All posts by Filippo Addarii

Director of International Strategy and Head of EuropeLab at the Young Foundation (London) Associated Senior Researcher at Global Climate Forum (Berlin)

21st century challenge: new strategy to share prosperity

I recommend a short article by Brian Arthur, economist and one of the founders of Complexity Theory. It illustrate as the challenge of today economy is distributing prosperity but employment is not a strategy anymore.

The impact of digital technology has skyrocketed economic productivity but is destroying jobs which have been the sources of wealth redistribution for the last two centuries. We need new solutions to to redistribute wealth or end up with untenable social unrest.

Arthur provides the theoretical background for the mission of organisations like the Young Foundation as sources of disruptive innovation to pilot new patterns of social development.

The second economy. Digitization is creating a second economy that’s vast, automatic, and invisible—thereby bringing the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution.
October 2011 | byW. Brian Arthur
 
“The second economy will certainly be the engine of growth and the provider of prosperity for the rest of this century and beyond, but it may not provide jobs, so there may be prosperity without full access for many. This suggests to me that the main challenge of the economy is shifting from producing prosperity to distributing prosperity. The second economy will produce wealth no matter what we do; distributing that wealth has become the main problem. For centuries, wealth has traditionally been apportioned in the West through jobs, and jobs have always been forthcoming. When farm jobs disappeared, we still had manufacturing jobs, and when these disappeared we migrated to service jobs. With this digital transformation, this last repository of jobs is shrinking—fewer of us in the future may have white-collar business process jobs—and we face a problem.
 
The system will adjust of course, though I can’t yet say exactly how. Perhaps some new part of the economy will come forward and generate a whole new set of jobs. Perhaps we will have short workweeks and long vacations so there will be more jobs to go around. Perhaps we will have to subsidize job creation. Perhaps the very idea of a job and of being productive will change over the next two or three decades. The problem is by no means insoluble. The good news is that if we do solve it we may at last have the freedom to invest our energies in creative acts.”
 

Inequality: global dynamics, public policies, and private initiatives – Call for papers (Draft)

Rising inequality has become a constant feature of contemporary economic growth in industrialized countries and a treat to social development.

The solutions developed in the last century to tackle inequality as the welfare state don’t show an impact anymore or have become unsustainable, while new solutions are emerging but are still ancillary.

This is the opposite trend to the improvements economic growth has brought to  human life standards for thousands of  years, and a growing concern to policy makers, researchers and society as a whole.

Contributions from all relevant disciplines (e.g. economics, political science, sociology) and practices that address the following questions are invited

  1. What are the structural changes (eg technological, institutional, cultural) explaining the recent increase of inequality in industrialized countries i.e. the West and Asia?  How is the rest of the world affected?
  2. What are the possible strategies to address the rise of inequality:

o   Critical review of past solutions eg welfare state service provision

o   Innovative solutions: public, private, civic or PPP, in both theory and practice

o   Paradigm change and narratives to challenge the status quo

notes working group on complexity and inequality

(Public participation – social innovation and entrepreneurship. The Young Foundation).

-        The topic of inequality is increasingly coming back. Partly because of the crisis.

-        Book: Inequality and Growth.

-        Now policy makers need input, so it is important what are the research needs.

-        “How social complex systems leading to inequality”

-        The risks of inequality: the potential for instability derived from inequality.

-        Trends: the difference between the West and the East has decreased, while inequality within Europe has increased.

-        Deborah Rogers –

-        Castells: in cities, when inequalities are very large, to avoid or mitigate the risks of social unrest, social consumption provision

QUESTIONS:

- Do our complex social systems lead to inequality?

- What is the degree of inequality that is acceptable?

 

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND:

 

-        Functionalism versus Marxism.

-        How to provide these public services, which criteria? – WHO: It’s not about providing public services, but changing the original conditions of people; not only the services, e.g., where you live, etc. (e.g. ‘Health for all 2000’). The welfare state needs to have a more holistic approach that only end-services.

 

-        Strong reciprocity in providing public services, people have to do something to get these services according to their means and in a fair way.

 

-        Christiane: how to define equality?

 

-        Stefano: there is a degree of inequality, which can be measured, but it is also multi-dimensional; the slope and tail of the distribution may be different.

 

-        Sugarscape model: simple cellular automata model with no intervention of humans that ends up with the conclusion that some few agents get all the sugar;

 

-        Globalisation and inequality; increases the number of needs, but these new needs are or cannot be provided by the market, e.g., clean air.

 

-        Popularity also follows power laws; so are not normal distributions.  

