Technical Expertise Not Necessary to Be a Great Leader

There is a broad assumption in society and in education that the skills you need to be a leader are more or less transferable. If you can inspire and motivate people in one arena, you should be able to apply those skills to do the same in another venue.

But recent research is rightly challenging this notion. Studies suggest that the best leaders know a lot about the domain in which they are leading, and part of what makes them successful in a management role is technical competence. For example, hospitals managed by doctors perform better than those managed by people with other backgrounds. And there are many examples of people who ran one company effectively and had trouble transferring their skills to the new organization.

Over the last year, I’ve been working with a group at the University of Texas thinking about what leadership education would look like for our students. There is broad consensus across many schools that teach leadership education about the core elements of what leaders need to know. These factors include: The ability to motivate self and others, effective oral and written communication, critical thinking skills, problem solving ability, and skills at working with teams and delegating tasks.

On the surface, this seems like a nice list. Good leaders do have these abilities and if you wanted to create future leaders, making sure they have these skills is a good bet. They need to take in a large volume of information and distill it into the essential elements that define the core problems to be solved. They need to organize teams to solve these problems and to communicate to a group why they should share a common vision. They need to establish trust with a group and then use that trust to allow the team to accomplish more than it could alone.

But these skills alone will not make a leader because, to actually excel at this list of skills in practice, you also need a lot of expertise in a particular domain.

As an example, take one of these skills: thinking critically in order to find the essence of a situation. To do that well, you must have specific, technical expertise. The critical information a doctor needs to diagnose a patient are different from the knowledge used to understand a political standoff, and both of those differ in important ways from what is needed to negotiate a good business deal.

Even effective communication differs from one domain to another. Doctors talking to patients must communicate information differently than politicians reacting to a natural disaster or a CEO responding to a labor dispute.

When you begin to look at any of the core skills that leaders have, it quickly becomes clear that domain-specific expertise is bound up in all of them. And the domains of expertise required may also be fairly specific. Even business is not really a single domain. Leadership in construction, semiconductor fabrication, consulting, and retail sales all require a lot of specific knowledge.

A common solution to this problem is for leaders to say that they will surround themselves with good people who have the requisite expertise that will allow them to make good decisions. The problem is that without actual expertise, how do these leaders even know whether they have found the right people to give them information? If managers cannot evaluate the information they are getting for themselves, then they cannot lead effectively.

This way of thinking about leadership has two important implications. First, when we teach people about leadership, we need to be more explicit that domain expertise matters. Just because a person is successful at running one kind of organization does not mean that they are likely to have the same degree of success running an organization with a different mission. Second, when we train people to take on leadership roles, we need to give them practice solving domain-specific problems so that they can prepare to integrate information in the arena in which they are being asked to lead. For example, it isn’t enough just to teach people about how to resolve generic conflicts between employees, we should create scenarios derived from real cases so that people have to grapple with all of the ambiguities that come from the conflicts that arise within particular industries.

This issue is particularly important given the frequency with which people in the modern workplace change jobs and even move across industries. This mobility means that many younger employees may not gain significant expertise in the industry in which they are currently working, which will make it harder for them to be effective in leadership roles. Companies need to identify prospective future leaders and encourage them to settle down in order to develop the specific skills they need to lead.

A Digital Geneva Convention Desperately Needed

More than 30 governments have acknowledged that they have offensive cyber capabilities. However, unlike with conventional weapons, cyber arsenals are clandestine and intangible. Their source is difficult to track and identify. It is therefore likely that the real number is not only much higher but will grow in the coming months and years.

Moreover, because of this ambiguity, governments are more willing to deploy these weapons – testing capabilities with strikes, while tuning their strategies behind closed doors, writes Kaja Ciglic, Director, Government Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy, Microsoft, in her contribution to the Observer Research Foundation’s collection of essays, Our Common Digital Future.

The cyber arms race is clearly underway. However, the risk and dangers of cyber weapons are not well understood. These two issues together – the clandestine nature and the unpredictability of offensive online activity are creating vulnerabilities at a scale and speed that we haven’t seen before. How can we manage the resulting risk, risk that can manifest itself both online and offline?

International law applies to cyberspace

Microsoft believes that existing international law applies to cyberspace. This should hardly be a surprise. Online activities involve real people using tangible objects that have long been subject to various legal frameworks. However, it took governments a little longer to come to this conclusion.

The United Nations almost two decades ago set up a working body to ensure agreement is reached on how to handle the then relatively new field of information technology (IT), and in particular the increasingly difficult question of cybersecurity. It took a while, but in 2015, the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (UN GGE) confirmed that international law applies to cyberspace.

The consensus report was unanimously adopted by the 20 countries that participated in the process, including the USA, China, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom. This position has been subsequently reaffirmed in several statements by individual governments, and indeed by the Group of 7 (G7) in early April of this year.

Significantly, this stance is echoed in bilateral cybersecurity deals between what I call “cyber super- powers”.

Today, therefore, the only way to ensure that the behaviour of states in cyberspace is subject to certain rules and norms is through the recognition of international law

From the Sino-Russian, US-China, US-India, and Sino-Anglo cybersecurity agreements to this year’s China-Australia cybersecurity cooperation agreement, there are many and varied references to the UN GGE and expressions of support for cybersecurity norms. Regional groups have similarly acknowledged the applicability of international law to cyberspace, including the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Organization of American States. Bilateral and regional agreements are important steps, but they do not address the need for a strategic international cybersecurity framework.

Today, therefore, the only way to ensure that the behaviour of states in cyberspace is subject to certain rules and norms is through the recognition of international law. The challenge, from our perspective, is not about the applicability of international law but its sufficiency and implementation during times of peace.

Commitment to international law is not sufficient

Despite what appears to be almost unanimous agreement, it is proving difficult to travel from broad positions of support to concrete commitments. The UN GGE has been a key and constant part of this journey, the main highway, where other fora represented minor motorways. Now, we seem to have however hit a dead end.

So where do we go from here?

We do have the advantage of starting this complicated journey with an agreement on 11 cybersecurity norms from the 2015 UNGGE. We also have several proposals, including those put forward by Microsoft as part of the Digital Geneva Convention, and even partial agreements within narrower groups, such as the G7. But these are barely the first couple of steps on a long road.

To make significant progress, we have to unmask the fact that unfortunately there is little specificity in the agreements reached so far. This situation allows states to continue to act in violation of established norms, without the international community having any recourse to respond. For example, international law prohibits the use of force by states except in self-defence in response to an armed attack, and the UNGGE norms call for states to refrain from international malicious activity.

The questions are how these statements should apply to cyberspace, how concepts such as malicious activity are defined. This is where the work so far falls short. To move forward, these gaps will need to be identified and addressed. The work of the Global Commission on Stability of Cyberspace around what constitutes core internet infrastructure could yield important results in this regard.

Moreover, the current list of norms does not fully address the core drivers of instability in cyberspace. A limited set of additional cybersecurity norms in areas where existing rules are either unclear or may fall short in protecting civilians in cyberspace need to be developed.

This could include norms which explicitly articulate protections for civilians, even if they are implicitly contained elsewhere in international law. The development of these norms should be informed not just by governments, but also by civil society and the private sector.

Global power is shifting. Is it the end of multilateralism?

In today’s deeply interconnected world, we need rules and institutions to govern markets and economic activity more than ever. Yet multilateralism is under increasing strain, and the lack of a clear and consistent means for assessing changing global power dynamics is not helping.It is often said that the unipolar world order, dominated by the United States, that emerged at the end of the Cold War has lately shifted to a “multipolar” arrangement, owing to the growing geopolitical “weight” of countries such as China, as well as many emerging economies. But the actual metrics by which we weigh global powers are typically discussed in only vague terms, if at all.

There is no agreed scale with which to measure a country’s international weight relative to others. For example, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank use economic metrics, such as GDP and trade volumes, that are not standardized across other institutions. The United Nations does not even use the same metrics across all of its agencies: in the General Assembly, every country is weighted equally, and there are no veto rights; in the Security Council, the five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US) have veto rights.

At a time when multilateralism is under increasing strain, it is useful to understand the underlying shift in key weights and try to judge how much of what we are experiencing reflects structural shifts in these weights and how much is simply due to independent policy changes.

Three metrics of countries’ international weight stand out: the size of the population; the size of the economy, measured by GDP at market prices (GDP in purchasing power parity terms is more useful for measuring welfare); and military might, measured imperfectly by defense expenditure. If we consider all three metrics to be equally or similarly important, the world’s most “important” powers would seem to be the US, China, the European Union, Japan, India, Russia, and Brazil.

Of course, there are many questions, beginning with whether the EU – which negotiates trade arrangements as one entity, but comprises members with sovereignty in many areas – should be regarded as a unified actor in global affairs. Moreover, it is certainly not clear that the three metrics should, in fact, be regarded as equally important.

In any case, these three metrics represent a useful starting point for comparing the configuration of global weights in 1990, when the so-called unipolar order was emerging, and 2017, when the contours of a multipolar order should be visible.


These figures highlight, first and foremost, the rise of China, whose shares of both GDP and military expenditure have increased considerably (from 1.7% to 15% and from 1.6% to 13.8%, respectively). India has also increased its share in both areas, but from a much smaller base (from 1.4% to 3.3%, and from 1.4% to 3.6%, respectively). No other power has achieved a similar increase in “size.” The US has lost a little in terms of both GDP and population but remains the biggest power by far when military might is taken into account. With a (declining) population and GDP of just 2% of the world totals, Russia is very “small,” although its possession of nuclear weapons is a factor that must be taken into account.

Judging by these metrics, the world is entering the next decade in a kind of bipolar state, strongly dominated by the US and China. If the EU is treated as a single power – including by its own members (say, by pursuing common policies) – it could represent a third pole. India, whose GDP is now growing at nearly 8% annually, could eventually comprise a fourth, but it has some way to go.

An international order that rests on three and a half legs does not quite live up to the multipolar hype. This holds important implications for efforts to revive multilateralism. In particular, because the world is not quite multipolar, it is not structurally as conducive to a multipolar multilateralism as many have assumed. To survive, multilateralism will need the support of the big players.

Many have been hoping that China would put its weight behind a multilateral world order, but China’s leaders seem prepared to use multilateral structures only when it suits them. The EU, for its part, clearly has a strong multilateral bent, but it is weakened by internal divisions. If it were to overcome them, it could be the champion of multilateralism we need; for now, however, it is too divided. India could become an important advocate of multilateralism, but it is currently pursuing unilateral policies and still lacks the requisite international influence.

This leaves the US, still, as the lynchpin of global cooperation. Coalitions can be built to address particular issues or on a regional basis; but preserving – let alone deepening – the existing system of global governance will be impossible without US support.

At a time when the US is increasingly resisting and even actively undermining international cooperation, this is a source of serious concern. After all, as Robert Kagan recently pointed out, in today’s deeply interconnected world, we need rules and institutions to govern markets and economic activity more than ever. This will only become more obvious as new technologies like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering pose political and ethical issues that must be addressed on an international level.

Of course, the US is far from united in its opposition to multilateralism, and the country has so much to gain from openness and cooperation that it may embrace its previous role again within a few years. In the meantime, however, it is essential for other actors to continue to use and encourage multilateralism at every opportunity. Limited sectoral or geographical cooperation can be achieved and should be promoted whenever possible.

More broadly, the larger ideological battle for a rules-based international system must be fought using a strong dose of global civics as an antidote to neo-nationalism. The tactical defeats currently suffered can be reversed if the ideological battle is won. Given the need for inclusive cooperation, adapting and strengthening a rules-based and ethical global governance system is crucial to securing long-term peace and progress. Given America’s continuing “size,” it is critical for the world as a whole that the US is fully engaged and again becomes a global-governance leader for the digital age.

Fact: Trudeau Supports Trump’s Military Agenda

Justin Trudeau says Canada is fulfilling its international obligations. In a way he’s right. By and large, Canada is doing everything the U.S. wants. Surely that’s enough.

The dispute between Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau over Canada’s financial contribution to NATO is a sideshow. The real story is that Canada is being drawn increasingly into America’s wars.

That is the import of Trudeau’s announcement last week on Iraq. Canada is already training Iraqi troops in the north of the country, as well as working in an unspecified manner with Kurdish militias there.

Wednesday’s announcement commits Ottawa to running a new NATO training mission in Baghdad. The job of about half of the 250 Canadians sent on this mission will be to provide force protection—that is trying to prevent other soldiers from being blown up in the streets by militants.

All in all, Trudeau’s Liberal government has authorized the deployment of up to 850 Canadian soldiers in Iraq to work in various training missions, as well as provide air transport and medical services to others in the U.S.-led coalition against Daesh terrorists.

Keep in mind that this is all taking place in the context of a conflict that Canada worked hard to avoid when the U.S. first invaded Iraq in 2003.

At the time, then Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien was lauded for keeping Canada out of a war that destroyed Iraq and led to the formation of armed terror groups like Daesh.

But now, quietly, we are being drawn back in.

Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper was roundly condemned when he first sent Canadian troops into Iraq four years ago. By contrast, Trudeau seems to be getting a pass.

Nor does the Liberal government face much opposition to its extraordinary military decision to place so-called peacekeepers in Mali.

Technically, this is a United Nations mission aimed at brokering peace between various armed factions.

But the real aim of the Mali operation is counterterrorism. There is no peace to keep.

In this case, the French are the most visible leaders of the counterterror coalition.

The Americans, by contrast, maintain a low profile and prefer to operate out of neighbouring Niger.

At least 250 Canadian soldiers will be sent to Mali where they are expected to provide logistical, medical and transportation support to forces operating on the ground.

The third war that Canada is being drawn into is the new Cold War against Russia. Trump himself may not think Russia a threat. But the U.S. military establishment certainly does—particularly after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The U.S. is using NATO, which now includes former Soviet satellites such as Romania and Bulgaria, to contain Russia along its western border. It is also providing training and arms to Ukrainian forces and has deployed troops to Poland.

Canada is gleefully taking part in this new Cold War. It has sent roughly 200 soldiers to Ukraine to train that country’s soldiers. It leads a battle group, including 540 Canadian soldiers, in Latvia. It has taken part in air exercises in Romania.

Under Trudeau’s father, Pierre, Canada drastically scaled back its NATO operations in Europe. Under Justin Trudeau, it is ramping them right back up.

The current prime minister has dismissed Trump’s demands that Canada and other NATO members spend at least two per cent of their entire economic output on defence—and rightly so.

For Canada, that sum amounts to roughly $44-billion—$5-billion more than the federal government spends on medicare each year.

But regardless of percentages, Canada continues to wholeheartedly support America’s military agenda—in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Trudeau says Canada is fulfilling its international obligations. In a way he’s right. By and large Canada is doing everything the U.S. wants. Surely that’s enough

An Apparent Fresh Swarm Buzzing in Pakistan

This morning, as you read this, the results of a pre-cooked breakfast will have been reheated for your consumption. Eat it slowly. You have the next five years to digest it.

Some of you may not have the stomach to swallow something that has been masticated already. Others may not share those qualms. To them, even political swill is preferable to the prison food Nawaz Sharif has chosen for himself and his daughter Maryam.

During his first incarceration in Attock Fort at the hands of the military in 1999, Nawaz Sharif complained that he had not been given bottled mineral water. Twenty years later, in Adiala jail, he prefers no water at all, even (it is said) at the risk of damaging his kidneys. His concern is understandably less with his own well-being than with that of his dying wife and his beloved daughter Maryam. She has decided to become another Benazir Bhutto, a second Aung San Suu Kyi — a woman tempered in the smithy of all-male brass-smiths. Nawaz Sharif is unlikely to contest the 2023 elections; Maryam Nawaz has every intention of doing so — with or without the blessings of her uncle Shahbaz Sharif.

This morning is the darkened dawn that Nawaz was not meant to see.

For Shahbaz Sharif (always the chief minister, never the prime minister), this election could not have been a crueller test. He had two choices: the first, commit political suicide and share jail with Nawaz (as he did their exile to Saudi Arabia in 1999); the second, commit fratricide by distancing himself from Nawaz. The results this morning will reveal whether he took the right decision, or two wrong ones.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari has used these elections as a Montessori school, into which he admitted his callow son Bilawal for primary lessons in pavement politics. Like that other parent puppeteer Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Zardari jigs his son in public while retaining the strings of their jointly owned party in his own hands. The next step in Bilawal’s education will be a five-year course in the middle school of the National Assembly, followed by graduation to the prime ministership.

Imran Khan meanwhile has discovered that politics is a Test match played not over five days, but over five years. He entered the game with a straight bat. He has experienced being bowled out, run out, caught between the slips. That was enough for him realise that to win he needed a borrowed bat a and a one-eyed umpire. This morning, he will know whether he can add the PM’s Cup to his World Cup trophy.

Volumes will be written on the elections that should have ended last night, but the battle is not over. Skirmishes will continue until 2023. Someone might even attempt a Pakistani version of Theodore White’s The Making of a President, that quadrennial account of every US presidential election held between 1960 and 1980. Pakistani authors, though, like Pakistani politicians prefer “to seize the day, seize the hour”. Mercurial history eludes their grasp.

For experienced politicians like Mrs Margaret Thatcher, history was as immediate as the moment itself. Surviving an IRA attempt to assassinate her in a Brighton hotel in October 1984, she summed up the failed finality in these words: “This was not the day I was meant to see.” This morning is the darkened dawn that, despite relentless attempts at character assassination, Nawaz Sharif was not meant to see.

For rational Pakistanis, the prospect of the next five years is enough to seek asylum in a country where buses run on time, not overhead; where electricity is a given, not an intermittent relief; where the supply of water is assured, not the boon of judicial obiter dicta; where the rupee does not float like some released birthday balloon; and where individual rights are not emasculated by strong-arm wrongs.

Could anything be more of concern to law-laden Pakis­tanis than to witness the Honour­able Justice Shau­kat Ali Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court hurl allegations like pavement stones against ‘the premier state intelligence agency’? Or to read the tweet uploaded by the DG ISPR on a Sunday, asking the Honourable Supreme Court “to launch an inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the allegations levelled against state institutions”? Or to search for slivers of reassurance from the Honourable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court’s comment ‘that justice will be delivered’ to the complainant judge.

Some years ago, Jack Straw — Labour’s Home Secretary and later Foreign Secretary — once advised his party: ‘The question is not the rule of law, but which law should rule.’

Pakistan has no shortage of laws. It has godowns full of them. They have done little though to ward off famines of injustice. Will the new Parliament restore years ‘the locusts hath eaten’, or will it be just a fresh swarm of locusts?






Key Relationships that Determine India’s Future as a Global Power

In the 2040s, India is expected to surpass the United States (in PPP terms) and become the world’s second largest economy, behind China. Alongside this Indian emergence, the international order is undergoing significant change as well, with power increasingly diffused among states as a new, multipolar geostrategic landscape begins to emerge with fresh layers of complexities.
These developments have the potential to position India as the world’s most influential democracy in the second half of the 21st century, giving it the ability to shape the Indo-Pacific region and the dynamically evolving global order.
From the Indo-Pacific region to the world
At the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a speech in which he argued that the “destiny of the world will be deeply influenced by the course of developments in the Indo-Pacific region”. This bold claim has come within the context of both growing economic opportunity and expanding strategic challenges for the region.
Sheer numbers alone elevate the importance of the Indo-Pacific and its influence across the world. It is now home to more than 65% of the world’s population who collectively produce more than 60% of global GDP. Over half the world’s trade passes through this region, and it hosts the fastest-growing armada of naval fleets along with seven nuclear powers. This region will also have a disproportionately high contribution to global growth in the decades ahead and will therefore ink the pen that scripts the new terms of trade, financial flows and investments, growth, humanitarian assistance, and peace and security.
Even as this redistribution of wealth and power propels this region to the global high table, a position it long enjoyed up to the 15th century, the multiplicity of old and emerging actors, and their varied interests within the region and beyond are spurring greater unpredictability and new anxieties. There are simply no reliable 20th-century templates to manage such a simultaneous rise of multiple actors and interests in a region. China, which was the first mover, now finds itself having to deal with the pushback to its own expansive plans, as well as with propositions from other initiatives such as the “Quad” (comprising of India, the US, Japan and Australia) that seek to steer the region’s future. There is little doubt that new pathways to a new order need to be discovered soon.
Modi’s speech at Shangri-La signalled New Delhi’s acceptance of this reality, and its willingness to embrace greater responsibility in anchoring a “rules-based democratic order” in the region. Indeed, as a rising economic power with favourable demographic conditions – in 2020, the average age in India will be 29 years old (compared to 37 in China) – India is well positioned to shape the future of the Indo-Pacific.
India’s vision for the region
India’s geostrategic vision for the Indo-Pacific is unique. It rejects pitting China against the Quadrilateral Initiative in a zero-sum competition “between free and repressive visions of world order”, as the American vision postulates. It also rejects the Chinese proposition, which creates perverse dependencies through economic statecraft and military coercion in a manner better suited to the Cold War era.
Instead, India is positioning itself to take a different path – one that does not see the world in binaries, bifurcated between partners and allies on one side, and competitors and adversaries on the other. India offers an opportunity for engagement and dialogue to all states, big and small, democratic and authoritarian, advanced or developing.
The new vision moves away from conceptions of non-alignment or strategic autonomy, tools of foreign policy that may have outlived their corresponding geopolitical utility. When Prime Minister Modi stated that “the Indo-Pacific region is not a limited club of members”, he signalled New Delhi’s intention to lead a new configuration of states, guided by communities that yearn for development, markets that require connectivity and nations that seek security.
The strategy calls for India to lead by example and show that as its capabilities rise over the coming decades, it will not abandon certain norms that reflect uniquely Asian democratic tendencies, open and transparent economic governance, and non-interventionist security paradigms.
Four steps for India to take
To put in place a vision that shapes the region and attracts others, India needs to script its own expectations from four key relationships.
First, New Delhi should define its ‘China policy’. It needs to determine what it is looking for from Beijing and make clear what it will refuse to put on the negotiating table. At Shangri-La, Modi made clear that no nation can unilaterally “shape and secure” an Indo-Pacific order. Delhi must be prepared to enforce this statement of fact as a baseline norm. An Asian ethic cannot be scripted by China alone, whether it is on infrastructure connectivity or managing security disputes. The economic prosperity of the region will be implicated by the strength of the India-China partnership.
Second, New Delhi should develop a clear policy toward the US. Thus far, New Delhi has essentially muddled through, deferring to Washington regarding policy in the region. India must answer whether it is ready, willing and able to play a larger role in defining a vision for the concert of democracies in the region and beyond. If, as Prime Modi recently indicated, the answer to all these is “yes”, New Delhi needs to put forth a more confident proposition for Washington to support. Is it now time to hand the baton over to India?
Third, New Delhi must rethink its engagement with its neighbours, particularly around two existing regional architectures. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an eight-member union meant to advance economic and regional integration, is in tatters. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a seven-member organization meant to promote economic cooperation and trade, has turned into a forum for talk rather than action. Unless India presents a clear, enticing proposition to its neighbours, it will be hard-pressed to shepherd a new strategic vision in the larger region.
Finally, Delhi must engage more vigorously with the global institutional framework. At the World Economic Forum in January, Modi warned of a “gap between the old systems of [international] institutions and the needs of many developing countries”, echoing Delhi’s age-old grievance with the Atlantic institutions and a new sense that India must help close this ‘gap’. India’s pivotal role in the Indo-Pacific will be bolstered through its co-ownership of the institutions created by the developed world and in making them work in coherence with the new institutions such as the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, in which India has significant stakes.
India’s Indo-Pacific vision exemplifies its ambition of being a “leading power”. Even so, it is merely the beginning of a decadal journey, which will see India shoulder the expectations that befit the world’s largest democratic economy. To do this, Delhi must constantly reassess the dimensions of change underway, visualize the possibilities that are on offer, anticipate the attendant risks and author the new order arising out of Asia.

Ways to Preserve Environment

Sometimes the news about our environment can feel a little monotonous. We read the same old headlines about how important the environment is, how the situation is getting worse, and how ‘we’ (whoever that is) need to do something about it.

It’s time to inject some hope and inspiration into the mix. It’s time to ‘go big’ and work together to transform current thinking and operating models, especially since it’s now clear these models have not worked well enough, and have often only produced incremental change.

In that spirit, here are 6 big ideas that could create a more sustainable relationship between our economic markets, natural environment, and communities. Some are early-stage ideas being explored, and others are ready for implementation. All of them will need cooperation between technology innovators, policymakers, businesses, environmental experts, and investors and funders. If successful, we could soon be reading less depressing and monotonous headlines on future World Environment Days.

