Weekend Special: Stopping the Spread of Fake News

Would you like to rid the internet of false political news stories and misinformation? Then consider using — yes — crowdsourcing.

That’s right. A new study co-authored by an MIT professor shows that crowdsourced judgments about the quality of news sources may effectively marginalize false news stories and other kinds of online misinformation.

“What we found is that, while there are real disagreements among Democrats and Republicans concerning mainstream news outlets, basically everybody — Democrats, Republicans, and professional fact-checkers — agree that the fake and hyperpartisan sites are not to be trusted,” says David Rand, an MIT scholar and co-author of a new paper detailing the study’s results.

Indeed, using a pair of public-opinion surveys to evaluate of 60 news sources, the researchers found that Democrats trusted mainstream media outlets more than Republicans do — with the exception of Fox News, which Republicans trusted far more than Democrats did. But when it comes to lesser-known sites peddling false information, as well as “hyperpartisan” political websites (the researchers include Breitbart and Daily Kos in this category), both Democrats and Republicans show a similar disregard for such sources.

Trust levels for these alternative sites were low overall. For instance, in one survey, when respondents were asked to give a trust rating from 1 to 5 for news outlets, the result was that hyperpartisan websites received a trust rating of only 1.8 from both Republicans and Democrats; fake news sites received a trust rating of only 1.7 from Republicans and 1.9 from Democrats.

By contrast, mainstream media outlets received a trust rating of 2.9 from Democrats but only 2.3 from Republicans; Fox News, however, received a trust rating of 3.2 from Republicans, compared to 2.4 from Democrats.

The study adds a twist to a high-profile issue. False news stories have proliferated online in recent years, and social media sites such as Facebook have received sharp criticism for giving them visibility. Facebook also faced pushback for a January 2018 plan to let readers rate the quality of online news sources. But the current study suggests such a crowdsourcing approach could work well, if implemented correctly.

 “If the goal is to remove really bad content, this actually seems quite promising,” Rand says.

The paper, “Fighting misinformation on social media using crowdsourced judgments of news source quality,” is being published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The authors are Gordon Pennycook of the University of Regina, and Rand, an associate professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management.

To promote, or to squelch?

To perform the study, the researchers conducted two online surveys that had roughly 1,000 participants each, one on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, and one via the survey tool Lucid. In each case, respondents were asked to rate their trust in 60 news outlets, about a third of which were high-profile, mainstream sources.

The second survey’s participants had demographic characteristics resembling that of the country as a whole — including partisan affiliation. (The researchers weighted Republicans and Democrats equally in the survey to avoid any perception of bias.) That survey also measured the general audience’s evaluations against a set of judgments by professional fact-checkers, to see whether the larger audience’s judgments were similar to the opinions of experienced researchers.

But while Democrats and Republicans regarded prominent news outlets differently, that party-based mismatch largely vanished when it came to the other kinds of news sites, where, as Rand says, “By and large we did not find that people were really blinded by their partisanship.”

In this vein, Republicans trusted MSNBC more than Breitbart, even though many of them regarded it as a left-leaning news channel. Meanwhile, Democrats, although they trusted Fox News less than any other mainstream news source, trusted it more than left-leaning hyperpartisan outlets (such as Daily Kos).

Moreover, because the respondents generally distrusted the more marginal websites, there was significant agreement among the general audience and the professional fact-checkers. (As the authors point out, this also challenges claims about fact-checkers having strong political biases themselves.)

That means the crowdsourcing approach could work especially well in marginalizing false news stories — for instance by building audience judgments into an algorithm ranking stories by quality. Crowdsourcing would probably be less effective, however, if a social media site were trying to build a consensus about the very best news sources and stories.

Where Facebook failed: Familiarity?

If the new study by Rand and Pennycook rehabilitates the idea of crowdsourcing news source judgments, their approach differs from Facebook’s stated 2018 plan in one crucial respect. Facebook was only going to let readers who were familiar with a given news source give trust ratings.

But Rand and Pennycook conclude that this method would indeed build bias into the system, because people are more skeptical of news sources they have less familiarity with — and there is likely good reason why most people are not acquainted with many sites that run fake or hyperpartisan news.

“The people who are familiar with fake news outlets are, by and large, the people who like fake news,” Rand says. “Those are not the people that you want to be asking whether they trust it.”

Thus for crowdsourced judgments to be a part of an online ranking algorithm, there might have to be a mechanism for using the judgments of audience members who are unfamiliar with a given source. Or, better yet, suggest, Pennycook and Rand, showing users sample content from each news outlet before having the users produce trust ratings.

For his part, Rand acknowledges one limit to the overall generalizability of the study: The dymanics could be different in countries that have more limited traditions of freedom of the press.

“Our results pertain to the U.S., and we don’t have any sense of how this will generalize to other countries, where the fake news problem is more serious than it is here,” Rand says

Needed for a Paradigm Shift A Militant-free Pakistan

Both Pakistan and India have to wake up and make a paradigm shift- a shift from covert warfare to strategic realism. Pakistan can by no means leave the task of countering terrorism unaccomplished. For that, it will have to adopt a policy mechanism to control all shades of militant groups. In retrospect, Pakistan has already taken some measures that have put pressure on militants and their supporters. This pressure should remain sustained and be expanded across the board, reflecting the state’s resolve that no militant group will be allowed to operate here.

First, militants should not be allowed to hide behind the state’s religious-nationalist paradigm.

Secondly, these groups should not have any space in the political or strategic calculus of the state. As far as denying physical space to militant groups is concerned, implementing the National Action Plan and the National Internal Security Policy would do the trick. At times, changing the behaviour of some sectarian or militant groups can confuse the state’s response, especially when these groups offer complete disengagement from violence in return for entry into mainstream politics. But the leaderships of such groups cannot guarantee holding back their vulnerable mid- and low-rank cadres from committing acts of terrorism, or joining some other violent groups.

Thirdly, the international community, including Pakistan’s key strategic partner, China, has become less tolerant towards violent non-state actors that are considered a key hurdle in the way of progress and globalisation. Global economies trust only non-state actors of peace and cooperation, such as the Financial Action Task Force, the international financial watchdog that helps check money laundering and terror financing.

Both India and Pakistan need a paradigm shift to move from covert warfare to strategic realism.

The emerging geopolitical and security challenges, many of them non-traditional, also make it imperative for Pakistan to develop an unconventional response framework. The proxy wars in South Asia and neighbouring regions were not a new phenomenon when the state here was seen to nurture proxies with the consent and aid of its international partners. South Asia in particular has a long history of covert wars and many countries in the region have mastered the art of proxy warfare to exploit the internal fault lines of their adversaries. But a proxy war, if prolonged and unchecked, can trigger a conventional war. The region has seen this happening many times.

Both India and Pakistan need a paradigm shift to move from covert warfare to strategic realism, which can enhance the chances of the resolution of conflicts between the two countries. Strategic realism stands on the concept of the authority of the state as an authoritative actor, that can undermine or limit the functionality of individuals or non-state actors — if both sides agree to do so.

Pakistan’s offer to India for talks was an attempt to bring these countries into the realm of strategic realism, but the Indian response remains negative. This attitude is not going to help India; rather, it will leave the current regime in Delhi hostage to a new collective narcissism that is growing in Indian society. The weak and marginalised communities in India have become the victims of this collective narcissism, as is evident from the response of the majority community against Kashmiris and Muslims. In the narcissistic framework of India, Pakistan is seen as holding the position of an ‘offender’ that provokes the majority’s sentiments and sees the Kashmiris as aligned with Pakistan.

Collective narcissism is as dangerous as violent extremism. Pakistan is also suffering from a certain degree of narcissism that exhibits itself in the disparate societal relationship between different religious and ethnic communities. But the Indian case is becoming worse and making Pakistan’s task to overcome radicalism in society difficult, since a major section of the media and public opinion-makers here try to reciprocate in a similar manner. This process limits the possibilities of turning critical issues into realistic paradigms.

For instance, both sides could make the joint anti-terrorism mechanism (JATM) a permanent institutional mechanism (along the pattern of the Directorate-General of Military Operations hotline) which links both prime ministers’ offices and allows direct communication between the leaders of India and Pakistan. The two countries have twice agreed on a JATM. First, in 2006 Gen Musharraf and then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee agreed on this in Havana, and then in 2009 prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani agreed on it. However, the JATM has become a victim of politics despite having the potential to become an important trust-building mechanism between the two countries that could be used to minimise the chances of terrorist and other damaging activities on both sides.

Coming back to the internal dimension of the issue, Pakistan has to take its partners into full confidence about its counterterrorism policy, especially the non-kinetic components such as deradicalisation and rehabilitation. However, first, the government needs to ensure a complete blackout of militant and sectarian groups by the media and in public domains, a ban on their publications, and zero visibility for them in cyberspace. This should be part of the state’s contingency plan against militant groups.

Prime Minster Imran Khan has promised that in ‘naya Pakistan’, terrorist groups will never be allowed to thrive. This is commendable but should come with action. The first step in this direction should be to initiate an open debate in parliament on the status and future of banned groups. Parliament can constitute a high-powered national-level truth and reconciliation commission, to review the policies that produced militancy and to mainstream those willing to renounce violence and violent ideologies, but that should happen within the country’s Constitutional framework.

Pakistan should take these decisions for its own sake as militancy and extremism have eroded the fabric of society and militant groups have proved a strategic burden. All militant groups have a tendency to operate independently and their actions have detrimental consequences for the country.

Transformative 5G Technology

It is not an easy time to be an internationalist, to seek global solutions to global problems amid what feels like one of history’s periodic inclinations toward divisiveness.

Yet, ironically, we’re on the verge of a new age of interconnectedness, when the daily lives of people across the planet will be more closely intertwined than ever. Advances in technology will usher in the age of fifth generation, or 5G, telecommunications. And, if past is prologue, this technological evolution will lead to dramatic societal changes.

The first generation of mobile communications, with brick-sized phones, brought just a handful of users expensive and often unreliable analogue voice calling. The second generation introduced digital voice service that was less likely to be dropped, available to many more people and ultimately cheaper to use. 3G ushered in the mobile internet, mobile computing, and the proliferation of apps. 4G (often called LTE) made possible all we have come to expect of mobile broadband: streaming video and audio; instantaneous ride hailing; the explosion of social media.

We take all this connectivity for granted, but the engineering inside the device in your bag or pocket today would have seemed impossible less than 20 years ago.

So, where will 5G take us?

Think about a world in which not just people but all things are connected: cars to the roads they are on; doctors to the personal medical devices of their patients; augmented reality available to help people shop and learn and explore wherever they are. This requires a massive increase in the level of connectivity.

5G is the technological answer, making possible billions of new connections, and making those connections secure and instantaneous. 5G will impact every industry – autos, healthcare, manufacturing and distribution, emergency services, just to name a few. And 5G is purposely designed so that these industries can take advantage of cellular connectivity in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before, and to scale upwards as use of 5G expands.

But generational change in mobile communications doesn’t just appear overnight. It requires significant effort in research and development and the resources necessary to support that effort. Work on 4G took nearly a decade and the challenges were not easy. Consider one of tens of thousands of problems that needed to be solved as described by an engineer at Qualcomm, where much of this technology was invented:

“When the signal leaves the base station, it can undergo a loss of up to 130 decibels before it reaches your mobile phone. To put that loss into perspective, if you consider the transmitted signal power to be roughly the size of the Earth, then the received signal power would be equivalent to the size of a tiny bacteria.”

That is a tremendous loss of power, and it requires some pretty impressive engineering to compensate for the effect of the loss on the words, pictures, and other data we send and receive across the airwaves in a transparent, seamless and instantaneous way.

But we weren’t alone. The international engineering co-operation that goes into development of a telecom standard illustrates how much can be achieved when disparate national, commercial and scientific parties work together for the common good.

Like 3G and 4G, 5G is the responsibility of the standards-setting organisation 3GPP, where the handful of companies that invent technologies come together with many, many more companies who will develop products that implement those technologies.

Think about this process for a moment: engineers from rival inventing companies, rival product makers, rival wireless network operators, all from different countries and continents, discussing, testing, striving to perfect tens of thousands of different technical solutions that ultimately make up a standard like 5G.

They judge each technical solution using a merit-based, consensus-building approach. This process has been at the foundation of a technological revolution that spawned myriad new industries, millions of new jobs and well over a $1 trillion in economic growth.

It’s the fusion of commercial self-interest with the recognition that some problems are best solved by working together. And it’s not a bad model of human behaviour if we are to meet the World Economic Forum’s goal this year to address the problems of “a fractured world”.

The benefits and advantages of 5G technology are expected to be available sometime in 2019. We believe 5G will change the world even more profoundly than 3G and 4G; that it will be as revolutionary as electricity or the automobile, benefitting entire economies and entire societies.

Developing nations have rivalled or surpassed their industrialised counterparts in benefiting from the deployment of mobile technology, and there’s every reason to think 5G will have an even bigger levelling effect than its predecessors.

Economists estimate the global economic impact of 5G in new goods and services will reach $12 trillion by 2035 as 5G moves mobile technology from connecting people to people and information, towards connecting people to everything.

Many of the benefits probably aren’t yet apparent to us. Wireless network operators initially resisted proposals to give their customers mobile access to the internet, questioning why they would want it. At the dawn of 4G’s adoption no one could have predicted the new business models that grew on the back of mobile broadband, like Uber, Spotify and Facebook.

Now, according to the European Patent Office, the number of patent applications related to “smart connected objects” has surged 54% over the last three years, suggesting new, related and as-yet unknown inventions will arrive even before 5G becomes available.

This is news that should encourage us amid glum commentaries on the state of the world. There is promise yet in what we’re capable of achieving.

Unpaid COOs: Payroll of These Indian Wageless Workers Would be $10 Trillion

Bonded labour – unpaid labour – has long been banned in India. Yet today, all over the country, there are several hundred million labourers who work long hours, 365 days a year, with no holidays, for zero wages.

Such unpaid workers are not restricted to the rural areas of the country, or to the poorer sections of society. They are there in towns and cities, and in middle-class households as well.

The work they do, in their day-to-day duties, involves many skills, both manual and mental, physical and psychological.

These unpaid workers – who are often the COOs, chief operating officers, of their respective households – are homemakers, the overwhelming majority of whom are women, though in recent times there are a few male exceptions to this rule.

The tasks that household COOs must perform are manifold. First of all, many, if not most, of them have to have not one but two jobs: one being a cash-paying job outside the home, and the other being that of running the household.

The homemaker’s chores involve cooking for the family, and ensuring that the food provided is healthy and nutritious, doing the laundry, keeping the daily hisaab, helping the children with their homework, looking after the elderly, tending minor ailments, doing small household repairs like changing electrical fuses which have blown, and lending a sympathetic ear and giving counsel when personal or professional problems crop up.

The unpaid COO, the homemaker, does the job – or, rather jobs – of an amateur chef-cum-dietician, dhobi, accountant, tutor, nurse, do-it-yourself handyman, or handywoman, and psychologist.

That’s a lot of work, of all different kinds. And all of it unpaid for, and often not even acknowledged.

According to the Oxfam Wealth Report, 2018, if all the women homemakers all over the world, the unpaid COOs, were to be given fare wages their salary bill would come to some $10 trillion, 43 times the turnover of Apple.

Maybe it’s time all these unpaid COOs formed a union to demand wages. A good name for such an organisation might be Shakti

Change in Meaning of a Global CEO

I’ve been reflecting on how the conversation in Davos has evolved over the years and what that says about the changing role of a global CEO in the 21st century.

It’s an understatement to say the world has changed since I took over as CEO. For example, at one of the first Davos meetings I attended, it seemed like everyone was talking about the potential of new regional trade agreements to drive shared prosperity. Now, many are talking about a potential reshuffling of the entire world order. So, the stakes are getting much higher.

Meanwhile, many of the challenges we faced early in my tenure – from rising income inequality to declining trust in institutions – have not changed. Rather, in an age of rapid technological progress and transformative disruption, they have grown even greater and more urgent. Today’s CEOs have to constantly think about how to improve their business models, while simultaneously navigating fast-paced, massive disruption of industries and businesses and a strong undercurrent of uncertainty running through societies around the world.

These growing challenges have made it increasingly necessary for global CEOs to adapt the way they lead their companies and, ultimately, to expand the way they think about their roles.

CEOs are accountable for more than financial success

Based on my experience at EY and countless conversations with business and government leaders around the world, I argued a few years ago that the role of the CEO had to evolve.

In a previous generation, it was often enough for CEOs to succeed by charting a course by themselves, then expecting people to follow it. If the business executed well, the CEO would be rewarded. But that’s not the case anymore.

Today, businesses are accountable to an increasing number of stakeholders – and everyone from employees to board members are looking to CEOs for a clearer sense of not just where they’re going, but why. That means we need to communicate our vision to stakeholders and convince them that we’re on the right path. Just as importantly, we need to communicate our companies’ values — and we have to back them up with measurable and verifiable action.

Why? Because now CEOs speak on behalf of more people than ever, and we’re held accountable in more public ways. With social media, virtually everything a CEO says or does can be instantaneously scrutinized and has the potential to spark a controversy. And in a divisive political climate, our people, our clients and our customers increasingly expect us to speak out publicly when issues arise that conflict with the stated values of our companies. In the last few years, we’ve all seen the pressure businesses have faced when they’ve been perceived to stand on the wrong side of one issue or another. It all impacts an organization’s brand, which is an increasingly important currency.

As a general rule, I think it’s better to be in the room bringing your experience and voice to the debate than outside the room offering criticism. That’s why, although the Council eventually disbanded, I continue to spend a significant amount of time representing EY in public-public initiatives at the global, national and community level.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that CEOs should act like politicians who espouse their views on purely political or partisan debates. But when there are issues that affect our business or conflict with our values as an organization, we need to have a voice in the conversation.

In today’s global economy, that means CEOs can’t separate traditional “business” issues like trade from issues like immigration or gender equality. These issues also profoundly affect our businesses, our people and the communities in which we operate. If we don’t make it clear where we stand, we risk losing the trust of our stakeholders and, in some cases, their business. Moreover, we weaken the sense of community our organizations need and undermine the very values we cherish.

The role of business in society has changed

Of course, this evolution is part of a broader shift in the role of business in society.

Until recently, it was widely accepted that a company’s primary responsibility was to create financial value for its shareholders. That’s who businesses and CEOs were almost exclusively accountable to. While there have always been companies that tried to create benefits for a wider range of stakeholders, this was typically seen as a way to stand out from the pack — not a basic expectation or requirement for success.

In today’s rapidly changing world, however, the simple fact is that companies have to create value for many stakeholders in order to succeed. Shareholder value is still critically important – but isn’t separate from a company’s impact on its people, its communities and more.

Businesses can fulfill this responsibility in a number of ways. For example, perhaps the most valuable investments any business can make is in its own people. Employees are the ones who execute a company’s strategy, determine its culture and serve as ambassadors to customers and their communities. They look to their employers to educate and empower them – which is why, on an annual basis, EY invests approximately US$500 million and over 13 million hours in employee development and education. This is on top of the important experiential learning and mentoring that’s also provided. We’ve also introduced digital credentials known as EY Badges to help people develop skills related to emerging technologies that will benefit them throughout their careers.

Businesses can also increase their social impact by sponsoring educational, mentoring and other community initiatives with other organizations. With a new initiative called EY Ripples, for example, we’re working to help young people gain skills and supporting high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. By 2022, our goal is to mobilize over one million of our own people and networks to make a direct impact on 10 million people and organizations.

In each case, creating stakeholder value isn’t just a nice thing for businesses to do, but rather a strategic imperative that ultimately benefits their shareholders, too. When companies invest in their people or communities, it doesn’t just create new opportunities for those who directly benefit. It also helps build a stronger workforce and a better overall business environment, creating a win-win for stakeholders and shareholders alike.

It’s time for the next generation of CEOs to lead

As I reflect on my time at CEO, it’s remarkable to consider how much the world has changed—and how much the expectations of global businesses have changed along with it. Today, in an era of transformation and uncertainty, people around the world are looking to the business community for leadership. It’s time for next generation of CEOs to rise to the challenge. Our license to lead depends on it.

Oscar Evening Still Excite

The Oscars went hostless this year. In a reflection of how the authority of traditional anchors has been shredded in the world at large, amidst an onslaught of identity politics and disillusionment and partisanship, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just couldn’t lock onto anyone to do the needful. But neither the entertainment nor social messaging quotient suffered for it. The multiple mellifluous voices of award presenters and winners left the void unfelt. The evening lived up to the promise of the Queen tribute that opened it, We Will Rock You.

In accepting the best actor award for playing the legend Freddie Mercury, he of desi origins and Mumbai schooling, Rami Malek reached out to those struggling with being gay or being an immigrant, a message that was authoritative because it came from an Arabic heritage first generation American immigrant. Of course it wasn’t sugary all the way. The best film Green Book is accused of a white saviour complex. Director Spike Lee said of it, “the ref made a bad call”. He too had a contender on the best film block, BlacKkKlansman. One of the most influential and inspiring directors of modern America, but yet to be awarded top honours by the Academy, he remains a glaring example of its risible blindspots.

