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Weekly selection
26 January 2018

5 insightful op-eds or articles to help make sense of today’s world

  • Andres Velasco, “Why Economic Recovery Won’t Defeat Populism”

    (Project Syndicate - 25 January 2018)

    In the opinion of the economist/policy-maker, the hope that the current global economic recovery will entail a retreat of populism is misplaced. Even in the best-case scenario, with income distribution beginning to improve, change would be “glacially slow”. Other factors feeding populism – deindustrialization, loss of manufacturing jobs, stubborn pockets of unemployment in left-behind cities and regions – would change equally slowly. He also asserts that earlier periods show that populism thrives in environments where longstanding sources of identity – for example, class or nation – have weakened, which is the case today (reads in 6-8 min).

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  • Diane Coyle, “Good-bye, GDP. Hello, six-part balance sheet?”

    (World Economic Forum - 18 January 2018)

    The need to go ‘beyond GDP’ in measuring economic progress and welfare is now well understood. The economist proposes to replace GDP with the measure of six kinds of capital (financial, human, physical, intangible, natural and social). The rationale is obvious: in terms of our wellbeing, human capital (education and skills), natural capital (clean air, green space, a healthy ecosystem), and social capital (a well-functioning community or nation) matter considerably more than the production of goods and services (reads in 4-5 min). 

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  • Joseph Nye, “How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power”

    (Foreign Affairs (metered paywall) - 24 January 2018)

    The deceptive use of information for hostile purposes constitutes sharp power. Information warfare always existed but two things are new: the speed and ease with which such disinformation can spread and the low cost of spreading it. Sharp power does little to enhance the soft power of its perpetrators, and in some cases does the opposite. Defending against sharp power is not easy, but openness is key (reads in 7-9 min).

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  • Michael Schrage, “Is “Murder by Machine Learning” the New “Death by PowerPoint”?”

    (Harvard Business Review - 23 January 2018)

    The MIT Research fellow explains why software doesn’t always end up being the productivity panacea that it promises to be. Because AI and machine learning (ML) are supposed to be “smart”, they pose challenging organizational risks. They are likelier to inspire false and/or misplaced confidence in their findings; to amplify or further entrench data based biases; and to exacerbate the very human flaws of the people who deploy them. He concludes by providing a few tips on good “data governance” (reads in 7-10 min).

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  • David Brooks, “Now Is the Time to Talk About the Power of Touch”

    (The New York Times - metered paywall - 18 January 2018)

    Empathetic physical contact is essential for life: intimate touch engages the emotions and wires the fibers of the brain together. As the columnist explains, the power of loving touch is astounding, but the power of invasive touch is horrific. He rapidly surveys the way in which cultures all around the world treat emotional touching as something apart. His conclusion: “It seems that the smarter we get about technology, the dumber we get about relationships. We live in a society in which loneliness, depression and suicide are on the rise. We seem to be treating each other worse” (reads in 5-6 min.)

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