1. Micro-investment for mega infrastructure

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that to limit global warming to 2°C, renewable energy will need to provide 65% of the world’s energy in 2050, up from around 15% today. In dollar terms, this will require around $700 billion to be invested in renewable energy every year. Last year, the total invested was $ 279bn. Unfortunately, many institutional investors find it difficult to invest in renewable energy projects as they tend to be too small. Other sources of investment may need to be found.

In some places, local communities have banded together to build community wind farms or solar farms to supply clean energy to their local communities. Residents share the investment costs and then either share in the energy generated, or the profits, or both. However, this model is incredibly difficult to scale, because the administrative effort to track everyone’s capital investment and verify their share of proceeds makes it inefficient and costly.

Enter blockchain-enabled management of asset investment.

Like crowdfunding and distributed microfinance loans, the idea is relatively simple. It uses blockchain technology to record and verify investments in revenue-generating assets, such as new renewable energy power plants. Investors could potentially invest a few hundred or a few thousand dollars in a project anywhere in the world, knowing their capital investment is clearly recorded and verifiable, and their proceeds processed automatically.

This could open up a new class of investment assets to ordinary people. It also has the potential to reduce financial costs for project developers by spreading the risks across a larger group of investors. This would avoid the high ‘risk premiums’ sometimes applied to finance terms when only one or two large financiers are involved.

2. AI dashboard for the Earth

A real-time, open API and digital dashboard for nature could dramatically improve efforts to protect global environmental systems.

One of the current challenges to managing environmental resources, such as forests, water resources, biodiversity, air, and oceans, is that they cut across different national boundaries and industrial supply chains. What happens in one location affects conditions in another.

An AI dashboard for Earth could draw together existing data and use new processing capabilities, cloud, and AI computing resources to provide near real-time transparency of shared environmental systems at a scale not previously possible.

Developed fully, this approach could allow decision-makers to monitor, predict, and respond to changes in environmental conditions, or real-time incidents such as illegal fishing, poaching, coral bleaching, forest fires, or disease outbreaks. It could provide an irrefutable evidence base that informs policies and actions, reducing the uncertainty that often prevents effective collaborative action.

3. Science-based targets for companies and cities

In 2015, the international community adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to protect the planet while ensuring prosperity for all.

However, accelerating human development within a safe operating space for the planet will likely require an overhaul of how we produce and consume food, energy, and materials. It may also require us to rethink the way we design and operate our cities.

These are formidable tasks and well beyond the scope or authority of any individual government or company. An alternative approach is to work from the bottom-up, mobilizing companies and governments to take individual actions that collectively build new norms and expectations.

One way to do this is to define planet-wide science-based targets (quantitative estimates of a safe operating space for human development on a stable Earth) and then to translate these into specific goals for industries, companies, countries or cities.

This model is proving successful in driving climate action, with hundreds of global companies committing to setting science-based climate targets. The approach could now be scaled across other environmental issues.

4. ‘See-through’ supply chains

Global supply chains are complex and opaque. It is hard for consumers (and even regulators) to see from one end to the other. This means it is difficult for a consumer to know how their consumption habits and purchasing decisions are affecting the environment, or working and living conditions, along with the supply chain.

This will change rapidly.

The combination of technologies such as the Internet of Things, advanced satellites and earth observation, portable DNA barcoding, artificial intelligence and blockchain is on the verge of creating unprecedented accountability in markets.

Imagine being able to scan an RFID tag or product label with a mobile phone while doing your grocery shopping, to receive instant information confirming the product’s origin, legality, processing plant and safety.

Initial candidates are likely to include seafood, metals and minerals, cotton, and agricultural products such as palm oil, cocoa and soy.

5. A global alliance to save the oceans

You’ve probably heard the statistics: there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050; the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas; and the number of oxygen starved ‘dead-zones’ has increased four times since 1950. Or maybe you’ve seen the pictures of the 80 plastic bags found inside a pilot whale in Thailand.

Regardless, there is no doubting that the world’s oceans are under threat.

The oceans are a classic example of a ‘global environmental common’ – a shared resource that no one person or organization has exclusive rights over, but which affects us all. Until now, this lack of responsibility has created a disincentive for action, especially against a backdrop of ongoing geopolitical tension and fragmentation.

Overcoming these challenges requires a global alliance of committed and influential leaders from science, technology, business, non-governmental groups and international organizations, working together.

Admittedly, such an alliance was announced in Davos this year and is well underway. But because it’s so encouraging to see the growing global momentum for action to protect our oceans, it makes the list anyway.

6. An Earth Bank of Codes

The world is losing its biodiversity at unprecedented rates. One of the main drivers for the loss of species and their habitats is the destruction of tropical forests, which are home to more than 80% of known land-based species. The Amazon alone hosts at least 15% of the world’s land-based species.

A new project aims to build a database of biological assets about the Amazon basin using a blockchain record of the provenance, rights and obligations associated with genetic assets. When companies subsequently use these assets to create value, such as for a new antibiotic, or in an algorithm for self-driving cars, smart contracts would facilitate the fair sharing of benefits to the local community from which these assets originated. This new form of financing could then be used for the sustainable development and protection of nature.

It’s an ambitious project. But if successful, it could redefine the economic equation around nature, and provide a much greater incentive for preserving habitats.

Smartphones are Really Not Smart for Social Beings

Apple and Google recently announced features in their forthcoming mobile operating systems designed to “reduce interruptions and manage screen time.” Androidreduce interruptions and manage screen time.” Android and iOS users alike will soon be able to guard their sleep against digital temptations, easily activate “Do Not Disturb” mode when needed, and get prompted to stop when they have used their favorite apps beyond a personally chosen time limit.
I can only welcome these new tools. Indeed, a great deal of research has documented how smartphones might be harming people’s sleep quality or distracting them from nondigital activities harming people’s sleep quality or distracting them from nondigital activities. In my own experimental research, my collaborators and I have found consistent evidence that smartphones can also distract users from the family and friends right in front of them, such as when sharing a meal or spending time with their children sharing a meal or spending time with their children.
In situations that clearly call for limiting digital distraction – like playtime with kids – Apple’s and Google’s new tools will offer a convenient solution. Yet, my research suggests that smartphones may be making us less happy in a much wider range of social situations than we might expect.
The limitations of choice
The crux of the matter is that people, as it turns out, fail to judge what economists call “opportunity costs ” – the value of what someone gives up when they make a choice to do one thing and not another.
For example, in a series of studies I conducted with Jason Proulx and Elizabeth DunnJason Proulx and Elizabeth Dunn at the University of British Columbia, we found that people neglect a key side effect of relying on their phones for information: They miss out on chances to boost their sense of social connectedness. Using a mobile map app, for example, obviates the need to rely on other people, removing the opportunity to experience the kindness of a stranger who helpfully provides directions to a store or movie theater.
Just put the phone down
It is easy to see how completely forgoing social interaction for technological convenience can hurt someone’s social well-being. But most people use their phones precisely to socialize – often while simultaneously socializing with others in person. Perhaps it’s having a drink with a co-worker while also Snapchatting with a friend, texting with a partner, or even setting up a new date through Tinder or Grindr. One may think that socializing with more people simultaneously is better.
Combining digital and face-to-face socializing combining digital and face-to-face socializing is not as enjoyable as putting down the phone and just spending time together.
In a study at the University of Virginia, we tracked the social behavior and well-being of 174 millennials over the course of a week. At five random times each day, we sent each person a one-minute survey to complete on their mobile phone. We asked what they had been doing in the previous 15 minutes, including whether they were socializing in person or digitally (such as by texting or using social media). We also asked how close or distant they were feeling to other people, and how good or bad they were feeling overall.
We weren’t particularly surprised to find that people felt better and more connected during times when they only socialized face-to-face, as compared with when they weren’t socializing at all. This fit with decades of existing research.existing research. We didn’t find any benefits of digital socializing over not socializing at all, though our study wasn’t designed to explore that distinction.
We did find, however, that when socializing face-to-face only, people felt happier and more connected to others than when they were socializing only through their phones. This is notable because the people in our study were the generation of so-called “digital natives,” who had been using smartphones, tablets and computers to interact since very young ages. Even for them, the benefits gleaned from good old face-to-face talking exceeded the well-being of digitally mediated communication.
Most critically, people felt worse and less connected when they mixed face-to-face with digital socializing, compared to when they solely socialized in person. Our results suggest that digital socializing doesn’t add to, but in fact subtracts from, the psychological benefits of nondigital socializing.
As people’s useful digital devices start to provide more and better options for limiting screen time and staving the flow of digital interruptions, deciding when to use those powers is neither obvious nor intuitive. Behavioral science provides some promising solutions to this predicament.
Rather than having to decide activity by activity when not to be interrupted, people could make Do Not Disturb the default, only seeing notifications when they want to. My recent research – with Nicholas Fitz and Dan Ariely at Duke University’s Center for Advanced HindsightMy recent research – with Nicholas Fitz and Dan Ariely at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight – suggests, however, that never receiving notifications hurts well-being by increasing fear of missing out. The best way is the middle way: We found that setting the phone to deliver batches of notifications three times a day optimized well-being. To set their users up for optimal psychological benefits from both their digital and nondigital activities, Google and Apple could make batching notifications easier.
Google and Apple should also expand their proactive recommendations for managing interruptions. The iPhone, for example, already offers the option to automatically turn on Do Not Disturb while driving, and in the forthcoming features, while sleeping. The growing evidence on how smartphones are compromising well-being during social interactions suggests that social and family time also warrants protection from digital disturbance.
People spend more time in the company of their digital gadgets than with friends and even romantic partners. It is only fair that these devices should learn more about what makes people happy, and provide a chance to reclaim the happiness lost to digital activity – and from the companies that need people’s attention to thrive.

Transformation of American Politics From Ugly to Violent

Division in the United States appears irreparable. Americans argue about politics. But this is turning into something much uglier and much more dangerous than just a clash of ideas. How bad can this argument get? Could people start getting violent?

Congresswoman Maxine Waters and others are taking their ideological struggle to the streets. Waters has called on those who share her liberal ideology to publicly harass prominent members of the administration of President Donald Trump, saying, “[I]f you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out, and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Politics have always brought out sharp disagreements. But some on the far left are urging people to cross the line from reasoned argument to active harassment. And people are listening. The owner of a Virginia restaurant forced the president’s press secretary to leave mid-meal on “moral” grounds because the establishment’s homosexual and/or transgender staff did not want to serve her. In another instance, an individual yelled “Fascist!” at a senior adviser as he was dining. A large group of socialist hecklers entered a restaurant where the Homeland Security secretary was dining, screaming at her until she left.

The political division in America is now much more than just political division. It’s hatred. And the hatred has moved from the legislature chambers and the press briefing room into the restaurants and out onto the streets.

But could this actually lead to violence? It already has. In June 2017, a man went to an Alexandria baseball field where members of Congress were at an early morning practice for a charity baseball game. He learned that the players there were Republicans, then returned with a rifle and a pistol and shot four people, including Congressman Steve Scalise, before being pinned down and fatally wounded by law enforcement.

This man was clearly unstable, but he was undeniably motivated by political hatred. It was no longer enough for him to just post political vitriol on social media, to write letters to the editor, to make angry phone calls to his local Congressman, to work on the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. He wanted to take it to the streets—with bullets.

People on the right have also engaged in violence, including a bizarre shooting at a Washington, D.C., restaurant and a pedestrian-ramming attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed one woman.

These are extreme events of political hatred—but no longer unthinkable. Groups of leftist extremist protesters have occupied public areas and businesses, threatened public speakers who hold opposing political views, marched in public while heavily armed, and have resorted to literal violence in the streets. Large numbers of people are calling for the assassination of the president of the United States. Entertainers are making “art” depicting that assassination. Is this all just going to just simmer down and go away?

Not if fuel keeps getting poured on the fire. After all, political violence does not begin with a man loading a gun and walking onto a baseball field. It begins with political hatred expressed day after day and year after year by journalists, entertainers and political leaders.

What we are dealing with is not just the same old political division. It is not just incivility or bullying. This is a serious threat to the strength—and even the survival—of our nation. To see how widespread and how dangerous this threat is, don’t just wait for another baseball field shooting. Look for the levels of hate filling the media and fueling the fire.

One of President Trump’s policies has been to impose a travel ban on certain nations with anti-American agendas. On June 26, the Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the policy that restricts travel from seven countries: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. President Trump moved forward with this travel ban in an effort to protect the nation from terrorists who could travel into America from high-risk nations.

However, he has taken a lot of flak as the ban has been seen as an attack on Islam and a repression of Muslims’ religious freedom. The executive director of Amnesty International U.S.A., Margaret Huang, said, “This replacement order is the same hate and fear with new packaging. No amount of editing can make this executive order anything but what it is—blatant bigotry.”

This is not reasoned debate. This is fuel on the fire. Farhana Khera, the president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, stated on June 26: In affirming President Trump’s bigoted Muslim Ban, the Supreme Court has given a green light to religious discrimination and animus. Not since key decisions on slavery, segregation in schools, and Japanese-American incarceration have we seen a decision that so clearly fails to protect those most vulnerable to government-led discrimination. Trump may have won this round, but we are focused on the next round and will continue to fight until justice prevails and his anti-Muslim agenda is overturned for good. … This decision puts the basic rights of all Americans at risk. It says that even when an administration is clearly anti-Muslim, when it targets Muslims, when it insults Muslims, and when it puts a policy in place that specifically hurts Muslims—that the Court will let it stand.

Leftists like those who threw the press secretary out of a restaurant claim that the Trump administration wants to rip innocent children away from their parents. The facts of the matter are much more reasonable, but leftists are committed to dumping more fuel on the fire. Some are just trying to demonize non-leftists for the sake of midterm elections. Some are stirring political hatreds and do not realize just how much hatred they are fomenting. Others do.

Republican Rep. Brian Mast received death threats directed toward his children because of his support of President Trump’s immigration policies. Laurence Wayne Key called an intern at Mast’s office and said, “If you’re going to separate kids at the border, I’m going to kill his kids.”

Charles Murray, a guest speaker at Middlebury College, and Prof. Allison Stranger were confronted with “scary, violent mob action.” Students and nonstudents protested the controversial, “classist” guest speaker. The professor was injured during the assaults and subsequently hospitalized.

Antifa counter protests in Berkeley, California, in 2017 resulted in at least five people being attacked with pepper spray and beaten, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, and 13 arrests. Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, was among those attacked by the counter protesters.

These are just a small number of the many threats and acts of violence that have resulted from America’s divisive political hatreds. Along with these incidents, the U.S. is plagued with frequent race-related protests and even riots, including the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and the 2015 riots in Baltimore, Maryland.

Someday Americans will be ashamed of ourselves. We will be ashamed at what we did with the unparalleled inheritance God gave us. We have taken the land, the traditions, the culture, the laws and the other blessings, and we are squandering them, spitting on them, and setting on fire the flag that represents them.

Today’s political and media climate are dumping fuel on that fire. Instances of actual political violence are still comparatively infrequent. But as people keep fueling the political hatreds and “taking it to the streets,” those instances will become more and more frequent—and eventually they will explode. These divisions are leading to America’s collapse and downfall

Sunday Special: Different Leadership Styles Around the World

We know that different cultures prefer different leadership styles. Now new research shows how different countries favour certain character traits at work.

If you’re a straight-shooter who likes to tell it as it is, you might fit in well in the Netherlands where employees like their bosses to be direct. On the other hand, if you’re a more diplomatic leader who always wants to keep business conversations affable, you might do better running teams in New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, and much of Latin America.

This is according to business psychologists Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Michael Sanger, who argue that successful leadership is largely about “personality in the right place”.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, they discuss research showing that leaders’ decision-making, communication style and so-called “dark-side tendencies” are influenced by the countries they’re operating in.


Here’s a look at how six major leadership styles might fit with working cultures in different geographical locations:

Decision-making style

The synchronized leader. To get ahead in regions including Northeast Asia (e.g. Mainland China, South Korea, and Japan), Indonesia, Thailand, the UAE, and much of Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile) leaders need to seek consensus on decisions and then get others onboard.

“Synchronized leaders tend to be prudent and are more focused on potential threats than rewards,” say Chamorro-Premuzic and Sanger.

The opportunistic leader. Leaders who initiate goals themselves and are flexible about how they achieve them often fit in well in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, the UK, and Western countries on which the UK had substantial cultural influence (the US, Australia, and New Zealand), and Asian countries and territories that based their governing and economic institutions on the British model (India, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong SAR).

According to the researchers, opportunistic leaders tend to be individualistic, ambitious risk takers who thrive on ambiguity.

“However, checking in frequently with team members is advised to ensure others keep up with changing plans,” they caution.

Communication style

The straight-shooting leader. In some parts of the world employees prefer their bosses to be direct with them. In Northeast Asia and countries like the Netherlands, successful leaders don’t skirt around issues, they get to the point quickly.

“Impromptu performance review meetings with direct reports occur more commonly in these locations, and leaders address undesirable behaviors from team members as soon as they are observed.”

The Dutch are so famed for their straight talking that they even have a word for it – bespreekbaarheid’ (speakability).

Author Ben Coates moved there from the UK eight years ago and recently told the BBC: “I think the Netherlands is a place where… no-one is going to pretend. When you say something in a business meeting that is not a very smart suggestion, people will always point it out.”

The diplomatic leader. In other countries, however, leaders must fine tune their communication skills, not only to get along with colleagues but also to climb the organizational ranks. In New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, and much of Latin America, employees want their bosses to keep business conversations polite and agreeable.

“Constructive confrontation needs to be handled with empathy,” Chamorro-Premuzic and Sanger say. “Leaders in these locations are expected to continuously gauge audience reactions during negotiations and meetings. These types of managers adjust their messaging to keep the discussion affable; direct communication is seen as unnecessarily harsh.”

Dark-side tendencies

The “kiss up/kick down” leader. Usually seen in emerging leaders, this style is characterized by “excessive deference or sudden attention to detail when reporting up, and issuing fiery directives or refusing to compromise when commanding subordinates”.

Although never a good thing, it’s tolerated more in certain countries, such as Western Asia (Turkey, India, UAE), Serbia, Greece, Kenya, and South Korea.

The passive-aggressive leader. Some leaders become cynical, mistrusting and covertly resistant, particularly under stress.

This often happens when they are forced to pursue a goal or carry out a task without being convinced of its merit or rationale, Chamorro-Premuzic and Sanger say.

Leaders with this style are more widely accepted in Indonesia and Malaysia, where it doesn’t seem to hamper their career advancement

Saturday Special: Grammar rules you were taught at school are wrong

Do you remember being taught you should never start your sentences with “And” or “But”?

What if I told you that your teachers were wrong and there are lots of other so-called grammar rules that we’ve probably been getting wrong in our English classrooms for years?

How did grammar rules come about?

To understand why we’ve been getting it wrong, we need to know a little about the history of grammar teaching.

Grammar is how we organize our sentences in order to communicate meaning to others.

Those who say there is one correct way to organize a sentence are called prescriptivists. Prescriptivist grammarians prescribe how sentences must be structured.

Prescriptivists had their day in the sun in the 18th century. As books became more accessible to the everyday person, prescriptivists wrote the first grammar books to tell everyone how they must write.

These self-appointed guardians of the language just made up grammar rules for English, and put them in books that they sold. It was a way of ensuring that literacy stayed out of reach of the working classes.

They took their newly concocted rules from Latin. This was, presumably, to keep literate English out of reach of anyone who wasn’t rich or posh enough to attend a grammar school, which was a school where you were taught Latin.

And yes, that is the origin of today’s grammar schools.

The other camp of grammarians are the descriptivists. They write grammar guides that describe how English is used by different people and for different purposes. They recognize that language isn’t static, and it isn’t one-size-fits-all.

You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction
Let’s start with the grammatical sin I have already committed in this article. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

Obviously you can, because I did. And I expect I will do it again before the end of this article. There, I knew I would!

Those who say it is always incorrect to start a sentence with a conjunction, like “and” or “but”, sit in the prescriptivist camp.

However, according to the descriptivists, at this point in our linguistic history
it is fine to start a sentence with a conjunction in an op-ed article like this, or in a novel or a poem.

It is less acceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction in an academic journal article, or in an essay for my son’s high school economics teacher, as it turns out. But times are changing.

You can’t end a sentence with a preposition
Well, in Latin you can’t. In English you can, and we do all the time.

Admittedly a lot of the younger generation don’t even know what a preposition is, so this rule is already obsolete. But let’s have a look at it anyway, for old time’s sake.

According to this rule, it is wrong to say “Who did you go to the movies with?”

Instead, the prescriptivists would have me say “With whom did you go to the movies?”

I’m saving that structure for when I’m making polite chat with the queen on my next visit to the palace.

That’s not a sarcastic comment, just a fanciful one. I’m glad I know how to structure my sentences for different audiences. It is a powerful tool. It means I usually feel comfortable in whatever social circumstances I find myself in, and I can change my writing style according to purpose and audience.

That is why we should teach grammar in schools. We need to give our children a full repertoire of language so that they can make grammatical choices that will allow them to speak and write for a wide range of audiences.

Put a comma when you need to take a breath
It’s a novel idea, synchronizing your writing with your breathing, but the two have nothing to do with one another and if this is the instruction we give our children, it is little wonder commas are so poorly used.

Punctuation is a minefield and I don’t want to risk blowing up the internet. So here is a basic description of what commas do, and read this for a more comprehensive guide.

Commas provide demarcation between like grammatical structures. When adjectives, nouns, phrases or clauses are butting up against each other in a sentence, we separate them with a comma. That’s why I put commas between the three nouns and the two clauses in that last sentence.

Commas also provide demarcation for words, phrases or clauses that are embedded in a sentence for effect. The sentence would still be a sentence even if we took those words away. See, for example, the use of commas in this sentence.

To make your writing more descriptive, use more adjectives
American writer Mark Twain had it right.

When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable.

If you want your writing to be more descriptive, play with your sentence structure.

Consider this sentence from Liz Lofthouse’s beautiful children’s book Ziba Came on a Boat. It comes at a key turning point in the book, the story of a refugee’s escape.

Clutching her mother’s hand, Ziba ran on and on, through the night, far away from the madness until there was only darkness and quiet.

A beautifully descriptive sentence, and not an adjective in sight.

Adverbs are the words that end in ‘ly’
Lots of adverbs end in “ly”, but lots don’t.

Adverbs give more information about verbs. They tell us when, where, how and why the verb happened. So that means words like “tomorrow”, “there” and “deep” can be adverbs.

I say they can be adverbs because, actually, a word is just a word. It becomes an adverb, or a noun, or an adjective, or a verb when it is doing that job in a sentence.

Deep into the night, and the word deep is an adverb. Down a deep, dark hole and it is an adjective. When I dive into the deep, it is doing the work of a noun.

Time to take those word lists of adjectives, verbs and nouns off the classroom walls.

Time, also, to ditch those old Englishmen who wrote a grammar for their times, not ours.

If you want to understand what our language can do and how to use it well, read widely, think deeply and listen carefully. And remember, neither time nor language stands still – for any of us


Wooing by Weapons: Implications of the Sale of Armed Sea Guardian Drones to India

Amidst the panic over the future of the Atlantic alliance and the furore over the Trump-Putin Helsinki bromance, a small but significant news item has gone virtually unnoticed. The quietly announced US approval for the sale of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) to India has acknowledged India’s strategic autonomy while underscoring its value as an ally against rising China. With the Sea Guardian drone sale under its belt, India may now be allowed to purchase the Russian anti-missile defence system when senior US officials arrive in Delhi for the 2+2 meeting on September 6.

Of course, in the Trump era, a month is an eternity and things could change with a single tweet. Indeed, both of the previously scheduled 2+2 meetings were cancelled last minute, first when then secretary of state Rex Tillerson was fired (by tweet) and later when his replacement was unexpectedly dispatched to Pyongyang. But the fact that the US appears inclined to accommodate India – evident in the sale of the previously denied armed Sea Guardian drone (a weapon previously sold only to Nato allies) – hopefully marks a lasting shift, matching America’s growing anxiety about China.

In a way, debate over the acquisition of the UCAV has become intertwined with India’s quest for “strategic autonomy”. India has increasingly looked at drones to protect its borders and vast coast line. The 26/11 Mumbai attack by the sea-borne Pakistani terrorists remains a vivid reminder of India’s vulnerabilities. The threat from the sea has grown since with the increased Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean. The acquisition of the Sea Guardian (the naval variant of the MQ-9B Reaper) drone would afford India the means to address this vulnerability.