The value of such ceremonies is the extent to which they speak to the contemporary zeitgeist, for example in the way in which the #MeToo movement now forces action against sexual harassment. Or how the best song, was performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper to a double standing ovation, “Tell me somethin’, girl, are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more? Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?” The anxious search for meaning goes on

Hanoi Generates Hope

Today the hopes are running high in Hanoi. In a couple of days US-North Korea summit could be about Trump, Kim and Moon imagining a political rearrangement of the Korean Peninsula. Whatever Trump’s critics might say, the hopes for peace in the Korean Peninsula have never been as high as they are today. Many in the West had trashed the Singapore summit — the first ever between an American president and a Korean leader — as a failure. Sceptics continue to insist that the Hanoi summit might not be very different; many others fear that Trump might end up making a “bad deal”.

Vietnam’s capital Hanoi is as improbable a place as Singapore for this week’s summit between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. There was a time when the big Asian peace talks were held in European capitals like Geneva. Five decades ago, negotiations to end the American war against Vietnam took place in Paris. Two decades ago, when the Taliban was ousted from Kabul in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the new framework for governing Afghanistan was hammered out in Bonn, Germany. Now Asian problems are being resolved in Asia itself.

It is no small thing that the US president is traveling to Singapore and Hanoi to sit down with Kim. It is even more significant that Trump is willing to gamble on striking a nuclear deal with Kim and braving the charge of appeasement. Even limited success for Trump could set in motion profound structural changes in East Asia.

For nearly seven decades, Washington’s conventional wisdom argued that it is impossible to unfreeze the Korean Peninsula’s geopolitics. The end of the Cold War did not change that perception. The addition of the nuclear layer to the conflict — with the Kim family’s quest for nuclear weapons in the 1990s — made the Korean problem more salient and intractable at the same time.

Trump has over-ruled his advisers to introduce more flexibility into the US negotiating position. Some Republicans and many Democrats in the US Congress are critical of Trump’s engagement with Kim. Speaking to reporters last week, Trump said he is no hurry for the “denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula and hinted that he could live with a nuclear freeze for now. As his officials discuss a range of nuclear steps from Kim, Trump is offering possibilities for progress in three other areas.

The first relates to agreeing to what is being called a peace regime in the Korean Peninsula. The Korean War during 1950-53, that followed the partition of the Korean Peninsula at the end of World War II, did not end with a peace accord, but a ceasefire signed by the three main parties, China, North Korea and an international coalition led by the US. Both Kim and the South Korean president want a formal declaration of peace. Trump appears ready.

The second relates to the improvement of US-North Korea bilateral relations. Since the last summit, Kim has stepped up efforts to find and return the remains of some American soldiers killed or unaccounted for during the Korean War. In return for concrete North Korean steps on denuclearisation, Trump might offer something Kim has long wanted — diplomatic relations with America. There is speculation that the two leaders might agree to set up liaison offices in Washington and Pyongyang.

The third relates to the easing of international economic sanctions that is at the top of Kim’s priorities. While Washington is averse to lifting the principal leverage against Pyongyang, Trump may be willing to carve out an exception to South Korea, whose leader, President Moon Jae-in, believes economic incentives are critical for getting Kim to move faster towards denuclearisation.

In moving America from an exclusive focus on “denuclearisation” to a more balanced approach that factors in peace and prosperity, Trump has generated unprecedented optimism about unfreezing the geopolitics of the Korean Peninsula. Until recently, Washington insisted that progress must be “sequential” — denuclearisation must precede any liberalisation of political and economic sanctions against North Korea. Trump is now open to “simultaneous” movement on all tracks.

Trump has also recognised the importance of addressing the Kim family’s original rationale for building a nuclear arsenal — the fear of American military presence in the peninsula and Washington’s temptations for “regime-change” in the North. Trump’s change of approach — founded in part in his own conviction that America must begin to end its “forever wars” around the world — has opened enormous space for diplomacy with Kim.

Trump’s new strategy could not have come this far without strong support from Moon, who is determined to explore a historic political reconciliation with the North and more than eager to facilitate the engagement between Washington and Pyongyang. While there is much distance to be covered, Trump, Kim and Moon have demonstrated that it is possible to imagine a political rearrangement of the Korean Peninsula.

Not everyone is taking a benign view of the “ménage et trois” between Trump, Kim and Moon. Some in Beijing worry that Trump’s diplomacy is not about “denuclearisation” but prising North Korea away from China. After all, Chinese leaders see the Korean Peninsula as their front yard. They insist Beijing must be the final arbiter of Korean politics. Tokyo is equally worried that Trump is going ahead with Korean peace plans without paying heed to Japan’s interests. Tokyo has nightmares about a potential Trump decision to live with North Korean nuclear weapons and its awful security implications for Japan.

Not all Asian countries are unhappy though. The first summit between Trump and Kim enhanced Singapore’s reputation as Asia’s emerging diplomatic centre. For Hanoi, the second summit is a big opportunity to showcase Vietnam’s dramatic economic transformation in recent years. Trump, in turn, hopes that the rise of capitalist Singapore and communist Hanoi might encourage Kim to see the virtues of giving up nukes and opening up to America and the world.

Our Authentic Response to Women Leaders

Over the last two years, the movement for fairness and equality between men and women has found renewed energy and conviction around the world. In public life, in politics, in business and across different economic sectors, women and men have been working for change and a world where economic opportunity is no longer shaped and constrained by being a man or a woman.

Evidence is an essential tool in shaping public policy and social progress. To support the cause of gender equality, we need to understand values, perceptions and attitudes, the speed of change or the failure to realise it, and the drivers and barriers along the way towards building a fairer world. We need to document social norms, the everyday beliefs and behaviours of men and women, and the interplay of the drivers for change against those of stasis. We need to do this so that we can challenge our social norms, and we need to measure change over time to hold ourselves and our leaders to account.

Women Political Leaders (WPL), in cooperation with Kantar, have created The Reykjavik Index for Leadership to support the journey to equality for women and men. It was launched during the Women Leaders Global Forum in Iceland, in November 2018, and this inaugural report focuses on the G7 nations. So – how do people in these countries feel about women as leaders?

The findings

There are valuable and powerful indices available which measure progress in economic equality for men and women. However, as yet there are no measures of how people feel about men and women in leadership roles. The Reykjavik Index for Leadership and the wider study behind it illuminate these attitudes and perceptions, as a means to understand how much further we have to go until being a man or woman is a non-issue when debating the suitability of someone for leadership across the whole economy.

The right to leadership is a key factor in the journey to true equality between women and men. Furthermore, equality for both in leadership will diminish prejudices not just against women, but also against men in certain leadership roles in society. This study reveals prejudices against both men and women, but the majority are against women in leadership roles in professional life.

Our explicit goal is to reach Index scores of 100, which will indicate that there is complete agreement that men and women are equally suited to leadership across the economy. This will be a tangible sign of equality – and we believe the evidence will support our endeavours to reach that milestone.

Attitudes to women in leadership across the G7 – the headlines

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership for the G7 nations in this, our launch year, is 66. The Index shows that the G7 divides into two groups of countries. First, a group of four that have higher indices: the UK (72), France (71), Canada (71), and the US (70). The higher scores in these four nations are an indication that progress is happening. However, there is still a long way to go in these countries before we see complete acceptance of men and women in leadership roles – and thus equality for men and women.

There is then a group of three which are a step change below: Japan (61), Germany (59) and Italy (57). Relative to those in the other G7 countries, people in these three nations are more likely to think women and men are not equally suited to leadership positions generally.

Furthermore, their views are more likely to vary by sector, meaning in these nations, traditional or sexist stereotypes about men’s roles or women’s roles are more embedded than in the other four countries.

Male/female dissonance

Across the G7, the Reykjavik Index for Leadership is higher for women (67) than for men (61). This means that women in the G7 are more likely than men to view women and men as equally suitable for leadership roles. This is the case for both the overall G7 and also within every individual G7 nation and in each of the 20 sectors covered in the research.

This dissonance between men and women reflects tensions and barriers that are at play not just at work, but also at home and in people’s personal communities.

For example, the views of men and women are most closely aligned in the UK in terms of who is suitable to lead. On average, across the twenty sectors, 78% of women in the UK think men and women are equally suited to lead, compared to 75% of men thinking the same. Nonetheless, for 42% of people in the UK – a country led by Prime Minister Theresa May – a woman as head of government is still an issue of some kind.

We see the highest levels of male/female dissonance in Angela Merkel’s Germany. Furthermore, men in Germany are the most likely of all men in the G7 to be perpetuating stereotypes about who should lead in the 20 sectors we researched.

These are just two examples of some of the tensions at play within G7 nations, and where stereotypes may be more resistant to change.

How do attitudes vary between sectors?

There are some surprising and encouraging findings from the Index and the wider study. For example, the sector with the highest Reykjavik Index for Leadership score – that is, perceptions of equal suitability for leadership for men and women – is media and entertainment, with 80. Indeed, 85% of women and 80% of men in the G7 believe men and women are equally suited to leadership in this industry.

Similarly, the Index score is also above 75 for some science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers, such as natural sciences, pharmaceutical and medical research, economics and political science, and banking and finance. This may demonstrate attitudes which have developed as a result of the investment and encouragement of women and girls in STEM education in recent years.

However, some strong stereotypes endures in other sectors. Our index shows that for childcare, fashion and beauty, and defence and policing, there are majority-held stereotypical views about who is suitable to lead.

These stereotypes are barriers to equality not just for women, but for men also as stereotypes about suitable careers and sexist attitudes continue to be perpetuated.

Germany and Japan

The study highlights where being a man or being a woman is seen as an issue in terms of who is suitable to lead. Here, two countries stand out.

As part of the wider study, we asked if people would feel ‘very comfortable’ having a woman as head of government, or as the CEO of a major company in their country.

Only one in four people in Germany feel ‘very comfortable’ with a woman as head of government, meaning three in four people do not feel very comfortable with this.

In Japan, only one in five men – 21% – say they feel ‘very comfortable’ with a woman as CEO of a major company in Japan. This is also true for three in 10 Japanese women (28%).

Being a woman in a position of leadership, business or government is clearly an issue for many people in Germany and Japan. The impacts of these attitudes go beyond polling stations and boardrooms; they affect wider perceptions of women’s abilities to lead and indicate sizeable barriers to equality.

Moving forward

The index and the wider study have given us a clear insight into the powerful dissonance at play across the G7 and within the group’s individual countries. Men and women hold similar degrees of prejudice, reminding us of the efforts needed to overcome the social phenomenon of sexism.

The results also show how women are pulling ahead in their views of men and women being equally suitable to lead. These are signs of progress, yet more work needs to be done to reduce male/female dissonance, and to remove the tensions in our workplaces, homes and communities.

In the future, we will extend this survey to other nations, giving us greater evidence to use to help drive social progress. The index will help us to understand how we can more quickly see attitudes about men and women in leadership reach equality, to the benefit of all.

Education Needs Adapt to the Age of Globalization

Classrooms in many parts of the world are increasingly diverse. International migration patterns have significantly changed the cultural make-up of many industrialized societies and, by extension, their school-aged populations.

Such changes are particularly seen in traditional destination countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In this increasingly globalized landscape, schools face significant challenges. Researchers have documented lower educational outcomes such as student achievement and graduation rates for immigrant students in the majority of countries around the world.

In response to these outcomes, more research is being devoted to understanding and supporting conditions for equitable learning. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is one idea to support these conditions. CRT is concerned with teaching methods and practices that recognize the importance of including students’ cultural backgrounds in all aspects of learning.

To date, much focus in the field of CRT draws attention to the need for a greater diversity of role models and learning experiences in the classroom, and an expansion of teachers’ capacities to truly support and affirm diverse students.

As education researchers who have worked with teachers in training, and teachers in K-12 schools as well as teacher educators in Australasia, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, U.K. and the U.S., we argue that more attention needs to be paid to an overlooked aspect of CRT: both education systems and individual teachers must develop culturally responsive assessment and evaluation practices to boost student success.

How to recruit and prepare teachers?

CRT is sometimes also called culturally relevant teaching. This mode of teaching aims to be aware of how culture, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, language, gender identity and religious background may impact students’ learning experiences.

In many school contexts, student diversity far exceeds the diversity of teachers. Such an imbalance means students do not always encounter educator role models who reflect diverse cultural backgrounds throughout their schooling.

Thus, one aspect of promoting CRT is increasing efforts to attract a more representative demographic of teachers.

Recent analysis from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests that in most OECD countries the typical person who expects a career in teaching at age 15 is a female with no immigrant background.

The findings are based on a question to 15-year-olds on 2006 and 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment surveys: “What kind of job do you expect to have when you are about 30 years old?” (4.5 per cent of non-immigrant respondents said teaching; only 3.1 per cent of immigrant respondents said teaching).

The OECD survey did not capture racialized identity. But more fine-grain analyses within the traditional Western destination countries suggest racialized people and Indigenous groups are particularly underrepresented among teachers.

For example, Canada’s largest and most diverse province (Ontario) has a significant teacher diversity gap as evidenced by fairly recent demographic data.

Racialized people represent 26 per cent of the provincial population, yet comprise only nine per cent of the 117,905 elementary school and kindergarten teachers and 10 per cent of 70,520 secondary school teachers.

Targeted teacher recruitment efforts are one strategy to improve racialized teacher diversity. Enrolment targets or quota admissions are others.

Specialized programs for Indigenous peoples such as the teacher program focused on Aboriginal Education at Brock University or Maori Medium Teacher Education in New Zealand demonstrate efforts to grow the number of Indigenous peoples in teaching.

But strategies such as as diversified recruiting, quotas or specialized programs would take time and will likely struggle to keep up with changing student demographics.

Hence, providing relevant cultural training and professional development for aspiring and experienced teachers becomes even more important.

Such training needs to extend beyond traditional multicultural education approaches, or what has been called a “tourist” curriculum characterized by occasional or “highlight” additions.

Instead, training for teachers must model a multi-dimensional approach that includes integrating content from diverse cultures and experiences, and critically examining how cultural identity impacts learning.

Our experiences with teachers and teacher education programs globally reaffirm research findings about recognized practices in teacher education that impact student success.

For example, teachers programs should help teacher candidates critically consider their own identities in relationship to societal inequities and prejudice; optimally, with growth and maturity, they learn how to model deep inclusion.

Assessment literacy: The missing link

We also want to draw attention to an area that has been neglected in broader discussions of CRT – namely, assessment and evaluation strategies.

Most educators now accept that student assessment is the beginning point for instruction, not simply the end. That means assessment can be a powerful support when used throughout learning stages to provide meaningful feedback to students. Teachers need to carefully consider assessment and evaluation before they begin a lesson or unit of study and to use assessment to monitor students’ learning.

However, assessment continues to operate in more traditional ways: it continues to be used primarily as a measure of students’ final learning in courses through tests and exams or through large-scale provincial, state or national testing programs.

Teachers’ competency in using assessment to support student learning and to accurately report on it is called “assessment literacy” — so named for the ability to “read” a class to develop fair, relevant and supportive assessment.

Teachers must learn culturally responsive frameworks to develop fair practices for obtaining accurate information about students’ learning. Our research suggests competency in developing assessment can be enhanced through effective professional development.

The issue of fair assessment also raises questions about system-wide standardized testing, often used for accountability purposes. Standardized testing can be biased, for example reflecting foremost the experiences of white middle-class students.

Thus we acknowledge the need to combine the dual movements of CRT as focused in teacher recruiting and training with greater attention to responsive assessment.

Unless that happens, CRT will only find limited success in creating classrooms that ensure learning and achievement is attainable for all.

Growing Trend of Dark Tourism

Tourist attractions have existed longer than history has been officially recorded. Before there was Disneyland and the Eiffel Tower there were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Great Wall of China. In ancient Rome, hundreds of thousands of tourists arrived every year to gawk at the city’s incredible monuments, the Coliseum with its gladiators, the theatres with their plays, the crowds in the streets, all were things to see and to experience.

It was a new thing, this task of making journeys just for the sake of doing so. Previously, the only time that people left their homes was to make religious pilgrimages, if they were Muslims to Makkah and if they were Christian to their holy lands. All in all, travel was rare and arduous and everyone believed that making a journey required better reasons than mere curiosity. The road was full of dangers and unknowns and getting on it was serious business; a risk ought to be taken carefully, it was believed.

In recent years, a new sort of tourism has sprung up in many of the world’s cities. Instead of the flip and the funny or the thrill-seeking and hunger-satiating, the stuff of theme parks and shopping malls, ‘dark tourism’ makes a spectacle of the sad and unhappy, the wanting and the wasting.

Among the more famous examples are the slums of large cities in various parts of the world. It is well known that in India, which markets itself as ‘exotic India’ in its pro-tourism commercials, tourists can take guided tours of large slums. Dharavi, one of Bombay’s largest slums, regularly sees little groups of tourists walking through its crowded lanes, smelling as they do of human and animal excrement. The enormous piles of garbage, made famous by recent movies such as Slumdog Millionaire and Lion, are stops on these tours, such that travellers (mostly white) can gape and gawp at the rag-tag groups of children and grown-ups who eke out a living among them.

It is well known that in India, which markets itself as ‘exotic India’, tourists can take guided tours of large slums.

More recently, the world’s infamous pollution sites, clogged-up beaches where miles and miles of plastic bottles and other waste vie for space can also be witnessed. Other variations on dark tourism include still-functioning prisons; their air of danger perhaps adding to their allure and even orphanages where the condition of poor abandoned children, babies left in baskets in front of supermarkets, or older children found scavenging on the streets of this or that city in the developing world, can be seen living out their lives, begging for hugs and kisses and demanding the attention that they do not otherwise get.

The idea, for these children, some of whom have been exposed as not being orphans at all but ‘rented’ out by poor parents so that ‘orphanage’ owners can make a buck, is to pull at the tourist’s heartstrings, the resulting guilt appearing as donated cash.

Dark tourism is not an entirely new idea. After the end of the Second World War, and the liberation of Nazi Germany, the concentration camps where millions of Jews were massacred were not entirely torn down. Sometime later, the cleaned-up camps were opened up for tours available to the public.

The point in these early examples of dark tourism was an encounter with history, even cruel and terrible history, as an exercise in respect for the dead and recognition of how evil had taken precedence over good. Many who visited described the experience as deeply disturbing, as if the spirit and element of pure evil lingered somehow in the earth and in the air and in the few beds and fixtures that have been kept behind to show how prisoners were kept.

Dark tourism of now has a completely different intention. There is no historical truth or empathetic insight to be gleaned from touring a slum, in gawking at lives destroyed by garbage and want and the lack of proper toilet facilities. Instead, dark tourism relies simply on the reverse of the old equation of more familiar tourism.

While people felt good visiting Disneyland or fancy restaurants or the wonders of the world because they felt lucky and chosen, happy that they could see something so many others could not, dark tourism relies on the opposite. People watching other people scrounge in slums feel glad not at the fact that they are who they are themselves, but rather that they are not the people who have been converted into the objects of the tour.

They are still lucky, but their enjoyment is based not on experiencing something pleasurable in itself but only in comparison. Their own lives seem lucky and fortunate because they are not intruding into the lives or localities of others who have less — dirty beaches with sand slicked by oil, roads clogged by fumes, lives that leave nothing for enjoyment and only for survival.

Not everyone peddling dark tourism is sad or sorry about selling what they do. In Nepal, orphanages regularly offer tours to Western tourists who want to ‘see the children’ and India is not at all ashamed at the burgeoning business of slum tourism.

If anything, many of the tourism departments of these countries feel like they have achieved something spectacular, the monetisation of misery that they used to work very hard to hide in order to get tourism dollars. Not so anymore, after offering e-visas or visas on arrival, branding their suffering as something to be consumed rather than being put away in some unseen corner; this has been the greatest innovation of all. In their definition, ‘fun’ is no longer having a good time, but simply watching others having a terrible time.

Key Steps to A Circular Economy

Moving towards a more circular economy is a logical proposition. Use less natural resources, reduce pollution, tackle climate change, enhance consumer satisfaction, while also improving the bottom line.

The rational path, however, is not always the path of least resistance. As we now operate in an economy where disposability and linear throughput reigns, shifting the system will take leadership, collaboration, innovation and commitment to break the status quo.

This was the focus of the circular economy discussion during the 2019 Annual Meeting in Davos, with four key priorities emerging for the year ahead.

1) Leadership is critical

For the fifth year running, the Circulars awards celebrated leadership and champions of the circular economy – from large businesses, to governments, investors and innovators. The European Commission unsurprisingly took the prize for public sector leadership given their efforts to push the Circular Economy package across Europe. Triciclos, which operates the largest network of recycling stations in South America won the people’s choice awards; while Winnow, which develops technology to help chefs achieve greater visibility in their kitchens, and make better decisions that lead to dramatically reduced food waste and costs, took the award for tech disruptor.

These leaders and entrepreneurs have tapped into the slack and inefficiencies in the current economic systems to derive positive benefits all round. This has however required energy and courage to challenge the status quo, which is why celebrating their leadership is so critical.

The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, which now convenes over 50 CEOs, Ministers and experts, will continue to do just this, while also challenging the leaders to bring more of their peers onboard to shape practical actions, commitments and collaborations. 2019 is kicking off well, with Ikea last week announcing a move towards a furniture leasing-based business model.

2) Leverage the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

With the Davos Annual meeting focused on “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, one theme in focus was how the Fourth Industrial Revolution can enable positive transformations towards the circular economy.

