces is to understand what its demography will be.
"Tomorrow will be a much browner world. The white race is dying out - it is not replacing itself in any country on earth."