But the sale is contingent on India signing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) – namely, the encrypted data and communication system needed to operate the US-supplied weapons and allow interoperability. Earlier India balked at signing this for fear of opening up its secure communication systems to Washington and compromising its strategic autonomy. According to reports, this concern has been addressed with the US agreeing to have the communications link apply only to US-supplied weapons.

Resolution of the communications hurdle also raises the possibility that Washington would agree to a waiver on mandated sanctions against India for its planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 system. Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, sanctions are automatically imposed on countries acquiring weapons from some Russian state-controlled defence firms. However, given the fact that both defence secretary Jim Mattis and secretary of state Mike Pompeo have urged Congress to issue national security waivers, and that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about winning over countries against China, there is a good chance that India, Indonesia and Vietnam will be granted waivers. Although feelings are running high against Russia for its past and present interference in US elections, worries about China could outweigh concerns about Russian military sales to friendly countries.

While President Donald Trump has upended the decades-old Western alliance through his transactional approach, and angered Nato by currying favour with Putin, India has managed to stay above the fray. With the exception of a minor spat over US tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium exports, India has managed to avoid featuring in Trump’s Twitter rants. Seen by the entire Washington establishment as a friendly power and an increasingly solid customer for US military hardware (the purchase of 22 Sea Guardian drones at $2-3 billion could create 2,000 American jobs), India finds itself in a calmer spot in the Trump-induced turbulence. The fact that Washington is wooing India by opening its hitherto prohibited military store does increase the prospect of angering China but by the same token increases India’s leverage.

Through lucky convergence, India finds itself in a sweet spot but it will need to sharpen its balancing skills as unexpected gusts of wind – or surprise tweets – could easily push its strategic autonomy efforts off-course.

Innovation Needs to be More Inclusive

We are on the brink of several fundamental technological breakthroughs. Autonomous driving, fully automated manufacturing, and home care delivered by robots are no longer the stuff of sci-fi movies. The most striking and controversial innovations concern robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning: these areas will require us to interact with technical systems that truly live a life of their own.

Many countries have put “digitization” at the top of their agendas for education, employment, and social and economic development. To date, the main worry has been over future job losses, the disappearance of entire job categories, and the required shifts in training, skills and new employment opportunities. Too often, it’s assumed that technology will chart its own course and workers and society will just have to adapt. We take a different view. People design technologies. Societies shape the institutions and policies that influence how technology is used, who benefits, and how those who bear the costs of change can be compensated by those who reap the benefits.

All parties involved in the current debate on the future of production and work should take a step back and question the premise that technology can’t be influenced. We need to ask what motivates technological innovation, and then discuss how to steer it towards creating greater economic prosperity and decent work for all. Developing appropriate skill sets, and preparing people for potentially huge changes in their work lives, becomes easier when we can control what’s ahead – at least to some extent.

Engineers and scientists should engage directly with the users and consumers of their products. This could mean putting workers in touch with design professionals to explore ways technology can be used to improve the production process and encourage inclusive growth.

New models of worker representation may be needed to do this effectively. These include more flexible frameworks for labour agreements and better one-to-one dialogue with employees. Labour representatives in a number of countries, particularly in Germany, are already engaged in discussions over how to create industrial progress that contributes to a more broadly shared prosperity. Similar opportunities should be offered to workers around the world.

Historically, manufacturing firms have tended to over-invest in automation without paying enough attention to social issues. They have often sought to automate their way out of productivity and labour problems.

In the 1980s, for example, General Motors spent over $50 billion on robotics in an effort to catch up with more efficient Japanese producers. Yet it ended the decade as a high-cost producer because it failed to upgrade its workforce and change its work practices in ways that made the new technologies pay off. Meanwhile, Toyota achieved world-class levels of productivity by introducing new technologies gradually while simultaneously investing in team-based work systems and high levels of workforce training.

While one might think this lesson has been learned, apparently it has not reached Elon Musk at Tesla. Ironically, in the same plant in Fremont, California where Toyota achieved high levels of productivity with its gradual process of introducing technology and working with workers and their union, Tesla is now failing to meet its production goals by following a total automation strategy. And, not surprisingly, workers at its factory are trying to organize a union in protest of what they see as persistent safety problems, overwork, and low wages and investors are worried the company’s cash reserves are running low.

Similarly, there has been some criticism of the fifteen advanced manufacturing institutes currently funded by the US government. Despite calls for investment in workforce skills, early analyses of these different programmes concluded that training and workforce development processes have taken a back seat to an emphasis on technology design. One exception, however, is the work on advanced lightweight manufacturing. This group is following a more integrated technology and workforce development approach. They are forging new partnerships between businesses and technical schools to ensure the workforce has the right skills to use the new materials and technologies.

Researchers and manufacturers around the world are beginning to adopt this more proactive and inclusive approach to technology. Major research institutions such as MIT and ETH Zürich are launching task forces to tackle the issue. Many difficult questions lie ahead. Considering the different options for inclusive innovation is an important first step.

Weekend Special: Balancing the Myth

The stories of great religious traditions are needed to make sense of the world. In their stagnation, lie dangers of fundamentalism

In Good Faith Mythology as a seed can transform our lives. But now, I want to demythologise the myth, not to be ornery or perverse, but to show the dangers when we get caught-up in our own language traps and the maps of our mind.

A mystic is not the same as a psychic. Mystics can be psychic; however, they do not pursue the activity. A mystic journeys the spiritual life. Ultimately he/she experiences the “hidden” found in the “great mystery traditions”.

Plato says in the Timaeus, “Whenever we are talking about matters human or divine, all we have are likely stories.” Even in the sciences with their empirical methodology, Plato urged us to be tentative. Yet, like little children huddling around a campfire, we need the stories to give our lives meaning and to sustain society. If you look at the mystery traditions of the world, all of them specialise in storytelling.

Mythology as a seed can transform our lives. But now, I want to demythologise the myth, not to be ornery or perverse, but to show the dangers when we get caught-up in our own language traps and the maps of our mind.

One of the ways, we get trapped in myth is the ever-present danger of fundamentalism. When a culture hero, an idea, or a sacred book is taken with dead literalness, the advocates of this approach believe they are uniquely saved. Out of this salvation, they believe they can degrade the lifestyles, the myths, and the beliefs of others.

From being enamoured, to understanding the myth as literal, to the bashing of others, there is a grim predictable regression to rather low levels of being, levels that can be explained by the Jungian concept of “shadow-projecting”.

In the inspired words of the prophet Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, the teachings of the Jewish traditions of Hasidism and the Kabbalah, and in many Hindu myths, we find the admonitions not to judge. Judgement gives us licence to ignore the beam in our own eye and magnify the speck in the other’s eye.

A delicate balance exists for the need of myth and the second danger, the stagnation of a myth. We tell the same myth over and over as if the myth explains all the facets of our self. We need to have the creativity to change our stories. Often times, the stories are so dismal: “I always attract losers into my life. I never seem to have enough money. I always fall short of success. Things work out for other people. Why couldn’t that be me?” Negative myths keep us ensnared; they foreshadow events.

We get remarkable insights into the use of language from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein says, “Philosophy very often leads us to the situation of being like a fly trapped in a fly bottle. Philosophers are often trapped in their own language.” The words of our metaphors and myths have ensnared us. The challenge is to resist the lure of the negative myth or stagnant myth and move on. In Zen terms, it is the case of mistaking the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.

The via negativa, the negative path to God, Goddess, or “All That Is” has been just as important in the great spiritual traditions of the world. The via negativa points out what God is not, rather than what God is. There is a severe debunking of metaphors, mystical visions, or of any attribute definitely pointing to that reality.

Meister Eckhart, the famous Catholic mystic drew a distinction between God and the Godhead. God is represented in religious art, religious poetry, in the rituals that churches hold near and dear. Metaphors like the “Good Shepherd”, image of the Virgin Mary holding her dead son, and the Trinity are representational of the divine. Eckhart said the Godhead is not any of those. The Godhead can only be defined by saying what it is not. Eckhart said the most tragic leave-taking is saying good-bye to God so that one can prepare oneself for the encounter with the Godhead.

The Hindu god Shiva is the ultimate god of paradox. Shiva is the god of chastity and celibacy who sits on top of the Himalayas meditating for umpteen years. Yet, Shiva is also the god of frenzied lovemaking who makes love to Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas for 300 years non-stop.

Shiva is the celibate and the lover, the god of destruction, and yet the ultimate of tenderness. He is the god who is friendly to outcasts and loved by certain Brahmins, the god of death and the god of life. Shiva the eternal dancer and the eternal drummer. If you are talking about the tabla or jazz drums, any kind of drum is acknowledging the archetype Shiva.

When the drumming starts, we come into the flame surrounding Shiva, the dancing drummer and when the drum beat stops, it is time for us exist the great stage of existence. Shiva, Nataraja is the lord of the dance and the lord of the chaos that generated the universe. He is androgynous and yet in most Hindu temples he is worshipped as an erect stone phallus.

What are we to make of this terrifying and pleasing god? He is a symbol of life in all of its aspects. We are trained to think in “either-or”. Most logic is binary. In ancient India, as in many other cultures, “either-or”, “good or bad” has its severe limitations. Binary logic has high-tech value. However, when it comes to life, emotions, and the messy fuzzy nature of existence, two-valued logic is useless.

The whole point of the Shiva archetype is to overwhelm. It gives us a sense of the inadequacies of our own logic, being trapped in our own myth or metaphor. Shiva is showing us the need for that “both-and” flexibility where we cherish and enjoy every myth and art form only to constantly go beyond them. In the process of mythos, there is a constant transcendence. Instead of all the stuff that keeps us repeating the mistakes, the stuff of real-life soap operas, Shiva urges us to the motion of cherishing, savouring, and moving on. In this process, embrace the paradoxes and the contradictions of being human and being in the world.


A Page from Forgotten Indian History: When an enemy became leader of Travancore army

 In a corner of Udayagiri Fort at Puliyoorkurichi in Kanyakumari lies the tomb of Eustache Benedictus de Lannoy. The Frenchman, who fought with the Dutch against Bala Marthanda Varma of Travancore over pepper exports, surrendered to the king and became his most trusted commander-in-chief, helping expand his territory and fortify important centres.


The audacious life of the soldier who rose in the ranks to strengthen one of the most prominent south Indian kingdoms is hardly recounted today beyond academic circles. The signs of his four-decade presence are limited to the tomb at Udayagiri Fort, which tourists often give a miss, preferring it to the more regal Padmanabhapuram palace.

Born on December 30, 1715, in Arras, France, Lannoy arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1737, where Dutch general Van Imhoff took a liking to him. It was with the general that Lannoy landed in Cochin in 1739. The Dutch, who used to buy pepper from Marthanda Varma, were having skirmishes with the king over prices. “Lannoy took part in the capture of Colachel in Kanyakumari but later surrendered to the Travancore king in 1741 knowing that despite modern warfare they were no match for the tactics and aggressiveness of the Travancore army,” said R S Lal Mohan, convener of the Nagercoil chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) who is authoring a book on Lannoy.

A rare foreigner who won the king’s confidence, Lannoy’s knowledge of artillery won him the responsibility of training soldiers and palace guard. By 1744, he had created a formidable army and was its commander in-chief. The shrewd strategist then focused on strengthening forts. He rebuilt the mud-walled Udayagiri Fort with stone and established a gun-powder factory and cannon foundry as part of modernization of the Travancore army. The fort became the garrison and training ground for recruits. And the improved Travancore army in the late 1740s was able to annex territories till Cochin. “There is a lot more about the footprints left behind by Eustache de Lannoy that stand testimony to his skills at war, fortification and architecture such as Vattakottai Fort, the South Travancore lines (from Kanyakumari to Boothapandi) and Aralvaimozhi Fort,” said Mohan.

Though forts across Tamil Nadu and Kerala are a reminder of Lannoy’s contributions, it’s his background that has got history enthusiasts fervently exchanging notes. Not many would take a wild guess that the European could have a strange connection with the 32nd president of the US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Many believe Eustache de Lannoy is Dutch as he served the Dutch before he served Marthanda Varma. But he hails from the noble family of de Lannoy in France,” said Lal Mohan, who established the link after a series of letters exchanged with scholars and researchers in Europe and the Franklin D Roosevelt Library, US, for close to a decade since the mid-1990s. “In a letter, historian Henry Brownrigg confirmed the ancestry of de Lannoy and Delano (Roosevelt) from the same village. The letters revealed that it was not only FDR but also his predecessor Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the US, who had ancestors from de Lannoy family,” said the 83-year-old. Mark de Lannoy, an ancestry researcher and curator of Leiden Museum in Holland, also confirmed Lannoy’s French origin.

Mohan took the initiative in the tracing antecedents of the duo. “De Lannoy later came to be called Delano among those settled in the US. Forefathers of FDR on his mother’s side are from the de Lannoy family. His forefather Philippe de Lannoy (1602-1691) left Leiden in 1621 and was among the early immigrants to the USA. Ancestors of Eustache were also from the de Lannoy family. His forefather Francois de Lannoy was governor of Bourbourg in France. The family had to flee due to after a civil turmoil and Eustache joined the Dutch East India Company as a solider,” he said.

Lal Mohan hopes to bring out the intriguing connections and the eventful life of Eustache de Lannoy, but he wishes the state would put in some effort to make the story known.

“Intach has made many representations to the state for the upkeep of the Udayagiri Fort, but nothing has been done to maintain the site. The tomb and chapel is full of graffiti,” he said. Though the Tamil Nadu archaeological department allotted ?32 lakh to renovate the tomb and fort a few years ago. If this fort is not protected, history will be lost unless the state makes an effort to make the fort a tourist attraction, retelling the story of Eustache de Lannoy and Travancore in greater detail.

Transient Triumphs of Authoritarianism

History reveals that the popularity of authoritarian leaders and majoritarian agendas is a transitory phenomenon

The law of transience does not work at desired speed. Yet one may be allowed to hope, as far as India is concerned, that the elections due before the end of May 2019 will hasten its operation.

Most historical triumphs, we know, are transient. Only recently globalisation appeared an inexorable climax of history. Now it looks to have collapsed. So, it seems, has globalisation’s apparent twin, celebrating diversity within nations. Two other prestigious values, democracy in the polity and equality in society, have also been hit hard.

As if from nowhere, men like Donald Trump and Narendra Modi surfaced to deliver these unanticipated blows, while authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan found new acceptability.

History’s march was reversed. Walls were erected between nations, races and communities, and also between citizens and rulers. While a Modi, Xi, Trump or Putin spoke to audiences of millions, no journalist, let alone a citizen, was permitted to probe the ruler. Not long ago, democratic convention required prime ministers and presidents to let interviewers ask searching questions. However, Modi and Trump (and Putin and Xi) have ensured that no such opportunities arise.

Even more troubling than the setbacks mentioned above has been the falsification of facts. Control over the flow of information by influential rulers and their allies in the old media, and concerted activity by followers in the social media, have enabled fake news to triumph. Thus, to recall a well-known example, a good percentage of white Americans continue to think that Obama was not born in the US.

Similarly, if India’s schoolchildren are prevented from learning that Hindu extremists killed Mahatma Gandhi, or that Jawaharlal Nehru helped lay the foundations for democratic rights and for science education, or that, in earlier periods, Rajput nobles were part of every Mughal ruler’s establishment, will that not ease the path to a theocratic Hindu state?

Fortunately, fake history too is subject to the law of transience. The Hitlers and Stalins of our world controlled what the public was allowed to hear, what children were taught in schools, and what audiences saw on stage or screen, yet we know the reputation today of Hitler and Stalin, including in the eyes of the ordinary German and Russian.

Years had to be gone through before the truth regarding these tyrants was admitted, and a heavy price was paid. Not having to confront a fraction of what counterparts in Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany faced, Indian defenders of democracy, equality and inclusion are fortunate.

The law of transience does not work at desired speed. Yet one may be allowed to hope, as far as India is concerned, that the elections due before the end of May 2019 will hasten its operation.

I am inclined to agree with the insightful thought expressed elsewhere by Alok Rai that this time a coalition of opposition parties will be more than a strategy. A coalition across India will be an ideology in itself, a conscious recognition that despite differing points of view and backgrounds Indians have to come together.

It is also possible that this time the electorate may come to see the choice before it as one between a broad coalition of the Indian people on the one hand and, on the other, a coterie of clever leaders with deep pockets, a fanatical following, and medieval ideas. Central among their backward-looking ideas is the notion that India’s future success lies in a reminder of India’s supposed feats in an ancient past, when the nation was guided solely by priests with the aid of a warrior caste, and society was shielded from the risky ideas of equality and liberty.

Joined to this worship of an imagined past free of contamination is the steady implementation of a plan to harden an Indian hierarchy, where some command and others obey, with severe penalties for disobedience. Openly articulated one day, this plan is denied the next day with a wink to followers not to take the denial seriously, and there is also an attempt to mask the plan with a rhetoric of development.

The groups that must be put down are sometimes named but don’t have to be. Everyone knows who they are. The nation’s well-known “enemies” are to be the sole political and electoral issue. The promises that clinched the 2014 victory should be forgotten, as also that “daring” 2016 move, notebandi, which left the people cashless and exhausted and the corrupt free. However, there will be room in the ruling party’s campaign for one additional point, which is that no one in the Opposition competes with Modi’s reach and image: There is no alternative. Will such strategies work when large sections of the Indian population feel the pinch of joblessness, debts and rising prices, and are troubled by the leaders’ silence over brutal attacks on the innocent?

It is natural at this juncture to recall the 1977 election that Indira Gandhi thought was in her bag. She was strong, she seemed popular, she had put “the nation’s enemies” in their place, and there was no visible alternative.

It would be technically incorrect to liken what India faces today to the Emergency that was imposed between 1975 and 1977. Yet it is worth remembering that whereas that Emergency ended in 19 months, the present regime, widely seen as having undermined democratic institutions, has lasted for more than four years. In 1977, diverse parties and individuals came together for democratic rights and won the nation’s confidence. That something similar can happen in 2019 looks more than possible. If it happens, India might help shorten the world’s relapse into walls, curbs and unfairness.

Durmaz and Ozil: Unity in diversity, and the absence of it

A week after the end of world’s biggest footballing spectacle – FIFA World Cup – the much loved game has been tainted by allegations of racism and Islamophobia. Star German player Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from the national team on social media after his Turkish roots were targeted for the very forgettable German campaign during the world cup.

In his three-part post on Twitter and Instagram, Ozil gave a detailed account of how he was made the scapegoat after the German debacle during the tournament, majorly because of his photograph with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Another European player with Turkish roots, Sweden’s Jimmy Durmaz, faced racial abuses and death threats after Sweden lost to Germany, thanks to Toni Kroos’s commendable goal that came in the dying minutes of the match.

The incidents are comparable, where immigrant players where targeted for the loss of the country they played for. Yet, the differences in how the two incidents panned out, and the effects they caused on the careers of these two footballers, are immensely different.

Ozil, in his three-page statement, blamed the German Football Association for not having his back. Swedish team openly said ‘f*** racism’ at the end of a powerful statement delivered by Durmaz after he and his family faced racial abuses and threats.

German chancellor Angela Merkel takes pride in branding her country as a multicultural society, but her struggle to keep the fragile government — which is divided on the issue of immigration — intact, shows otherwise. When the European migrant crisis began in 2015, Merkel had floated the German concept of ‘Willkommenskultur’, which translates to ‘the culture of welcoming’. Her policies on immigration, though, have not found enough support among her own council of ministers. Interestingly, the data provided by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany indicates that the maximum number of immigrants in Germany, like Ozil, are of Turkish origin.

German Football Association, DFB, released a statement accepting Ozil’s resignation, but failed to address the concerns raised by him, citing them as “incomprehensible in their tone and message.” DFB, while reiterating its commitment towards building an integrated footballing community and, in turn, an integrated society, also said that Ozil should have given answers for his photo with the Turkish President (this, after Ozil made it amply clear in his statement that meeting Erdogan, for him, was only a way of respecting his Turkish roots). Although Ozil had mentioned in his statement that he had met with the German President who was “professional” and “actually interested” in what he had to say about his heritage, DFB President still went ahead and publicly told Ozil to “explain his actions”.

What’s even sadder is that other star immigrant players of the German side who have played with Ozil – Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and others, have no inputs on the very serious allegations leveled by Ozil.

Erdogan does not enjoy a good reputation among native Germans based on his alleged autocratic rule of Turkey, and owing to the incident of March 2017, when he had famously likened the German authorities to Nazis, ahead of the Turkish referendum to abolish the post of Prime Minister, and other constitutional reforms. The proposal to introduce executive presidency in the country was made and reiterated, multiple times, by Erdogan’s party, and this is one of the reasons why he is seen as a pursuer of absolute power.

While we often hear reports on Germany’s trouble with dealing with an immigrant influx, Durmaz’s country Sweden, too, like other EU countries, has given shelter to many immigrants over time. Most of the incoming populace belong to Syria, a middle eastern country that has been marred by a civil war for years now.

According to the Swedish national website, asylum seekers to Sweden peaked in 2015, after which the country ‘temporarily tightened borders’ and introduced ‘legislative changes to asylum in the nation’ in the following year. Despite the measures, Sweden documented an immigrant population of 144,489 people in the year 2017. As the Swedish law states, “If a person has been granted a residence permit for refugee or refugee-like reasons, Swedish municipalities are required by law to provide accommodation for that person.” Politically-motivated sections of the German population, on the other hand, find it hard to deal with being the most sought-after choice of immigrants for asylum in the European Union.

Ozil, in his statement, said, “I am German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose.” This is a view that has been reiterated by immigrant footballers around the world, especially Europe, time and again. Had the German authorities accepted their responsibility in the issue, things might have been very different for Ozil, for their team, and for the sport in general. The Swedish team had put forth an exemplary instance of team unity just a few days ago, by rallying behind Durmaz. The DFB, perhaps, should have taken a leaf out of Sweden’s book when it comes to dealing with players who have been targets of racial abuse. Even the very multicultural French team that went on to win the World Cup this year had showed how accepting diversity benefits everyone — the immigrants and the nation.

What happened with Ozil is definitely not an isolated incident, but give a moment to think of the multiple similar ones that do not get highlighted because they happen to an average person while they are going to work, on the bus, in a metro train, eating at a public restaurant – the possibilities are endless. Because they do not have 20+ million followers like Ozil on Twitter, their tryst with racism stays with them. There are numerous incidents of racial abuse that occur every single day, and we might be the unconscious perpetrators of many of them because of characteristics that we imbibe while growing up. These, for instance, can be the simplest things like, “Be wary of black people, they sell drugs.” A child who has grown up listening to this will automatically transform into an adult who, unless told otherwise, would act on certain preset reflexes upon encountering any member of this targeted community. What’s worse is that these reflexes will not stem from his/her own experiences but from some preconceived notions that have been fed to him/her over and over again. With the immense influence of social media on the life of an average adult today, there is thankfully enough debate about discrimination based on race, religion, colour et al, but social media is also used by many as a tool to spread divisive propaganda, and this is where our mental faculty to differentiate right from wrong should be instantly activated. It is important to make sure that our takeaways from the controversies around Durmaz and Ozil are accurate to suit a narrative that doesn’t cater to one particular community or group, but contributes towards a more peaceful, coherent, and inclusive world.

As racial fundamentalism rears its ugly head we can only hope the threat of a divided society is contained before it is too late.

Emotional Intelligence that Goes Far Beyond IQF Needs These Qulities

There are many different kinds of intelligence, and it’s our job to discover what they are and how to integrate them into our lives. Sources of intelligence can be measured in quotients. Most of us are familiar with IQ, or the intelligence quotient, which is primarily associated with our ability to memorize, retrieve items from our memory, and our logical reasoning.

There’s also a new up and comer, CQ, or curiosity quotient, which refers to one’s ability to have a powerful motivation to learn a particular subject. What I spend much of my time in both research, and in working with clients and organizations on, is focusing on emotional intelligence.

The definition of emotional intelligence (as first advanced by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, but popularized by author Daniel Goleman in his seminal, eponymous book) is the ability to:

– Recognize, understand and manage our own emotions.

– Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.

In practical terms, this means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage those emotions—both our own and others—especially when we are under pressure.


We are emotional creatures who often make decisions and respond to stimuli based on our emotions. As a result, our ability to grow in EQ has an enormous impact in all of our relationships, how we make decisions, and identify opportunities. EQ is enormously important. Through my work, I’ve identified 10 qualities that I believe comprise the emotionally intelligent person.

I hope you gain value from this and learn to understand the ways you can influence your mind, and the minds of others, by growing emotionally every day, in all that you do.