A white paper released in Davos focused on the potential of technology and value chain innovations in electronics and plastics – from shaping provenance tools, to product passports and an internet of materials. These possibilities have yet to be fully leveraged. At the same time, with the right channelling of effort and innovation, they can take hold quickly.

Google and SAP also launched the Circular Economy 2030 contest over the next five months to engage innovators in designing circular solutions, and the World Economic Forum and its partners are shaping a programme – Scale 360 – to collaborate with countries to support entrepreneurs to scale their circular solutions.

While the potential remains largely untapped, the speed with which such technologies have taken hold in other domains provides hope.

3) Circular material value chains

From plastics, to electronics, to food and fashion, efforts continue to drive more circularity into material value chains, but must move from incremental steps to net positive progress.

2019 must be the year where we translate the positive momentum and commitments to shape a circular plastic economy into tangible investment and actions globally. In Davos, public and private leaders debated how to make this happen, and the Global Plastic Action Partnership is now poised to move into action in collaboration with Indonesia, Vietnam and other partners as 2019 kicks off.

This year also drew attention to the positive value that can be generated from the electronics sector by shifting towards a circular model. A report launched in Davos – A New Circular Vision for Electronics, Time for a Global Reboot – in collaboration with the UN E-Waste Coalition noted the annual value of electronic waste at $62 billion, three times the worth of all the silver produced in a single year.

As a positive step in this direction, Davos saw the announcement of a collaboration between the Nigerian government, Global Environment Facility (GEF), UN Environment, Dell, HP, Microsoft and Philips, to launch a $15 million investment to create a formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The ambition is to roll out this collaborative effort to other global markets, while also working with business to rethink business models and product design to fully benefit from the untapped circular opportunities.

Food system transformation is another area that has seen positive acceleration – the launch of the EAT Lancet report in December put a spotlight on the incredible benefits of a plant and people healthy food system, while the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched a report at Davos focused on the potential of a circular economy for food, which could generate $2.7 trillion in benefits annually for society and the environment, while averting an estimated 5 million deaths every year by 2050.

Fashion is also increasingly in focus. The Fashion for Good initiative, EMF’s circular textiles initiatives, are shaping more circular and sustainable solutions, but only recently have governments started to take a bolder stance in tackling what has become an incredibly wasteful and polluting sector.

France, for example, passed a law to forbid the practice of burning unsold clothes. 2019 could see the stepping-up of actions across governments to continue to scale leadership in this space, in particular with France’s G7 presidency.

4) Collaboration is key

While the momentum and positive progress is clear, we still have a long way to go. The Circular Gap Report reminds us that still only 9% of the resources put into the economy get reused. This remains unchanged from the previous year.

With PACE scaling up its efforts in 2019 in collaboration with the World Resources Institute and other partners, scaling leadership, tapping into innovation potential and starting to shift global material streams away from linear models, we will hopefully see the trend improve when we revisit progress in 2020.

This will, however, require more than tinkering around the edges of our current system. We will need to think about how we can take efforts like the Loop Alliance or Ikea’s leasing-based furniture pilot from the fringes and onto the main stage.

Sunday Special: Is this a turning point in the fight against slavery?

When Apple won the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Award in November, the business world took notice.  Arguably the most famous brand in the world, Apple had not only publicly taken steps to try to eradicate forced labour from its operations, it had walked away with the top prize. Despite its vast and complex networks of supply chains, the high-profile jury of experts judged that Apple was “leading the way in all categories” in its attempts to stamp out modern slavery.

What a contrast to the headlines in 2010, when journalists broke the Foxconn scandal, which highlighted multiple suicides amongst employees at a Chinese contract electronic manufacturing plant which produced, among other things, Apple products. Some reports linked the spate of suicides to working conditions at the plant.

Apple found itself dominating the headlines again in November when Angela Ahrendts, its head of retail, chose the awards ceremony at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual human rights forum Trust Conference to announce that the company would be employing survivors of human trafficking in its stores.

This would never have happened a few years ago.

We are witnessing a crucial shift in the global fight against slavery. Big businesses in the US, Europe and Australia are taking responsibility as never before for their role in ridding the world of this most appalling of crimes. And they are doing it in the full glare of the media and amidst growing awareness among consumers.

Modern slavery has long been a hidden crime, outlawed in every country but endemic throughout the world. The $150bn trade in human trafficking flourishes where people are most vulnerable and thrives alongside humanitarian catastrophes; you have only to look at how refugee crises have made displaced and desperate people easy targets for traffickers, or how conflict has reduced populations to poverty, when basic human rights are sacrificed for the fight to stay alive.

Of the estimated 40.3 million people currently enslaved, 70% are trapped in forced labour, exploited and abused. Men, women and children are locked in debt bondage, stripped of dignity and deprived of freedom. They are humanity reduced to commodity, working unpaid in factories, farms and fields, or risking their lives daily in dilapidated mines, on fishing boats, or opening cocoa beans. They are the silent victims of a toxic economy driven by a global thirst for ever cheaper goods and services – often impossible to trace, always impossible to quantify.

But slowly, the world’s secret shame is becoming more visible. Increased media scrutiny has led to growing consumer awareness, and, critically, corporates are having to address it.

Business has a big role to play in this increasingly interconnected world if we want to eradicate slavery. If we can narrow the risk of forced labour in these types of multilayered and multinational supply chains, then we deny traffickers their means of exploitation. But this demands the cooperation and courage of the largest businesses, many of which have lacked either the incentive or the expertise to delve too deeply into their supply chains.

However, the tide is turning. CEOs of global corporations are beginning to steer a new course towards supply chain transparency and management. One of the best examples of this exemplary leadership is Unilever, whose former CEO Paul Polman was responsible for the company winning the other of this year’s Stop Slavery Awards. Despite having one of the highest-risk supply chains in the world, judges praised Unilever’s participation in the Consumer Goods Forum, its leadership efforts to facilitate industry collaboration and its commitment to continuous improvement. They also said Unilever had “a lot more work to do”.

Tackling the root causes of slavery, dismantling criminal trafficking networks, protecting those most vulnerable and rehabilitating victims is vital. But this is complex work in often uncharted territory.

Adidas, who won last year’s Stop Slavery Award, employs 1.3 million workers. Nevertheless, it has established strict responsible sourcing guidelines, tracing risks of forced labour right down to the raw materials used in its supply chains. This is a considerable effort. Walmart, the world’s largest private employer with 2.3 million employees, is working with other retailers, suppliers, processors and NGOs to identify risks of forced labour, and to train its seafood suppliers in Thailand – a country notoriously plagued by slavery in the fishing industry – on supply chain visibility and management systems. It is also using technology to improve workers’ rights – introducing hotlines and even a smartphone app that allows Burmese migrants working as fishers to review their employers. This type of corporate due diligence – and cross-sector collaboration – is to be applauded.

While some of the world’s biggest companies are changing the landscape of the fight against slavery at an unprecedented scale, the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 has kickstarted stronger legislation in a number of other countries. Most recently, Australia’s Modern Slavery Act – passed in November 2018 – requires companies with a turnover of more than $AUD100 million to publicly file an annual modern slavery report which must be signed off at board level and published within six months of the company’s annual reports. Some 3,000 businesses will have to comply.

There is currently a push for European-wide legislation, too. In September 2017, eight national parliaments within the EU called for standardized legislation to encourage businesses to address human rights issues. Imagine the global impact were this were to be rubber-stamped by such a large trading bloc.

The real change, though, will come when businesses start to actively market themselves as ‘slave-free’ to the next generation of conscious consumers.

Wishful thinking? Maybe not. Take a look at Meghan Markel’s jean brand of choice – she wore these jeans six times in her tour of Australia and New Zealand. Outland Denim’s CEO James Bartle, whose business is now firmly in the global spotlight, markets his clothes as ‘slave-free’ and employs survivors of slavery and trafficking in Cambodia to produce the jeans.

Meanwhile Dutch chocolate maker Tony’s Chocolonely stamps its products with the slogan “100 percent slave-free”. The firm deals directly with local farmers rather than international traders and traces its supply chain fully, from the beans to the finished products. Launched with a mission to raise awareness of slavery and child labour in the cocoa industry, the company is now the market-leading brand in the Netherlands.

With annual revenues of €45 million, the firm does not pay for advertising: slavery-free is its selling point.

These two brands lead the way in industries that remain highly contaminated by slavery. Could this be the start of a revolution in the consumer approach?

Feeling Proud or Grateful Influences Decision Making

If a society is going to be resilient – if it’s going to be prepared to deal successfully with the challenges that await it – it has to invest in its future. And while this advice doesn’t tend to strike anyone as off base, many governments regularly ignore it.

The United States is a prime example. While staring into the looming abyss of rising deficits, climate change, and aging power grids, Americans and their elected representatives are focused on feel-good policies. The benefits of what could be gained a decade down the road by making some financial sacrifices are being overlooked in favor of options like tax cuts and looser regulations that, though boding ill for future well-being, will make many happier in the here and now.

The root of the problem isn’t new. Recent Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler pointed it out several years back when he opined that “Congress has self-control problems.” It’s not really a surprising flaw, though, as it’s one most people share. We tend to want what we want now; we’re not usually itching to sacrifice immediate pleasures for later rewards.

Given this state of affairs, the question isn’t whether self-control is important – it certainly is – but rather how to encourage it. And here, the answer you’d get from most psychologists and behavioral economists would be a simple one: willpower. People just need to tamp down any impulses for pleasure in the moment that are likely to hinder long-term success.

A fragile tool

Yet for all its seeming simplicity, this strategy doesn’t often work. If using willpower to boost self-control were truly effective, 25% of New Year’s resolutions wouldn’t be broken by the second week of January. Neither would people fail about one out of every 5 times they try to resist a temptation to overspend, overeat, or the like. Willpower isn’t reliable; it’s a fragile tool at best.

Yet even if willpower could somehow be strengthened, it wouldn’t solve the problem. There’d still be a rational reason why people might refrain from even trying to use it: one person’s earnest efforts to ensure a better world won’t amount to anything if her neighbors refuse to do the same. Why should you pay your fair share of taxes, or vote for representatives who will raise them, to address societal needs if you think most other people will use loopholes or cheat the system? Why should you reduce your power usage if you think most people won’t bother turning off their lights? Simply put: why should you sacrifice when no one else will? Nobody wants to be a sucker when others are free-riding off their contributions.

Thinking versus feeling

Finding a solution in this case requires identifying a different type of self-control tool – one that not only encourages people to value the future more than the present, but also to behave in more trustworthy and generous ways. Fortunately, we all possess a tool that works just this way. The problem is we’re neglecting it.

What motivates people to accept sacrifice or persevere in the face of difficulty? To return a favour or to extend one? To work hard to develop a skill or a positive reputation? While it can be what they think, it’s more often what they feel.

Moral emotions – ones like gratitude, compassion, and an authentic sense of pride (as opposed to hubris) – generate such virtuous actions. We pay people back because we feel grateful; we offer to help them because we feel compassion; we work hard to achieve a goal because we take pride in the result and the admiration of others.

What unites these behaviors and many like them is the necessity of self-control. Each requires a willingness to sacrifice time, money, effort, or even happiness in the moment in order to build and maintain stable, productive, and supportive relationships that will benefit a person for years to come.

One way that moral emotions increase self-control is by combatting the mind’s tendency to discount the value of future rewards. To demonstrate the point, we conducted an experiment in which we had people answer a series of questions of the form: “Would you rather have $X now or $Y in Z days?” where Y was always greater than X, and Z varied over weeks to months.

To make the consequences real, we told participants we’d pick one of the questions at random and honor their answer. So, if a person said he’d prefer $35 now rather than $75 in 6 weeks, we’d hand him $35. If he chose the latter option, we’d send a check for $75 at the designated time. Right before people answered these questions, however, we had them describe an event that evoked gratitude, happiness, or a neutral feeling.

As we anticipated, those who felt grateful discounted the value of future rewards to a lesser extent (see Figure). In comparison, people feeling neutral or happy viewed $100 in the present as equal to $17 in a year, (meaning they’d forgo the opportunity to receive $100 in a year if they could get $17 today). Grateful people showed double the self-control. They were much more willing to wait for larger future gains.

Pride works the same way. And because it increases the value people place on the future, we’ve found it makes them more willing to persevere toward valued goals. For example, when we made people feel proud of their performance on a difficult task, they subsequently devoted 40% more time to hone abilities related to it even though doing so was quite trying.

The second, related, way these emotions aid self-control is by making people more trustworthy and cooperative. As one example, we had people play an economic game after endowing them with four tokens. Each token was worth $1 to its owner but $2 to her partner. As part of the game, people could choose how many tokens to exchange. The fairest option would be for each player to give all her tokens to her partner, thereby allowing each to double her money. This strategy, of course, has an element of risk. For it to work, partners have to be trustworthy.

Similar to the prisoner’s dilemma, a person could choose to maximize self-interest at her partner’s expense by withholding tokens while counting on the partner to give hers. What we found is that people who experienced gratitude while playing the game behaved in a much more trustworthy manner; they gave significantly more tokens to their partners than did their neutral counterparts.

Pride, too, supports shared sacrifice. As one example, the Harvard economics lecturer Erez Yoleli and colleagues examined compliance with a power company’s request to attach devices to home air conditioners meant to prevent blackouts. The devices worked by raising thermostats when the electric grid was taxed, thereby preventing major power outages by reducing the demands on the grid. When decisions to install the devices were made publicly, compliance rates almost tripled, as people could see what their neighbors were doing. It’s likely that taking pride in their reputations enhanced people’s willingness to accept a small personal increase in discomfort to avoid a future, more widespread one that would affect everyone.

Harnessing the power of positive emotions

From the standpoint of potential interventions, moral emotions are fairly effortless to use. They can be easily evoked, either regularly via habits and norms (e.g., counting “blessings,” offering approval and admiration, or in the case of compassion, by practicing mindfulness) or strategically by framing policy appeals in emotional ways (e.g., encouraging pride in green behaviors).

When people feel the resulting emotions, they won’t be carefully reasoning about what to do – how much to invest to get a certain reward, how much to help someone to ensure payback – and then forcing themselves to do it. To the contrary, these emotions will make them approach a long-term benefit in the same way that a different emotion – fear – might make them avoid an immediate danger. Emotions are mental short-cuts. They automatically influence what we expect to happen and what we value. And to the extent that we and our political leaders cultivate emotions that encourage us to invest not only in the future but also in others, saving and sacrificing to ensure greater resilience should come more easily.

Western self-righteousness, the last hoorah?

As I continue to watch the slo-mo train wreck that is Brexit and the associated machinations in the UK’s House of Commons, I can’t help but fondly remember our dear old friend Prince Ucchi of Nigeria. C’mon, you remember the Prince? That jolly good egg who would periodically send out a letter informing you that his government had been fortunate enough to be granted $100 million (typically from a UN-backed organization like the WHO) and that with your cooperation (the provision of some fictitious invoices and your bank details) you could each carry off huge wads of syphoned off cash. Too good to be true? Of course, it was, as was the ubiquitous Prince Ucchi.

In all probability, Prince Ucchi was actually a fawny haired little scamster sitting somewhere in the US or Europe. However, we in the West have been conditioned to believe that such mendacious offers could only genuinely come from the third world, ‘tin pot’ dictators or their cronies. For the longest time, third world leaders have been stigmatized by the past behaviour of Robert Mugabe, Sani Abacha, Mohamed Suharto and the like. However, that misplaced arrogance is gradually ebbing away. Recent events (both in the UK and US) have exposed the deep cracks in the self-superior façade of the western establishment. Politicians and business leaders here no longer have an undisputed ascendancy over their new world peers. It turns out their Asian, African or Latin brethren don’t have a monopoly on ineptitude or corruptibility after all.

Pirates of Little England & The Legend of the Ghost Ship: Chris Grayling, the current Secretary of State for Transport, seems to have a penchant for attracting bad press. In his latest misadventure, he awarded a £14 million contract to shipping company Seabourne Freight to establish a backup cargo facility in preparation for potential post-Brexit chaos. Sounds like a plan Batman. Except Seabourne has not a single ship, has never operated a cross Channel route and had a total of just £67 in the bank at the time of the award. The companies published terms and conditions, it transpires, were lifted from those of a fast food delivery company. Questions around the governments due diligence process notwithstanding, at least we’ll get pizza.

The shipping scandal follows a series of questionable acts, mostly related to the UK’s impending exit from the EU. In the 2017 General Election, Theresa May gifted the Irish Democratic Unionist Party £1.5 billion to form a coalition (while austerity measures continued to ravage the public sector). In December 2018, PM May openly sought to stave off a Brexiteer’s revolt against her much beleaguered EU Withdrawal Agreement by squeezing several rebel rousers into the Queen’s Honours List.

Many questions whether the Brexit campaign itself, backed by some of the wealthiest people in the UK, is really motivated by new EU tax avoidance legislation rather than the desire to “take back control”. If yes, this would be nothing short of criminal. Indeed, it turns out that David Davis MP (former Brexit Minister) is on the payroll of one of the campaign sponsors. I also find it surprising that Jacob Rees Mogg, a serving MP and lead Brexiteer, who most certainly has access to non-public information regarding the negotiations, is allowed to be a director of a fund management firm.

Away from Brexit, it emerged this week that former Mayor of London and another Leave campaigner (just can’t shake this connection), Boris Johnson, spent £53 million of public funds on a much-vaunted Garden Bridge across the Thames. Yet to date not a single brick has been laid. I’m losing count of all the skeletons falling out.

Way back in 2009, widespread abuse of Parliamentary expense allowances aroused huge public anger. The thing I couldn’t understand at the time was why politicians would risk their reputations over such minuscule amounts (one MP was famously caught out making an illegitimate claim for a duck house installation in his garden)? In fact, so pathetic where the general level of false claims that I suggested to one MP that he and his colleagues outsource their expenses claims management to politicians in India, who seemed to be much more adept at bleeding the system. After all, if you’re gonna go, go big!

There I go though, stereotyping Indians as the expert racketeers but who institutionalised the ‘bakshish’ system in the first place? Johnny English of course.

Journalist M.B. Lal wrote in the Hindu (Sept. 2011), “in 1943 so far as the British were concerned, bribery was not a problem at all…it enabled the government to keep its employees contented with small salaries and run the administration on a low budget while allowing employees to help themselves with extra pickings”. It was this system of endemic pilfering and bribery that allowed the likes of Maj. Gen. Robert Clive to enrich themselves by gradually stripping India of its wealth (the British drained an estimated $45 trillion over 173 years per economist Utsa Patnaik). Moreover, as the Empire broke up, tax havens were established so that the returning bureaucrats of the Raj would have somewhere to squirrel away their ill-gotten gains. Those havens continue to be used today, despite widespread calls for their abolishment. In fact, former PM David Cameron, whose own name figured in the Panama Papers revelations, pointedly refused to engage on the issue of offshore tax evasion. Quelle surprise.

“The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets” (John Mark Green). Incompetence or corruption, it’s time to open our eyes in the west and recognize that our politics and politicians are just as broken as those of any other nation at which we may care to point a crooked accusatory finger. The false comfort I drew from the unambitious expense claims that the MPs were making turned out to be a red herring. It’s obvious now that the real games were being played far more surreptitiously.

If anything, the last two years have laid bare the true intentions of the UK elite. Much like the elite anywhere else in the world, their priority is to protect their own personal interests, at any cost. Brexit is not about taking back control of sovereignty but really about keeping control of the money. Bringing power back to Whitehall so that the richest 1% and their cronies can ensure that any legislation is enacted only with their approval. As such, I would question Britain’s virtuous 11th place position in the global Corruption Perceptions Index and it’s about time a Google search on “most corrupt world leaders” included some names closer to home.

Brexit – too good to be true? I’d say so. Come back Prince Ucchi, all is forgiven.

Saturday Special: Loneliness is modern phenomenon

Is loneliness our modern malaise? Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says the most common pathology he saw during his years of service “was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.” Chronic loneliness, some say, is like “smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” It “kills more people than obesity.”

Because loneliness is now considered a public health issue – and even an epidemic – people are exploring its causes and trying to find solutions.

While writing a book on the history of how poets wrote about loneliness in the Romantic Period, I discovered that loneliness is a relatively new concept and once had an easy cure. However, as the concept’s meaning has transformed, finding solutions has become harder.

Returning to the origins of the word – and understanding how its meaning has changed through time – gives us a new way to think about modern loneliness, and the ways in which we might address it.

The dangers of venturing into ‘lonelinesses’

Although loneliness may seem like a timeless, universal experience, it seems to have originated in the late 16th century, when it signaled the danger created by being too far from other people.

In early modern Britain, to stray too far from society was to surrender the protections it provided. Distant forests and mountains inspired fear, and a lonely space was a place in which you might meet someone who could do you harm, with no one else around to help.

In order to frighten their congregations out of sin, sermon writers asked people to imagine themselves in “lonelinesses” – places like hell, the grave or the desert.

Yet well into the 17th century, the words “loneliness” and “lonely” rarely appeared in writing. In 1674, the naturalist John Ray compiled a glossary of infrequently used words. He included “loneliness” in his list, defining it as a term used to describe places and people “far from neighbours.”