  1. Empathy

I love this definition of empathy: “Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”

There are two different types of empathy. This piece from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley beautifully depicts what they are:

“Affective empathy” refers to the sensations and feelings we get in response to others’ emotions; this can include mirroring what that person is feeling, or just feeling stressed when we detect another’s fear or anxiety. “Cognitive empathy,” sometimes called “perspective taking,” refers to our ability to identify and understand other peoples’ emotions.

We empathize based on the reaction to others. What I’d also say is that empathy can be cultivated and learned through experiences. Store away in your memory those feelings that you feel both in reaction, and as you put things in perspective. Write these thoughts out, analyze them and determine how you want to treat others in the same way you’d want to be treated.

  1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is the art of understanding yourself, recognizing what stimuli you’re facing and then preparing for how to manage yourself both in a proactive and reactive manner. Self-awareness is how we see ourselves, and also how we perceive others to see us. The second, external aspect, is always the most difficult to properly assess.

Dr. Tasha Eurich says: “Leaders who focus on building both internal and external self-awareness, who seek honest feedback from loving critics, and who ask what instead of why can learn to see themselves more clearly—and reap the many rewards that increased self-knowledge delivers.”

For yourself, ask the introspective questions, yearn for knowledge and be curious. And for others, seek feedback in an honest, caring environment.

  1. Curiosity

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein

Show me a curious person who’s willing to learn and improve, and I’ll show you a success story waiting to happen. When you’re curious, you’re passionate, and when you’re passionate you are driven to want to be your best. Your “antennae” are up to things you love, to wanting to grow and learn more. This learning mindset positively affects other areas of your life—like relationships.

Tomas Chamorro-Premusic writes: “First, individuals with higher CQ are generally more tolerant of ambiguity. This nuanced, sophisticated, subtle thinking style defines the very essence of complexity. Second, CQ leads to higher levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition over time, especially in formal domains of education, such as science and art.” Source: HBR

  1. Analytical mind

The most emotionally intelligent and resolute people are deep-thinkers that analyze and process all new information that comes their way. They continue to analyze old information, habits and ways of doing things to see if they can extract ways to improve. We’re all “analysts” in the sense that we consciously think about all new information that comes our way.

Savvy EQ individuals are problem-solvers and everyday philosophers who contemplate the “why” of existence, the “why” of why we do what we do, and who care passionately about living a virtuous life. Having an analytical mind means having a healthy appetite for a continuously improving mindset geared at bettering yourself and always remaining open to new ideas.

  1. Belief

A major component of maintaining emotional self-control is using the power of faith to believe in yourself both in the present and in the future. It’s believing that the people and things in your life are there for a reason, and that everything will ultimately work out for good.

Faith alone will not help you. It takes action, of course. But when you combine faith with powerful values like hard work, perseverance and a positive attitude, you have formed the foundation of a champion. Every great leader and thinking uses faith, either in a practical context, emotionally and certainly spiritually.

Spend time in meditation. Think about the way you believe in yourself. Engender a greater faith toward the person you are and who you want to become. And trust and believe that the pieces in your life will come together in a way that will help you live boldly and joyfully.

  1. Needs and wants

The emotionally intelligent mind is able to discern between things that they need versus things that would be “nice to have” that classify more aptly as wants. A need, particularly in the context of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is the basic level stuff like safety, survival and sustenance. Once those things are met, then we can progress to other needs and of course, wants.

A “want” is a big house, nice car, and even the brand new iPhone. We do not need those things to survive, but rather we want them based on our own personal desires or what we perceive to matter to society. Become well-versed in knowing what you truly need to live, to accomplish goals and to support yourself and loved ones. Make sure you draw a very clear distinction between what it is you need, and what it is you want.

Emotionally intelligent people know the difference between these two things, and always establish needs prior to fulfilling wants.

  1. Passionate

Inspired leadership and love for what you do is born from having a passion for a subject or people. People with a high EQ use their passion and purpose to ignite the engine that drives them to do what they do. This passionate is infectious and contagious—it permeates all areas of their lives and rubs off on the people around them.

Passion is sort of that je ne sais quoi that when you feel it, or even when you see it in others, you simply know. Passion is the natural desire, instinct, drive, ambition and motivated love for a subject or someone. Passion brings positive energy that helps sustain us and inspire us to want to keep going. And there’s no secret that emotionally intelligent people who are passionate are also willing to persevere and power forward no matter their circumstances.

  1. Optimistic

If you want to increase your opportunities, improve your relationships and think clearly and constructively, you’re best positioned to maintain a positive attitude. Of all the things that we try to control and influence, our attitude is the primary thing that is always within our control. We can choose to live each day by being positive. It’s that simple.

“When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.” — Shawn Achor

  1. Adaptability

“Adaptability is not imitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation.” – Mahatma Gandhi. Emotionally intelligent people recognize when to continue their course, and when it’s time for a change. This vitally import recognition and ability to make crisp, swift decisions in your best interest is called adaptability. You must determine when to stay the course, or when to keep moving forward in another direction.

Similarly, when one strategy is not working, try evaluating and determining if something else will work. From the way you treat yourself, to how you treat others, to your daily routine, always stay open-minded and be willing to adapt and introduce new elements to how you think and what you do.

Throughout your life, you’ll need to change course and make assessments on whether you’ll be happy and successful if you choose one path or another. Recognize that you can always change. You can always start over. It may not always be the most prudent or wise decision, but only you will truly know in your heart what is or what isn’t. Start with leaving the option on the table.

  1. Desire to help others succeed and succeed for yourself

Last but not least, an emotionally intelligent person is interested in overall success and achievement—not just for themselves, but for their peers. Their inspired leadership and passion, combined with their optimism, drives them to want to do best for themselves and others.

Too often, we get so self-absorbed and concerned only with “What’s in it for me?” We have to be concerned about this. It’s a must, so don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise. But in the same way that we should be focused on our self-interest, we should also maintain a spirit of desire and hope for wanting to see the people around us succeed.

Not only is this a brilliant safeguard against envy and greed, it also revitalizes our passion and drives us toward achieving our next goal. It helps us gain allies and builds powerful relationships that come back to help us in reciprocal fashion.

India Trailing China in Africa

Delhi cannot match the resources that Beijing has deployed in Africa. But it cannot ignore gap between promise and performance in its engagement.  While India has been involved in international peacekeeping in Africa for more than five decades, China has, over the last decade, ramped up its role in the continent.

By the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands in Kigali, Rwanda on the first hop of his tour, China’s president Xi Jinping would have completed his trip to the central African nation. Although the paths of Modi and Xi to the BRICS summit in Johannesburg this week crossed in Kigali, the trajectories of their security engagement with Africa have begun to diverge. While Delhi struggles to meet the growing demand in Africa for security cooperation, Beijing, a latecomer in this business, is racing ahead.Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing tour of Africa which includes visits to three countries – Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa – comes at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping is also on the continent. In fact, both leaders visited Rwanda within hours of each other and will be in South Africa for the Brics summit. There’s no denying that the race for Africa is well and truly on. The continent with its abundant natural resources and improving governance structures is being viewed as the next global growth hub. Therefore, the moves that India and China make in Africa today will have a huge impact on the future.

However, the two countries’ approaches are different given their different capacities. China is going into Africa with big ambition and big projects. From building infrastructure – ports, roads, railways, etc – to cooperation in internal security and defence, China is splurging big money in Africa to obtain a big strategic footprint on the continent. India’s approach is comparatively low-key since it doesn’t have China’s deep pockets. Nonetheless, it is using its Diaspora and centuries-old cultural and trade connect to increase its influence in Africa.

Modi’s trip to Rwanda – which holds the current chairmanship of the African Union – exemplifies this soft touch. On the occasion, the two sides inked seven agreements that covered cooperation in trade, defence and cultural exchange. They also signed an MoU over cooperation in agriculture and animal resources, as well as one in leather and allied industries. Additionally, India’s Exim Bank committed to extend a $200 million line of credit to Rwanda for the development of special economic zones and agriculture schemes. Plus, India will soon open an embassy in Rwanda. But the most impactful item on Modi’s itinerary was the gifting of 200 cows to support Rwanda’s Girinka scheme of socio-economic development. The move emphasised common rural ethos in the two countries and India’s wish to support Rwanda as opposed to forcing a development paradigm on that country.

In other words, India wants to help African nations in achieving whatever their goals are. Whereas given China’s ambition, there is a sense that Beijing might cajole African nations to serve Chinese strategic interests. Add to this rising concerns about debt associated with Chinese infrastructure development projects. That said, I expect African nations to try and get the best deals from both India and China. Why shouldn’t they? After all, if China offers hard infrastructure, India offers soft infrastructure. African nations need both.

Against this backdrop, I see India and China enjoying great room to expand their strategic footprint in Africa. However, India needs to enhance ties with Francophone African nations as part of its strategy. This is something that I have argued for before. While India’s engagement with Anglophone Africa is natural given the common colonial legacy and Indian Diaspora, ties with Francophone Africa remain weak. But China’s Africa strategy has no such disparity. This is exemplified by the fact that earlier this year China and the North African French-speaking nation of Morocco established a joint council to promote China’s Silk Road project. Additionally, China is investing billions of dollars in Morocco to build infrastructure, construct tech cities and boost industrialisation.

Given this scenario, there’s no reason why India shouldn’t similarly boost ties with Morocco. In fact, Morocco can be India’s launchpad for engagements with Francophone Africa given that Rabat over the last few years has really boosted economic ties with sister African nations in West Africa and the Sahel. This is part of Morocco’s multi-dimensional strategy to fight poverty and extremism in Africa.

Against this backdrop, it would be a good idea for the Indian PM to visit Morocco soon – perhaps to bless and finalise a bilateral strategic partnership.

To be sure, defence diplomacy is certainly a part of Modi’s agenda. For example, in Kigali, Modi is expected to preside over the signing of a broad agreement for bilateral defence cooperation. Rwanda is not the only one eager for security cooperation with India. Almost all of the African leaders who came to the Third India-Africa Summit in October 2015 sought greater defence engagement with India. But the gap between Delhi’s promise and performance on defence diplomacy continues to grow. Meanwhile, Chinese security cooperation with Africa has advanced at a break-neck pace.

China’s military diplomacy culminated recently in a fortnight-long China-Africa Defence and Security Forum in Beijing that saw senior military leaders from 50 nations across the continent in attendance. At the forum which concluded earlier this month, China promised “comprehensive support” for the modernisation of the armed forces of African nations. According to the Chinese media, that support includes supply of new technologies as well as lending personnel and strategic advice.

According to the Stockholm Institute of Peace Research, China’s arms exports to Africa have increased 55 per cent during the period 2013-17 in comparison to the preceding five years. China’s share of the total arms imports to Sub-Saharan Africa have reportedly gone up to 27 per cent from 16 per cent in the same period.

While China does not boast of high quality conventional weapons, its military gear is seen as quite cost effective in Africa. India does not have much of a defence industrial base to enter the African arms bazaar. But India’s military training facilities have always been attractive to other developing countries, including those in Africa.

China has, however, stepped up its military training programmes in Africa. Besides facilities in China, Beijing opened a comprehensive training centre near Bagamoyo, Tanzania. China is also in negotiations with Tanzania to build a major port in Bagamoyo. Besides the Tanzanian troops, the CTC is involved in training forces from other countries in East Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

While India has been involved in international peacekeeping in Africa for more than five decades, China has, over the last decade, ramped up its role in the continent. India has seen African peacekeeping in narrow diplomatic terms, for example in reinforcing its claims for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. China, in contrast, has seen peacekeeping as a means to enhance its military profile in Africa and learning the arts of power projection.

Beijing has nearly 2,400 peacekeepers currently deployed in Africa and is training many regional peacekeepers. China has offered $100 million in grant aid to establish an African Rapid Response Force to cope with regional crises. Along with growing military assistance and arms sales, China is stepping, somewhat gingerly, into political mediation and conflict resolution in the continent.

Besides the traditional areas of military security, Beijing has taken big steps towards cooperation with the African governments on internal security, including in the areas of countering terrorism and money laundering. Strengthening domestic police forces has become an important element of China’s security strategy in Africa.

Beijing has also begun to invest considerable energy into what is being called “law-enforcement diplomacy”. In Senegal as well as in Rwanda, on his way to the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, Xi underlined the importance of bilateral cooperation in law-enforcement. The issue could also figure in Mauritius, where Xi is making a brief stopover on the way back home.

China is also exporting artificial intelligence software that is boosting the surveillance capabilities of the African states through the use of such new technologies as facial recognition. China’s use of big data and AI for internal security surveillance has become the envy of many states in the world.

Beijing is now eager to export this technology to Africa’s security establishments. In March this year, a tech company called Cloud Walk Technology based in Guangzhou, signed an agreement with Zimbabwe on a massive project for facial recognition. Earlier, a Chinese company, Hikvision, concluded a lucrative deal to sell thousands of CCTV cameras to Zimbabwe.

China’s AI export to Zimbabwe is just the beginning. Chinese media suggest that Beijing collaboration with Africa on AI is mutually beneficial: It will promote social and political stability in Africa while improving the performance of China’s algorithms. Originally developed to recognise Asian faces, they will now have access to large amounts of African data.

Senior officials briefing the press on Modi’s visit to Africa pointed out that India is not in a race with China in Africa. That is quite true, since India can’t match the massive resources that China deploys in the continent. But it does not mean Delhi can continue to ignore its responsibility to put India’s defence diplomacy in Africa and beyond on a modern and credible footing.

President Trump Brings a Dramatic Shift in US European Policy

 Prior to Trump, the George W Bush administration came closest to questioning the value of European integration. For instance, the controversy over the Iraq conflict saw Washington querying the benefits of EU collaboration in the security and defence arena.  On the eve of the NATO defence review in 2003, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld drew a distinction between “old” and “new Europe” with the latter perceived as more favourable to US interests.

However, while the Bush team eventually recognised the need to draw back from this approach, it appears Trump has now raised the rhetoric several notches. In so doing, one of the features of the current president’s approach is an attempt to prise apart Germany and France, the traditional motors of EU integration.

However, President Donald Trump’s disdain for the European Union (EU) goes significantly beyond that of any president in US history. While he has concerns with Europe’s low levels of defence spending vis-a-vis Washington, it is on the economic front that the Brussels-based club is the deepest source of frustration for him with its big goods surplus with the United States.

Only last week, Trump declared “I think the EU is a foe, what they do to us in trade”. While some have dismissed this as just another spur-of-the-moment presidential outburst Anthony Gardner – who served as US Ambassador to the EU under Barack Obama – has warned that “Europe (needs to) wake up: the US wants to break up the EU … Remember Belgium’s motto L’Union fait la force (Unity creates strength)”.

The contrast between Trump, with his calls for more “Brexits” within the EU, and US policy at the start of the European integration process could not be starker. Embodied in John Kennedy’s 1962 Atlantic Partnership speech, the core US view then was that a united Europe would make future wars in the continent less likely; create a stronger partner for the US in meeting the challenges posed by the Soviet Union; and offer a more vibrant market for building transatlantic prosperity.

Yet, US attitudes gradually became more ambivalent as integration deepened, particularly in recent Republican administrations. This was especially so when some European leaders began to conceive of the continent as a counterweight to the US.

Yet, this process has by no means been linear. For instance, with the end of the Cold War, the idea of strengthening the European role within the transatlantic alliance through the establishment of a European security identity was revived, notably in NATO’s new Strategic Concept, issued in 1991.

However, its implementation became embroiled in a struggle over how much independence such a European security identity should have. US policymakers were concerned about the danger of too much continental integration in the defence and security field, which they believed would come at the expense of NATO and waste valuable resources.

Difficulties also emerged in the economic arena as integration proceeded. To be sure, many US officials have historically been as concerned about European economic weakness as much as the emergence of a more powerful rival.

Yet, the drive toward the European Single Market led to US concerns about whether this would evolve into a ‘Fortress Europe’. Similarly, the creation of European Monetary Union prompted worries about the dilution of US primacy in the financial sector and macroeconomic policy.

Moreover, in competition policy, the increasing assertiveness of the European Commission has periodically raised US concerns about EU overreach.  Only last week, for example, Trump tweeted “The EU just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google. They truly have taken advantage of the US, but not for long!”.

In May, it is reported that Trump advised Emmanuel Macron, who he appears to hold in high regard, that France could quit the EU to get a better trade deal with Washington than the US is willing to offer the EU as a whole. While the White House’s gambit in trying to split Germany and France is most unlikely to succeed, it underlines how US ambivalence about European integration has reached its apotheosis under Trump.


The Childhood Concept Being Altered Beyond Recognititon by Digital Technology

In 2017, tech veteran Napster founder Parker warned that social media “literally changes your relationship with society, with each other…God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” Parker has two young children, so he’s surely familiar with the universal tactic of handing over a screen to buy a moment’s peace – the so-called “digital pacifier”. When people like Sean Parker critique how smartphones are affecting childhood development, you know a shift is coming.
The Council of Europe recently issued recommendations on children’s rights in the digital environment, building on GDPR’s legal framework, which establishes the limits of children’s consent to use of their data. There’s more awareness than ever that technology in childhood needs to be policed properly, by both governments and parents. To help you weigh up some of the issues involved, here are five ways in which the screen is reframing children’s lives.
1. Physical changes
The evidence is still anecdotal, but it’s likely that technology’s ubiquity from the earliest years onwards – a fifth of children aged three and four have their own tablet – is reshaping our bodies. Short-sightedness has doubled since the 1960s, and obesity is increasing. Only half of seven- and eight-year-olds get the recommended daily hour of exercise in the UK. Spine surgeons have reported an increase in young patients with neck and back pain, likely related to bad posture during long periods of smartphone use. But with the increasing number of apps and devices to monitor physical activity levels, the solution could be digital, too.
2. Rewiring the brain
The addictive design of many video games and apps could be rewiring children’s brains. Many of them are structured around “reward loops”, which regularly dispense incentives, including a biochemical dopamine hit, to keep playing. Autoplay functions on YouTube and other video websites reinforce these rhythms.
⦁ “Almost all digital interactions, social media particularly, are deliberately designed to make an individual want to undertake the cycle again, immediately and repeatedly, whatever the time of day or night”, stated a ⦁ recent landmark report on Digital Childhood by the UK-based 5Rights foundation. It believes that tech companies need to adjust the design of their products for children – for example, by switching off Autoplay.
3. Space, not time
Amid the hand-wringing about cognitive decline, it’s worth remembering that perhaps technology is just making children different to us. Even early studies of the effects of video games suggested they improved spatial reasoning. While verbal skills, logical argument and attention spans may now need more offline encouragement, most toddlers will benefit from accelerated hand-eye coordination and image recognition abilities, as well as the general digital literacy that is now essential to growing up.
4. The definition of childhood
Just as the pressures of industrialization created the concept of “childhood” in the Victorian age, and post-war consumerism gave birth to the idea of the “teenager”, the digital era is shaking up life boundaries once again. While the first year of high school may be regarded as a default age for a child to receive their first smartphone, 39% of 8-to-11-year-olds already have them.
Entry into the world of social media suddenly gives immature children a relatively independent space in which to test out “risky behaviours” that they can’t necessarily understand or cope with, according to the 5Rights report. The collision between incongruous age groups and behaviours that social media entails means that both children and adults need to understand their respective responsibilities under the new digital compact.
5. Crowdsourcing mental health
There has been much discussion of the growing sense of inadequacy and loneliness fostered by social media, and its impact on young people’s mental health. Teenagers who spend more than three hours a day online are 35% more likely to be at risk of suicide, according to a recent US study. But perhaps that’s confusing cause and effect. The last decade has seen a growing awareness of and sensitivity to mental health issues. Much of this discussion is being held by young people in the environment that is most natural – as well as discreet – for them: the internet.
There’s no doubt that the new digital frontier is drastically redrawing childhood, threatening tender bodies and minds. But perhaps we can meet these challenges if they are handled in the spirit of the internet’s original precept: free and frank discussion.

The Reality & Reimagining of a Dysfunctional State Called Pakistan

Pakistan has gone to polls today, along with its quota of unwanted killing and mayhem, army overseeing the operation of elections of its hatchetmen- of course, in collusion with the injudicious judiciary. The results shall be shortly known, but there is a sense of déjà vu, with the Deep State (the Army and the ISI with the judiciary playing a supporting role)now propping up Imran Khan as their favorite leader against Nawaz Sharif, just as it had propped up Nawaz Sharif against Benazir Bhutto in 1990. Similarly, Islamist extremist groups are being mainstreamed today just as Gen. Musharraf brought in the Muttahida Majlis- i- Amal, a coalition of ‘Islam pasand’ parties strung together by the Army, into Parliament in the elections of 2002. History repeats itself as a farce with tragic consequences to the people. The Generals do not seem to learn that you cannot get different results from the same pattern of behavior. And they are unwilling to change. That’s the crux of a new book by Husain Haqqani – ‘Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State’.How can you reimagine a country that refuses to change, despite all its past follies?
By all indications Pakistan’s present is scary. It’s a ‘dysfunctional nuclear state’. Its future is nightmarish as the nuclear weapons are likely to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists with whom Imran Khan is closely associated. He is called ‘Imran Taliban’ for a good reason. And how does one imagine a ‘nightmare’. What are the constituents of a ‘nightmare’? That in effect is the challenge of Haqqani’s book; to ‘reimagine’ Pakistan and transform it.
While the book is a brilliant exposition of all that’s wrong with Pakistan, it disappoints on its key promise; the ‘Reimagining’ part. Reimagining can be done in two ways. First is to take up the accepted notions and narratives and reimagine them by questioning their basic premises. This is done with an emphatic assurance of a scholar who deeply understands his country and empathizes with its plight. Almost every page has a fresh insight into the old narrative, analyzing the accepted notions of its ‘flawed inheritance’ and its founding principles; fears and insecurity that bred jihadi terrorists either to fight the former Soviet Union, or to wage war in Kashmir; its asymmetrical relationship with India that compelled it to seek nuclear weapons rather than build schools and hospitals to produce healthy and educated youth who could build a modern state with a stable and prosperous future. And he calls this imagination as the ‘March of Folly’ in the words of Barbara Tuchman. Quoting Tuchman he explains that ‘a policy is considered a folly based on three criteria: “first, the policy adopted must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight; second, a feasible alternative course of action must have been available; and third, the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond one political lifetime.” Clearly, counter-productive policies seem to be the default mode of policy making in Pakistan.
Second, is the kind of imagination that ‘transforms’ reality. Like Nehru’s imagination of a new India, which must have been a daunting challenge in 1947. It is this transformative imagination that is missing. Haqqani knows the pulse of his country; fears that it is terminally ill, correctly diagnoses and describes the illness in all its varied details but fails to prescribe a panacea for its ills. Probably there is no one single remedy and even if there is one the patient will not take it, due to addiction to past habits and the unmitigated certainty that neither America nor China will let it fail. If America has bailed out the country for the last 70 years, so will China do for the next 70 years.
Haqqani looks at some of the countries that were in a far worse position than Pakistan in the mid-1940s, such as Germany and Japan that were practically born out of the ashes to attain unprecedented levels of social development and economic prosperity. Some Pakistani leaders in the initial years sought for their country a ‘Marshall Plan’ like aid, (a European Recovery Program in which the US provided over $13 billion to 17 West European countries after World War II, from April 1948 to mid-1952). This amount is roughly equivalent to $110 billion in 2016 USD terms.
As Haqqani points out, Pakistan has not done badly either in getting from the US a massive sum of $45.147 billion, between 1954 to 2017, which is certainly a bigger chunk than what any single European country received. Interestingly, Pakistan is the only country that America has given so much aid without bombing it first. But then why hasn’t Pakistan grown like any of the European countries? The fault, dear Brutus, is in their ‘imagination’ or the poverty of it.
Haqqani also raises the question as to whether Pakistan could possibly go the way of Yugoslavia and break up into its ethnic parts, with a separate Baluchistan, and a Pakthunistanthat may join Afghanistan (as the former US Ambassador Robert Blackwill had suggested). If the Bengalis of East Pakistan could revolt against Punjabi domination in 1971, the Baloch could do it too and they have been fighting for their freedom ever since 1948. Will Pakistan disintegrate or will it continue as one unit?
A new lifeline thrown at Pakistan may keep it floating, perhaps for the next 70 years. Thanks toPresident Xi Jinping and his grand inter-continental imagination of ‘One Belt One Road’, the China-Pakistan Economic Cooperation is promising to invest more than $44 billion(almost equal to the entire sum provided by the US in 63 years) package of projects at modernizing its infrastructure and connectivity with China and rest of Asia.
The size of CPEC investments is about 16% of Pakistan’s 2016 GDP. (This is the same as our tax to GDP ratio, and one of the main reasons that Pakistan desperately needs external donors is that it hardly taxes its people). As Haqqani says ‘ironically, CPEC is seen by Pakistan not merely in economic terms but as a security guarantee of China’s commitment to their country’.
Will Pakistan survive as a viable economy now that it has been placed in the ‘Grey List’ (just a shade away from the ‘Black List’) of the anti-terror financial watchdog Financial Action Task Force for its failure to cut off funding to terrorist groups?
Perhaps China will bail it out. Pakistan will mortgage its geo-strategic location to China and live off the rent as it did with America in the past. But being a rentier-state to China may be a different ball game altogether. That poses new challenges internally to Pakistan and externally to India.
The tragedy of Haqqani’s book is that it is unlikely to be read by those who rule Pakistan. And even if they do, they are unlikely to change, for that would go against their core interests. And its next seventy years would be far more troubled and troubling for the region.