John Milton’s 1667 epic poem “Paradise Lost” features one of the first lonely characters in all of British literature: Satan. On his journey to the garden of Eden to tempt Eve, Satan treads “lonely steps” out of hell. But Milton isn’t writing about Satan’s feelings; instead, he’s emphasizing that he’s crossing into the ultimate wilderness, a space between hell and Eden where no angel has previously ventured.

Satan describes his loneliness in terms of vulnerability: “From them I go / This uncouth errand sole, and one for all / Myself expose, with lonely steps to tread / Th’ unfounded deep.”

The dilemma of modern loneliness

Even if we now enjoy the wilderness as a place of adventure and pleasure, the fear of loneliness persists. The problem has simply moved into our cities.

Many are trying to solve it by bringing people physically closer to their neighbors. Studies point to a spike in the number of people who live alone and the breakdown of family and community structures.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has set her sights on “combating” loneliness and appointed a minister of loneliness to do just that in January. There is even a philanthropy called the “Campaign to End Loneliness.”

But the drive to cure loneliness oversimplifies its modern meaning.

In the 17th century, when loneliness was usually relegated to the space outside the city, solving it was easy. It merely required a return to society.

However, loneliness has since moved inward – and has become much harder to cure. Because it’s taken up residence inside minds, even the minds of people living in bustling cities, it can’t always be solved by company.

Modern loneliness isn’t just about being physically removed from other people. Instead, it’s an emotional state of feeling apart from others – without necessarily being so.

Someone surrounded by people, or even accompanied by friends or a lover, can complain of feelings of loneliness. The wilderness is now inside of us.

Populating the wilderness of the mind

The lack of an obvious cure to loneliness is part of the reason why it is considered to be so dangerous today: The abstraction is frightening.

Counterintuitively, however, the secret to dealing with modern loneliness might lie not in trying to make it disappear but in finding ways to dwell within its abstractions, talk through its contradictions and seek out others who feel the same way.

While it’s certainly important to pay attention to the structures that have led people (especially elderly, disabled and other vulnerable people) to be physically isolated and therefore unwell, finding ways to destigmatize loneliness is also crucial.

Acknowledging that loneliness is a profoundly human and sometimes uncurable experience rather than a mere pathology might allow people – especially lonely people – to find commonality.

In order to look at the “epidemic of loneliness” as more than just an “epidemic of isolation,” it’s important to consider why the spaces of different people’s minds might feel like wildernesses in the first place.

Everyone experiences loneliness differently, and many find it difficult to describe. As the novelist Joseph Conrad wrote, “Who knows what true loneliness is – not the conventional word but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask.” Learning about the range of ways others experience loneliness could help mitigate the kind of disorientation Conrad describes.

Reading literature can also make the mind feel like less of a wilderness. The books we read need not themselves be about loneliness, though there are lots of examples of these, from “Frankenstein” to “Invisible Man.” Reading allows readers to connect with characters who might also be lonely; but more importantly, it offers a way to make the mind feel as though it is populated.

Literature also offers examples of how to be lonely together. British Romantic poets often copied each other’s loneliness and found it productive and fulfilling.

There are opportunities for community in loneliness when we share it, whether in face-to-face interactions or through text. Though loneliness can be debilitating, it has come a long way from its origins as a synonym for isolation.

As the poet Ocean Vuong wrote, “loneliness is still time spent with the world.”

Exams and Peace

Education is essentially war. It is devoid of joy and humour, creative play and aesthetic celebration. Should the child be blamed for not having learnt the problems of algebra before coming into the world?, says Rabindranath Tagore

As the board examinations approach, and the dialectic of “success” and “failure” begins to haunt young learners and their anxiety-ridden parents, we realise once again that the pattern of education we have normalised is inherently pathological. The creation of a violent/hierarchical/schooled consciousness seems to be its latent function.

Even though an empathic look at the educational ideals of Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and J Krishnamurti would suggest that there is no dearth of critical and creative thinking on liberating pedagogy, we dislike experimentation and new possibilities, and make a superficial distinction between “pragmatism” and “idealism”.

No wonder, we have become used to the routinisation of the practice of glorifying the “success stories” of the “toppers”, and, at the same time, inviting the psychiatrists on television channels to reflect on the “suicide narratives” of those who could not bear the stigma of “failure”. And meanwhile, everything would function as usual — the practice of “black education” would flourish in coaching centres, the publishers of “guide books” would make a lot of money, and school principals heavily burdened with the “ranking” of their schools would alert insecure parents of “problematic” children that in the age of inflated “cut off points” for admission in “branded” colleges, the future is bleak without 99 per cent in English, or 100 per cent in Physics.

Why is it so? There are three reasons I would emphasise.

First, here is a system that closes the mind of the young learner, and abhors the desirability of making meaningful choices relating to academic quest and vocation. How are choices possible if schools — possibly, because of the age of techno-science and commerce that we live in — have already hierarchised knowledge traditions: Science or economics for the “intelligent” ones, and humanities for the “leftovers”?

Or does the child ever get the space to contemplate on her own inclinations and aptitudes at a time when peer pressure negates self-reflection and generates a crowd mentality, or when struggling parents — guided by the longing for upward social mobility — have already decided that she has to pass through the most travelled “Aakash/Fitjee/IIT” highway, and all other paths are “risky” and “impractical”, particularly in a society like ours traumatised by an acute sense of scarcity? Moreover, we have promoted a strange classification of academic disciplines. It is impossible for one to opt for, say, Physics, History and Music. It is taken for granted that if you have interest in literature, you cannot be equally inclined towards statistics. In other words, we decide the fate of our children so early. Not surprisingly, then, schooling prepares the ground for an alienated existence.

Second, here is a system obsessed with the quantification of knowledge and evaluation. With the burden of information, examinations as ceremonies of power, and a reckless process of measuring even one’s “happiness” and “moral quotient”, schools have robbed the practice of education of the ecstasy of social awakening, scientific reasoning and poetic imagination. A careful look at weekly tests, classroom transactions and summer projects would suggest that the system asks a young child to become what Prime Minister Narendra Modi (in his role as an instantaneous “educationist”) loves to celebrate as an “exam-warrior”.

Be a strategist; acquire the technique of memorising the bullet points; and reduce everything — be it a poem by Kamala Das, a narrative on Partition and “the challenges before the newly independent nation”, or a trigonometric equation — into a typical CBSE puzzle to be solved for securing good marks. It is essentially war. It is devoid of joy and humour, and creative play and aesthetic celebration. While the “successful warriors” join the IITs and colleges like LSR, Presidency and Stephen’s, those who are not so lucky — or, deprived of the kind of cultural capital needed to survive — would be compelled to realise that it is painful to be young, wounded and stigmatised. No, there is no peace in this system, even if schools hire counsellors, invite motivational speakers, and ask children to read self-help books in their “relaxed” times.

And third, as the lifeworld gets increasingly colonised by the market, “success” is equated with a purely instrumental orientation to life, and the virtues of the doctrine of the “survival of the fittest” are celebrated with all sorts of media simulations. Education becomes merely a “performance” — a packaged good for sale. A teacher becomes merely a “subject expert” or a “skill-provider”. There is no communion that Martin Buber longed for; there is no sunset that Jidu Krishnamurti wanted children to look at; and there is no union of the “physical, vital, mental and psychic” that Sri Aurobindo imagined. What prevails is only a standardised scale of measurement intoxicated with the urge to eliminate innumerable young minds and throw them into the dustbin of a “meritocratic” universe. And our exam-centric education sanctifies it.

Well, children, even though I convey my best wishes for your board exams, I have no hesitation in saying that as adults, teachers and policy-makers we have betrayed you. Like T S Eliot, I too would admit that we have lost knowledge in information, and wisdom in knowledge.

Automation Won’t Kill Jobs: Humans Wanted

A quantum of change is coming. As the age of automation takes hold, both young people entering the workforce and those already established in their careers are fretting about the rise of the machines.

But while machines will be increasingly powerful, humans will actually be more essential.

This is the clear message I’ve heard when speaking with clients across Canada, the United States and abroad. Notwithstanding the market volatility of recent months, from dairy farmers to oil companies to tech firms, business leaders and entrepreneurs are struggling with an enormous labour shortage.

Within our own business, we’re increasingly looking to bring new skills into the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in areas you might expect, like machine learning and blockchain, but also in areas you might not, like designers and behavioural economists. We view this secular change as a chance to redesign the bank from the customer in.

It’s clear that technology will not be a replacement for many of the skills needed for the jobs of the future. It will simply act as a supporter and integrator – making digital fluency just as important as literacy and numeracy in the future.

And this was a key finding in a recent RBC report on the Canadian labour market called Humans Wanted, which examined more than 300 occupations and the skills needed to do them.

While the report concluded that half of all jobs in Canada are at risk of a significant disruption by technology during the 2020s, it also suggested that the age of automation doesn’t have to be a threat.

Despite the disruption, it is predicted that 2.5 million jobs will be created or become open in the Canadian economy over the next four years, a significant figure for a nation with 18.5 million jobs today. This workforce is going to need foundational skills to prepare them for several different jobs and roles, as opposed to a single career path.

This is setting up a quiet crisis across Canada – and virtually every nation around the globe – with future, young and established workers feeling unprepared for what the jobs of the future will look like, let alone the skills needed to do them.

The reality is the children of today will grow up to work in tech-enabled jobs that very likely don’t even exist yet. To plan for that reality, it’s not just about coding, it’s about being human and acquiring competencies that offer more skills mobility, such as critical thinking, creativity, communication and complex problem-solving.

The Humans Wanted report clearly showed skills mobility will be essential in a future economy where jobs rise and fall with each new technology wave. But how can private sector leaders, educators and policy-makers go about changing the way we educate, employ and retrain citizens to empower them in this new skills economy?

Here’s where we might start:

1. Educators

While the pace of disruption continues to increase, baby boomers are also inching closer to retirement. This puts the pressure on the next generation of youth who are looking to acquire the mix of skills they’ll need to thrive in the new world of work.

To foster these skills, we need to better connect post-secondary campuses and workplaces through paid work-integrated learning programmes such as co-ops, apprenticeships and internships. Every post-secondary student should have access to meaningful, hands-on work experience related to their field of study by the time they graduate.

The post-secondary model that thrived throughout the 20th century is no longer adaptable to the new needs of countries, companies and communities. We need to train youth in different ways, in addition to building infrastructure that will help support retraining and lifelong learning efforts for the existing workforce.

2. Policy-makers

To ensure work-integrated learning programmes become ubiquitous, governments of all levels should work together and fund initiatives that make it easier for employers and education institutions to participate.

Nations need to approach this challenge from a new perspective. Instead of looking at a talent pipeline, they should shift toward building a talent platform – one that better connects businesses with students across every sector and discipline.

To help put this into action, governments need to decide what they want to focus on and where they want talent and capital to flow toward. This means making skills and youth central to a nation’s big bets. For example, in Canada, that’s on agriculture, oceans, data, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing.

3. Employers

Lastly, employers of all sizes must start to recognize the shift from the jobs economy to the skills economy. We need to rethink the way we hire, retrain and shape our workforces – and that requires thinking beyond degrees and certificates.

Finding and retaining talent consistently ranks as the top priority for global CEOs. It should be a business imperative to better integrate with educators and offer more experiential work and learning opportunities for students. This isn’t about simply providing young people with work placements, but rather it’s about harnessing their talents and tapping into their innovative ideas.

As an example, last summer, students who took part in our RBC Amplify programme – a campaign where we give co-op students some of our toughest business problems to solve – collaborated to file 15 patents for the bank. They worked on projects to improve our predictive analytics capabilities, data management policies and cybersecurity measures. None of these students had ever worked in a bank before.

All employers need to view work-integrated learning as not only an investment in the skills economy of tomorrow, but also as an investment in their own future.

Collective investment in skills

The bottom line is: jobs will remain, but they will require a whole new set of skills to do them. New technologies will make some jobs obsolete; however, they will also reduce costs and drive expansions that will lead to employment growth in new areas.

The answer to technology disruption lies in our ability to apply humanity to the challenge.

Over the next decade, our world will be tasked with solving some of the most pressing issues it has ever faced, including climate change, wealth gaps and health costs in rapidly ageing societies. It is only through building a strong foundation for the new skills economy – investing in our youth and supporting lifelong learning programmes for our existing talented workforces – that we can ensure our nations and people are ready to take on a turbulent tomorrow.

Weekend Special: Good Education Isn’t Necessarily a Key to Social Mobility

Educators around the world, particularly those in secondary schools, often default to a compelling story when they are trying to motivate their students: Work hard, achieve well and you will secure a successful future with attractive job prospects.

This is currently the conventional wisdom across much of the Western world, with strong links drawn between education, meritocracy and upward social mobility.

But what does the research suggest about intergenerational mobility? Do children from poorer backgrounds have the same potential to realize their dreams if they achieve high standards in their education systems?

In fact, education is important but not enough to change inequities around the world. Intergenerational mobility, referring to changes in social status for different generations in the same family, is far from normal.

Public health researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argued outcomes in social mobility and education are significantly worse in rich countries with more inequality, that is, with populations that show larger gaps between the wealthy and the poor. For example, the United States and United Kingdom have close associations between fathers’ and sons’ incomes, compared to countries such as Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Wilkson went so far as to jokingly comment in a TED talk “if Americans want to live the American dream, they should go to Denmark.”

Richard Wilkinson says income means something very important within our societies.

Great mobility?

The relationship between national levels of income inequality and lower levels of intergenerational mobility is known as the Great Gatsby Curve. The Great Gatsby is the hero of the same-titled F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, who first appears as the enigmatic host of roaring parties in his waterfront mansion. Later, he is revealed as the son of poor farmers. The curve thus seeks to measure how much a person can move up in social class in a given society.

A 2015 study used cross-national comparable data from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to shed new light on the role of education in relation to this curve: the study examined the relationships between a person’s education, their parents’ education and labour-market outcomes such as income.

In countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, the results suggested that parental education had little additional impact on a child’s income; it was the child’s level of education that mattered.

But in France, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom, the impact of parents’ education on their offspring was substantial. In these countries, the children whose parents came from a low education group earned 20 per cent less than children whose parents had higher levels of education, even though these individuals held the same level of qualification in the same subject area.

Collectively, this research suggests that a range of social mobility exists across different countries in relation to how much education a person gets. Equal education does not always mean equal opportunity.

Benchmark measures

In a globalized economy, reliance on patronage and nepotism has little use. Rather, the global economy requires countries to maximize their human resources, regardless of the social status of particular individuals or groups, to remain competitive.

Not surprisingly, governments are increasingly concerned with addressing socioeconomic disadvantages within school systems so that they are able to maximize their nations’ human capital and promote intergenerational mobility.

Indeed, policymakers around the world have shown an affinity for the results of international benchmark measures such as PIAAC and the Programme in International Student Assessment (PISA). They often rely on such measures to assess the performance gaps that exist among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Ideally, countries strive for high performance and small achievement gaps, since the latter is a sign of an effective education system. Not surprisingly, some countries seem to be doing a better job at promoting better educational outcomes for students coming from lower socioeconomic groups.

For example, PISA 2015 results indicated that more than 30 per cent of economically disadvantaged students in Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore and Slovenia were considered “academically resilient.” This means they performed at high levels despite coming from the bottom quarter of the socioeconomic status classification system.

While the apparently better-performing countries may take pride in their outcomes, it is worth noting that a high global ranking does not necessarily capture how inequities manifest nationally. For example, Canada has a noticeable gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous education outcomes. 

Policy for equality

When one considers the capacity of education to influence social mobility around the world the results appear to be mixed. We need more research to understand exactly how some countries seem to provide more equitable opportunities in schools and society, and for whom.

Where there are disparities, governments need to consider more policy options across multiple sectors — to create a situation where equal abilities and qualifications translate to equal prospects and outcomes. Failure to do so casts doubt on our cherished notion of meritocracy.

In other words, in many countries education will only equal social mobility with further government intervention.

Transformation of the Workplace by Gen X

Generation X are changing the workplace by thinking outside of the box and questioning authority

Gen Xers are known for questioning authority—and as they steadily infiltrate the C-suite, they’re living up to the reputation by rewriting the rules for corporate headquarters.

While Millennials have been getting all the attention for transforming the workplace simply by joining it, the MTV generation has been coolly and quietly transforming it from the inside out, from where headquarters are located, to how they’re being designed.

Why does it matter how old the CEO is? Unlike the Boomers (1946-1964), the generation responsible for conventional models of corporate authority, Generation X (born between 1965-1984, according to the Harvard Center) is known for its more entrepreneurial approach to work, and a passion for work/balance.

“The Baby Boomers—and I count myself among their ranks—brought us a tradition of angular, perimeter offices, usually located in suburban markets,” says Steve Stratton, International Director, Co-Chair for the Headquarters Practice Group at JLL. “After all, our generation is known for our all-work-no play attitude, and the conviction that hours worked equals professional advancement. Corner offices were generally considered one of the clearest markers of that advancement.”

But as he points out, Gen Xers see things differently.

What happens when Gen Xers take the reins

Generally more autonomous, Gen Xers are independent thinkers who grew up learning to be skeptical of old ways—and corporate real estate decisions.

“My Gen X colleagues have opened my eyes to an entirely new work ethic: the idea that one can advance their career while pushing for genuine work-life balance,” he says. “They not only approach work differently, but also look at where they want to work differently. Where my generation was lured by visions of corner offices and personal parking spots, Xers are more motivated by locations that will allow them to work in more productive ways.”

These generational differences are fueling all-new office designs, such as activity-based workplaces that will help carry organizations into the future of work, and designs that favor casual collisions over boxy offices. Plus, to aid a work-life balance, the GenX CEO knows they need to ensure their organizations are run efficiently and productively—and that means inspiring talent of all generations.

They also know that to get the business results they want they need to go where the talent is. With Millennials, who make up increasingly large proportions of the workforce, basing themselves in the cities, it makes sense to move headquarters back into urban centers.

“In Chicago, for example, we’re seeing the generational shift play out very clearly in corporate headquarter relocations,” says Stratton. “Decades ago, most of the area’s Fortune 500 CEOs moved company operations out to the suburbs. But since 2008 alone, the downtown area has attracted 32 headquarter relocations. Those organizations’ CEOs had an average age of 52.”

New players, new questions

The commercial office market is shifting seismically, too, as developers and landlords work to accommodate the multi-generational interest in working in positive, collaborative environments. Innovative work spaces, such as coffee lounges, internal co-working areas, war rooms and incubator spaces are popping up to accommodate workers’ desire to come together.

Of course all these generations won’t be won over by the same thing but creating flexible spaces where individual needs are met by a wide variety of choices is key to productive modern workplaces.

“Find out how your employees communicate—deskside chats for Boomers versus virtual chats for Millennials, for example—and try test fits,” says Stratton. “Space will create greater value than the sum of its parts if it allows for daily spontaneous encounters where people informally chat and share information and ideas.”

Although there’s no one-size fits all approach for success, thinking outside of the box and not being afraid to do things a little differently – which Gen Xers do very well – go a long way in creating spaces where workers of all ages enjoy spending time. “Generational archetypes are the foundation to help set strategy and frame your thinking, but the key is to communicate clearly with your own real-live team members about the future of your workplace and headquarters strategy,” says Stratton.

Increasingly, in this age of rampant innovation and technological advances, professionals across every generation are benefiting from GenX’s insistence on questioning authority—especially now as they assume it.

The Process to Future-Proof Universities

The members of the Global University Leaders Forum community convened at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 to discuss their role in our ever-changing world. Here are six topics that were top of the agenda as the members considered the future of the university and its role in society.

1. Introduce data science 101

Today data is omnipresent and often overwhelming. By way of example, Domo’s Data Never Sleeps 6.0 reported that in 2018 Google conducted an average of 3.8 million searches per minute.

Though not all graduates will enter data-related fields, universities are starting to work towards increasing data literacy in their student body by adding data science courses and challenges for social science majors so that graduates can effectively communicate with their data-oriented peers and co-workers.

University College London requires successful applicants to its Management Science BSc to have a strong mathematical background to grapple with this new mass of data. Bocconi University requires its first-year MA students to learn the Python programming language as “[i]t is useful to know, at least in general, the logic of computer programming.”

2. Embed ethics

New technologies are being designed to deliver benefits for humanity, but the Fourth Industrial Revolution raises myriad questions about the values embedded in these new technologies. STEM students could benefit from engaging with liberal arts disciplines to help them grapple with these larger questions.

Many institutions are experimenting with ways to embed ethics into regularly programmed courses, as there is no singular interpretation of ethics. Harvard University is leveraging philosophy graduate students as teaching staff and assistants for several computer science courses, in addition to encouraging jointly developed courses across these disciplines and others. Princeton University is asking its engineering students to consider their role in preventing climate change.

The World Economic Forum and Carnegie Mellon University also launched an initiative to understand how ethics are taught in artificial intelligence (AI) courses.

3. Make data open and interoperable

Open science is a key issue for research today. One of the most pressing slices of this issue is open data.

Many innovations today hinge on the aggregation of large data sets. Researchers from the Universities of St. Gallen and Liechtenstein, for example, have underscored how data analysis can improve affordability and personalization of products and services.

There is an urgent need to create the ability to federate or share data sets without relinquishing control of the underlying data. As such data sets are often held by universities and non-profits, there is room for universities to play a role in designing how data is shared widely, and in an interoperable manner.