The Netherlands Overtakes Denmark in Best Work-Life Balance

The Netherlands has overtaken Denmark as the country with the best work-life balance. That is according to the latest OECD Better Life Index, which ranks countries on how successfully households mix work, family commitments and personal life, among other factors.
For work-life balance, the Dutch scored 9.3 out of a possible 10, whereas the Danes, now ranked second, scored nine. Of the 35 OECD countries measured in the survey, Turkey’s work-life balance was the worst, rated as zero, while Mexico only scored slightly better with 0.8.
Secrets to a better work-life balance
Only 0.5% of Dutch employees regularly work very long hours, which is the lowest rate in the OECD, where the average is 13%. Instead, they devote around 16 hours per day to eating, sleeping and leisurely pursuits.
Only the French spend more time on leisure and personal care – racking up an impressive 16.4 hours on average per day.
Sharing the load
The Netherlands also boasts very low rates of youth unemployment, high literacy levels, below average levels of child income poverty and high levels of life satisfaction in childhood – over 93% of 11-15-year-old children report above average life satisfaction, for instance.
Work responsibilities are also shared among Dutch families, with the number of women in employment doubling from 35% in the early 1980s to 69.9% today, which is well above the OECD average of 57.5%.
There is also a strong sense of community in the Netherlands, where 90% of people say they know a friend or family member they could count on in times of trouble. This is slightly better than the 89% reported across other OECD countries.
The Dutch are also highly engaged in the political process – voter turnout during recent elections was 82%, which is far higher than the OECD average of 69%. Among the top 20% of earners, voter turnout was estimated at 92%.
However, among the lowest 20% this figure drops to around 71%, pointing to shortcomings in the political mobilization of the worst-off, the OECD says.
Something in the air?
While 93% of people in the Netherlands are satisfied with the quality of their water, air quality is slightly worse than the OECD average of 13.9%. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – the air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 14 micrograms per cubic metre.
Overall, though, the Dutch are more satisfied with their lives than most. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Dutch people gave it a 7.4 grade on average, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

Rail Services Between Europe & China Impacts Trade Immensely

A dramatic development in the 2010s has been the establishment of overland rail freight services between the EU and East Asia. Coverage of the phenomenon has tended to focus on ‘firsts’ (the first train from China to Spain, to France, to England), and academic debate has placed the Landbridge in the context of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative as an instrument to increase Chinese influence. This emphasis ignores the underlying economic forces, and the significance of the Landbridge for understanding the nature of global value chains (GVCs) and the role of service providers.
A common finding is that most GVCs are regional, with three centres in North America, Europe, and East Asia (Baldwin 2016). The catalyst behind the Eurasian Landbridge was demand from global firms seeking to link their European and Asian value chains. National rail companies and other service providers responded by reducing the costs of connecting the chains by rail, which is faster with more precise delivery times than maritime transport. Little investment in physical capital was required because the track was already in existence before the 21st century. Once the Landbridge had been created, growth was driven by freight forwarders, courier firms and other companies providing services that made the rail route attractive to a larger number of potential users. The dynamic scale effects created a virtuous circle of reduced costs, more frequent service and increased route choice generating additional customers and making further service innovations profitable.
China-Europe rail links before and after 2011
Overland trade between China and Europe dates back more than two millennia, until discovery of sea routes from Europe to Asia around 1500 destroyed overland trade. After China’s ‘open door’ reforms of 1978/9, transport of exports from eastern China travelled by sea and, to a much lesser extent, air freight. By 2015 the largest ships could carry over 20,000 twenty-foot-equivalent (TEU) containers through the Suez Canal.
Several rail links were constructed in the 20th century, but none was a significant carrier of China-Europe freight before 2011. Occasional block trains of flat trucks carrying containers were run along the Trans Siberian Railway on an ad hoc basis for German car companies seeking to ship components to their joint-venture assembly factories in northeast China (VW/Audi in Changchun and BMW in Shenyang). Similar block trains carried Korean car components from Lianyungang to the UzDaewoo joint-venture factory in Uzbekistan (now GM Uzbekistan). Such journeys to and through China showed that long-distance international rail services to serve GVCs were feasible, but they were commissioned by firms as bespoke services for their own use and were not availed by other potential users.
The catalyst behind new rail services was China’s Go West policy launched in 2001 to provide incentives for firms to produce in China’s inland provinces. The policy’s impact was minor, until a bonded train link between Shenzhen and Chongqing was opened in 2010. The bonded train brought imported components from Southeast Asia and elsewhere to the factory gate in Chongqing without border-crossing problems, highlighting the nature of the assembly facilities which Foxconn, Hewlett-Packard and others built in Chongqing as the final stage of Apple laptop or HP printer GVCs.
The new investors may have planned to export via the Yangtze River to Shanghai, but increased shipping along the Yangtze led to congestion. HP encouraged the railway companies of Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and China to provide a solution in the form of a Chongqing-Duisburg block train. Deutsche Bahn and China Railway Corporation provided overall quotes to clients and organised loading and unloading at the termini, while the Polish, Belarus and Kazakh rail companies collected transit fees and organised the change of gauge at the China-Kazakhstan and Belarus-Poland borders. Policy coordination among the six countries’ governments was necessary to ensure smooth passage, essentially a simple transit agreement to respect seals on bonded containers. The containers returned with components for German car factories in China.
The Chongqing-Duisburg block train was a commercial response by service providers to demands from two of the leading GVC sectors: cars and electronics. It was successful because, although rail was more expensive than sea, it took less than half the time (16 days between Chongqing and Duisburg, compared to a minimum 36 days and typically over 40 days by sea from Shanghai to Rotterdam) and promised reliable delivery times, both of which are important considerations for GVC participants.
The success of the Chongqing-Duisburg train led to a classic tournament. Between 2011 and 2015, at least nine different routes were trialed. Some of these routes used the Trans-Siberian Railway (e.g. Harbin-Hamburg or Suzhou Warsaw), but most took the route across Kazakhstan, as in Figure 1. The trial-and-error process was a market discovery exercise to find routes on which customers were willing to pay for rail service between China and Europe. The initiative on the European side came from Deutsche Bahn (and its logistics subsidiary, DB Shenker, and the Trans Eurasian Logistics joint venture between DB and the Russian rail company), and from freight forwarders such as Vienna-based Far Eastern Landbridge and Swiss-based Interrail Group. On the Chinese side, local governments took the initiative either directly or by pushing a local company such as Yiwu Timex to establish services.
The trial process continued after 2015 and regular services were established on successful routes. In April 2016 the first China-France train went from Wuhan to Lyon in 15 days. In January 2017 the first China-UK train went from Yiwu to London. By the end of 2017, the Landbridge had connected 35 Chinese cities and 34 European cities by rail. Some connections were one-off trials, while other routes flourished. By 2018 the Duisburg-Chongqing-Duisburg route ran on a daily schedule.
The role of service providers
The original drivers (car and electronics GVCs) remain important as they wish to transform what have largely been regional value chains in Asia or in Europe into Eurasian value chains. They also benefit from increased scale and reduced costs, as schedules become more frequent and competing routes have incentives to become more efficient in reducing transit times and increasing the range of services.
A major reason behind the wider success of the post-2011 routes has been the early and increasing involvement of intermediaries. Freight forwarders and courier companies arranged multimodal connections, consolidated part-container loads and offered additional services such as refrigerated containers. Through such service provision, hubs such as Duisburg, Łódź, and Yiwu have become popular termini. Over 300 freight forwarders and other facilitators have offices at the Duisburg hub, which provides access to rail, river, road and air transport and is within short distance of tens of millions of people in Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Poland is a centre for ecommerce fulfilment, and Łódź has become an eastern Europe hub. Yiwu in Zhejiang Province, famous as the world’s largest market for small goods, has become a rail hub for the Yangtze Delta.
Multimodal hubs with a greater range of specialised service-providers are convenient places of origin or destinations for many customers. The added services appeal to GVCs, such as agribusiness, where goods may be perishable and require refrigeration, or to non-GVC traffic with part-container loads.
The role of governments
Emergence of the Landbridge after 2011 reflected a conjuncture of demand, service-provider response, and governments willing to facilitate transit trade. Time cost and predictability of border crossings are crucial, and all countries along a route must agree to simple transit procedures. Against that backdrop, the Landbridge has largely been driven by commercially motivated state-owned and private companies.
A striking feature of the story so far is the absence of major investment. The Landbridge runs on 20th century rail-track. The main infrastructure investment has been in facilities where change of gauge is necessary between China and Kazakhstan and between Belarus and Poland. The container transfers at the change-of-gauge border are simple procedures: the incoming train and the outgoing train are lined up side by side, and a crane moves the containers from one to the other. At Khorgos, on the Kazakhstan-China border, the transfer for a 40+ container train can be done in 47 minutes. This investment has contributed to shaving the time (e.g. Chongqing-Duisburg took 16 days in 2011 and 12 days in 2017), but most of the time-saving is associated with better logistics and prioritising the profitable service.
Reduced transport costs have net benefits, but as with most economic changes there are potential losers as well as gainers. Reduced trade costs make exporters more competitive in foreign markets but subject import-competing firms to greater competition. If Eurasian value chains displace regional value chains in East Asia and Europe, then successful GVC participants in Europe and Asia may find new opportunities in the larger Eurasian GVCs while coming up against more competitors for GVC tasks.
As the GVC phenomenon has flourished, value chains are becoming longer and more complex. Following from sub-regional zones such as Sijori or the Pearl River Delta in the 1980s and 1990s to ‘Factory Asia’ in the 2000s (Pomfret 2011), the next step is to link the regional value chains of East Asia and Europe. This requires low trade costs (in time, money and uncertainty) across Eurasia.
The catalyst for the Landbridge rail services was car and electronics firms seeking to reduce their trade costs between German component suppliers and VW, Audi and BMW assembly plants in China and between Apple, HP and Acer assemblers in China and distribution centres for consumers of their electronics products in the EU. Production along these GVCs relies on minimising the need for inventories by securing just-in-time delivery of components to the next-stage producer and prompt delivery of the final product to distribution centres and final retailers. At current transport costs, auto components and laptops/printers fit into an intermediate category of goods for which a rail link between China and Europe offers a useful niche; the goods are too bulky for air transport, but the firms want faster and more reliable delivery than intercontinental maritime transport can provide and are prepared to pay for the time-saving that rail transport offers over maritime transport. As an added social benefit, per tonne of freight, rail is much more environmentally friendly than road or air.
Service providers have responded by reducing trade costs. Since 2011 the number of trips along the Landbridge has mushroomed to 6,235 by December 2017, and over half of those were in 2017. The freight has diversified, including two-way trade in. To keep perspective, traffic on the rail Landbridge is still small compared to China-EU maritime trade. In 2016, 42,000 containers passed through Kazakhstan, a big increase over the 2,000 in 2011, but they would fit on four container freighters that can pass through the Suez Canal. Nevertheless, the rail Landbridge appears to be firmly established, with potential for further service improvement and implications for GVCs across Eurasia.

Motivating Employees Old Obsolete Model Needs Replacement

To compete and succeed, you need people to care. Six-figure salaries and free lattes in the break room are enticing, but corporate workers increasingly are seeking something more. They want a sense of purpose, a feeling of true camaraderie, and a belief that they are having an impact within the company and outside of it. That’s where good leadership can make all the difference. The leaders should set goals greater than simply making quarterly numbers. Throughout the early part of my life, I made this assumption that material exchanges were the essence of the business world. In order to motivate people, you had to incentivize them with rewards and control them and threaten them with punishment or taking away their rewards if they didn’t do what you expected them to do.
But I saw everything with rose, with maybe gray-colored glasses, which made material exchanges the essence of the problem. As I started working with real companies and real people, rather than what is modeled in the technical literature, I realized that without the necessities of life, one is miserable.
It is a very important basic level of needs to be satisfied. But once you cross that line, as we economists say, the marginal utility decreases at an increasing rate. That means material things become progressively less and less important relative to other concerns that we have as human beings.
“We’re getting to the end of a particular curve of attractiveness, which is the curve of money.” I think there is an evolution in a person’s life, from the time when you start your career and are worried about your future and have to acquire the platform for expressing your dreams, to the point when you grow up professionally and achieve a certain level of success, and then you aspire to other things.
The same process is happening with generations. The baby boomers were born in a certain level of wealth different than the people who lived through the Great Depression and the two great wars.
I think there is an intergenerational conversation where the young people are always the ones who don’t really know how good they have it, and that’s how we think about millennials. But the other side of that story is that by having that good, they have a platform from which to aspire to even more good, and a good that at some point transcends material goods.
There is always a war for talent. There is always a competitive market to attract, retain and develop the best people. Right now, we’re getting to the end of a particular curve of attractiveness, which is the curve of money, the curve of benefits, salary, stock option– you name it. All of these material rewards are extremely important, but they have gotten to the point where you can’t differentiate yourself based on that because everybody offers that, particularly in Silicon Valley. The companies have a lot of money to attract people, the salaries are always at the top of the scale, and it is very difficult to argue, “Come to Google rather than Facebook because we’ll pay you more.” It is impossible to differentiate yourself and to maintain the attractiveness if you only base it on material goods.
People are scared because there is a difference between what I call material and moral goods. A moral good is creating a sense of community, a purpose that is meaningful, ethical principles that will make people proud to participate and so on. The difference is that you can give material goods without involving yourself in them. If I buy an orange from you, I give you the money and don’t have to put my heart and soul in it, and you give me the orange. That is it. We both have a good exchange and that is fair.
“You can’t control everything, and you can’t tell people what to do because you don’t even know what to do.”
But if we are going to work together, it’s not just about money if you want to inspire me to participate in the project that you want to realize in the world. Now, you cannot extricate yourself from the proposition. Who you are, the level of trust you inspire in me, or the level of excitement that you are able to light up by proposing a vision of what this might be, is essential to the transaction.
As the Beatles say, you can buy diamond rings but you cannot buy love. To compete and succeed, you need people to care, you need something that is much more like love than a diamond ring. In the times of the assembly line, well, just go there and do your station work, and we don’t care if you like it. There are time and motion studies that say exactly what you are supposed to do, and that is all we need.
The companies are fighting the last war. People are trying to attract the new generation with the same technologies that attracted the past generation. You see this by looking at the abysmal levels of engagement. The surveys will tell you in the U.S., which is probably one of the highest in the world, employee engagement is 30%. So, 70% of the people either don’t care or actively hate their jobs and the people they work for, the people they work with, the places where they work and the customers they are supposed to serve.
How are you going to get excellence from people who don’t care or hate what they do? How do you make them care? In the past, before what is now called the knowledge economy, you might have been able to tell people what to do. But today, in any serious position in the company beyond entry level, it’s almost impossible to know the right way to proceed in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
You have these terrible disasters that you hear over and over again, like people at United are told get this person off the plane, and then suddenly you have this video going viral and everybody hates United and they lost hundreds of millions of dollars in market cap just because their brand went to hell. So you think, we should control people more. But it doesn’t work. You can’t control everything, and you can’t tell people what to do because you don’t even know what to do. Essentially, you need people to be intelligent and use their judgment and discretion to either decide or check with other people, and to want to do well.
People talk about leadership because it’s the ultimate competitive advantage. I am not trying to be overly philosophical. The problem of leadership is that it requires inner development; you can’t just be a leader because you read a lot of books.
But there is an external expression of leadership, which is you get the job done, you get to win, you get to accomplish the mission. For that you need the best people giving their best effort. Most companies don’t get that because most leaders are not able to inspire that kind of commitment. If you only suck a little bit less, you are going to be great because in the land of the blind, the one-eyed Jack is king. And we are living in the land of the blind, where people don’t have any idea that this dimension even exists. They still think it’s about pay a little more and we tweak
the incentives and we pay people for this or that and make the KPIs really important.
If you want people to cooperate, that doesn’t work because that creates silos. Everybody is worried about their own results, and they don’t cooperate with others. There is an unfortunate result from systems optimization that says that if you want to optimize the system, you have to sub-optimize the subsystems. So, if you want people to cooperate, you need to allow them to not do the best for their subsystem and contribute to admission of the larger system.
You can only do that by giving them global performance indicators, not local. But if you give them global performance indicators that will engender cooperation, then you lose accountability. And if you have free riders or people who don’t pull their weight, or they are taking advantage, or there is just no talent to be part of the team, you will never know who they are because everybody argues they are helping everybody else, and then nobody is accountable for anything.
This is the problem that cannot be solved because there is an inherent contradiction between these two metrics. The only way to solve it is by changing the paradigm, by changing one of the parameters of this problem so that you don’t assume that people are trying to get away with not working, and that requires people be inspired to do their best.
My definition of leadership is eliciting internal commitment in order to pursue a mission. That has nothing to do with formal authority. The idea that I would like to propose is that a leader is the person that achieves this moral authority and deserves the commitment of other people to pursue a particular mission.
At home with my kids, I could be a manager or a boss and tell them, “If you don’t read, I will take your devices,” or I can be a leader and inspire them to read. At work, I can be even a colleague and inspire people to try a new idea. Those are gestures of leadership. For me, leading is the verb. Leader is not a noun or an adjective, it’s just a designation for the person who leads. And this person is able to inspire others to give their best to achieve a mission. The problem of leadership is that it requires inner development; you can’t just be a leader because you read a lot of books.
The people affect the leadership dynamic as it’s a double-edged sword if you are demonstrating your commitment by being fully dedicated to the mission, then that will inspire other people. But if you are taking over and covering up for other people not participating in the same way, and you are not holding other people accountable, then you are actually destructive. This is one of the paradoxes of the hard workers, which is that they enable the not-hard workers to remain hidden and to not be challenged.
Perhaps more difficult for the people who are working in a team environment is to hold each other accountable. That is what really makes the difference in extraordinary teams. It’s not just that they get along, but you also need to have this shared set of goals and standards and need to hold each other accountable so that nobody can belong to the team unless they fulfill the needs of everybody in the team. When people don’t do that, bad things happen.
It is incredibly difficult to avoid the silos and the interdepartmental conflicts that plague organizations, so it does require a revolution. There has to be a revolution where you solve the problem through different means, not just by trying to compensate people for collaborating, because that doesn’t do it.

Troll Tax

“Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it inbox, a thousand times trolled”. Sometimes the courts foresee what is up coming. Imagine, the no-confidence day. A grand time for troll mobbing, in fact festive matches, between opposite sides, even independents who may have realized a sudden spurt to vent the troll sitting inside them! Unfortunately, or fortunately, sorry or wisely, the legal gag came earlier! Multiple incinerating trolls are like verbal lynching of the psyche, the hangovers of which may last for weeks, depending on the depth of the jabs, and personal sensitivities! The day passed off well, and any interference by social media was not on record. The two opposites on which trolls, their control, or even ablation for a while, shall pivot are the freedom of speech, the freedom to hit back, and preservation of peace, and others’ safety. The game can go into extra time, even penalties. To extend the argument, with some wishful thinking, consider this possibility!
We do not as yet have “Troll Centres”( but the need may arise) for those just hit by a tirade, to calm the nerves, steady the pulse, hydrate, and counsel, if that helps. Troll advocates, punitive action as a three-month cap on the total number of WhatsApp, FB, tweets etc. or a hardened verdict of solitary confinement from the social media for a specified period!
With freedom of speech as the first amendment, very often a counter comes straight from the reservoir emergency vocabulary and is often mumbled in low decibels. The usual ‘C’s with prefixes, are always in the air in the streets of Delhi, and the other one with ‘S’, actually a formal name of a relation, is affectionately used as a prefix for your best, failing which, your second best friend!
What happened in the world’s largest Parliament the other day, could well be termed as, “was this the day that gagged a thousand trolls”. There was a self- expressed semi-troll by the leader of the opposition, talk about affection and love between the two parties, and finally a hug. Nothing so seriously aberrant in any of them, but trollists felt so helpless in suppressing a compulsive instinct! Ok, there is a need of psychological laxatives that convert a burp into its logical counterpart.
One shall have to accept, that trolls shall go on. They shall go on the principle of freedom of speech. Conventionally, allegations of curtailment of expression are to be defended by the state. The restrictions where a need may arise for media giants, or the state to intervene, would also be based on the basis of curtailment of other’s right to freedom.
Commercially, major issues shall be patent simulation, or fake propaganda against the selling of a product.
More important would be sharing client data with political parties, or FMCG companies, if some of them cry foul that the act, actually is illicit as it affects their activities, image and turnover. FB’s Cambridge Analytics, was dragged all the way to the Congress, where FB founder Mark Zuckerberg was called to explain and defend.
With sensitivities rising within communities, there may have to be a restriction on hate speeches, racial issues, and online harassment. Like section 144, there may have to be restricted interaction at the time of polls, festivals, depending on any reliable information of possibility of violence. In the neighbourhood, nearing election time, this has been applied by the state for matters of safety.
Setting aside, where the state may put restrictions on companies, the question arises, are the social media companies in any way culpable for a purported mis-use by a client-member for the content he writes. Google and FB have dropped the “gun” emoji.
Key arguments that have taken place in the US, are on the basis, that the agencies provide a platform, which in today’s world is street corner gossip, or right to speech. In a much cited “Pruneyard vs Robin” case, a group of students were sending messages, from the Pruneyard Mall, in Campbell, California, but the content being such, the messaging was restricted. The argument by the student group was that, the Mall was the new public square, and there the first amendment was applicable. The defence was that even though ‘the mall’ be considered as the new public square, the owner can have his say, not to allow such content as is hateful, and has protection from the Constitution.
The holding of the case was possible, because California Constitution contains an affirmative right for free speech, that did not counter the Federal Act. The Pruneyard defence was set aside, by a unanimous decision, but four justices disagreed with part of the reasoning of justice William Rehnquist’s opinion of the majority.
All is not settled about the “mall” as “town square”, as the state of New York and Wisconsin have rejected the judgement. The European Court of Human Rights refused to follow Pruneyard in a UK case.
The Indian judiciary, based on a more uniform format, may have differences to tackle, because state high courts may differ as the use of social media spreads, and the inclination of opinion, beliefs, intent to spread damaging rumours may increase. To an extent, states can have their own laws as prohibition, reservation in jobs, distribution of welfare or crop subsidy. There is a Chennai high court decision on increase in marks due to translation, pending to be tackled. This is more of law though spells the future course of trolls. Can states set their own rules on the use (extent, content, place) of social media.
There is a catch. Messages via SMS have been given the status of official notices, which if ignored may have the liabilities of a bounced cheque. Can that have wider implications in other spheres?
I suppose all political parties must be creating their troll squads, with managers. For the necessary media battle, and yet self -imposed ethics to preserve peace. Most individual trolls that one comes across in India are adulatory, but pretty flat flattery, cursing a celebrity or political statement to equal-up, or just attempts to show that they are still part of the dynamic political picture.
You may have for instance, “In Budapest, great orchestra, nice medieval hotel bed”. They shall never mention “In Switzerland, Oh! what a bank! and what a relief” Or for that matter, “Was in Bheguserai, finest litti-chokha. Had fun with the mosquitoes”
Trolls are the best method, to sharpen your wit, without hurting anyone. “Great speech. yawned twice as many times than usual. Smart security-woke me up at the right time” “Didn’t like it. Nothing Messi about this world cup” “The gastroenterologist’s pants were rather baggy. With such tariffs, the hospital should have provided two powerful exhausts! and without a strong room freshener, it was unabated olfactory torture ”
Tumhein to waada tha ham sey deedaar karney ka,/ Yeh kya kiya ki zamaaney ko umeedwar kiya
(We had a confidential promise to meet,/ But how did you manage to make it public ) Daag