4. Consult social scientists in tech research

The Financial Times named “techlash” as one of the key words encapsulating 2018. Issues surrounding the ethics and logic governing new technologies are surfacing in spectacular ways only once problems arise, rather than being examined proactively.

The social sciences have a role to play in navigating inventions and mitigating the “techlash”. Time-honed methodologies can unearth the governance-related questions, trade-offs and benefits presented by new technologies, and understand how options are likely to be received by consumers and the public. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Campinas, Brazil showed how a lack of public education about developments in biotechnology and genetically modified food, 22 years after the first genetically modified food reached market, was still hindering acceptance of such techniques.

Today there is ample opportunity for social scientists to be consulted in the early stages of development and to take an active role in the debates around gene editing and autonomous vehicles, for example.

5. Embrace the usefulness of useless knowledge

In 1939, American educator Abraham Flexner pleaded in the pages of Harper’s Magazine for knowledge production to be decoupled from considerations of use:

“Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity and the less they are deflected by considerations of immediacy of application, the more likely they are deflected by considerations of immediacy of application, the more likely they are to contribute not only to human welfare but to the equally important satisfaction of intellectual interest which may indeed by said to have become the ruling passion of intellectual life in modern times.”

Flexner was not unbiased in his plea – a decade prior he founded the Institute for Advanced Study for independent inquiry, with a similar ethos – but he certainly had bona fides to speak on the issue, having authored the report responsible for provoking standardization of medical education in the United States.

Some of the biggest mysteries of our time are being tackled through basic research. A notable example is the work of the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), whose work has confirmed the standard model of particle physics.

However in times of tightening belts, research with no immediate application is susceptible to the labels “ridiculous” or “dumb”. Such “useless knowledge” can become relevant overnight due to shifting circumstances. A comprehensive debrief on the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in west Africa attributed propagation and failure to control in part to cultural and behavioural factors that had previously been surfaced in published demographic, anthropological and sociological research.

Universities need their partners in innovation ecosystems – in industry and in government – to help champion the production of knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

6. Find the right role for reskilling

Reskilling is a looming challenge for society. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs Report found that “[b]y 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling.”

Universities are aware they have a role to play. To this end, the National University of Singapore launched a lifelong learning programme last year. It allows alumni to join continuing education and training courses for up to 20 years after they are admitted ensuring they have the right skills for our rapidly evolving global economy.

Companies are also leveraging university expertise to retain their workforce. AT&T launched a $1 billion initiative called “Future Ready” to retain the nearly half of its employees that no longer had the right skills. Carried out in partnership with traditional universities such as Georgia Tech, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Oklahoma, and online course providers Coursera and Udacity, Future Ready allows AT&T workers to pursue new qualifications, culminating in either MA or MSc degrees or badges that attest to attainment of specific competences.

The Living Bridge of UK-India Literary Links

Literature plays a special role in the life of a diplomat. When preparing to live overseas – in a place you might never have visited – losing oneself in a novel set in that country is always the best preparation. Reading remains the best way to understand a country’s rich background, its future challenges – and often its relationship with the UK.

The problem with India is the daunting breadth and depth of literature available. Whether it be the proliferation of Indian-heritage authors in the UK, translated works of Indian greats, or the eloquent evocations of both nationalities journeying across borders, the living bridge of UK-India literary links is unparalleled. From EM Forster to Amit Chaudhuri, numerous great authors have written stories of leaving and returning. Accounts like these help us make sense of new places and issues; to demystify them; to make the unfamiliar familiar.

Writers of Indian origin have a huge influence in the UK literature sector: there have been no fewer than five Booker Prize winners of Indian descent (from VS Naipaul’s In a Free State in 1971 to Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger in 2008). Writers of Indian origin also play a leading role in UK literary and academic life – Chaudhuri, for example, is currently Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia.

British authors are well loved in India too, as any trip to Daryaganj Sunday book market in Old Delhi will confirm. Whilst it may not be standard practice in the UK to sell books by the kilogram, many of the authors and titles laid out across the pavements and stacked high on trestle tables are often the same ones that grace bookshelves in homes, schools and libraries across the UK. In the other direction, I’m delighted to see more great works from India translated into English – HarperCollins’s new Perennial collection of stories (all translated from Indian languages) is a great example of new storytelling.

The dialogue between our literary histories is extremely important. Far more than just a creative tool, great literature educates and informs; creates opportunity; provides insight; and drives innovation. It also has the power to bring different disciplines together: the JCB Prize for Literature is an excellent example of industry recognising the value of the arts, supporting greater visibility for modern Indian writing across different languages.

Above all, literature creates a shared community and shared experience. Take the powerful adaptations of Shakespearean tragedies recast in India in recent years: We That Are Young, British Indian Preti Taneja’s retelling of King Lear set in modern India; or Vishal Bhardwaj’s films adapting Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello.

This dialogue happens on an interpersonal level too. Last year an organisation in the Outer Hebrides worked with the Apeejay Literary Festival in Kolkata and the Edinburgh International Book Festival on a writers’ exchange project based on the life and work of Colonel Colin Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India (born in Stornoway, died in Calcutta). Scottish writers carried out a week long residency in Kolkata and collaborated with Indian counterparts.

The depth of this cultural connection is unsurprising. UK publishing is a cornerstone of our creative industries. Nearly 200 million books were sold in the UK last year and the industry is worth £5.7 billion. And whilst the UK remains the largest exporter of physical books in the world, the UK Publishers Association noted last year that “India has to have the most exciting publishing industry in the world”.

According to a 2015 Nielsen Report, India is the second largest English language print book market in the world, with over 9,000 publishers producing 90,000 books annually. According to some estimates, an incredible 94% of global content passes through India at some publishing stage.

Without doubt, literature is one of the mainstays of the ‘Living Bridge’ between India and UK – a term first used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to capture the unique exchange of people, culture and ideas between our two countries. The strong UK delegation at this year’s Jaipur literature festival was a great example of that – with household names like Jeffrey Archer playing a central role – but our shared affection for literature, and shared reference points, has also helped to create the living bridge which is so strongly maintained today. Long may it continue.

Connection of Ancient China With Today’s Technology

As machine-learning algorithms come to dominate decision-making in business, politics, and society, the pressure to make more personal data available will steadily increase, and privacy protections will be eroded. If we do not take the reins of these new technologies, they could lead us toward a political system we did not choose.

Around 1200 BC, the Shang Dynasty in China developed a factory system to build thousands of huge bronze vessels for use in everyday life and ritual ceremonies. In this early example of mass production, the process of bronze casting required intricate planning and the coordination of large groups of workers, each performing a separate task in precisely the right order.

A similarly complex process went into fashioning the famous army of terracotta warriors that Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, unveiled one thousand years later. According to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the statues “were created using an assembly production system that paved the way for advances in mass production and commerce.”

Some scholars have speculated that these early forms of prescriptive-work technologies played a large role in shaping Chinese society. Among other things, they seem to have predisposed people to accept bureaucratic structures, a social philosophy emphasizing hierarchy, and a belief that there is a single right way of doing things.

When industrial factories were introduced in Europe in the nineteenth century, even staunch critics of capitalism such as Friedrich Engels acknowledged that mass production necessitated centralized authority, regardless of whether the economic system was capitalist or socialist. In the twentieth century, theorists such as Langdon Winner extended this line of thinking to other technologies. He thought that the atom bomb, for example, should be considered an “inherently political artifact,” because its “lethal properties demand that it be controlled by a centralized, rigidly hierarchical chain of command.”

Today, we can take that thinking even further. Consider machine-learning algorithms, the most important general-purpose technology in use today. Using real-world examples to mimic human cognitive capacities, these algorithms are already becoming ubiquitous in the workplace. But, to capitalize fully on these technologies, organizations must redefine human tasks as prediction tasks, which are more suited to these algorithms’ strengths.

A key feature of machine-learning algorithms is that their performance improves with more data. As a result, the use of these algorithms creates a technological momentum to treat information about people as recordable, accessible data. Like the system of mass production, they are “inherently political,” because their core functionality demands certain social practices and discourages others. In particular, machine-learning algorithms run directly counter to individuals’ desire for personal privacy.

A system based on the public availability of information about individual community members might seem amenable to communitarians such as the sociologist Amitai Etzioni, for whom limitations on privacy are a means to enforce social norms. But, unlike communitarians, algorithms are indifferent to social norms. Their only concern is to make better predictions, by transforming more and more areas of human life into data sets that can be mined.

Moreover, while the force of a technological imperative turns individualist Westerners into accidental communitarians, it also makes them more beholden to a culture of meritocracy based on algorithmic evaluations. Whether it is at work, in school, or even on dating apps, we have already become accustomed to having our eligibility assessed by impersonal tools, which then assign us positions in a hierarchy.

To be sure, algorithmic assessment is not new. A generation ago, scholars such as Oscar H. Gandy warned that we were turning into a scored-and-ranked society, and demanded more accountability and redress for technology-driven mistakes. But, unlike modern machine-learning algorithms, older assessment tools were reasonably well understood. They made decisions on the basis of relevant normative and empirical factors. For example, it was no secret that accumulating a lot of credit card debit could hurt one’s creditworthiness.

By contrast, new machine-learning technologies plumb the depths of large data sets to find correlations that are predictive but poorly understood. In the workplace, algorithms can track employees’ conversations, where they eat lunch, and how much time they spend on the computer, telephone, or in meetings. And with that data, the algorithm develops sophisticated models of productivity that far surpass our commonsense intuitions. In an algorithmic meritocracy, whatever the models demand becomes the new standard of excellence. 

Still, technology is not destiny. We shape it before it shapes us. Business leaders and policymakers can develop and deploy the technologies they want, according to their institutional needs. It is within our power to cast privacy nets around sensitive areas of human life, to protect people from the harmful uses of data, and to require that algorithms balance predictive accuracy against other values such as fairness, accountability, and transparency.

But if we follow the natural flow of algorithmic logic, a more meritocratic and communitarian culture will be inevitable. And this steady transformation will have far-reaching implications for our democratic institutions and political structures. As the China scholars Daniel A. Bell and Zhang Weiwei have noted, the major political alternative to Western liberal-democratic traditions are the communitarian institutions that continue to evolve in China.

In China, collective decisions are not legitimated by citizens’ explicit consent, and people generally have fewer enforceable rights against the government, particularly when it comes to surveillance. An ordinary Chinese citizen’s role in political life is largely limited to participation in local elections. The country’s leaders, meanwhile, are selected through a meritocratic process, and consider themselves custodians of the people’s welfare.

Liberal democracies are not likely to shift entirely to such a political system. But if current trends in business and consumer culture continue, we might soon have more in common with Chinese meritocratic and communitarian traditions than with our own history of individualism and liberal democracy. If we want to change course, we will have to put our own political imperatives before those of our technologies.

The non-violence myth: a quixotic national philosophy having enduring costs

The boundary between historical fact and fiction is more porous than students of history might think. It is not uncommon for countries to create self-serving or sanitised historical narratives. As George Orwell said, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

India’s Republic Day parade this year featured for the first time veterans of the Indian National Army (INA), which waged an armed struggle against British colonial rule. Four INA veterans in their 90s rode a jeep in a parade that, paradoxically, showcased the life experiences of the apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, through 22 tableaux.

India has long embellished or distorted how it won independence, and the incongruous juxtaposing of the INA and Gandhi at the parade inadvertently highlighted that. The INA veterans’ participation, in fact, helped underscore the Indian republic’s founding myth – that it won independence through non-violence. This myth has been deeply instilled in the minds of Indians since their school days.

To be sure, the Gandhi-led non-violent independence movement played a critical role both in galvanising grassroots resistance to British rule and in helping to gain independence. But the decisive factor was the protracted World War II, which reduced to ruins large swaths of Europe and Asia, especially the imperial powers. The war between the Allied and Axis powers killed 80 million, or 4% of the global population.

Despite the Allied victory, a devastated Britain was in no position to hold on to its colonies, including “crown jewel” India. Even colonies where there was no grassroots resistance to colonial rule won independence in the post-World War II period.

The British had dominated India through a Machiavellian divide-and-rule strategy. Their exit came only after they had reduced one of the world’s wealthiest economies to one of its poorest. Indeed, they left after they had looted to their heart’s content, siphoning out at least £9.2 trillion (or $44.6 trillion) up to 1938, according to economist Utsa Patnaik’s recent estimate.

Had the post-1947 India been proactive and forward-looking in securing its frontiers, it could have averted both the Kashmir and Himalayan border problems. China was in deep turmoil until October 1949, and India had ample time and space to assert control over the Himalayan borders. But India’s pernicious founding myth gave rise to a pacifist country that believed it could get peace merely by seeking peace, instead of building the capability to defend peace.

Here’s the paradox: Countless numbers of Indians died due to British colonial excesses. Just in the manmade Bengal famine of 1942-45, six to seven million starved to death (a toll far greater than the “Holocaust”) due to the British war policy of diverting resources away from India. Britain sent Indian soldiers in large numbers to fight its dirty wars elsewhere, including the two world wars, and many died while serving as cannon fodder. Indeed, the present Indian republic was born in blood: As many as a million civilians died in senseless violence and millions more were uprooted in the British-contrived partition.

Yet the myth of India uniquely charting and securing its independence through non-violence was propagated by the inheritors of the Raj, the British-trained “brown sahibs”. No objective discourse was encouraged post-1947 on the multiple factors – internal and external – that aided India’s independence.

The hope of Indian independence was first kindled by Japan’s victory in the 1904-05 war with Russia – the first time an Asian nation comprehensively defeated a European rival. However, it was the world war that Adolf Hitler unleashed – with imperial Japan undertaking military expeditions in the name of freeing Asia from white colonial rule – that acted as the catalyst. An emboldened Gandhi served a “Quit India” notice on the British in 1942.

While the Subhas Chandra Bose-led INA could not mount a formidable threat to a British colonial military overflowing with Indian recruits, the Bombay mutiny and other sepoy revolts of 1946 triggered by INA prisoners’ trials undermined Britain’s confidence in sustaining the Raj, hastening its exit. Yet, independent India treated INA soldiers shabbily, with many abandoned into penury.

Against this background, the rehabilitation of Bose and the INA has long been overdue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to initiate the process, however low-key, to give Bose and the INA their due, including recently renaming one Andaman island after Bose and two other Andaman Islands to honour INA’s sacrifices. Modi even wore the INA cap to address a public meeting in Andaman on the 75th anniversary of Bose’s hoisting of the tricolour there.

Recognising unsung heroes is an essential step towards rebalancing the historical narrative. A rules-based international order premised on non-violence remains a worthy aspirational goal. But Indian romancing of non-violence as an effective political instrument crimped national security policy since independence. The country hewed to pacifism (with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru publicly bewailing in 1962 that China had “returned evil for good”) and frowned on materialism (even after China surpassed India’s GDP in 1984-85).

The burden of its quixotic national philosophy has imposed enduring costs, including an absence of a strategic culture, as the late American analyst George Tanham famously pointed out. Lack of a culture to pursue a clear strategic vision and policy hobbles India’s ambition to be a great power.

And Thus Died Alexander the Great

As far as heroes and mighty leaders go, Alexander the Great is sure to be in anyone’s top three. He succeeded his father Philip II of Macedonia at the tender age of twenty and from there had blisteringly-fast success as he aimed to expand his empire to the “ends of the world and the Great outer Sea” (they had a different sense of global geography back then). He was enormously successful, advancing as far east as India before he was forced to turn back on account of homesick disgruntled troops. But his military campaigns were truly cut short by his early death, at the age of 32. Now, a new theory claims not only that it can explain the untimely death of (arguably) history’s greatest military genius, but also that he was buried alive.

In a recent article for The Ancient History Bulletin, Dr Katherine Hall, a Senior Lecturer at the Dunedin School of Medicine and practicing clinician, argues the ancient hero met his end thanks to the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). Previous explanations for his mysterious death have included typhoid fever, acute pancreatitis, West Nile virus, alcoholism, leukemia, malaria, influenza, and even poison.

There are actually two main accounts of the death of Alexander the Great, which differ from one another. The earliest is that of the first century BCE historian Diodorus Siculus. Diodorus records that Alexander was struck with pain “instantly” after drinking a bowl of unmixed wine. He had to retire to his quarters and went directly to bed. After 11 days of worsening health and extreme agony he died in great pain. Diodorus does not mention the fever.

A second version derives from the work of the second century CE biographer and moralist Plutarch’s Life of Alexander. According to this version, around two weeks before his death Alexander engaged in some heavy drinking, spending an evening entertaining Nearchus, one of his naval officers, and the next day day-drinking with another military buddy Medius of Larissa. After this “he began to have a fever” and had a sudden pain in his back “as though struck with a spear.” The fever got worse, he needed to carried into order to perform religion duties and eventually he was unable to speak. Plutarch cites another source, Aristobulus, who agrees that Alexander had a “raging fever” and got very thirsty when he drank wine.

A similar story, found in Arrian’s Anabasis, uses the same source as Plutarch but adds a few additional details about the ascending paralysis. For example, Arrian notes that when Alexander could no longer speak and his soldiers filed past him (as a gesture of respect) he looked each in the eye with a look of recognition but “struggled to raise his head.”

According to Plutarch, after his death Alexander’s body did not decompose for six days: “His body, although it lay without special care in places that were moist and stifling, showed no sign of such destructive influence, but remained pure and fresh.” The first century CE Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus agrees that there was no “discoloration” or “decay.”

Hall’s theory argues that Alexander had the contracted an acute motor axonal neuropathy variant of GBS and that this is why, in addition to developing a fever, he suffered from paralysis and an inability to speak. Earlier theories have focused exclusively on the drinking, abdominal pain, and fever and have failed to pay attention to the paralysis. In addition she argues that only her theory can explain why Alexander’s body did not decompose: he wasn’t dead, she argues, he was alive and paralyzed. Somewhat horrifyingly, he ended up being buried alive. “The Ancient Greeks,” Hall has said in an interview, “thought that this proved that Alexander was a god; this article is the first to provide a real-world answer.”

Hall’s thesis is making waves in the media, but has she solved the puzzle of Alexander’s death? There are several reasons, both medical and historical, to think we have further to go.

Hall has claimed that “none [of the previous theories for the death of Alexander] have provided an all-encompassing answer which gives a plausible and feasible explanation for a fact recorded by one source—Alexander’s body failed to show any signs of decomposition for six days after his death.” And she offers some compelling evidence about symptoms not present in the descriptions of Alexander’s death and detailed analysis of various medical conditions. But a 1998 article she mentions that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (non-paywalled summary here) argued that typhoid fever could explain the ascending paralysis and the lack of decomposition in Alexander’s body (Hall’s view is that typhoid fever only rarely causes GBS). This article also raises and discuss the possibility that Alexander was experiencing GBS. If either sets of authors are correct then Alexander was buried alive.

The bigger issue is that Hall’s explanation relies exclusively on Plutarch, whose version of the death of Alexander was written at least 400 years after Alexander’s death. This is not to say that Diodorus’s version is accurate, but it is earlier and historians tend to use earlier sources. Now, Plutarch does tell us that he relied upon a source known as the “Royal Diaries” to compose his version of the Life of Alexander so, arguably, he preserves the earliest tradition. Interestingly, Arrian’s use of the same source does not mention the detail about Alexander’s body failing to decompose.

The larger difficulty is whether or not it is appropriate or even possible to diagnose ancient figures from the vague reports of their death provided by ancient sources. Modern medical doctors do not diagnose third hand without seeing a patient. It’s remarkable to think that anyone can accurately examine Alexander the Great, who died 2,300 years ago. To assume that modern knowledge is so all-encompassing and superior that we can diagnose everyone else’s ills is a very particular form of hubris that critical disability theorist Lennard Davis has described as “nowism.” It’s not that these theories are bad, necessarily, but they are highly speculative and inherently limited.

Hall’s own perspective is revealed by her statement that the Ancient Greeks thought the lack of decomposition proved that Alexander the Great was a god. That’s not an entirely accurate representation of what Plutarch says about the matter. Plutarch includes this detail because, in his opinion, it offers proof that Alexander the Great wasn’t poisoned. He doesn’t say anything at all about this offering proof that he was a god (even if it does say something remarkable about Alexander). Curtius Rufus mentions that the Egyptians and Chaldeans (who had been brought to embalm him) did think that Alexander was a god, but none of them were Greek and these accounts were written long after the events. It’s likely that Curtius Rufus is peddling a trope about the superstitions of foreigners.

The reason Alexander wasn’t buried immediately seems to have been because of preparations surrounding his tomb and competing claims to his body. Some believed, on an account of a prophecy, that the presence of Alexander’s remains in their city would convey power and invulnerability to that place.

The long and short of it is that none of us know why Alexander the Great died. The details that come down to us from ancient texts are the elements of Alexander’s death that ancient authors thought were interesting, interesting, and revelatory. When Hall says that symptoms were “missing” from the descriptions of Alexander’s texts we have to recognize that these authors are not providing a comprehensive list of symptoms. They are describing what they think is relevant. We could use ancient medical texts to try and figure out why ancient people thought Alexander died, but we will never be able to use modern diagnostic tools to speak definitively about what killed him.