Putin’s ‘polezni durak’ isn’t going anywhere

“Perhaps only Putin knows whether Trump is a useful fool or a compromised tool. There may, in fact, be no collusion, as Trump insists. Polezni duraki don’t collude. They don’t know enough.”
In KGB speak, a language President Vladimir Putin mastered during the Cold War, a polezni durak wasn’t a spy — a valuable covert operative — but rather a “useful fool,” a dimwit too stupid or too self-absorbed to understand that he was a dispensable pawn.
Donald Trump’s obsequious performance standing alongside Putin, the wily Russian autocrat, adds credence to assertions that the president is either a Kremlin dupe or is living in existential fear of whatever kompromat Putin holds over him. Rather than challenge Putin for invading and annexing Crimea, shooting down a civilian airliner over Ukraine, assassinating ex-spies in Britain and waging cyberwar against the United States, Trump grinned and accepted Putin’s version of events and a soccer ball.
Five days before Trump surprised himself, the Republican establishment, and most of the world by narrowly winning the 2016 election, former U.S. intelligence chief Mike Hayden called Trump a polezni durak.
“That’s the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited,” Hayden wrote in article which looks increasingly prophetic.
Perhaps only Putin knows whether Trump is a useful fool or a compromised tool. There may, in fact, be no collusion, as Trump insists. Polezni duraki don’t collude. They don’t know enough.
Yet even by Trumpian standards, the president has had a gobsmacking 10 days, every one of them a Kremlin delight.
At NATO, Trump disparaged allies and wondered aloud whether some were worth defending. He called the European Union a “foe” of America. He savaged British Prime Minister Theresa May behind her back and was rude to the Queen.
Then came Trump’s very public acceptance of Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the U.S. election and his deafening silence over Putin’s vicious record of flouting international law. Cries of treason and treachery followed.
Even Trump’s own intelligence chief Dan Coats was stunned to learn — on TV — that Putin was invited for a second one-on-one session this fall at the White House.
Widespread anger over his craven endorsement of Putin’s denials eventually forced Trump to walk back his earlier stance with a nose-stretching claim of mis-speaking a double-negative. But, as usual, he couldn’t resist an exculpatory aside suggesting that — after all — maybe it wasn’t the Russians.
“Could have been other people also. There’s a lot of people out there,” Trump said.
Back home, another web of Trump’s deceit was exposed. It seems Michael Cohen, his ex-lawyer and all-purpose fixer, taped Trump discussing buying and burying a Playboy model’s story about a year-long affair with him soon after he married Melania. Like the porn star paid $130,000 to keep silent by Cohen just before the election, Trump insists he never had sex with either.
But the legions of Trump haters hoping the latest series of embarrassing and inept episodes may hasten the end of his presidency may be disappointed.
It’s very hard, deliberately so, to oust a president of the United States.
Only once in the nation’s history has a commander-in-chief left the Oval Office in disgrace before the end of his elected four-year term.
No president has been both impeached and convicted. It’s an inherently political process requiring a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict. (Two have been impeached by the House of Representatives: Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. Neither was convicted in the Senate.)
Unlike the 19 states which allow for recall elections to oust governors (two out of three have succeeded, dozens more attempts have failed to reach the ballot) there’s no provision for do-over in U.S. presidential elections to address voter remorse.
Nor has any president even faced an attempt to invoke the 25th amendment by which the vice-president and a majority of the cabinet can wrestle control by deeming a president physically or mentally incapacitated.
Being the Kremlin’s polezni durak likely falls well short of incapacitated. It’s not as though Trump is newly suffering delusions of grandeur, utter disdain for the truth, open and profound admiration for Putin, or a propensity to denigrate others. Rather this is the essential Trump, as exhibited for decades and openly trumpeted during the election campaign. Nothing about Trump’s behaviour since reaching the Oval Office is any more erratic or unprincipled than when Americans elected him.
If the never-invoked (at least not for removal of a president) 25th Amendment is unlikely, so too is a criminal indictment, no matter what evidence special counsel Robert Mueller uncovers.
Longstanding Justice Department rules say a sitting president can’t be indicted or charged criminally while in office, only impeached by Congress. Even if Mueller were to get an exception and charge Trump, the president could and almost certainly would challenge the constitutionality of a criminal indictment.
Even if Democrats were to win control of the House of Representatives in this fall’s mid-term election and take on the politically risky cause of impeaching Trump, current chances of a conviction in the Senate are slim to none.
Just as was the case in 1974 when Richard Nixon resigned, Trump is relatively secure in the Oval Office either until the next presidential election in 2020 or when Republicans in Congress regard him as a liability to their own political futures. Nixon quit only when the Republican leadership warned him it was quit or be convicted in the Senate.
The Mueller report may lead to that but until then, Putin’s polezni durak remains the most powerful person on the planet.

What 1930s Should Have Taught the Democracies

Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, Germans have looked back anxiously to the collapse of the Weimar Republic in the early 1930s and the rise of Nazism. But with many of the world’s democracies under growing strain and authoritarianism on the rise, the lessons of that period should be heeded elsewhere as well.
Start with the fact that economic shocks – for example, inflationary spirals, depressions, and banking crises – are challenges to all governments, everywhere and always. Economic insecurity and hardship persuade people that any regime must be better than the current one. This is an obvious lesson not just from the Weimar years, but also from a large body of research on the economic logic of democracy.
A second key lesson is that under extreme economic conditions, proportional representation (PR) can make matters worse. When a country’s politics are fragmented, PR is more likely to deliver an incoherent electoral majority, usually comprising parties on the far left and the far right that want to reject “the system,” but agree on little else.
Taken together, these two lessons constitute the conventional wisdom among political scientists about the Weimar experience. Too often, though, each lesson is considered in isolation, leading to a dangerous sense of complacency. The first argument lulls people into thinking that only an extreme economic crisis can threaten the political system; the second leads people to assume – incorrectly – that non-PR systems are inherently more robust.
To preempt complacency, it helps to consider eight further lessons from the Weimar era. First, referenda are dangerous, especially when they are rarely used and the electorate has little experience with them. In the Weimar Republic, the National Socialists had virtually disappeared by 1929. But that year, the party was able to reestablish itself by campaigning in a fiercely fought referendum over post-World War I reparations.
Second, dissolving parliaments prematurely when the law does not require it is risky, to say the least. Even a vote that creates the basis for new elections can be interpreted as an admission that democracy has failed. In July 1932, the Nazis won the largest share of the vote (37%) in a free but legally unnecessary election. The previous election had been held less than two years earlier, and another one was not due until 1934.
Third, constitutions don’t necessarily protect the system. The Weimar constitution, designed by some of the day’s most insightful and ethical experts (including Max Weber), was near-perfect. But when unanticipated events – whether foreign-policy dramas or domestic unrest – are interpreted as emergencies requiring an extra-legal framework, constitutional protections can erode rapidly. And the enemies of democracy can foment such events. Similarly, a fourth lesson is that business lobbyists can play a baleful behind-the-scenes role in undermining agreement between parliamentary factions.
Fifth, a political culture in which leaders demonize their opponents erodes democracy. In the Weimar Republic, that pattern began before the Nazis became a significant force. In 1922, Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau was assassinated, after having been subjected to an intense, often anti-Semitic campaign of hatred from the nationalist right. Soon thereafter, Chancellor Joseph Wirth, a center-left Catholic, turned to the right-wing parties in parliament and said, “Democracy – yes, but not the kind of democracy that bangs on the table and says: We are now in power!” He concluded his admonition by declaring that, “The enemy is on the right” – a statement that ended up only fanning the flames of tribalism even more.
Sixth, the president’s family can be dangerous. In Weimar, the aged field marshal Paul von Hindenburg was elected president in 1925, and reelected in 1932. But by the early 1930s, after several small strokes, he was suffering from dementia, and his weak and incapable son, Oskar, controlled all access to him. The result was that he ended up signing whatever agreements were presented to him.
Seventh, an insurgent group does not need to have an overall majority to control politics, even in a PR system. The largest share of the vote that the Nazis ever captured was 37%, in July 1932; in another election held that November, their support had fallen to 33%. Unfortunately, that decline led other parties to underestimate the Nazis, and to regard them as a possible coalition partner.
Eighth, incumbents can survive by buying off a discontented populace for some time, but not forever. In the Weimar era, the German state provided generous municipal housing, local government services, agricultural and industrial subsidies, and a large civil service; but it financed those outlays with debt.
To be sure, the Weimar Republic initially appeared to have a miracle economy. It was only later that German politics soured, as the government sought foreign support. Other countries found it hard to believe the government’s warnings that, without speedy assistance, a political catastrophe would ensue. And it would have been harder still to convince their own electorates to bail out Germany.
It is often assumed that countries with majoritarian electoral systems like those in the United States or the United Kingdom are more resilient than countries with PR systems. After all, America and Britain’s democracies are older, with more deeply entrenched cultures of political civility.
In reality, though, these systems can still become vulnerable over time. For example, the extent to which a country’s economy depends on foreign savings (“other people’s money”) may be politically irrelevant for long periods. But with current-account deficits of 3.7% of GDP in the US and 3% in the UK projected for this year, a reckoning could be in order, especially if isolationist nationalism among American and British voters produces disenchantment among their foreign creditors.

EU-Japan Free Trade Deal: Tokyo Becomes Bolder & Assertive

In a big development, Japan and the European Union have inked a free trade agreement that will create one of the world’s largest free trade blocs. The deal promises to eliminate almost 99% of the tariffs that burden businesses in EU and Japan. The total volume of trade in goods and services between Japan and EU stands at $100 billion. Although in the works for some time, the two parties are viewing this deal as a necessary response to American protectionism under President Donald Trump. Since March when it announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, Washington has been on a trade warpath with both allies and competitors. It has neither spared the EU nor Japan and its escalating trade war with China – against whom it recently slapped tariffs on $34 billion worth of imports – is threatening global markets.
In such a scenario, Japan, which heavily depends on the US for strategic, economic, defence and historic reasons, has been left in the lurch. And it is in this context that the Japan-EU FTA needs to be seen. It sends out a clear message that both parties are against protectionism and are willing to go the extra mile to further the cause of trade liberalisation and free markets. This also comes in the wake of Japan championing the Trans-Pacific Partnership-11 after the US left the gold standard in trade accord in 2017. Taken together, there are clear signals that Japan is willing to carve out its own trade and economic path sans the US. But the big question is can Japan go one step further and replace the US in Asia.
In terms of foreign policy, Japan today represents the same values as the US establishment position – as opposed to Trump. It is a democracy and cherishes its democratic values as reflected in its political system. It is for a rules-based order, supports liberal trade and wants a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Plus, Japan for years has been helping the cause of development in a plethora of countries through its overseas development assistance. But to replace the US in Asia it needs to be more assertive on the foreign policy front. And this is where it has an issue. For well-known historical reasons and constraints put on it by its Pacifist constitution, Japan has taken the path of leading quietly by the side of the US. Admittedly, this has served Japan well – some may even say that Japan really doesn’t have an alternative choice here. But with the Trump administration loosening the foundation of its alliances all over, Japan has to make appropriate adjustments.
And this is where Japan has to be bold. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already shown some of this trait. His administration loosened some of the military restrictions placed by the Pacifist constitution some years ago. But more is needed in this direction. After all, given Trump’s moves vis-à-vis North Korea, Japan has to become more flexible. This is no easy task given Japan’s history. But a dynamic Japan is much needed for a multi-polar Asia and world. Perhaps Trump has already sent a message to Japan through his moves – step up and help yourself.

A Global India Needs Global Content

If you have been reading the newspapers, you would have noticed a spurt of stories on how the streaming platforms, best known as OTT platforms– OTT being the shortened form of over-the-top– are now seizing the high ground in the entertainment business. Movies, of course, continue their great run in theatres. (The superheroes of Marvel Comics rule the box office globally, proving that when it comes to pop culture the world succumbs to the inalienable charm of Hollywood. Meanwhile, Rajkumar Hirani’s much-trolled Sanju has crossed Rs 300 crore in 16 days—and there’s China still to be tapped.) But with binge-watching on a rise, the new shows being streamed from India on global platforms like Netflix and Amazon have emerged as the big draw, muscling out television’s tired fiction fare.
There’s an even bigger surprise: Well crafted docudramas, though not necessarily well documented, have now found a new audience. (Note the success of the recent Rajneesh story on Netflix: Wild Wild Country.)
Of course it was HBO’s Game of Thrones that first pulled in millions of viewers but, since then, there have been several big draws like Narcos and House of Cards, both on Netflix, followed by Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why. And then came Amazon with their Indian Originals like Inside Edge and Breathe and, all of a sudden, OTT became the in-thing. But no, no series has been as much discussed and dissected as Sacred Games, the new Netflix show based on Vikram Chandra’s eponymous novel on the Bombay underworld.
There are many reasons for the success of Sacred Games but the most obvious is the unfettered creative freedom with which it has been made. Global OTT platforms are fortunately not subject to the kind of mindless censorship that the rest of our content faces. Particularly, our movies. And our TV shows too, though that is a different kind of censorship euphemistically called self censorship. This means our TV channels are expected to adhere to some ridiculous and antiquated broadcasting regulations meant to make them family-friendly, whatever that may mean. What it actually does produce is silly, retrograde, out of whack content that today’s young digitally-hooked audience has no patience for.
Those who do not conform to this broadcasting code get pulled up from time to time and even, occasionally, punished. This also means that movies meant for mature audiences (certified A by CBFC) do not get popular time bands because our Papa State does not like those under 18 to watch people kiss. (Pahlaj Nihalani, the most in-your-face censor board chief ever, who called himself sanskari, actually snipped out half a kissing scene from a James Bond movie and then insisted no one should watch it without parental guidance— he gave it a U/A after the cut. But Nihalani will be remembered most for giving Jungle Book a U/A because the animals were all naked.) So films for mature audiences are either banished to a late night viewing or not shown at all. There is, of course, the third option. The films can be re-censored and mutilated beyond recognition, to make them telecast-worthy. You have to compare the TV version of these films with the originals to understand how horrible this can turn out to be.
But there is a difference between censoring a film and trying to ban it. Alankrita Shrivastava had a tough time trying to figure out why her Lipstick Under My Burkha was flatly refused certification because Nihalani found it shockingly “lady oriented”. Udta Punjab was asked to undergo 94 cuts before it could get an A certificate because, according to Nihalani, no one did drugs in Punjab or used abusive language. Later, when it won many awards, the moot question came up again: Why do our films need censorship? All they need is correct certification that informs viewers what age group they are appropriate for. This is exactly what the Benegal report on film censorship proposed. As a consequence, it went into cold storage.
OTT platforms are now proving, after decades of creative oppression, that we are mature enough to make and watch content that addresses adult sensibilities. It has broken the old formula that has sustained Bollywood: cheap melodrama and safe subjects. The few films that broke that unspoken rule were instantly clobbered. After decades of such suppression, the OTT platforms are now treating us as a mature, sensible nation that can live with honest creative freedom. That’s why audiences are excited. For the first time, they do not have to watch flowers droop towards each other. People can actually kiss and get away with it. They can even make out. And as everyone knows by now, the new generation is least interested in porn. What appeals to them are mature stories that reflect the complexity of their lives and loves.
Of course the odd idiot will complain. He will complain against same sex love being shown. He will complain against people smoking on screen. He will complain about anything that can get him instant public attention. One hopes the government will have the coolth to ignore such complaints and allow us the freedom to watch the best of what the world and India has to offer. Unexpurgated. Don’t like it? Don’t subscribe.
Interestingly, Netflix has now started making movies that go direct to OTT without a theatrical release. This will entirely redefine the movie business for, at a $153 billion valuation and a stock surge of 80% this year– more than any other company in the S&P500, Netflix is today the world’s No 1 entertainment company. And Amazon Prime Video, whose owner Jeff Bezos has a personal net worth of $151 billion—the richest man in the world, by far—is playing catch up. This makes entertainment one of the world’s hottest plays right now and given the enormous talent India has, there’s no reason why one of our own homegrown companies cannot challenge their duarchy and become a global force. Or, better still, put our own shows out and show the world how good we can be.
But for that, we need to rewrite the old rules, sidestep the potholes of censorship, and try experimenting with the new instead of holding on to boring old formulae.

Escalating U.S.-China Trade War May Cause Canada Collateral Damage

Grim scenarios of collateral damage for Canadian consumers and businesses are emerging in response to escalating the U.S.-China trade war.
The Trump administration has taken aim at China by imposing a 25 per cent tariff on goods worth U.S. $34 billion, but the worst is still on the horizon.
The U.S. has announced a further round of tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that could go into effect towards the end of the summer, after Congress takes a closer look at the implications in a round of hearings in five weeks.
All of that amounts to more economic pain for Canadian consumers and businesses, which are already coping with the effects of their country’s own trade war with the U.S. over President Donald Trump’s imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian imports.
Trade experts and analysts say it’s too early to predict which specific products and sectors would be hit the hardest if the next round of U.S. tariffs on China are imposed.
But trade specialists say that with so much of Canada’s manufacturing sector reliant on Chinese products — bits and pieces that wind up in finished items made in Canada — there will be unavoidable consequences.
The pain could start at the Canada-U.S. border, where American customs agents have the broad power to declare anything a Chinese product — even if it was made in Canada.
American customs officials have the discretion to declare any finished product to be of Chinese origin, even if only some of its parts are from China, said Cyndee Todgham Cherniak, a Toronto trade lawyer who has served as an adviser to the Tax Court of Canada.
The onus is on the importer to prove that a product is not Chinese, or “to prove the facts are other than assumed by the customs officials,” she said.
“Even a Canadian-made make-up brush, a Canadian-made power cord — any of these items would be subject to 10 per cent duty going into the United States.”
And Canadian companies shouldn’t expect American border agents to do them any favours, said Todgham Cherniak.
“The whole goal is buy American and hire American,” she said. “So it doesn’t bother the U.S. customs agent that Canadian manufacturers will be collateral damage in the U.S.-China fight.”
If the Trump administration follows through and imposes more tariffs on a broader range of Chinese goods, fewer of them will wind up in the U.S. That means more potentially cheaper Chinese goods headed to other markets, including Canada, which is a disruption the government needs to address, said Lawrence Herman, a veteran trade lawyer who once headed the Canadian government’s treaty law section.
“Chinese products are going to find their way to Canada one way or another. They’re out there. They’re being made,” said Herman.
The government needs to come up with a scheme to enact “safeguard measures” or tariffs on those Chinese goods to counter their influx, he said.
The World Trade Organization allows countries to apply safeguards to prevent an influx of products that hurts domestic industry.
“We’re talking about an unforeseen influx of products because of global developments,” said Herman.
“There is an absolute risk of collateral damage. There is no doubt about that.”
Wenran Jiang, a China expert from the University of Alberta, said there’s no way for Canada to avoid the crossfire of an escalating U.S.-China economic conflict.
“We’re in the same boat as Japan, South Korea and other southeast Asian countries,” said Jiang.
“We’re going to be seeing collateral damage in the short term. In the long term, if the two countries don’t back down, the issue for Canada will be, how do we position our industries?”
Canada also has a more fundamental problem: it dropped the ball on opening up a free trade negotiation with China late last year, said Jiang.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ambitions of closer economic ties with China have largely been rejected by Beijing because of two developments, he said: Beijing rejected Trudeau’s so-called progressive trade agenda, and it is angry at Ottawa for blocking the Chinese takeover of the Canadian construction firm Aecon on national security grounds, said Jiang.
There could be a silver lining for some Canadian companies if China retaliates against the U.S. by making it difficult for American companies to do business, he said.
“If China stops ordering Boeing airplanes, potentially Bombardier might be on line to benefit.”

My truth behind Grimm’s fairy tales

The Brothers Grimm have been dead more than 150 years, but they recently released a new story with a little help from artificial intelligence.
The Princess and the Fox was created after a group of writers, artists and developers used a program inspired by predictive text on phones to scan the collected stories of the Brothers Grimm to suggest words and similar phrases. Human writers then took over, to help shape the AI’s algorithmic suggestions into the latest Grimm fairy tale.
The new tale tells the story of a talking fox who helps a lowly miller’s son rescue a beautiful princess from the fate of having to marry a horrible prince she does not love.
But here’s the thing, the Brothers Grimm didn’t actually write their fairy tales in the first place. They collected them – from friends, servants, workers and family members. Fairy tales, of course, have always been retold. They come alive in the telling – whether that’s a child listening to an audio book in the car, watching Snow White and the Huntsman on DVD or singing along to Shrek The Musical in the theatre.
The Grimms’ fairy stories were first published in 1812 and have never gone out of print. The Grimm Brothers were involved in the struggle for German independence. As part of the case for nationhood, they wanted to prove that Germans, as a distinct people, had their own folklore. They were political campaigners too, and among the Göttingen Seven who refused to take an oath of loyalty to the new King of Hanover when he rejected a more liberal constitution. They lost their jobs as a result and Jakob Grimm – like many characters in the fairy tales – had to go into exile.
Since then Grimms’ Fairy Tales have been translated into a hundred languages and retold again and again. They have inspired thousands of other works, from Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber to The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror.
Jakob Grimm wasn’t just a collector of folk tales either. He was also a philologist (someone who studies language) and lexicographer whose work is still influential today. As well as being a master storyteller, the ideas he developed are still being researched in universities. Grimm’s Law, named after Jakob Grimm, looks at how sounds change as they pass from one language to another – “P” tends to become “F”, while “G” becomes “W” and so on.
Happily ever after
The Grimms’ fairy stories are still passed down through generations. And even though the cast of princesses and swineherds seem a very long way away from the world most of us inhabit, the stories are still a crucial part of our cultural heritage. The stories the brothers found in Northern Germany at the beginning of the 19th-century now belong to everyone.
As a child my father – used to tell me the Grimm’s story of The Frog Prince on our Sunday walks in the grounds of our residence.
In my father’s version of the tale, the princess first met the frog by the lake – in reality built by Capability Brown for the first Duke of Marlborough – when she dropped her favourite plaything, a golden ball, into the water. When they lived happily ever after, the couple commemorated their meeting by putting golden balls on the top of Blenheim Palace. Now when I think of the story I think of Blenheim Palace, and I hear the splash of the frog in the lake, just as I thought I heard it long ago as a child.
This is exactly what stories can do, they fold all of their tellers and places together – and therein lies their mystery and their magic – once a story exists, it changes how we experience the world. And that will be the only test of “the new Grimm’s tale”, The Princess and the Fox – whether it will be retold and come to life in the telling.