Chinese technology, Not Trade is America’s real bugbear

In a significant development, the US has announced that it will pull out of a key arms control treaty with Russia, citing non-compliance by the latter. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is a crucial Cold War-era pact that eliminated all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500km and 5,500km. The US alleges that a new Russian cruise missile – the Novator 9M729 – violates the pact. Russia denies this vehemently and accuses the US of trying to wriggle out of its treaty obligations.

But there is another dimension to the story. Many experts believe that the US wants to pull out of the treaty to counter China in Asia. According to this theory, since the Chinese are not bound by the treaty and have been deploying the treaty-proscribed class of missiles in Asia, the US finds itself constrained to mount an effective counter. This may very well be true given the larger context of US-China relations today. There’s no denying that the two countries are locked in strategic power play with the US trying to prevent China from closing the power gap with it. In fact, this is even evidenced by the ongoing trade war between the two sides.

While Washington has described its tariff attacks on Chinese imports as a way to reduce the bilateral trade deficit, this is not the real reason. This is because the Chinese side has offered to buy enough US products to reduce the trade deficit to zero by 2024. But US negotiators have rejected this as a solution to end the trade war. So what is it that the US is really after? The real concern for the US here is actually Chinese technology.

China has made huge leaps in the technology sector over the last 15 years, so much so that it is in a position to be at par with the US very soon, if not already. And since technology is what will determine national power in the future, the US fears it is fast losing the edge to China. It is surprised by China’s meteoric technological rise and blames the Chinese for stealing American technology. It says that China coerces American firms doing business in China to share their technology with local Chinese firms. And this method is what has fuelled China’s technological jump.

If the US accusation is true, then China is in violation of WTO rules. But China has been a WTO member since 2001. Why hasn’t Washington raised this issue for close to two decades? Why now? The truth is the US never thought that China would catch up to it in technology. But now that the Chinese have done exactly that, the Americans fear they will lose this race and, as a consequence, their pre-eminent position in the world. In other words, in this American scheme of things, there is no place for any country to surpass the US.

Thus, Washington is using trade tariffs as a way to hurt the Chinese economy and get Beijing to essentially give up its technology pursuits. If US firms are unhappy about technology transfers they are supposedly coerced into making, they can choose to stop doing business in China. But no, the US wants to do business, and do it its own way. China says the technology transfers are voluntary. And in any case, I don’t think that the Chinese technology genie can be put back in the bottle. It’s clear now that China is not just copying, but actually producing cutting-edge technology. And that requires a solid foundation of research, education and funding – simply ‘stealing’ technology would not suffice.

So no matter which way this trade war goes, I don’t think the US can hope to get a China that plays second fiddle in the technology game. The question is: How long will both countries cut each other’s economic limbs before they realise that they both stand to lose.

Iran can help India with Afghanistan

It is now clear that the Taliban will have a say in the future of Afghanistan. With the Donald Trump administration in the US initiating talks with the Pashtun group and the latter engaging in dialogue with prominent Afghan politicians in Moscow recently, it is evident that the future of Afghanistan will have a Taliban component. All of this is precipitated by Trump being keen on bringing back American troops from Afghanistan. There are unconfirmed reports that he wants to reduce the American troop presence in Afghanistan by half by the end of April. Thus, given the way things are shaping up, the Taliban will view these events as victory after resisting foreign forces for close to two decades.

This will also embolden the deep state in neighbouring Pakistan that sees Afghanistan as its strategic depth. Plus, the Taliban’s seeming victory may inspire and embolden Islamist extremists in the region, including those operating in Kashmir. In such a scenario, India needs to prepare to protect its interests in Afghanistan and peace in Kashmir. For, both are threatened by the nexus between the Pakistani-ISI complex and certain elements within the Taliban. In this regard, India must take advantage of the fact that the Taliban is negotiating its way back. This means it can’t expect for things to go back to the way they were in Afghanistan before 2001. It will have to listen to other stakeholders and moderate its own position.

And one of those important stakeholders is Iran. The latter has historical influence over Afghanistan and is open to using that influence – including with the Taliban – for India. In fact, there is sound logic for boosting India-Iran relations here, something that even goes beyond Afghanistan. In a recent interaction organised at the Iran Cultural House here in New Delhi, former Speaker of Iran’s Parliament and currently Special Adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Dr Gholam Ali Haddad Adel elaborated on the basis for India-Iran relations today. Some of his key points highlighted the ethnic, cultural and spiritual connections between the two countries. These he said were the foundation for an Indo-Iranian perception of the world.

Plus, given that this year will see the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Dr Adel emphasised that the momentous historical event was driven by the Iranian people’s desire for independence. In fact, he reported that the Iranian people were extremely happy when India achieved its independence from British colonial rule in 1947. And he believed that this common cherishing of independence could be a key pillar of closer Indo-Iranian cooperation today. Additionally, Dr Adel stressed that the world today was missing spirituality and it is here that India and Iran could provide guidance with their deep roots in spirituality. In this context, he also asserted that Iran rejected extremism of all kinds and that radical groups like ISIS – which Iran has fought tooth and nail – had nothing to do with Islam.

There’s no denying that people-to-people and cultural connections between India and Iran run long and deep. But the government-to-government relationship hasn’t lived up to this. This, of course, is because of the long years of US-led sanctions that Iran has had to suffer. And with Trump pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, hard times are back for Iran and anyone that wants to do business with it. But it is important to highlight how arbitrary and illogical Trump’s withdrawal is. Even by American accounts, Iran has adhered to all the stipulations of the nuclear deal. Yet, trump believes that Iran is creating instability for the region. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. What is happening to Iran is an injustice and it is welcome that Europe has decided not to follow in America’s footsteps.

But India needs to choose carefully here. If it totally buckles under US pressure and drastically severs business ties with Iran, it could end up with less leverage in Afghanistan. And with Trump clear that US shouldn’t be handling Afghanistan from 6,000 miles away, it is India that needs to figure out how to deal with the fallout of Taliban’s return. Dr Adel stressed that the Iranian people are ready to resist all external pressures. He further said that the Chabahar Port project, which India has helped developed, is dedicated to regional development. He also emphasised that Iranian oil and gas could meet India’s growing energy demands.

All of this provides compelling logic for New Delhi to boost ties with Tehran. It is time that the Indian leadership does the strategic calculation and sees for itself the merit in furthering Indo-Iranian cooperation

The 17th-century philosopher whose scientific ideas could tackle climate change today

“Everyone has a cave or den of his own.” If we don’t make a fundamental change to the way we are living, the world faces the destruction of entire eco-systems, flooding of coastal areas, and ever more extreme weather. Such was the stark warning in a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The task is enormous.

One way to approach it is to look back to a time when scientific thinking did manage to initiate revolutionary changes in our outlook. In the 17th century, the philosopher Francis Bacon called for a “great fresh start” in our thinking about the natural world, and helped usher in the scientific revolution that replaced the staid thinking of the time. We could do worse than follow his example once again – this time in our social and political thinking – if we are to tackle the biggest challenge of our era.

In his key work Novum Organum, Bacon identified “four idols” of the mind – false notions, or “empty ideas” – that don’t just “occupy men’s minds so that truth can hardly get in, but also when a truth is allowed in they will push back against it”. A true science, he said, should “solemnly and firmly resolve to deny and reject them all, cleansing our intellect by freeing it from them”.

Bacon’s idols – listed below – are no longer part of standard scientific thinking, but they are still in place within our moral and political thought, and provide a useful model for understanding the challenges we face and how we might respond to them.

The idols of the tribe

For Bacon, these “have their foundation in human nature itself … in the tribe or race of men”. Human understanding, says Bacon, “is like a false mirror, which … distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it”.

Bacon was referring to our understanding of the world around us. But his point applies to our morality too. As the philosopher Dale Jamieson has argued, our natural moral understanding is too limited to grasp the moral consequences and responsibility that comes with a problem like climate change, in which diffuse groups of people cause a diffuse set of harms to another diffuse set of people, over a diffuse range of time and space.

Since the “idols of the tribe” are natural and innate, they are tricky to shift. As Jamieson argued, one way to combat them is for individuals to mindfully cultivate green virtues, such as rejecting materialism, humility about your own importance, and a broad empathy with your ecosystem.

The idols of the cave

“Everyone has a cave or den of his own,” Bacon wrote, “which refracts and discolours the light of nature.” The cave is the knowledge set, specific to each individual, as a result of their upbringing and learning.

This has become even more splintered in recent years, as people follow their own silos of information online. For instance, although most in the UK think that rising global temperatures are the result of man-made emissions, a sizeable minority (25%) do not. On the day of the recent IPCC report, much of the UK press ran as their main story a drunken kiss between two contestants on a reality TV show.

To combat the idols of the cave we must ensure that, through education, the media and culture, the scientific consensus behind climate change is well known.

The idols of the market place

For Bacon, these arose “from consort, intercourse, commerce”. Everyday language, he argued, diminishes our understanding of the world by promoting concepts “imposed by the apprehension of the vulgar” over those of “the learned”.

The language that dominates contemporary political and economic discourse similarly diminishes our relationship with the natural world. The emphasis is on profit, consumption and continuous growth, rather than well-being and sustainability. Consequently, our economic system is not well geared towards the environment.

 “Donut Economics”, and the “post-growth” movement are useful proposals for reframing our economic systems and combating Bacon’s idols of the market. At a global political level, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a basic political vocabulary for tackling climate change.

The idols of the theatre

These “are idols which have immigrated into men’s minds from the various dogmas of philosophies[…]representing worlds of their own creation”. They are preconceived dogmas – of a religious, political or philosophical kind – that undermine clear, evidence-based thinking about the world.

In contemporary politics, preconceived dogma – often in the form of vested interests – continues to exert a hold on our response to climate change. For instance broadcasters routinely invite climate change deniers (often industry-funded) to debate points of scientific evidence, on the grounds of “balance”.

To combat the idols of the theatre, we need a recognised global hub where relevant information from expert bodies can be assessed and translated into actions. This would be the modern equivalent of the French mathematician Marin Mersenne in the 17th century, whose wide range of contacts (from Hobbes to Pascal to Descartes to Galileo), allowed to him act, as Peter Lynch puts it, like “a one-man internet hub” for the emerging scientific revolution.

To tackle climate change, we urgently need a far-reaching restorative project, of similar scale and scope to the scientific revolution. Such change can sometimes seem remote and difficult to conceive. Yet, as Bacon himself put it:

By far the greatest obstacle to the progress of science – to the launching of new projects and the opening up of new fields of inquiry – is that men despair and think things impossible. 

To Baby or Not to Baby

Would you sue your parents for giving you birth? Raphael Samuel, a young man from Mumbai did. He says he was made to be born into our chaotic world of despair, all without his consent. He feels giving birth to a new person is selfish, unjust and an act of coercion. There’s no need for another life to be born into suffering when it could’ve avoided the pain by never coming into being. He is, what you call, an anti-natalist. This is a part of contemporary philosophy that says bringing a new life on Earth is cruel. Parents are responsible for the pain a ‘new life’ endures even as the right to well-being is basic. You maybe be glad you are alive now, but if you were given a chance, maybe you wouldn’t want to be born.

As an individual, he definitely has the right to follow his beliefs. I, however, feel anti-natalism is a flawed logic.

Firstly, we haven’t answered the question about why our existence is, how can we decide why it shouldn’t be? It’s like saying the Big Bang was a sin because the stars didn’t want to be born. If all of ‘this’ wasn’t here, would one even be thinking about it? There would be nothing. No life, no thought, no feeling, not even pitch black. Can you imagine such emptiness? You wouldn’t have to if you didn’t exist and that won’t be as interesting, now, will it?

The second flaw, I feel, is that anti-natalism is a selfish philosophy. Why do we think on an individual basis? Why not as a collective species? Being born in trillions of combinations has made us into the intelligent beings that we are today. Pain, love, happiness, sadness and much more, all are the ingredients that make us ‘us’. For all of humanity, it is this cycle of birth and death that has given meaning to life. Imagine, the Earth is more ‘alive’ than most of the universe because of ‘life’ and its continuous growth. A speck of rock in comparison, our Earth is more special than galaxies put together as it has ‘life’ on it! How rare, how spectacular! Life on earth has the intelligence to travel into the space, make infinite discoveries and even dive into the depths of pessimism about its own being. Is life still so bad?

Nietzsche: If he could comment

There is yet another school of thought, darker and deeper than Anti-natalism. It is called Nihilism. It rejects life completely and everything that comes with it. It says life is meaningless and we are abject, powerless creatures with no true meaning or purpose. Nietzsche gave his arguments against it. True, the world has pain, he said. It will be felt by everyone who is brought to life. However, it doesn’t mean life is meaningless or a ditch of cursed water! We give the meaning and purpose to life. We give it the perspective. That is power, the power of creation.

‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’ He said. Can we say what makes you live makes you stronger?

Nietzsche himself was born into a rich but a difficult household. He was depressed, he felt the pain around him and empathised. His life was miserable, to say the least. But the only thoughts that came from him were of strength and heroism. Did Nietzsche wish he was never born? For a fact, millions of other people have been thankful that he was!

Anti-natalism is a narrowed down perspective focusing only on ‘pain’. If one can’t afford to raise their babies in luxuries, one shouldn’t procreate, it argues. If the parents of so many leaders, sports stars, scientists, philosophers, writers, artists and all those who did beautiful things in human history were anti-natalists, we wouldn’t have a history. Without history, a past, thought or definition, we would truly be a meaningless existence.

Lastly, I feel an anti-natalist approach makes you ignorant. Because you don’t think you should bring a new life on Earth, you are somewhere washing your hands off the responsibility of making the world a better place to live in. You have no responsibility for anyone other than yourself. As free and happy this may sound, having no one to depend on or to take care of makes one lonely. True, you may have friends, adopted kids, other family with you, but your pessimistic beliefs will not give you the fulfilment you deserve.

Society: The need to have kids

This is not to say that one must have kids! If you feel it is not for you, then go by it. Society pressurises us in all kinds of ways and one of them is to have kids. With all kinds of excuses, people have kids; to make more living, to sell them off, to have an old age insurance or to simply carry a legacy forward. Should you bring a new life, bring it with love, affection, responsibility and care. If you feel parenting is not for you, or having babies is not your style, be firm in your decision instead of ruining a childhood (and subsequently, an adulthood and a life).

However, not wanting to have kids and belief in anti-natalism shouldn’t be confused with each other. One may not want to have kids but only for oneself, not others! Anti-natalist believes none of us should have children.

In the end, the choice is yours. The belief is yours. I will only urge you to read more, think in multitude of ways, know your mind and then decide. I, for one, love babies and believe in the Mother Earth’s way of life. You may have different thoughts!

Sunday Special: Adversarial AI & Its Importance

 Artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a critical component in how government, business and citizens defend themselves against cyber attacks. Starting with technology designed to automate specific manual tasks, and advancing to machine learning using increasingly complex systems to parse data, breakthroughs in deep learning capabilities will become an integral part of the security agenda. Much attention is paid to how these capabilities are helping to build a defence posture. But how enemies might harness AI to drive a new generation of attack vectors, and how the community might respond, is often overlooked. Ultimately, the real danger of AI lies in how it will enable attackers.

The challenge

Adversarial AI is the malicious development and use of advanced digital technology and systems that have intellectual processes typically associated with human behaviour. These include the ability to learn from past experiences, and to reason or discover meaning from complex data.

Changes in the threat landscape are already apparent. Criminals are already harnessing automated reconnaissance, target exploitation and network penetration end-to-end. Soon, technology will enable them to automate every element of their attack cycle, including currently very manual processes such as the ability to learn fraud controls and to industralize cash-out and money laundering tactics.

Based on core big data principles, adversarial AI will impact the threat landscape in three key ways.

1. Larger volume of attacks against a wider attack cycle

By introducing new scalable systems, which would typically require human labour and expertise for attacks, criminals will be able to invest resources and capacity into building and modifying new infrastructure against target sets.

2. New pace and velocity of attacks, which can modify to their environment

Technology will enable criminal groups to become increasingly effective and more efficient. It will allow them to finely tune attacks in real-time, adapt to their environment and learn defence postures faster. This will be reflected across all attack scenarios, industries and technology platforms.

3. New varieties of attacks, which were previously impossible when dependent on human interaction

Finally, and most importantly, the next generation of technical systems will enable attack methodologies that were previously unfeasible. This will alter the threat landscape in a series of shifts, bypassing entire generations of controls that have been put in place to defend against attacks.

5 ways the cyber security community needs to respond

Advances in a new generation of systems available to attackers will require a holistic and multi-tiered approach, based on solid security foundations. Modifications and an increase in attack vectors will require the evolution and adaptation of current defence frameworks. The possibility of a new generation of attack methodologies requires bypassing traditional detect and respond postures.

1. Know our current threat environment

It is impossible to defend an organization from all attacks across all channels all the time. Understanding and defending against adversarial AI will require a deep understanding of where adapting threats will challenge current postures, and where to focus limited resources.

2. Invest in skills and analytics

To adapt to this new security environment, government, business and education systems need to ensure they have a requisite skills base and talent pipeline. The ability to attract and recruit people, and retrain them in highly sought-after skills across multiple disciplines, including advanced computing, mathematics and orchestrated analysis, will soon be of paramount importance.

3. Invest in suppliers and third parties

Full-scale deep defence is based on an integrated set of services and third parties who actively manage and refine defences in line with the changing threat landscape at an operational and strategic level. The community needs to have a clear roadmap, strategy and requisite skill set to be able to adapt to the new forms of attack generated by adversarial AI. Investment in integrated cluster and machine learning analysis for host-based detection and network monitoring is increasingly becoming industry standard, but such advanced technology will soon be needed across an organization’s entire attack surface.

4. Invest in new operational policy partnerships

The introduction of new AI-driven systems will stretch and challenge traditional defence postures, and require a much deeper and wider partner base to defend an organization. Large-scale attacks that can be generated worldwide across multiple technologies and platforms will require proactive partnerships and alliances beyond traditional structures. Integral to this will be proactive strategies with cross-sector partners, regulators and governments, who can collaborate on strategy and actively respond to new security challenges. The need to harmonize rules for certification and communication between partners will be increased.

5. Continue to integrate critical business processes and capabilities

A new generation of attacks operating across an organization’s full attack surface and exploiting a lack of defensive cohesion will increasingly pressure structural operational silos.

Why acting now matters

Cyber security will continue to be the security challenge of the 21st century. It has already radically changed how business, government and citizens partner together to combat crime. But this is just the beginning. While criminals continue to operate largely unattributed in the margins of global cooperation, they will seize on new technology and launch new generations of attacks

Indian non-compliant culture herds people like cats

One of the things that you notice when you travel to countries like Australia and Singapore is the obsession with rules and regulations, and the rigorous implementation of systems. A car parked in the wrong place is immediately fined, not using seat belts in the backseat, is immediately fined.

The system is so strong that people live in constant fear of violating rules that result in an expensive fine. Consequently, we find a highly compliant society, where through discipline and rigorous implementation of rules, we have an organised society. It does not necessarily imply that the people are inherently compliant, it means they have been domesticated by a stringent application of rules.

 In countries like India, it is almost impossible to implement such levels of compliance without having an extremely authoritarian regime, where the central command decides how everybody is supposed to live – the kind which exists in China today.

India, being a democratic country, is full of diversity and naturally, finds it difficult to achieve that level of compliance. In fact, a German expat once commented that getting people to work together, in an Indian office meeting, is like trying to herd cats, for nobody seems to respect time.

If we compare the eastern and western part of the world, we realise the value placed on discipline and compliance. Something that is missing in India. The Western world, which includes the Middle Eastern States, Europe and America, has implemented, over a thousand years, the practice of Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In all three religions, every devout person is expected to visit a place of worship, once a week, Friday in case of Muslims, Saturday in case of Jews and Sunday in case of Christians.

So, for a thousand years, people were expected to follow a particular rule. This creates a habit in people for following rules and thereby, the construction of a culture of compliance, in the Western world.

You find a similar attitude of celebration in the value of compliance in China, through the Confucian system which valued obedience. In it, the subject is considered virtuous, if he obeys the ruler, the woman is virtuous if she obeys the man, and the young are virtuous if they obey the elders. Thus, a system of clear hierarchy is established and one is celebrated for following the rules. Thus, culture becomes organised, domesticated, venerated and glamorized.

Thus, in the Oriental world of China and the occidental world of the West, rules and rituals have created a culture of compliance, that is evident even today, when one visits these cities. And in each case, it is through a system of stringent discipline and implementation of punishment.

In the West, the religious doctrine says that those who follow the rules, like halaal, will go to heaven, Jannat. Those who don’t follow Haram or break the rules will go to hell, Jahannum. This model of compliance is found even in corporations where, if you follow the rules and are complaint, you are considered favourably for following the values of the company and, eventually, get a bonus and a promotion; while if you defy the rules, you are likely to be reprimanded, disciplined, receive a memo or even be sacked.

India, by contrast, doesn’t really follow a compliance model. There is no single Hindu ritual that all Hindus are expected to follow. All Hindus follow different gurus, different deities, different rituals, different philosophies. If at all, you find a level of compliance, you would find this in caste-based groups, as can be seen from the Patel agitation and the Maratha agitation. You find this in communal structures and these communities, or caste-based organisations, many a time, have become vote banks.

Such compliance is also found in gurudoms, with the guru’s decision being followed blindly by his followers, and in religious sects and cults, where following the authority is considered virtuous. Such pockets of compliance do exist, but you don’t find an overall submission in India, which explains why India seems to be a land where people have to be herded like cats to get work done.

Darkening Economic Horizon, Says IMF

At the 2019 World Government Summit in Dubai from February 10 to 12, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned 4,000 world leaders that an ominous economic storm is on the horizon.

During the summit, Lagarde identified four “clouds,” or major international concerns, that threaten the economy: trade and tariff escalations, financial tightening, Brexit uncertainty, and China’s economic slowdown. These four concerns are exacerbating each other, and economies are growing more slowly than anticipated.

These statements came a month after the imf lowered its expected global economic growth from 3.7 percent to 3.5 percent.

When asked how worried she was by the current state of the world, Lagarde responded: “When there are too many clouds, it takes one lightning to start the storm.”

The IMF stated, “[B]uild up your buffers. Make sure that if the storm hits, then you are strong and solid at home.”

The United States is doing the exact opposite. The Treasury Department reported on Monday that total U.S. debt crossed the $22 trillion mark for the first time ever. The debt has gone up by over $2 trillion just since Donald Trump took office. Before him, President Barack Obama increased it by more than $8 trillion in his eight years as president. The question that faces is: With so much talk about the need to reduce the country’s debt, why has it continued to balloon?

Politicians talk about the debt, but they don’t do anything about it. The national debt has become a runaway train that can be easy for the average American citizen to ignore. But the expanding national debt will impact everyone. Rising national debt hurts the economy, in large part thanks to interest that must be paid on the debt.

Within a decade, the U.S. is forecast to spend more than $1 trillion each year just on the interest payments on its debt. And yet politicians are demanding that the country borrow even more, for unimaginably massive social programs.

During and following the financial catastrophe there will be economic besiegement, devastating race riots, military attacks and terror.

As you feel the atmospheric pressure rising and the wind speeds increasing from the economic storm forming, remember these forecasts. It only takes one flash of lightning to set off the storm, which doesn’t stop until cities are left without inhabitant!

Saturday Special: Ban the Bike! Promoting Cycling is a Grievous Mistake

The bicycle has come a long way since the 1980s when bicycle advocacy groups (my group, Energy Probe, among them) lobbied against policies that discriminated against cyclists. In the language of the day, the bicycle epitomized “appropriate technology”: It was a right-sized machine that blessed cities with economic and environmental benefits. At no expense to taxpayers, the bicycle took cars off the road, easing traffic; it saved wear and tear on the roads, easing municipal budgets; it reduced auto emissions, easing air pollution; it reduced the need for automobile parking, increasing the efficiency of land use; and it helped keep people fit, too.

Today the bicycle is a mixed bag, usually with more negatives than positives. In many cities, bike lanes now consume more road space than they free up, they add to pollution as well as reducing it, they hurt neighbourhoods and business districts alike, and they have become a drain on the public purse. The bicycle today — or rather the infrastructure that now supports it — exemplifies “inappropriate technology,” a good idea gone wrong through unsustainable, willy-nilly top-down planning.

London, where former mayor Boris Johnston began a “cycling revolution,” shows where the road to ruin can lead. Although criticism of biking remains largely taboo among the city’s elite, a bike backlash is underway, with many blaming the city’s worsening congestion on the proliferation of bike lanes. While bikes have the luxury of zipping through traffic using dedicated lanes that are vastly underused most of the day — these include what Transport for London (TfL) calls “cycle superhighways” — cars have been squeezed into narrowed spaces that slow traffic to a crawl.

As a City of London report acknowledged last year, “The most significant impact on the City’s road network in the last 12 months has been the construction and subsequent operation of TfL’s cycle super highway … areas of traffic congestion can frequently be found on those roads.” As Lord Nigel Lawson put it in a parliamentary debate on bicycles, cycle lanes have done more damage to London than “almost anything since the Blitz.”

As a consequence of the idling traffic, pollution levels have risen, contributing to what is now deemed a toxic stew. Ironically, cyclists are especially harmed, and not just because the bike lanes they speed upon are adjacent to tailpipes. According to a study by the London School of Medicine, cyclists have 2.3 times more inhaled soot than walkers because “cyclists breathe more deeply and at a quicker rate than pedestrians while in closer proximity to exhaust fumes … Our data strongly suggest that personal exposure to black carbon should be considered when planning cycling routes.” Cyclists have begun wearing facemasks as a consequence. A recent headline in The Independent helpfully featured “5 best anti-pollution masks for cycling.” Neighbourhoods endure extra pollution, too, with frustrated autos cutting through residential districts to avoid bike-bred congestion.

Health and safety costs aside — per kilometre travelled, cyclist fatalities are eight times that of motorists — the direct economic burden associated with cycling megaprojects is staggering. Paris, which boasts of its plan to become the “cycling capital of the world,” is in the midst of a 150-million-euro cycling scheme. Melbourne has a $100-million plan. Amsterdam — a flat, compact city well suited to cycling — is spending 120 million euros on 9,000 new bicycle parking spots alone. Where cold weather reigns for much of the year, as is the case in many of Canada’s cities, the cost-benefit case for cycling infrastructure is eviscerated further.

The indirect costs of cycling also loom large because cycling lanes typically displace lanes that formerly accommodated street parking, especially outside rush-hour periods. Businesses that rely on street parking for their customers are often bitter at seeing their sales gutted. Cities not only lose revenue from street parking, they also lose revenue from public transit because — anecdotally, at least — people are switching to bikes more from public transit than from cars. And because the demand for parking hasn’t vanished, cities now find themselves levelling buildings on main streets and side streets in favour of parking lots. In effect, the varied uses to which the lanes adjacent to the sidewalk were once put — for car and bike traffic during rush hour and for parking benefitting delivery vehicles, local businesses and their patrons at other times — has devolved into a single-function piece of under-used pavement.

In a user-pay or market economy, where users pay for the services they consume, bicycle lanes would be non-starters outside college campuses and other niche settings. If roads were tolled to recover the cost of asphalt and maintenance, no cyclist could bear the burden he foists on society. The cyclist has been put on the dole, made a taker rather than a giver to society.

Some of the bike backlash — resentment at the privileged position of cyclists, who are notorious for flouting the rules of the road without contributing their fair share — manifests itself as economic penalty. Oregon, which has a high proportion of cyclists, recently became the first state to levy a sales tax on new bicycles, even though Oregon has no general sales tax. Legislators “felt that bicycles ought to contribute to the system,” explained a state senator who co-wrote the bill, expressing a sentiment widely held across the continent.

The most telling opposition to cyclists, though, may be cultural. They are often seen as an entitled, smug and affected minority. In the U.K., cyclists are mocked as “mamils” (middle-aged men in Lycra); in U.S. inner cities they’re seen as the preserve of “white men with white-collar jobs” furthering gentrification. Almost everywhere they’re seen as discourteous, and as threats to the safety of pedestrians. At least two cities in the U.K. have banned cyclists from their city centres and just this month the government of New South Wales in Australia decided to ban bikes (but not automobiles, motorcycles, trucks or trams) on a popular Sydney street that had been a bike commuter route. The government explained it wants the street to become conducive to pedestrians. Other street bans important to Sydney’s downtown are in the works.

City politicians around the world are in a race to make their cities “bike-friendly.” The more they succeed, the nastier things will get.

Law & Love

Yesterday was Valentine Day and the wave of love was spreading all over, and then I thought of love getting legal sanction. ‘Love’ is liking, interest, strong attraction, an emotional connect and other multitude of feelings. The term ‘Love’ whether used as a noun or a verb is an emotion that manifests itself in several forms- love towards God, parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends, animals, plants etc.

One who loves is a lover whether related or unrelated to you by any institution recognized by the society. Being in love is good for the mind, body as well as spirit. Love is known to trigger signals to the adrenal gland which releases hormones such as adrenaline, dopamine and norepinephrine that make a person happy and elated. The heart beats faster signaling attraction and excitement. Oxytocin is another hormone that is known to be released in large quantities during childbirth and breastfeeding. This is principally responsible for the maternal bonding and affection. Hugging is also known to release oxytocin that is why it is also prescribed as a therapy for people undergoing depression.

Law is a rule of conduct prescribed by the State and also a tool to ensure compliance with such prescribed conduct. State has legitimized love in relationships- whether marriage or non-bigamous live-in-relations. The Supreme Court has declared that “there is no law which prohibits live-in relationship or premarital sex. Living together is a right to life under Article 21of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and liberty as a fundamental right. When a man and woman want to live together, what is the offence. Does it amount to offence? Living together is not an offence. It cannot be an offence.” Women in live-in-relationships are entitled to seek protection under Domestic Violence Act and the children born out of such relations are considered legitimate having rights in the property of their parents. Now the law has gone a step further and declared that when two consenting adults engage in love or sexual activity what is illegal in that? Thus law has read down the provision of Section 377 IPC to legalize consensual sex among adults whether men, women, transgenders, gays, lesbians or bisexuals, but only when done in private. This is because Section 294 of the IPC prescribes punishment for doing obscene acts in public to the annoyance of others.

What is ‘obscene’ depends upon the community standard of the place where the act takes place. Thus community standards are subjective depending upon the perspective and acceptance of the society seen in context of a particular act. Many people are opposed to public display of affection. Couples schmoozing in parks, cinemas etc are all subject to this provision, provided that the act should have been done in public view, without any camouflage and the act should be a cause of annoyance to the onlookers. In extreme cases such acts might also fall in the category of public nuisance punishable under Section 268, if it causes annoyance to people who dwell there or occupy property in vicinity. Howsoever it is a misuse of the law when self-proclaimed vigilantes launch a tirade against couples seeking private

moments away from the public eye. On valentine’s day we often hear about self-styled armies which crackdown upon unsuspecting people in the garb of preserving the moral fabric, this is illegal. In law, what is not prohibited is permitted. The law does not impose any bar on love or on celebration of Valentine’s day or any other day marked to celebrate love.

Last year the Supreme Court in another historic judgment decriminalized adultery. This signifies an understanding that laws cannot regulate morality in social institutions. Moreover, the diffuse concept of morality keeps changing with times and people. There is a difference between love and legal obligation. Studies have shown that when people are in a relationship for a long time, the body is less affected by the hormones responsible for love thus attraction weans, but there is a sense of security which makes up for the lack of excitement.

People must live together by choice which definitely goes beyond sexual attraction but there is no morality in compelling people to live together. Long after love makes an exit, legal obligations remain. Institutions designed for safeguarding love should not be allowed to lay seize on them and suffocate the people within. There is a rationale behind making provisions for divorce. Love is the heart of morality, in fact love is the only morality or even beyond morality.

Why should celebration of love be restricted to a single day. We may call it valentine (widely regarded as a western import), a university in our neighboring country may choose to call it ‘Sister’s day. Choose any name that suits you, the undertone remains the same.

The question is should law be allowed to regulate love? Love is personal and law should not intervene in one’s private life. The only regulation required is of age- to protect children of immature age and understanding; and of consent. Mutually consensual acts between adults cannot and should not subject to State policing. ‘Love conquers all’ goes the popular adage. All else is sacrilege.

Trump-Kim Redux: Just a Photo op or a More Substantive Meet

Remarkably, a second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un has been scheduled for end of this month in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. The date and venue of the meeting was announced by Trump himself who has gone from mocking the North Korean leader as ‘rocket man’ to describing him as a very capable leader who can transform his country. But what has experts puzzled is that the change in Trump’s position is hardly justified by movement on the ground. North Korea appears to have done nothing to satisfy the US’s desire for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Sure, it has announced a moratorium on testing missiles and nuclear devices. But only after achieved credible nuclear-cum-ballistic missile deterrence.

Plus, there are now reports that Pyongyang is working to disperse elements of its ballistic missile programme to shield it from a decapitation strike. It is also evading economic sanctions through ship-to-ship transfers on the high seas. The US, meanwhile, suspended large-scale military drills with South Korea to facilitate the dialogue process with the North. Besides, the first Trump-Kim meet in Singapore last year removed the stain of diplomatic isolation for Pyongyang. And the latter still insists that denuclearisation has to be a reciprocal and simultaneous process, meaning the North won’t just be surrendering its nukes.

In fact, it is doubtful if Pyongyang will ever give them up. It has learnt its lesson from Libya’s experience – a country that gave up a nuclear programme only for its leader Muammar Gaddafi to be taken out by America-facilitated forces later. China, which also wants denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and is the North’s main backer, is caught in a conundrum. It essentially wants the North to serve as a buffer with democratic South Korea. So it is wary of Kim going over to the American side as this could open the door to Korean re-unification and bring US and South Korean troops to China’s doorstep. Therefore, from the Chinese perspective, North’s denuclearisation is required to prevent a pro-American democratic regime from taking over Pyongyang’s nukes.

But Kim knows this and is effecting a deft balancing act between China and the US. Beijing after all also doesn’t want Pyongyang to collapse as this would see a flood of North Korean refugees come into China – at least for some time – and, again, enable US and South Korean forces to come up to the Chinese border. Thus, through some shrewd diplomacy, Kim has made North Korea the big prize between the US and China, in the process ensuring his own security. Kim is confident that given the strategic tussle Beijing and Washington are currently engaged in, he can quietly play off one against the other.

For, the only way to truly resolve the North Korean issue is through genuine cooperation between China and the US. But the two don’t trust each other enough at this point to make it happen. Hence, Trump’s second summit with Kim is most likely going to be just another nice photo session between the two leaders. Kim will be mightily pleased.

Weekend Special: Water Makes One Feel Better

If you’re seeing red, feeling angry, anxious, and stressed, well, welcome to the postmodern experience. Don’t despair, however. Blue mind science—the study of aquatic environments’ health benefits—could offer the cure for your blues, for free, wherever you may be.

“People can experience the benefits of the water whether they’re near the ocean, a lake, river, swimming pool or even listening to the soothing sound of a fountain,” marine biologist and author of the 2014 book Blue Mind, Wallace Nichols, tells Quartz. “Most communities are built near bodies of water not just for practical reasons, but because as humans, we’re naturally drawn to blue space…but even if you aren’t in an area where there is easy access to water, you can still experience [its] emotional benefits.”

Many scribes, poets, painters, and sailors have attested to the feeling of wellness and peace that comes over them when they’re in, or near, bodies of water. “Whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can,” Herman Melville’s narrator declares in Moby Dick.

Now scientists are quantifying the positive cognitive and physical effects of water, too. It turns out that living by coasts leads to an improved sense of physical health and well-being, for example. And contact with water induces a meditative state that makes us happier, healthier, calmer, more creative, and more capable of awe.

 “Water is considered the elixir and source of life. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, makes up nearly 70% of our bodies, and constitutes over 70% of our heart and brains,” says Nichols. “This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation. Thanks to science, we’re now able to connect the dots to the full range of emotional benefits being on, in, or near the water can bring.”

Researchers, city planners, and governments want to put this knowledge to practical use, turning water into a tool to promote community health. The European Union in 2016 initiated Blue Health 2020, for example. The four-year cross-disciplinary research project examines the effects of aquatic environments on body and mind, with the goal of exploring the best ways to use water to improve the well-being of people in busy cities.

“The majority of Europe’s population live in urban areas characterized by inland waterways and coastal margins,” the program website explains. Researchers are studying how to enhance coastlines, draw more people to rivers, and take advantage of the impact of streams on happiness and health, as well as how to use tools like virtual reality and video to induce the same state of calm brought on by being near water.

Red state, blue state

Nichols further argues that water is the antidote to “red mind” a state of anxiety created by increased urbanization and near-constant reliance on technology. A 2017 American Psychological Association report (pdf) on stress and technology noted that just under half of all adults and 90% of young adults have become “constant checkers,” engaging with screens and social media all the time. This, the APA says, has vastly increased levels of stress—both when tech works and when it doesn’t.

Spending time in and by oceans, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, fountains, and even showers can counter that. The waters ward off the depression and anxiety created by the relatively recent technological changes, according to Nichols. Almost all of the senses are engaged—sight, smell, hearing, and touch, and this physical immersion in reality makes us feel better, even though we sometimes imagine we can’t part with our phones for even a moment.

Contact with water also helps counter a dulled effect Nichols terms “gray mind.” Spending too much time inside, glued to screens, consuming news and entertainment, can lead to lethargy, lack of motivation, and dissatisfaction. Getting in, on, or near the water improves moods.

That said, even just looking at images of water makes people feel calmer, scientists find. Michael Depledge of the University of Exeter medical school in the UK and environmental psychologist Mat White conducted a wellbeing study involving photos with greenery and water. They began by showing subjects pictures of green environments slowly adding ponds lakes, and coasts. Subjects preferred environments with water. “We repeated that with urban scenes, from fountains in squares to canals running through the city, and once again people hugely preferred the urban environments with more water in them,” Depledge told the Guardian. “Images with green space received a postive response, as Ulrich has found. But images with both green and blue got the most favourable response of all.”

So, if you can’t get to the beach, fear not; there are alternatives. Showering can change your mind for the better and boost creativity, for example. “The shower is a proxy for the…ocean,” Nichols told the Huffington Post. “You step in the shower, and you remove a lot of the visual stimulation of your day. Auditorily, it’s the same thing—it’s a steady stream of ‘blue noise.’ You’re not hearing voices or processing ideas. You step into the shower and it’s like a mini-vacation.”

That break gives your mind a little space to come up with creative ideas and to have epiphanies. Albert Einstein had his most important realizations while sailing—water taught him physics principles, and though he wasn’t much of a sailor, he spent as much time as possible in a boat. Meanwhile, Abraham Loeb writes in Scientific American that many of his ideas come to him in the shower.

Michael Wenger, dean of Buddhist studies at the San Francisco Zen Center, recommends listening to water to clear the mind. He says that flowing or moving water is ‘white noise.’ Listening to the sound—allowing it to wash over you—is a meditative act that puts you in the moment.

Awe for all

“The use of sea and air is common to all; neither can a title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons, forasmuch as neither nature nor public use and custom permit any possession thereof,” wrote Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century. This remains true today.

Princes and paupers, scientists and scribes, presidents, and Queen Bey herself have all waxed poetic about the magical effects of water on the body and mind. “I’m always happy when I’m surrounded by water, I think I’m a mermaid,” pop goddess Beyonce Knowles plausibly admits. “The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective.”

The feeling Knowles describes—awe—has numerous health benefits. It’s scientifically proven to calm, content, temper egos, expand the sense of wonder and vastness, and make us more generous. This emotion is often induced in natural settings, like forests and oceans.

Research on the benefits of “green space”—forests and other green environments—has shown many health and wellness benefits. The Japanese practice of forest bathing, and study of the medicinal effects of just being among trees, has led to increased scientific interest on water’s effects as well.

“Until recently, research that has focused on the health benefits of nature has overlooked the particular role of water, or “blue space,” Nichols tells Quartz. “It is more important than ever as time spent in nature, especially when it involves the calming aspect of water, is a valuable way to offset the stresses of living and working in modern contexts.”

He notes, too, that discussions of green space and its benefits nonetheless connote water, which the Earth and all its creatures rely upon. “It’s no surprise that it’s called forest ‘bathing,’ as water metaphors abound in our language, especially around emotional and mental wellness.”

AI-The Game Changer in Recruitment Process

The rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in professional software development has forced a reboot of Moore’s Law. That famous software industry axiom, coined by Intel co-founder George Moore, predicted that the number of transistors that would fit into an integrated circuit would double every year, thus enabling more computing power on ever-smaller processors.

For the last 50 years, Moore has been proved right. But today, as demand for the massive computing power required to drive complex processing tasks on smaller – often wearable – devices continues to grow, we have exceeded the pace at which the silicon transistor can keep shrinking. In their place, new breeds of ‘deep learning’ chips, which use algebraic equations and AI to squeeze more processing power into a smaller package, have gained prominence.

As proof of this trend, consider the fact that the number of academic papers about machine learning on Cornell University’s arXiv pre-print server is doubling every 18 months.

The story of AI’s transformation of the software industry is a classic example of how the technology is forcing a rethink of the fundamentals of every business. With more analytical power than ever before at our fingertips, new ways of accessing information, and virtually limitless growth potential, today’s business leaders need to get comfortable with letting go of legacy processes and restrictions and embracing change.

That is a massive shift for many businesses, but it’s not the kind that everyone was worried about. The early days of AI were replete with starry-eyed predictions of robots replacing the conventional workforce. One 2015 study even predicted that a quarter of jobs in the professional services sector would be replaced by AI-powered robots by 2025.

Amid all the alarmist predictions about robots stealing jobs – and even speculation that robots might even have to pay taxes after they steal your job – AI is increasingly revealing itself as more of an enabler than a disruptor.

The fact is, for every fearmonger’s forecast that robots will soon replace humans, the technology firms at the centre of the robo-revolution can’t hire human technologists fast enough. For example, in my business, we have an average of 34 technology roles open at any given time. On an industry-wide basis, there are currently four open positions for every technologist currently employed in the US.

The reason for this, of course, is that the future is not really about replacing human beings; it’s about making humans smarter. To get there, we need technologists with the domain expertise to build new breakthroughs, but also the soft skills to navigate corporate culture and identify client pain points as we all move through a period of massive change. It’s a unique challenge that upsets the status quo in recruiting.