Identifying 4 types of 21st-century leaders

How do we make sense of leadership when the world’s leading democracy, the United States, elects Presidents with leadership styles as contrasting as Barack Obama and Donald Trump?
How we do reconcile a world of ever-proliferating “leaderless” movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, but also ever-proliferating strongmen like Russia’s Putin, Turkey’s Erdoǧan, and Egypt’s el-Sisi?
And where do the rest of us fit in? A world of hyper-empowered crowds and rising expectations around participation is scrambling leadership styles and strategies across the sectors.
To find our feet – as we first laid out in Harvard Business Review and in our just-released book New Power – we must start by understanding two very different ways to exercise power today:
Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.
New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.
Most of us understand how old-power leadership works. After all, it’s been the main way to get ahead, whether you are a head of state or a division manager at a medium—sized business.
But in an age where we are so hyperconnected, and where so many now expect to participate in our world in more rewarding ways, we also need to reckon with new power: the ability to harness the energy of the connected crowd.
Consider first how you think about the world.
Do you have an “old power” mindset, putting your trust in expertise, believing in the virtues of hierarchy and control, preferring confidentiality over radical transparency? Do you see competition as a way to get the best out of people?
Or are you thinking in a more “new power” way – with collaboration, the wisdom of the crowd and openness more top of mind?1.png

Second, think about the methods you use.
Do you rely on downloading your ideas on to the world? Does your leadership rely on what you know, own or control that others do not? Or are you able to engage the crowd and get the best from them? Can you start movements and sustain communities that live outside your own organization?
By overlaying these mindsets and methods we can identity four different leadership archetypes:
The Crowd Leader combines a new power leadership model with a commitment to, and articulation of, a new power mindset. The Crowd Leader wants to do more than channel the power of her crowd; she wants to make her crowd more powerful.
Here we find the protagonists in decentralized movements like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter. But in New Power, we also find that Pope Francis is an effective Crowd Leader, pushing power down and out in his Church, and sending early signals designed to empower his laity, reduce the power of his Cardinals and shifting norms on issues such as sexual morality without necessarily relying on doctrine or his formal authority.
The Cheerleader champions new power values like collaboration, transparency, and participation, but still leads in an old power way. He either isn’t willing to relinquish control, or hasn’t yet mastered the ability to channel energy of the connected crowd.
Think here of President Obama – as a candidate, Obama ran as a crowd-leader, creating a huge surge of new power in small donations and volunteer energy to out-run Hillary Clinton in the primaries. As president, he governed traditionally and didn’t bring his movement into office with him, which hindered his ability to elect his successor or position his party for this post-Obama era.
The Castle Leader pairs old power values with an old power leadership model—this is the traditional hierarchical and authority-based model of leadership most of us grew up with, and which is widespread in sectors like the military, business, and education.
There’s a big range of leaders here, from a strict authoritarian like Kim Jong Un to a mainstream political leader like Theresa May or Pope Francis’s predecessor, Benedict. There are many situations where the castle leader is still very useful.
The Co-opter deploys a crowd and skillfully uses new power tools and tactics—but does so with an old power mindset, and in some cases to concentrate power for himself. Think here of President Trump, who at once is able to channel a vast decentralized social media army of supporters, but whose essential proposition is “I Alone Can Fix It” and a return to traditional hierarchies, positioning himself as a kind of “platform-strongman” leader at the top.
Many crowd-based technology leaders, not least Mark Zuckerberg, face a crossroads today of whether they lead as Co-opters or Crowd Leaders.
There are two big questions for us all.
One, what kind of leader are you today?
Second, what kind of leader should you become?
This quiz is designed to help you start to answer these questions, and shows where your leadership style fits among some of today’s best known leaders.2

Putin Rebranding Russia

I belong to the India of the sixties, when all things Russian were kosher, even attractive! This was the time of the Raj Kapoor’s Awara. and lal topi Russie ( red Russian Cap). Decades later, I was back in Russia for the second time to attend the electrifying finals of the FIFA World Cup. Over 78k people were inside the spotlessly clean stadium. Croatian fans outnumbered the French 20 to one. There wasn’t a single football ‘rowdy’ in sight.
The arrangements were impeccable. Fresh-faced, polite and efficient students manned FAN ID booths and greeted each visitor with a smile. English-speaking volunteers went out of their way to direct people to the right stands. Nothing, but nothing was left to chance. The entire process from the airport to the stadium had been meticulously thought through, down to minute security details. Russia was out to prove a big point, and it is to Vladimir Putin’s credit that the monumental effort involved in pulling off such a glitch-free mega event was worth every extra rouble spent. Russia presented its best face to the watching world. The message went out loud and clear: Russia is on a roll.
I guess Donald Trump got it, too.
“The Russians Are Coming ! The Russians Are Coming !” is a comedic Hollywood film from the 1960s that captured the chaos in a small New England town following the accidental grounding of a Soviet submarine off the Atlantic shores. Released at the height of the Cold War, it is among few American movies that portrayed Russians in a positive light, a gesture that has seldom been repeated until the more recent sympathetic depiction of Soviet Russia in the tele-serial The Americans.
Between these two representations, Moscow has long been demonized by the United States, to the extent that Ronald Reagan once gagged during a mic check, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” American putdowns of Russia too are a legion. “There is no income tax in Russia… because there’s no income,” joked Will Rogers, while Bob Hope spoke of his first stop “at Red Square in the heart of Moscow – if Moscow has one.”
Americans brought up such Cold War diet of anti-Russia propaganda and long conditioned to see Moscow as the mortal enemy are now suddenly being told that its fine to be friends despite copious evidence of Russians fiddling in U.S elections. Dogged by suspicions that business interests, among other factors, are driving his feelings for Russia, the U.S President is now widely seen as Moscow’s cats-paw with some critics calling Trump’s USA the New USSR – the acronym standing for anything from United States Sold to Russia, to United States Seduced/ Suckered/ Stolen by Russia, depending on one’s level of mistrust.
Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma said Churchill, and much the same can be said of Trump, although his detractors see his smarmy defense of Vladimir Putin as a fiddle wrapped inside a mystery inside a stigma that he will be stuck with for the rest of his life. In truth though, Russia and America are virtually conjoined twins, joined at the neck if not the hip at Bering Strait, through which the first American ancestors are said to have come from what is now Russia, to the New World. In that sense, we are all, across the world, one people. But Donald Trump has hurled enough curve balls loaded with divisive rhetoric and invective to obviate any conclusion that he is ahead of the curve. He is the President of the United States Softened by Russia.
When the American Grizzly Bear got into bed with the Siberian Tiger, political watchers held their breath. Regardless of how this peculiar ‘bromance’ pans out down the line, we know who is calling the shots as of now. But first, a perspective: Between strongman Putin and the average Russian, there is little love lost. Chatting with taxi drivers, serving staff in posh restaurants and the very, very few citizens who speak even a smattering of English, it is apparent Putin is no folk hero. Driving past a grand building ironically dubbed the ‘White House’ by locals, I asked the cabbie if it was Putin’s official residence. The man laughed, “Nobody knows where Putin actually stays. It could be in Sochi… or just outside Moscow!”
We watched Putin’s impressive cavalcade leaving the stadium after the game. Like in India, streets were blocked off and traffic halted while heavy rain pelted down (“Even the skies are crying for Croatia,” exclaimed dejected Croatian fans). Our driver counted eight armoured cars. “Putin could be in any one of them,” he shrugged, “We know very little about him…”
And yet, despite another cabbie dismissing the mighty president and his government as “nothing but mafiosi”, the mood in Moscow is confident and upbeat. Even though the average salary of young professionals hovers between $400 and $500, they seem happy enough. Menial jobs are grabbed by uneducated, poor migrants from Azerbaijan, Armenia and other neighbouring countries of the former USSR while the elite dream about Russia’s resurgence. Moscow is a lot like Mumbai on several levels — energetic and savage. As my beautiful Russian friend pointed out, “I’m proud to be from St Petersburg — a far more genteel city, where people respect the arts, culture, and have time for civilised conversation. Moscow is only about money and power.”
Well, Moscow has big plans afoot. Those require money. Year 2020 will see the opening of a new, futuristic metro that rings the city. The financial district is attracting investors from across the world, ready to do business with locals. Wealthy Chinese tourists are greeted and feted by top global luxury brands, and Chinese techies are everywhere, talking startups and more.
Russia has exploited the World Cup to the fullest, strategically and subliminally. The messaging is strong and powerful. Nobody is likely to mess with this aggressive, ambitious, revamped Russia, keen to forge ahead on its own terms. Perhaps, in this new-found euphoria about its ‘rebirth’, it’s easy to overlook the more sinister aspects of life under Putin. There is zero freedom to express opinion. Dissent does not exist. The press equals propaganda. With such controls in place, life for the young and restless is certainly frustrating. But watching a gorgeous crowd of party people dancing at a champagne party on the rooftop bar of the lush Ritz Carlton, it was easy to fall into a trance and make believe Moscow was like any other great metropolis of the world — frenetic, buzzed, lunatic and absurdly wealthy. No, it is not. But it certainly wants to get there super fast. By hook or by crook. The second option is the swiftest. And Putin is a man in a hurry.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the World Cup, a brand-new female superstar was dramatically launched in style. She effortlessly stole the show from everyone else — marquee footballers from her own team included. Meet hottie Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, mother of two, ex-army commando, ace marksman, Fulbright scholar, linguist and much else. Kolinda had better watch out — Putin doesn’t like competition! She achieved many dramatic firsts in one swoop — and the only place she did not invade was the shower area of footballers cooling off after an exhausting match. What a clever PR coup! Does anybody remember the names of her country’s amazing players? No? But who can forget Kolinda! Unscripted hugs are totally ‘in’ — here and abroad. Right, Rahul baba?

Sunday Special: The Science of Superstition – Why People Believe the Unbelievable

Superstitious beliefs have been shown to help promote a positive mental attitude. The number 13, black cats, breaking mirrors, or walking under ladders, may all be things you actively avoid – if you’re anything like the 25% of people in the US who consider themselves superstitious.Untitled
Even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly superstitious person, you probably say “bless you” when someone sneezes, just in case the devil should decide to steal their soul – as our ancestors thought possible during a sneeze.
Superstition also explains why many buildings do not have a 13th floor – preferring to label it 14, 14A 12B or M (the 13th letter of the alphabet) on elevator button panels because of concerns about superstitious tenants. Indeed, 13% of people in one survey indicated that staying on the 13th floor of a hotel would bother them – and 9% said they would ask for a different room.
On top of this, some airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa, do not have a 13th row. Lufthansa also has no 17th row – because in some countries – such as Italy and Brazil – the typical unlucky number is 17 and not 13.
What is superstition?
Although there is no single definition of superstition, it generally means a belief in supernatural forces – such as fate – the desire to influence unpredictable factors and a need to resolve uncertainty. In this way then, individual beliefs and experiences drive superstitions, which explains why they are generally irrational and often defy current scientific wisdom.
Psychologists who have investigated what role superstitions play, have found that they derive from the assumption that a connection exists between co-occurring, non-related events. For instance, the notion that charms promote good luck, or protect you from bad luck.
For many people, engaging with superstitious behaviours provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety – which is why levels of superstition increase at times of stress and angst. This is particularly the case during times of economic crisis and social uncertainty – notably wars and conflicts. Indeed, researchers have observed how in Germany between 1918 and 1940 measures of economic threat correlated directly with measures of superstition.
Touch wood
Superstitious beliefs have been shown to help promote a positive mental attitude. Although they can lead to irrational decisions, such as trusting in the merits of good luck and destiny rather than sound decision making.
Carrying charms, wearing certain clothes, visiting places associated with good fortune, preferring specific colours and using particular numbers are all elements of superstition. And although these behaviours and actions can appear trivial, for some people, they can often affect choices made in the real world.
Superstitions can also give rise to the notion that objects and places are cursed. Such as the Annabelle the Doll – who featured in The Conjuring and two other movies – and is said to be inhabited by the spirit of a dead girl. A more traditional illustration is the Curse of the Pharaohs, which is said to be cast upon any person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person – especially a pharaoh.
Numbers themselves can also often be associated with curses. For example, the figure 666 in a licence plate is often featured in stories of misfortune. The most famous case was the numberplate “ARK 666Y”, which is believed to have caused mysterious vehicle fires and “bad vibes” for passengers.
Sporting superstitions
Superstition is also highly prevalent within the sport – especially in highly competitive situations. Four out of five professional athletes report engaging with at least one superstitious behaviour prior to performance. Within sport, superstitions have been shown to reduce tension and provide a sense of control over unpredictable, chance factors.
Superstitions practices tend to vary across sports, but there are similarities. Within football, gymnastics and athletics, for example, competitors reported praying for success, checking appearance in mirror and dressing well to feel better prepared. Players and athletes also engage with personalised actions and behaviours – such as wearing lucky clothes, kit and charms.
Famous sportspeople often display superstitious behaviours. Notably, basketball legend Michael Jordan concealed his lucky North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls team kit. Similarly, the tennis legend Björn Bork, reportedly wore the same brand of shirt when preparing for Wimbledon.
Rafael Nadal has an array of rituals that he performs each time he plays. These include the manner in which he places his water bottles and taking freezing cold showers. Nadal believes these rituals help him to find focus, flow and perform well.
Walking under ladders
What all this shows is that superstitions can provide reassurance and can help to reduce anxiety in some people. But while this may well be true, research has shown that actions associated with superstitions can also become self-reinforcing – in that the behaviour develops into a habit and failure to perform the ritual can actually result in anxiety.
This is even though the actual outcome of an event or situation is still dependent on known factors – rather than unknown supernatural forces. A notion consistent with the often quoted maxim, “the harder you work (practice) the luckier you get”.
So the next time you break a mirror, see a black cat or encounter the number 13 – don’t worry too much about “bad luck”, as it’s most likely just a trick of the mind.

When children tolerate tolerance

The mandates of science and religion are different, argued Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould while taking on American creationists. In Rocks of Ages, Gould came up with the idea of ‘Non-Overlapping Magisteria’, or NOMA. A magisterium is a domain within a knowledge system that has the necessary tools to manufacture meaningful discourse. Magisteria may overlap, but Gould argued that those of science and religion don’t.
As a result, the tools of investigation and explanation of science will not work anywhere within the magisterium of religion, and vice versa. According to Gould, while religion has nothing meaningful to say about the empirical realm of science, a discourse on morality, or ultimate ‘meaning of life’, using tools of science is a meaningless exercise. The two magisteria are chalk and cheese.
Seen in the light of Gould’s argument, a University of California-Santa Cruz study that found children in India demonstrating religious tolerance can be interpreted as stepping on religion’s toes. However, the authors of ‘Reasoning About the Scope of Religious Norms: Evidence From Hindu and Muslim Children in India’ (, Child Development) steered clear of any such controversy and focused on understanding “how children reason about religious rules and how that leads to a remarkable level of acceptance of rules and practices of different religions”.
The research findings are bound to raise heckles in some quarters that believe in religious-cultural superiority of a certain belief over others. It is good news for those looking for empirical evidence for peaceful coexistence of multi-religion societies. The study, conducted in 2013 in a school in Vadodara, Gujarat, “found that both Hindu and Muslim children in India thought that Hindu children should follow Hindu norms and Muslim children should follow Muslim norms.”
The children, 100 of them aged between 9 and 15, demonstrated impressive levels of religious tolerance. While expressing preferences for their own religion, there was no evidence that the children rejected the norms of the other religion. The study focused on different Hindu norms, such as prohibition against eating beef, and Muslim norms, such as the prohibition against worshipping an idol.
An overwhelming number of children believed that religious norms are distinct from other social norms. While exploring moral norms, the researchers asked them about how to treat others—both from the same and the other religion. 95%, regardless of religion, said it is not right to hit people. The bigger surprise is that a large majority thought “it was wrong to hit someone even if hitting was permitted by religious authorities or a god”. These responses are cited as the children’s ability to distinguish between religious and moral norms.
This 2013 study infers that the children viewed religious norms as different from social conventions or personal preferences. To them, religious beliefs build around truth and falsehood. They are about which god exists and which god is right.
One of the flashpoints in any communal conflict is superiority of one god over the other. It manifests in various forms including lynchings of ‘transgressers’, prohibiting customs of the other religion, making uncharitable remarks on the other religion’s beliefs and forcible inclusion of one’s religious practices.
According to Audun Dahl, a coauthor of the study, “In the Hindu religion, the cow is a holy animal, so you could expect Hindu children to say it is wrong for anyone to kill and eat cows.” “But that’s not what we found. Most Hindu children thought Muslims could eat beef, and should follow Muslim rather than Hindu norms.”
A follow-up study on the same group could reveal if they react to the same questions the same way as they had done five years ago. Yet, this study raises hope in regions where religious conflicts are an everyday affair. If children from these regions do not develop negative attitudes toward the religious practices of other groups, then the world would be a better place to live in.

Executive & the Judiciary in India: Nature of the Relationship& Its Evolution

India’s judiciary is in the throes of a crisis. For several years, the executive has accused it of overreach, and it now faces unprecedented divisions at its own high table. Earlier this year, four senior judges went to the people against the allocation of cases by the Chief Justice of India, who underlined his authority as Master of Rolls. Subsequently, a motion of impeachment was moved against the CJI.
We are a constitutional democracy, not a monarchy. In a federal constitution, where power is distributed between the Centre and states, and between various organs of the state, disputes are bound to arise between constitutional authorities. The primary job of any federal superior court would be to resolve these disputes. Also, in a constitutional liberal democracy, the people have rights. We were born with these rights; they are not a concession given by the state, and that is why the state cannot take them away. The greatest threat to the rights of the people comes from the state, because it has the monopoly over power. And because the legislature makes laws and the executive implements them, you don’t have much choice but to give the task of protecting these rights to the judiciary. If the judiciary is not independent, the rights of the people will be in great danger. The independence of the judiciary is the first condition of a successful constitutional democracy. Independence of judges is not the right of judges, but rather, the right of citizens.
Most democratic governments do not want an independent judiciary; rather, they want to control the judiciary. On September 10, 1949, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru told the Constituent Assembly: “…No judge and no Supreme Court can make itself a third chamber. No Supreme Court and no judiciary can stand in judgment over the sovereign will of Parliament representing the will of the entire community. If we go wrong here and there, it can point it out, but in the ultimate analysis, where the future of the community is concerned, no judiciary can come in the way. And if it comes in the way, ultimately, the whole Constitution is a creature of Parliament.”
Now, our thesis is that Parliament acts under the Constitution, our Supreme Court is not supreme, it is the Constitution that is supreme, and that the Supreme Court works under the Constitution. (But) the assertion by our tallest leader, and democrat is that the Constitution itself is a creation of Parliament. This is how we started on our constitutional journey.
In Kesavananda Bharati (Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors vs State Of Kerala And Anr, April 24, 1973, which laid down the doctrine of ‘basic structure’ that empowers the judiciary to review and strike down amendments that are in conflict with the basic structure of the Constitution), Justices (K S) Hegde and (B K) Mukherjea underlined the importance of an independent judiciary as a bulwark against majoritarianism: “Two-thirds of the members of the two Houses of Parliament (needed to amend the Constitution) need not necessarily represent even the majority of the people of this country. Our electoral system is such that even a minority of voters can elect more than two-thirds of the members of either House of Parliament… That apart, our Constitution was framed on the basis of consensus and not on the basis of majority votes. It provides for the protection of the minorities. If the majority opinion is taken as the guiding factor then the guarantees given to the minorities may become valueless. …Representatives of the minorities in the Constituent Assembly gave up their claim for special protection which they were demanding in the past because of the guarantee of Fundamental Rights. Therefore the contention on behalf of the Union and the States that the two-thirds of the members in the two Houses of Parliament are always authorised to speak on behalf of the entire people of this country is unacceptable.”
The early interactions between the courts and the government:
During the first 17 years of our republic, by and large, the Supreme Court reposed faith in Parliament. Most MPs were freedom fighters, and the court trusted them. But as amendment after amendment was used to undo the core values of the Constitution, the court had to apply the brakes in 1967. That was Golaknath. (I C Golaknath & Ors vs State Of Punjab & Anr, February 27, 1967) Because of its experience since 1950, the court refused to trust elected representatives with the amendment process, and ruled that fundamental rights could not be curtailed except by the Constituent Assembly. This created a deadlock, and the Congress manifesto for the next election specifically promised to reassert the supremacy of Parliament in amending fundamental rights. In Sankari Prasad (Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs Union of India, 1951) and Sajjan Singh (Sajjan Singh vs State Of Rajasthan, 1964), the court had said Parliament had absolute power to amend the Constitution; in Golaknath, they swung to the other extreme. Which was not right, because Constitutions are to be dynamic documents, no one generation can have the monopoly over the wisdom to change them. In 1973, after Indira Gandhi’s complaints that the judiciary was coming in her way, the judges realised that the mood in the country was against them, and recalibrated their view — ruling in Kesavananda Bharati that while they would not interfere in amendments, the basic structure of the Constitution could not be violated. And very intelligently, they left ‘basic structure’ undefined.
The“committed judiciary” of the 70s and 80s, and its echoes afterward:
The government said it wanted judges who were committed to the Constitution. Some judges were crossing the line, maybe in pursuit of the larger goal of protecting constitutional values, but basically, the government was looking at judges who would uphold its policies. As a result, we got Justice A N Ray, about whom (former Chief Justice of India) Justice (M) Hidayatullah said that he (Ray) was “not a forward-looking judge, but a judge who was looking forward to the office of Chief Justice”. I believe the idea of a ‘committed’ judiciary, which is a hallmark of the socialist system, is not good for any liberal democracy, because it hurts the people’s faith in the judiciary and creates a crisis of legitimacy for the institution. This happened during the Emergency with, most prominently, ADM Jabalpur (ADM Jabalpur vs S S Shukla, April 28, 1976, the so-called ‘Habeas Corpus Case’, in which the Supreme Court shut its doors to appeals against the suspension of the right to life and liberty during the Emergency). Post-Emergency, the court tried to take the populist road, including the entertaining of public interest litigation (PILs). A number of judgments in the years after the Emergency spoke about the “People of India”, as the courts walked the extra mile to read new rights that were not already there in the Constitution. Instead of asking “What’s your problem?”, judges started to ask, “Who is in problem?”, diluting the concept of locus standi. Professor Upendra Baxi has adapted the title of Ronald Dworkin’s Taking Rights Seriously to submit that the Supreme Court now started to take the sufferings of the people seriously.
And yet, judicial activism should at all times guard against judicial adventurism. Judges should not take policy decisions, and dictate legislative or executive action. That Lakshman rekha should not be crossed.
January 12 press conference of senior judges, and its aftermath:
It should not have happened, they (four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice) should have tried to sort it out, and if you saw their faces, they were visibly disturbed. They merely released a letter they had written to the Chief Justice of India, and what they were saying was that if they hadn’t gone to the people, future generations would curse them for not having risen to the occasion. I think it is a sad day when judges come to the people for justice, but the issue they flagged is pertinent as well. A constitutional democracy must have not just a constitution, but also constitutionalism. Hitler had a constitution, but no constitutionalism; many Muslim countries have constitutions, but no constitutionalism. Constitutionalism demands that no functionary of the state has absolute power; as Chief Justice K M Joseph of Uttarakhand High Court said (on April 21, 2016 while restoring the dismissed government of Harish Rawat), there can be no absolutism, and the President cannot act like a king. In the context of the January press conference, I think it is a legitimate question whether the Chief Justice of India has absolute power to constitute Benches as the Master of Rolls. It is a difficult problem to resolve, and they need to find some meeting ground. There is a fear that if Chief Justices of High Courts are to consult brother judges, it would create chaos. In a welcome move, CJI Dipak Misra has now made a subjectwise roster. Thus, something positive has, in fact, come out of that so-called press conference.
I am of the opinion that for anybody to say that I have absolute discretion, and that there will be no limits to my power, will be the very anti-thesis of constitutionalism. But I also think the move to impeach the CJI was really unfortunate. This was not a case of “misconduct”. As the situation stands today, the Chief Justice is the Master of Rolls, he can constitute Benches, pick even junior judges. And even if someone misuses this power, is that ‘misconduct’? The Constitution does not define misconduct, nor does it say that the CJI shall be the Master of Rolls. We have to look closely at this power. Questions of administrative discretion should be dealt with in a non-arbitrary, reasonable, rational way.
The continuing tussle over the appointment of judges:
On first principles of constitutionalism, the assertion by judges that whatever they say has to be accepted by the government, is not right. But all constitutional adjudication has a context. And the context is that the government had tried to influence judges, the executive was weak during the coalition era, and so the court got this power. My grievance with the court and the collegium is that having got this power, they did not exercise it in a transparent manner. That is why in the matter of the NJAC (National Judicial Appointments Commission, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in October 2015), there was near unanimity in the political class that judges should not have the power to appoint their own. Judges have invited this problem upon themselves. While judges are probably more independent than the government, and the public has at least some faith in them, the way the collegium has acted over the years has not been without controversy. Again, when the NJAC decision was made, I think the court should have read down the provision rather than striking it down altogether, because it created a confrontation, just as Golaknath had done nearly a half century ago. Having struck it down, they could have framed the Memorandum of Procedure (for appointment of judges to High Courts and the Supreme Court) themselves (instead of leaving it to the government which, two-and-a-half years on, continues to drag its feet).
On multi-religious Benches for matters related to religion:
(We should) Definitely not (have such Benches). I have written that a multireligious Bench (of a Sikh, a Hindu, a Parsi, a Muslim and a Christian judge) to hear the triple talaq case (August 22, 2017) was not needed. If anything, a woman judge should have been on the Bench. In fact, while I agree with the judgment overall, my problem is that there is hardly anything on gender justice in it. All minorities, all communities, all castes have full faith in our judges. A judge does not sit as a Muslim or a Christian judge.
Retired judges heading Commissions or becoming Governors
A judge taking up an assignment such as head of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is different from a judge becoming a Governor. The NHRC hears matters against the state, and earlier CJIs have done a good job in the post. I would very much prefer judges to be given their last salary as pension, and to be kept out of panels other than, say, NHRC or Lokpal, where a judicial mind is needed. But I don’t think that one should become a Governor.

The surprising thing used to make medals for the 2020 Olympics

Tokyo is introducing efforts to model a sustainable society during the 2020 Olympics.
0.048 grams of gold, 0.26 grams of silver and 12 grams of copper1; the metals recycled from a typical mobile phone that are helping to create approximately 5,000 medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Over 80,000 mobile phones and other small electronic devices have already been donated directly to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) building alone, with the organizations involved hoping it will make the nation feel like active participants in the Games. This effort is just one small part of TMG’s own challenge to become a more sustainable city for Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
Tokyo last held the Games in 1964, with the Shinkansen bullet train, its highway system and other infrastructure improvements creating a legacy that became drivers of Japan’s economic growth. Today, the city is focused on leveraging the Tokyo 2020 Games to further itself as a model sustainable society, using the event to usher in economic growth, environmental conservation initiatives and improved quality of life through new innovations.
As you’d imagine, the work doesn’t stop when the Olympic and Paralympic flames are extinguished. The government has set ambitious targets through 2030 that include reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.
With climate change looming as a major risk to the world, the metropolitan government believes it’s essential to shift to a low-carbon society. In line with the Paris Agreement, TMG has set a 2030 target for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 levels. In 2010, Tokyo introduced the world’s first urban cap-and-trade program for large facilities, including office buildings.
During the Games, the city plans to utilize these carbon credits that are generated from the program to reduce CO2 emissions to zero during the four days of the event’s opening and closing ceremonies. TMG also hopes to utilize AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced environmental technologies to achieve a zero-emissions city in the future.
Tokyo is also pursuing solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources to produce CO2-free hydrogen. TMG plans to take the lead in turning the Tokyo 2020 Games’ Athletes’ Village into a pioneering low-carbon area that uses hydrogen. For the rest of the city, they also plan to introduce more fuel-cell vehicles and establish a network of hydrogen fuel stations by 2030.
Renewable energy use accounted for just 11% of total electricity usage in fiscal 2015. The city aims to increase that figure to around 30% by 2030. Reducing energy consumption overall is also essential. To this end, among other energy initiatives, Tokyo is promoting energy saving programs for buildings in the city. TMG has also set a target of a 38% reduction in energy consumption compared to 2000 levels by 2030.
Tokyo is already an economic powerhouse, with a gross product of around US$850 billion annually that helps drive the world’s third-largest economy. However, as it grows economically, it must also focus on environmental sustainability. Since 2001, the city has been able to increase its growth while reducing energy consumption. Continuing this trend will be a key policy initiative for the future.
Tokyo is, at its core, a concentration of people, infrastructure, information, and capital, attracting companies from around the world with leading-edge technologies in a range of sectors–from environmental technology to fintech, AI, and IoT–that help contribute to the city’s improved sustainability.
One such company is Sensus Japan, a subsidiary of the US-based Sensus. A global leader in smart metering, network communications technologies and data analytics for utilities, they have expanded in Tokyo with the help of TMG’s business consulting program. The introduction of smart meters not only contributes to energy savings, but can also be applied to monitoring services that can help check in on elderly family members, as well as help establish more flexible payment plans in the retail electricity and gas markets through the utilization of big data. Sensus Japan indicated that it hopes to provide smart infrastructure solutions throughout Tokyo–as well as the rest of Japan–to help reduce energy consumption, and help people save time. The company also stated that it wants to work to help improve the quality of the city overall.
As the growing number of overseas visitors know very well, Tokyo is more than just a center of business. Lush mountains that surround the region are just an hour away from the skyscrapers that characterize the city center. Nearby islands within the Tokyo Metropolitan area can also be reached by plane in less than an hour and offer fantastic views. TMG plans to introduce new mobility services and other types of next-generation transport infrastructure for visitors that will allow easy access to the islands.
The city is steeped in four centuries of tradition and continues to utilize its many assets while continuously incorporating cutting-edge technologies. Looking ahead to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 and beyond, Tokyo intends to continue evolving with a view to becoming a more sustainable city and an inspiration to the world.

The secret to lifelong success is lifelong learning: Investment in Knowledge Pays the Best Interest

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.” — Charlie Munger, Self-made billionaire & Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner
Why did the busiest person in the world, former president Barack Obama, read an hour a day while in office?
Why has the best investor in history, Warren Buffett, invested 80% of his time in reading and thinking throughout his career?
Why has the world’s richest person, Bill Gates, read a book a week during his career? And why has he taken a yearly two-week reading vacation throughout his entire career?
Why do the world’s smartest and busiest people find one hour a day for deliberate learning (the 5-hour rule), while others make excuses about how busy they are?
What do they see that others don’t?
The answer is simple: Learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. Or as Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
This insight is fundamental to succeeding in our knowledge economy, yet few people realize it. Luckily, once you do understand the value of knowledge, it’s simple to get more of it. Just dedicate yourself to constant learning.
Knowledge is the new money
“Intellectual capital will always trump financial capital.” — Paul Tudor Jones, self-made billionaire entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist
We spend our lives collecting, spending, lusting after, and worrying about money — in fact, when we say we “don’t have time” to learn something new, it’s usually because we are feverishly devoting our time to earning money, but something is happening right now that’s changing the relationship between money and knowledge.
We are at the beginning of a period of what renowned futurist Peter Diamandis calls rapid demonetization, in which technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper — or even free.
This chart from Diamandis’ book Abundance shows how we’ve demonetized $900,000 worth of products and services you might have purchased between 1969 and 1989.
This demonetization will accelerate in the future. Automated vehicle fleets will eliminate one of our biggest purchases: A car. Virtual reality will make expensive experiences, such as going to a concert or playing golf, instantly available at much lower cost. While the difference between reality and virtual reality is almost incomparable at the moment, the rate of improvement of VR is exponential.
While education and health care costs have risen, innovation in these fields will likely lead to eventual demonetization as well. Many higher educational institutions, for example, have legacy costs to support multiple layers of hierarchy and to upkeep their campuses. Newer institutions are finding ways to dramatically lower costs by offering their services exclusively online, focusing only on training for in-demand, high-paying skills, or having employers who recruit students subsidize the cost of tuition.
Finally, new devices and technologies, such as CRISPR, the XPrize Tricorder, better diagnostics via artificial intelligence, and reduced cost of genomic sequencing will revolutionize the healthcare system. These technologies and other ones like them will dramatically lower the average cost of healthcare by focusing on prevention rather than cure and management.
While goods and services are becoming demonetized, knowledge is becoming increasingly valuable.
Perhaps the best example of the rising value of certain forms of knowledge is the self-driving car industry. Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X and Google’s self-driving car team, gives the example of Uber paying $700 million for Otto, a six-month-old company with 70 employees, and of GM spending $1 billion on their acquisition of Cruise. He concludes that in this industry, “The going rate for talent these days is $10 million.”
That’s $10 million per skilled worker, and while that’s the most stunning example, it’s not just true for incredibly rare and lucrative technical skills. People who identify skills needed for future jobs — e.g., data analyst, product designer, physical therapist — and quickly learn them are poised to win.
Those who work really hard throughout their career but don’t take time out of their schedule to constantly learn will be the new “at-risk” group. They risk remaining stuck on the bottom rung of global competition, and they risk losing their jobs to automation, just as blue-collar workers did between 2000 and 2010 when robots replaced 85 percent of manufacturing jobs.
People at the bottom of the economic ladder are being squeezed more and compensated less, while those at the top have more opportunities and are paid more than ever before. The irony is that the problem isn’t a lack of jobs. Rather, it’s a lack of people with the right skills and knowledge to fill the jobs.
An Atlantic article captures the paradox: “Employers across industries and regions have complained for years about a lack of skilled workers, and their complaints are borne out in US employment data. In July [2015], the number of job postings reached its highest level ever, at 5.8 million, and the unemployment rate was comfortably below the post-World War II average. But, at the same time, over 17 million Americans are either unemployed, not working but interested in finding work, or doing part-time work but aspiring to full-time work.”
In short, we can see how at a fundamental level knowledge is gradually becoming its own important and unique form of currency. In other words, knowledge is the new money. Similar to money, knowledge often serves as a medium of exchange and store of value.
But, unlike money, when you use knowledge or give it away, you don’t lose it. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. Its value compounds over time faster than money. It can be converted into many things, including things that money can’t buy, such as authentic relationships and high levels of subjective well-being. It helps you accomplish your goals faster and better. It’s fun to acquire. It makes your brain work better. It expands your vocabulary, making you a better communicator. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.
Former president Obama perfectly explains why he was so committed to reading during his presidency in a recent New York Times interview (paywall): “At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.” These two things, he added, “have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.”
6 essentials skills to master the new knowledge economy
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler
So, how do we learn the right knowledge and have it pay off for us? The six points below serve as a framework to help you begin to answer this question. I also created an in-depth webinar on Learning How To Learn that you can watch for free.
1. Identify valuable knowledge at the right time. The value of knowledge isn’t static. It changes as a function of how valuable other people consider it and how rare it is. As new technologies mature and reshape industries, there is often a deficit of people with the needed skills, which creates the potential for high compensation. Because of the high compensation, more people are quickly trained, and the average compensation decreases.
2. Learn and master that knowledge quickly. Opportunity windows are temporary in nature. Individuals must take advantage of them when they see them. This means being able to learn new skills quickly. After reading thousands of books, I’ve found that understanding and using mental models is one of the most universal skills that everyone should learn. It provides a strong foundation of knowledge that applies across every field. So when you jump into a new field, you have preexisting knowledge you can use to learn faster.
3. Communicate the value of your skills to others. People with the same skills can command wildly different salaries and fees based on how well they’re able to communicate and persuade others. This ability convinces others that the skills you have are valuable is a “multiplier skill.” Many people spend years mastering an underlying technical skill and virtually no time mastering this multiplier skill.
4. Convert knowledge into money and results. There are many ways to transform knowledge into value in your life. A few examples include finding and getting a job that pays well, getting a raise, building a successful business, selling your knowledge as a consultant, and building your reputation by becoming a thought leader.
5. Learn how to financially invest in learning to get the highest return. Each of us needs to find the right “portfolio” of books, online courses, and certificate/degree programs to help us achieve our goals within our budget. To get the right portfolio, we need to apply financial terms — such as return on investment, risk management, hurdle rate, hedging, and diversification — to our thinking on knowledge investment.
6. Master the skill of learning how to learn. Doing so exponentially increases the value of every hour we devote to learning (our learning rate). Our learning rate determines how quickly our knowledge compounds over time. Consider someone who reads and retains one book a week versus someone who takes 10 days to read a book. Over the course of a year, a 30% difference compounds to one person reading 85 more books.
To shift our focus from being overly obsessed with money to a more savvy and realistic quest for knowledge, we need to stop thinking that we only acquire knowledge from 5 to 22 years old, and that then we can get a job and mentally coast through the rest of our lives if we work hard. To survive and thrive in this new era, we must constantly learn.
Working hard is the industrial era approach to getting ahead. Learning hard is the knowledge economy equivalent.
Just as we have minimum recommended dosages of vitamins, steps per day, and minutes of aerobic exercise for maintaining physical health, we need to be rigorous about the minimum dose of deliberate learning that will maintain our economic health. The long-term effects of intellectual complacency are just as insidious as the long-term effects of not exercising, eating well, or sleeping enough. Not learning at least 5 hours per week (the 5-hour rule) is the smoking of the 21st century and this article is the warning label.
Don’t be lazy. Don’t make excuses. Just get it done.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Before his daughter was born, successful entrepreneur Ben Clarke focused on deliberate learning every day from 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. for five years (2,000+ hours), but when his daughter was born, he decided to replace his learning time with daddy-daughter time. This is the point at which most people would give up on their learning ritual.
Instead of doing that, Ben decided to change his daily work schedule. He shortened the number of hours he worked on his to do list in order to make room for his learning ritual. Keep in mind that Ben oversees over 200 employees at his company, The Shipyard, and is always busy. In his words, “by working less and learning more, I might seem to get less done in a day, but I get dramatically more done in my year and in my career.” This wasn’t an easy decision by any means, but it reflects the type of difficult decisions that we all need to start making. Even if you’re just an entry-level employee, there’s no excuse. You can find mini learning periods during your downtimes (commutes, lunch breaks, slow times). Even 15 minutes per day will add up to nearly 100 hours over a year. Time and energy should not be excuses. Rather, they are difficult, but doable challenges. By being one of the few people who rises to this challenge, you reap that much more in reward.
We often believe we can’t afford the time it takes, but the opposite is true: None of us can afford not to learn.
Learning is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Start your learning ritual today with these three steps
The busiest, most successful people in the world find at least an hour to learn everyday. So can you!
Just three steps are needed to create your own learning ritual:
1. Find the time for reading and learning even if you are really busy and overwhelmed.
2. Stay consistent on using that “found” time without procrastinating or falling prey to distraction.
3. Increase the results you receive from each hour of learning by using proven hacks that help you remember and apply what you learn.

Saturday Special: Why No One Talks About the Spectacular Progress in Every Measure of Well-being

The Enlightenment principle that we can apply reason and sympathy to enhance human flourishing may seem obvious, trite, old-fashioned. But it is not. More than ever, the ideals of reason, science, humanism, and progress need a wholehearted defense. We take its gifts for granted: newborns who will live more than eight decades, markets overflowing with food, clean water that appears with a flick of a finger and waste that disappears with another, pills that erase a painful infection, sons who are not sent off to war, daughters who can walk the streets in safety, critics of the powerful who are not jailed or shot, the world’s knowledge and culture available in a shirt pocket. But these are human accomplishments, not cosmic birthrights. In the memories of many readers—and in the experience of those in less fortunate parts of the world—war, scarcity, disease, ignorance, and lethal menace are a natural part of existence. We know that countries can slide back into these primitive conditions, and so we ignore the achievements of the Enlightenment at our peril.
The ideals of the Enlightenment are products of human reason, but they always struggle with other strands of human nature: loyalty to tribe, deference to authority, magical thinking, the blaming of misfortune on evildoers. The second decade of the 21st century has seen the rise of political movements that depict their countries as being pulled into a hellish dystopia by malign factions that can be resisted only by a strong leader who wrenches the country backward to make it “great again.” These movements have been abetted by a narrative shared by many of their fiercest opponents, in which the institutions of modernity have failed and every aspect of life is in deepening crisis—the two sides in macabre agreement that wrecking those institutions will make the world a better place. Harder to find is a positive vision that sees the world’s problems against a background of progress that it seeks to build upon by solving those problems in their turn.
Reflecting on liberal ideals in 1960, not long after they had withstood their greatest trial, the economist F. A. Hayek observed, “If old truths are to retain their hold on men’s minds, they must be restated in the language and concepts of successive generations” (inadvertently proving his point with the expression men’s minds). “What at one time are their most effective expressions gradually become so worn with use that they cease to carry a definite meaning. The underlying ideas may be as valid as ever, but the words, even when they refer to problems that are still with us, no longer convey the same conviction.”
The Enlightenment has worked—perhaps the greatest story seldom told. And because this triumph is so unsung, the underlying ideals of reason, science, and humanism are unappreciated as well. Far from being an insipid consensus, these ideals are treated by today’s intellectuals with indifference, skepticism, and sometimes contempt. When properly appreciated, I will suggest, the ideals of the Enlightenment are in fact stirring, inspiring, and noble.
What is enlightenment? In a 1784 essay with that question as its title, Immanuel Kant answered that it consists of “humankind’s emergence from its self-incurred immaturity,” its “lazy and cowardly” submission to the “dogmas and formulas” of religious or political authority. Enlightenment’s motto, he proclaimed, is “Dare to understand!” and its foundational demand is freedom of thought and speech.
What is the Enlightenment? There is no official answer, because the era named by Kant’s essay was never demarcated by opening and closing ceremonies like the Olympics, nor are its tenets stipulated in an oath or creed. The Enlightenment is conventionally placed in the last two-thirds of the 18th century, though it flowed out of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Reason in the 17th century and spilled into the heyday of classical liberalism of the first half of the 19th. The era was a cornucopia of ideas, some of them contradictory, but four themes tie them together: reason, science, humanism, and progress.
Foremost is reason. Reason is nonnegotiable. As soon as you show up to discuss the question of what we should live for (or any other question), as long as you insist that your answers, whatever they are, are reasonable or justified or true and that therefore other people ought to believe them too, then you have committed yourself to reason, and to holding your beliefs accountable to objective standards.
Many writers today confuse the Enlightenment endorsement of reason with the implausible claim that humans are perfectly rational agents. Nothing could be further from historical reality. Thinkers such as Kant, Baruch Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Adam Smith were inquisitive psychologists and all too aware of our irrational passions and foibles. The deliberate application of reason was necessary precisely because our common habits of thought are not particularly reasonable.
That leads to the second ideal, science, the refining of reason to understand the world. The Scientific Revolution was revolutionary in a way that is hard to appreciate today, now that its discoveries have become second nature to most of us.
To the Enlightenment thinkers, the escape from ignorance and superstition showed how mistaken our conventional wisdom could be, and how the methods of science—skepticism, fallibilism, open debate, and empirical testing—are a paradigm of how to achieve reliable knowledge.
That knowledge includes an understanding of ourselves. The need for a “science of man” was a theme that tied together Enlightenment thinkers who disagreed about much else. Their belief that there was such a thing as universal human nature, and that it could be studied scientifically, made them precocious practitioners of sciences that would be named only centuries later.
The idea of a universal human nature brings us to a third theme, humanism. The thinkers of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment saw an urgent need for a secular foundation for morality, because they were haunted by a historical memory of centuries of religious carnage: the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, the European wars of religion. They laid that foundation in what we now call humanism, which privileges the well-being of individual men, women, and children over the glory of the tribe, race, nation, or religion. It is individuals, not groups, who are sentient—who feel pleasure and pain, fulfillment and anguish.
A humanistic sensibility impelled the Enlightenment thinkers to condemn not just religious violence but also the secular cruelties of their age, including slavery, despotism, executions for frivolous offenses such as shoplifting and poaching, and sadistic punishments such as flogging, amputation, impalement, disembowelment, breaking on the wheel, and burning at the stake. If the abolition of slavery and cruel punishment is not progress, nothing is, which brings us to the fourth Enlightenment ideal. With our understanding of the world advanced by science and our circle of sympathy expanded through reason and cosmopolitanism, humanity could make intellectual and moral progress.
The ideal of progress should not be confused with the 20th-century movement to re-engineer society for the convenience of technocrats and planners, which the political scientist James Scott calls Authoritarian High Modernism. Rather than trying to shape human nature, the Enlightenment hope for progress was concentrated on human institutions. Human-made systems such as governments, laws, schools, markets, and international bodies are a natural target for the application of reason to human betterment.
In this way of thinking, government is not a divine fiat to reign, a synonym for “society,” or an avatar of the national, religious, or racial soul. It is a human invention, tacitly agreed to in a social contract, designed to enhance the welfare of citizens by coordinating their behavior and discouraging selfish acts that may be tempting to every individual but leave everyone worse off. As the most famous product of the Enlightenment, the Declaration of Independence, put it, in order to secure the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The Enlightenment also saw the first rational analysis of prosperity. Its starting point was not how wealth is distributed but the prior question of how wealth comes to exist in the first place. Smith, building on French, Dutch, and Scottish influences, noted that an abundance of useful stuff cannot be conjured into existence by a farmer or craftsman working in isolation. It depends on a network of specialists, each of whom learns how to make something as efficiently as possible, and who combine and exchange the fruits of their ingenuity, skill, and labor.
Specialization works only in a market that allows the specialists to exchange their goods and services, and Smith explained that economic activity was a form of mutually beneficial cooperation (a positive-sum game, in today’s lingo): each gets back something that is more valuable to him than what he gives up. Through voluntary exchange, people benefit others by benefiting themselves; as he wrote, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.” Smith was not saying that people are ruthlessly selfish, or that they ought to be; he was one of history’s keenest commentators on human sympathy. He only said that in a market, whatever tendency people have to care for their families and themselves can work to the good of all.
Exchange can make an entire society not just richer but nicer, because in an effective market it is cheaper to buy things than to steal them, and other people are more valuable to you alive than dead. (As the economist Ludwig von Mises put it centuries later, “If the tailor goes to war against the baker, he must henceforth bake his own bread.”) Many Enlightenment thinkers, including Montesquieu, Kant, Voltaire, Diderot, and the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, endorsed the ideal of doux commerce, gentle commerce. The American Founders—George Washington, James Madison, and especially Alexander Hamilton—designed the institutions of the young nation to nurture it.
This brings us to another Enlightenment ideal, peace. War was so common in history that it was natural to see it as a permanent part of the human condition and to think peace could come only in a messianic age. But with the advent of the Enlightenment, war was no longer thought of as a divine punishment to be endured and deplored, or a glorious contest to be won and celebrated, but as a practical problem to be mitigated and someday solved. In “Perpetual Peace,” Kant laid out measures that would discourage leaders from dragging their countries into war. Together with international commerce, he recommended representative republics (what we would call democracies), mutual transparency, norms against conquest and internal interference, freedom of travel and immigration, and a federation of states that would adjudicate disputes between them.
For all the prescience of the Founders, Framers, and philosophes, this is not a book of Enlightenolatry. The Enlightenment thinkers were men and women of their age, the 18th century. Some were racists, sexists, antiSemites, slaveholders, or duelists. They of all people would have been the first to concede this. If you extol reason, then what matters is the integrity of the thoughts, not the personalities of the thinkers. And if you’re committed to progress, you can’t very well claim to have it all figured out.
Intellectuals hate progress. Intellectuals who call themselves “progressive” really hate progress. It’s not that they hate the fruits of progress, mind you: most pundits, critics, and their bien pensant readers use computers rather than quills and inkwells, and they prefer to have their surgery with anesthesia rather than without it. It’s the idea of progress that rankles the chattering class—the Enlightenment belief that by understanding the world we can improve the human condition.
The idea that the world is better than it was and can get better still fell out of fashion among the clerisy long ago. In The Idea of Decline in Western History, Arthur Herman shows that prophets of doom are the allstars of the liberal arts curriculum, including Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Martin Heidegger, and a chorus of eco-pessimists. In History of the Idea of Progress (1980), the sociologist Robert Nisbet agreed: “The skepticism regarding Western progress that was once confined to a very small number of intellectuals in the nineteenth century has grown and spread to not merely the large majority of intellectuals in this final quarter of the century, but to many millions of other people in the West.”
But it’s not just those who intellectualize for a living who think the world is going to hell in a handcart. It’s ordinary people when they switch into intellectualizing mode. In late 2015, large majorities in 11 developed countries said that “the world is getting worse,” and in most of the last 40 years a solid majority of Americans have said that the country is “heading in the wrong direction.”
It’s easy to see why people feel that way: every day the news is filled with stories about war, terrorism, crime, pollution, inequality, drug abuse, and oppression. Seeing how journalistic habits and cognitive biases bring out the worst in each other, how can we soundly appraise the state of the world? The answer is to count.
Most people agree that life is better than death. Health is better than sickness. Sustenance is better than hunger. Abundance is better than poverty. Peace is better than war. Safety is better than danger. Freedom is better than tyranny. Equal rights are better than bigotry and discrimination. Literacy is better than illiteracy. Knowledge is better than ignorance. Intelligence is better than dull-wittedness. Happiness is better than misery. Opportunities to enjoy family, friends, culture, and nature are better than drudgery and monotony.
All these things can be measured. If they have increased over time, that is progress.
Granted, not everyone would agree on the exact list. The values are avowedly humanistic and leave out religious, romantic, and aristocratic virtues such as salvation, grace, sacredness, heroism, honor, glory, and authenticity. But most would agree that it’s a necessary start.
And here is a shocker: The world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being. Here is a second shocker: Almost no one knows about it.
Information about human progress, though absent from major news outlets and intellectual forums, is easy enough to find. The data are not entombed in dry reports but are displayed in gorgeous websites, particularly Max Roser’s Our World in Data, Marian Tupy’s HumanProgress, and Hans Rosling’s Gapminder. (Rosling learned that not even swallowing a sword during a 2007 TED talk was enough to get the world’s attention.) The case has been made in beautifully written books, some by Nobel laureates, which flaunt the news in their titles—Progress, The Progress Paradox, Infinite Progress, The Infinite Resource, The Rational Optimist, The Case for Rational Optimism, Utopia for Realists, Mass Flourishing, Abundance, The Improving State of the World, Getting Better, The End of Doom, The Moral Arc, The Big Ratchet, The Great Escape, The Great Surge, The Great Convergence. (None was recognized with a major prize, but over the period in which they appeared, Pulitzers in nonfiction were given to four books on genocide, three on terrorism, two on cancer, two on racism, and one on extinction.) And for those whose reading habits tend toward listicles, recent years have offered “Five Amazing Pieces of Good News Nobody Is Reporting,” “Five Reasons Why 2013 Was the Best Year in Human History,” “Seven Reasons the World Looks Worse Than It Really Is,” “29 Charts and Maps That Show the World Is Getting Much, Much Better,” “40 Ways the World Is Getting Better,” and my favorite, “50 Reasons We’re Living through the Greatest Period in World History.”
Perhaps President Obama summed it up best at the end of his presidency:
If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be—you didn’t know whether you were going to be born into a wealthy family or a poor family, what country you’d be born in, whether you were going to be a man or a woman—if you had to choose blindly what moment you’d want to be born, you’d choose now