That’s why it’s more likely to find our recruiters at hackathons, college campuses, tech meet-ups and industry conferences than in the office sifting through résumés or drafting job ads. You’ll also find them spending less time talking with candidates about specific technologies and previous career milestones and more about problem solving. This is an important pivot from the way recruiting was managed even five years ago.

The magic ingredient we’re really looking for in today’s technology professionals is a bit harder to quantify. We call it ‘learning agility’, and it is a measure of how quickly and effectively a person can learn a new concept and successfully apply it to a business challenge. It requires a combination of deep domain expertise to quickly identify potential solutions, but also soft skills like the ability to communicate and empathize in order to find the best path to completion.

The collective result of all of this is a much more nuanced, holistic view of both the candidate and our own company, one that weaves the hard and soft aspects of the work into the overall hiring equation. At a time when many companies are suggesting that the rise of technology will decrease the need for people, we’re seeing a very different trend emerge. Technology is indeed changing the profile of the people we’re looking for and dramatically impacting the way in which we find them, but it has not changed the fact that we still need them, perhaps now more than ever.

Ultimately, what the rise of AI is proving consistently is that the companies that will thrive in uncertain times are those with a relentless commitment to innovation, creativity, collaboration and learning, and with a diverse workforce that can anticipate trends and spot new threats from the least likely places. Increasingly, that is going to require a focus on professionals who not only have the technical acumen to deal with today’s challenges, but the flexibility to adapt to those of tomorrow.

This Queen Plotted the Fall of Khalsa & Initiated the First Anglo-Sikh War

The tragedy of the Khalsa Durbar was the internecine warfare that was not visible during the lifetime of Ranjit Singh, but this fire was always smoldering. After his death, the self-centered and selfish interests came into clear and true colours. Unfortunately, the inheritors of Ranjit Singh’s legacy were the most perfidious starting with his favourite Queen. She was ambitious and also full of vengeance.

In the aftermath of Ranjit Singh’s demise, a sort of anarchy was witnessed, and in this state of affairs some times, even undesirable acts took place. Maharani Jind Kaur could only look on as her brother and the wazir of the Lahore Durbar, Jawahir Singh, was executed by soldiers of the Khalsa Empire in 1845.

The Khalsa Army was no longer under the command of the crown or its appointed commanders. In the years following Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, as the empire went through a period of political instability, the soldiers had found themselves increasingly drawn into the political arena.

In quick succession, various claimants to the throne had bribed segments of the army to back their claim. Their numbers had increased drastically since the days of Ranjit Singh.

Towards the end of the maharaja’s life, the Khalsa Army was around 80,000-strong. It was an overgrown military machine that had helped Ranjit Singh expand his empire from a small fief to an area that included parts of Kashmir, Afghanistan, Punjab and Bahawalpur.

Many claim he would have swept the entire Indian peninsula had he not been hemmed in on all sides by the British. Unlike the Marathas, Ranjit Singh realised that his military might will not withstand a British onslaught. Hence, he chose to sign a peace deal with them rather than go the way of confrontation.

On the eastern bank of the Sutlej river, the British monitored the unfolding of the Lahore Durbar carefully. They had seen the assassination of one maharaja after another. They observed as powerful wazirs found themselves at the mercy of the Khalsa soldiers.

At the time of Jawahir Singh’s assassination, the army had expanded to 120,000 soldiers with their salaries increased manifold since the time of Ranjit Singh. But despite their size and the fact that they possessed the latest technology, the British did not think much of the Khalsa Army.

Various British officers, in their letters, referred to the army as a mob. The British were of the impression that the increasing political role of the soldiers had rendered them ineffective on the battlefield. Thus, in the years following Ranjit Singh’s death, the British started the process of militarising Punjab.

Politician soldiers

With their growing involvement in politics, the soldiers had developed a bureaucratic mechanism of their own. Instead of exhibiting loyalty to their commanding officers, they reported to panches selected by themselves.

These were soldiers appointed from within their ranks to represent the grievances and concerns of the soldiers. The system was modeled on the panchayat system from where the word panches is derived.

Given the political turmoil that followed Ranjit Singh’s death, the soldiers took it upon themselves to protect the sanctity of the Khalsa Empire, a glorious empire bequeathed to them by their Sher-e-Punjab.

Shortsighted nobles were sabotaging the crown for their own interests with the commanding officer a part of this corrupt elite.

And with the grave threat on the eastern frontier in the form of the British, the soldiers started believing they had to take charge to ensure the empire’s survival.

The ruling elite also knew they needed the support of the soldiers if they were to secure the throne for themselves. After the freak death of Ranjit Singh’s talented grandson Nau Nihal Singh in 1840, Sher Singh, one of Ranjit Singh’s sons, started vying for the throne, convinced he was the right person for the job.

However, in Lahore, Nau Nihal Singh’s mother Chand Kaur had taken over the throne as regent, as she claimed her daughter-in-law was pregnant with Nau Nihal Singh’s son.

To weaken the Lahore Durbar, Sher Singh started bribing sections of the army. And in 1841, he besieged the Lahore Fort, capturing the regent and her supporters. The Khalsa Army had already been bought.

But even with the rise of Sher Singh, the panches remained an important, independent power house.

Maharani Jind Kaur, the youngest wife of Ranjit Singh, also knew where the real power lay when in 1843, after the assassination of Sher Singh, the army declared her six-year-old son Duleep Singh the maharaja.

She turned to the army to get back at the wazir, Hira Singh, for a slight. She appealed to the passion of the soldiers, protectors of the Khalsa Empire, to avenge the humiliation the wazir had wrought on their maharani, the wife of Sher-e-Punjab.

A decision was made and the panches put Hira Singh to death. The maharani had won her battle. And her brother, Jawahir Singh, took up the post of wazir.

Jind Kaur’s revenge

But the tide soon turned. This time, the panches wanted to put her brother to death. The justification was another insult, meted out to another family member of the great maharaja – his son Peshura Singh no less.

After the ascension of the boy king, Peshura Singh had risen in rebellion against the Lahore Durbar and was put down by the wazir. He was captured, ordered to be brought to Lahore and executed on the way on the orders of Jawahir Singh.

The panches would have none of it. How dare a wazir take the life of a scion of Maharaja Ranjit Singh! The panches met and it was decided that Jawahir Singh would be put to death.

The maharani pleaded with the soldiers but they had made up their minds. On September 21, 1845, Jawahir Singh was executed outside the walls of the Lahore Fort.

A new wazir, Lal Singh, was appointed. He was rumoured to be the lover of the regent. But it was the soldiers who held the true power.

As for the maharani, still reeling from the loss of her brother, she had other plans. She decided, along with Lal Singh and the head of the army Tej Singh, that it was time to cut the power of the soldiers.

An anti-British frenzy, which had been part of rhetoric for a few years given their rising military presence on the eastern front, was unleashed from the top, while representatives of the Lahore Durbar started reaching out to British officers across the Sutlej, expressing their fidelity.

The plan was to put the soldiers in a war in which their defeat was assured.

On December 11, 1845, urged on by their commanders, the soldiers crossed the Sutlej and thus began the First Anglo-Sikh War. A few months later in March, the Treaty of Lahore was signed, assuring the British over-lordship over the affairs of the Lahore Durbar.

The maharani and her entourage had achieved their purpose of reducing the might of the soldiers but a new setup brought with itself a whole new set of problems.

In April of 1848, a little incident in Multan provided the British with an excuse to begin the Second Anglo-Sikh War, paving the way for the annexation of the Khalsa Empire on March 30, 1849 and that the beginning of the end. The supposed protector and inheritor of Ranjit Singh’s legacy became the instrument of humiliation and slavery. 

The Valiant Sikh Woman Enabled Ranjit Singh Become Maharaja of Punjab

Punjab was in fervent. The whole country of Punjab was divided by twelve petty Sikh Chieftains who were ruling the place as small principalities, without any concept of nation. The twelve were deemed chiefs of their areas and the principalities termed Misls. Misl generally refers to the sovereign states of the Sikh Confederacy, that rose during the 18th century in the Punjab region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent after the collapse of the Mughal Empire. And then came a visionary with a dream to combine them- by persuasion and by force, if necessary. It was Ranjit Singh who dreamed of establishing an empire.

And it was his mother-in-law who was ruling her own misl, who shared his vision and lent him her military support and tactical advice proved pivotal as her young son-in-law went about creating an empire. It was Sada Kaur – the embodiment of strategy and tactician. Her logic and vision enabled Ranjit Singh to overcome many an obstacle much easily than it would otherwise have been. 

The year was 1796. Punjab was fragmented among the 12 sovereign clans of the Sikh Confederacy called misl and two Pathan fiefdoms.

Across the Indus on Punjab’s western border, Shah Zaman was threatening to invade again. After acquiring the Afghan throne, he had vowed to regain the lost empire of his grandfather, Ahmad Shah Abdali.

In two previous incursions into the region, Zaman had captured several cities from the Sikh chieftains without much resistance, only to lose them as soon as he returned to Kabul, his capital. These cities were far in the west, though.

This time, Zaman was threatening to march deep into Punjab, and possibly onto Delhi. The majority of the Sikh chieftains who assembled to assess the lurking threat were of the opinion that they should abandon their people and flee to the mountains, to return when the Afghan tide receded.

Observing the situation from the east, the British felt that Punjab was too divided to be able to ward off the Afghan army.

One Sikh chieftain disagreed. Sada Kaur had become the leader of the Kanahaya misl after her husband, Gurbaksh Singh, died fighting the rival Sukerchakia misl, headed by Maha Singh. 

Since Gurbaksh Singh was the clan’s only male heir, his father thought it best to wed his son’s daughter, Mehtab Kaur, to his killer’s son, a boy named Ranjit Singh.

The marriage served to unite the two most powerful misl. After Maha Singh’s death, Ranjit Singh became the head of the Sukerchakia misl. He was all of 10 years.

Sada Kaur, with help from Ranjit Singh’s uncle Dal Singh, soon started exerting considerable influence over her young son-in-law. In time, her guidance played a pivotal role in transforming Ranjit Singh from the chief of a fiefdom to the Maharaja of Punjab.

So when, at the meeting of the chieftains, she argued for confronting Zaman, she was supported by her son-in-law. Inspired by their courage, the other chiefs decided to stand and fight. They mustered a combined force and made Ranjit Singh its leader.

The force promptly launched raids to harass the Afghan army. Zaman was soon forced to return to Kabul as his brother attempted to usurp his throne. He was to return a year later.

Again, the Sikh chiefs felt it was prudent to take refuge in the mountains. But Sada Kaur, supported by her son-in-law, insisted that she would fight and not run away.

Again, her resolve swayed the chiefs and they assembled a force and appointed Ranjit Singh its commander. The force’s guerrilla war denied Zaman a victory until his brother’s renewed attempt on the throne forced him to withdraw. Ranjit Singh’s reputation soared.

Making of an empire

The young chieftain now nursed a new dream: to create a pan-Punjab empire. However, the unity among the Sikh misl created by Zaman’s invasion was history.

So, he went to his chief patron, his mother-in-law. He combined her forces with his own and marched triumphantly into Lahore, which was to become the capital of his empire, with Sada Kaur by his side.

She was with him also when he took Amritsar from the Bhangi misl a few years later and supported him fully when he declared himself the Maharaja of Punjab.

During the complicated negotiations with the British that resulted in the Treaty of Amritsar in 1809, Sada Kaur, going against popular opinion, suggested making peace with the colonial power, advice that Ranjit Singh eventually heeded.

While the treaty severely limited Ranjit Singh’s ability to expand his empire, it also ensured its longevity. It is likely that the fate of the Khalsa Empire would have been similar to that of the Marathas had they engaged in open conflict with the British.

Perhaps, the talented Ranjit Singh would have established the Punjab empire without Sada Kaur’s support, but it cannot be denied that her military support and tactical advice expedited the process.

At the age of 18, Ranjit Singh conquered Lahore. At 20, he was annointed the Maharaja of Punjab. 

The marriage of convenience did not last long, however. Ironically, what eventually ended it was another marriage. While Ranjit Singh was close to his mother-in-law, his relationship with his wife, Mehtab Kaur, was far from perfect.

In 1798, two years after his first marriage, he had married Raj Kaur, the sister of the chief of the Nakkai misl. It was Raj Kaur and not Mehtab who bore Ranjit his first son and, thus, successor to the throne, Kharrak Singh.

Mehtab Kaur did eventually bear Ranjit Singh sons, one of whom, Sher Singh briefly became the Maharaja after the death of Kharrak Singh and his son Nau Nihal Singh.

Ranjit Singh’s relationship with Sada Kaur eventually soured when she began to complain that the Maharaja was bestowing all his wealth on his eldest son and leaving nothing to her grandchildren. Agitated by her constant protests, Ranjit Singh took away her property and gave it to Sher Singh.

Sada Kaur, knowing there was no turning back, decided to make a run to the British territory, to garner their support against her former ally, but she was caught and thrown in prison, where she remained until her death in 1832.

Ranjit Singh died seven years later, on June 27, 1839. His empire soon disintegrated. The falling out of two powerful personalities enabled the British Raj gobble up Khalsa empire and made the task of traitors easier to provide the finishing touches, thanks to another queen. But that is the different tale of perfidy.

Iran Witnessing The Young Talking Back

Forty years after the Islamic Revolution, Iran’s regime is increasingly challenged by its people. February 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, one of the major events of the 20th century and a momentous development in the modern history of Islam. The revolution opened a new chapter for political Islam in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and had a deep impact on revolutionary movements across the globe, especially those that were using the Islamic frame of reference for political activism. In fact, the “religious dimension” of the Iranian Revolution, through its dependence on Islam, was well-established in the decades leading up to the uprisings of 1978. We can refer here to the notion, popularised in the 1970s, that Iranians should return to their cultural roots by resisting the hegemonic influence of the West.

Hasty or emotionally-motivated understandings of the causes of the Iranian Revolution and the Shah’s downfall generally tend to focus either on the undemocratic nature of the Shah’s regime or on the economic gap between the rich and the poor in Iranian society of the 1970s. These factors also existed in some other Islamic countries — Morocco, for example — but they did not end up in a revolution and many dictators in these countries, including Hassan II of Morocco, died in their beds, without being forced, like the Shah of Iran, into exile.

Moreover, by the end of 1979, it was becoming increasingly apparent that a rigorous interpretation of Shi’ite Islam by Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian clergy was becoming the text of the law. The immediate consequence of this development was the establishment of a theocratic state with the institutionalisation of the power of the “faqih” (jurist), who was supposed to possess the necessary charismatic authority and political astuteness to rule the Islamic Republic. However, the establishment of the Velayat-e-Faqih (the rule of the jurist) could not put an end to the tensions between republicanism and authoritarianism, which had existed since the early days of the Iranian Revolution.

Since its inception, the Islamic Republic was dogged by tensions between two concepts of sovereignty — the divine and popular. The concept of popular sovereignty — derived from the indivisible will of the Iranian nation— is inscribed in Article 6 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution. The article mandates popular elections for the presidency and parliament. But the concept of divine sovereignty, which is derived from God’s will through the medium of the imam, is bestowed on the existing “faqih” as the rightful ruler of the Shi’ite community. However, in the past 40 years in Iran, the idea of sovereignty of God on Earth has been less about what Michel Foucault called “the introduction of a spiritual dimension into political life” and more about the theologisation of politics.

As such, the first decade of the Iranian Revolution was marked by Khomeini’s theological governance and by the violent elimination of opposition groups and the enforcement of ideological controls on the Iranian population. The success of the ayatollahs against different social, ethnic, religious and political groups and minorities can be attributed to several factors. First, the Islamists enjoyed far greater support among the masses. Second, extraordinary economic and political measures were tolerated by the Iranian population because of the eight-year war with Iraq. Last, but not least, the Islamisation of Iranian society was a way for the ayatollahs to elicit the support of the bazaar and traditional socio-economic groups for whom the prospect of a “leftist revolution” was even more worrying.

Despite the forceful post-revolutionary imposition of Islamic values and ways of living and the insertion of cultural politics into the everyday lives of young Iranians in the name of Islamic purity, the Iranian youth — especially young women — have not identified with the conservative values of the Islamic regime. Moreover, the republican idea of popular sovereignty has found its place through social networks and is evident in the political activities of Iranian civil society — the women’s rights movements, the students’ movements, the online networks of young people and the work of dissident intellectuals and artists are good examples of such activism.

Today, more than 60 per cent of the Iranian population is under the age of 30. The image of Iran as a monolith does not reflect the mindset of those who have been fighting for change since the past 40 years. For nearly six million educated youngsters — many of whom have left Iran for the US, Canada, Australia and different parts of Europe — lack of jobs and the absence of social freedoms and everyday opportunities are the principal reasons of discontent and rebellion.

In the past 10 years, many protests in Iran — notably the Green Movement of 2009 — were products of the activities of the urban middle-class youth. But more recently, the turmoil in Iranian cities has largely been driven by disaffected young people in rural areas and small towns. They see it as a chance to express their frustration with the country’s economic problems, which are a fallout of Iran’s financial and military involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. A young educated population, whose dreams aren’t fulfilled, and the absence of a rationally-planned and cohesive political and economic programme portend a perilous situation.

Iran today is very much like the Soviet bloc before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The ideology of the Iranian Revolution has burnt out. Iranian youngsters are disenchanted. The Islamic Reform Movement has failed to fulfill popular demands and spontaneous riots occur in major cities of Iran almost every year. The winds of change have begun to blow but those riding the hungry tiger of the Iranian Revolution do not dare dismount it.

Competing Power Centres- Source of Pakistan’s Tragedy

In a noteworthy ruling, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has proscribed that country’s armed forces, ISI and other intelligence agencies from indulging in political activities. It said that the Pakistani Constitution emphatically prohibits members of the armed forces from indulging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction or individual. While this clarification from the Pakistani Supreme Court is welcome, the ground reality in Pakistan remains one where the armed forces call the shots on all important matters. This is one of the reasons why tackling extremism and terrorism emanating from Pakistan is still a challenge.

The way Pakistani polity evolved, the army, the political leadership and the judiciary could have been the three legs of a tripod. However, not one of them has been able to confine itself to its own domain and has constantly infringed into the other two’s turfs. In this game of opportunism, the Pakistani army was always going to emerge as a dominant force, given its role as protector of Pakistan vis-à-vis a much larger India. After all, at the end of the day it was the Pakistani army that was going to save Pakistan from its external enemies – or so the thinking went. The politicians, meanwhile, are seen as elite or corrupt, while the judiciary is too fickle.

This constant struggle between the Pakistani army, political leadership and the judiciary is the main reason why democratic institutions have not matured in that country. Even now, average Pakistanis see the Pakistani army as the last hope. But the latter has its own strategic calculations. It doesn’t want to play second fiddle to the political leadership but at the same time knows that politicians have the power to mobilise the masses as and when required. This is not because Pakistani politicians are widely popular. But they do preside over entrenched feudal structures that allow them to mobilise people on specific issues.

Thus, whenever the Pakistani military has openly taken over the reins of administrative power in Pakistan it has been eventually undone by some politician-led people’s movement. The judiciary, on the other hand, has shuttled between favouring the generals on some occasions and siding with the politicians on others. And the root of this mess lies in Pakistan’s foundational failure to produce a comprehensive Constitution for Pakistan in one go. It will be recalled that Pakistan first promulgated a Constitution in 1956 which provided for a parliamentary form of government. But major changes were introduced by General Ayub Khan and practically a new Constitution providing for a presidential system was introduced in 1962.

Then came the turmoil between Pakistan’s then eastern and western wings which eventually led to the birth of Bangladesh. Subsequently, another round of Constitution drafting/revision took place that finally produced the 1973 Constitution. Thus, we see that the basic foundational statute of Pakistan went through several transformations to suit different factions, personalities and circumstances. It all goes back to the fact that the different power centres in Pakistan could not adhere to the basic rules laid down by the 1956 Constitution. In contrast, the post-Independence leadership in India had a far greater sense of destiny and genuinely worked to give birth to a modern Indian nation state. This is why the Indian Constitution remains one of the best statutes in the world.

Taken together, Pakistan’s current situation is directly related to the problems it faced in its formative years. The legacy of those problems remains. The tussle between the army, politicians and judiciary continues. And extremist groups are used as pawns by both the military and politicians. The military-ISI combine uses them as auxiliary forces and politicians use them to reach out to certain sections of the Pakistani public.

As long as this situation remains and Pakistan’s power centres keep competing against each other and infringe on each other’s turf, instability will prevail in that country. And more instability will translate into poor economic performance which in turn will give a fillip to extremist groups that run on charity – no matter the circumstances people will continue to contribute for religion. Hence, it is a vicious cycle that Pakistan is trapped in.

The only way out is massive development in Pakistan. And since Pakistan itself can’t generate such development due to institutional infirmities and internal competing interests, someone else has to do it for that country. This is where the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) comes in with its massive investments. If the CPEC is able to create massive employment opportunities for Pakistanis and boost economic activity through upgraded infrastructure, we could see the rise of a vibrant Pakistani middle class that can become the backbone of Pakistani democracy.

But with questions already being raised about the amount of debt Pakistan is taking on due to CPEC projects, it remains to be seen if it is able to script a new positive chapter in its nation’s history.