 

-        Violence occurs when people are not able to discuss the own future with those that produce it. Inequality in the process –is a dialogic / procedural condition; the new very rich are now very difficult to track.

 

-        The main problem is the global institutional design that creates larger inequalities.

 

-        Me: three dimensions of inequality: 1. Of original conditions 2. Of process / procedural inequality, and of end-results. I think to focus on the latter can be can perverse.

 

-        Case: crowdsourcing and the founding of the Obama campaign being funded by these methods.

 

-        There are new emerging endogenous dynamics of self-organisation to deal with inequality and health / social needs.

 

-        We should not pay so much attention at the lower part of the distribution than on the top part, so as to influence on that.

 

 

See the movies: “2012” –on the catastrophe in the US. “The Fifth Element”, Armageddon. – the rhetoric is to save the best of our species, but only the rich get to go on the survival boat. This narratives are important in influencing people’s minds in this issues.

 

 

-        Positional goods: Fred Hirsch already in a book on the social costs of Growth (about 1980) said that growth in the advanced western depends on positional goods, and not meeting basic needs. But they are subject to their own tragedy.

-        But could philanthropic actions become an efficient way to deal with global inequality if it became a positional good?

-        It is important to look at what happened in the 30s that lead to the 2WW as it may be very similar to what may be happen in the present.

 

 

 

 

 

Questions for GSS in relation with inequality:

 

1.      What are the real scope and impact of private initiatives to deal with global inequalities? Perhaps not much, but also you may need a more ‘statist’ / state-base policies, regulatory approaches.

2.      To what extent inequality can be seen as a coordination problems and how this coordination can better be represented and improved via developing GSS tools and methods?

3.      Focus on particular cases that can be of use for GSS: Tax avoidance by multinationals, equality policies in Nordic countries, etc.

4.      Look at the role of alternative narratives in exposing inequalities (e.g., Urlich Beck of democratisation of risk, which is not true; the conditions area not the same)

Science in time of Twitter

Can you communicate science in 140 characters? The question might shock researchers today but would not have scandalised ancient philosophers.

Socrates is renowned worldwide for his saying: ‘All I know is that I know nothing’ – 33 characters with spaces. Hegel expressed the founding principle of his metaphysics in 82 characters: ‘Was vernünftig ist, das ist wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig’ (What is reasonable is real; that which is real is reasonable).

I doubt that we could find a scientist at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, so concise in describing the essence of reality.

Science seems lost in its complexity, unable to connect to people’s daily experience, and get any other feedback from citizens other than ‘NO’.

Why has science become so distant from society and so inaccessible to people?

A quick review of the recent cinematography shows science as one of the main perceived threats to society, siding with greedy corporations and cynical governments, and experimenting with viruses and robots at the expense of humanity.

Perhaps this is not true, but it does exemplify people’s anxieties about a world whose meaning they struggle to grasp, for which science adds another layer of uncertainty and complexity instead of removing them.

This is a good introduction for a workshop on narratives, ICT and science to engage society and inspire behavioural change – isn’t it?

Last week (13 – 14 March) twenty-five people, amongst whom were researchers, European officials, experts in ICT and multi-stakeholder engagement, convened in Brussels for the workshop ‘Narratives as a communication tool for scientists‘ organised by Euclid Network together with the European Commission and partners of the European research projects INSITE and GSS. We met to explore how narratives can reconnect science to society and how ICT can make the process interactive and collaborative.

The ambition was to harvest the expertise of such a diverse group and distil recommendations for the future strategy of the European Commission in developing Global Systems Science and engaging stakeholders in all strands of society.

In quite a short time, and overcoming the disciplinary barriers, we realised that there is a large array of options at our disposal: films, online games, social media, gamification, apps, smart phones, simulations, data visualisation, data journalism, visual arts, and theater.

An effective strategy for multi-stakeholder engagement should contemplate the possibility of using all of them in relation to the needs of various target groups. Social groups respond differently to different media and techniques.

I personally retained some important lessons from the workshop.

Firstly, narratives exist as a medium and middle ground between science and society. This is the target to explore and where to lead experiments with all media and techniques.

Secondly, ‘everybody matters’ but we should target the new generation of researchers and experts that is emerging from a traditional divisions between sectors and disciplines. This is a generation defined not just by age but by mind-set. They see science, art, design, journalism etc. as all interconnected, with each other and society as a whole, and they see themselves as intermediaries and interpreters.

Thirdly, agency is the key for a strategy to get people engaged in science. The future is in a science that empowers people instead of making them feel passive and ignorant recipients.

Finally, the starting point has to be the concrete and daily experience of people, such as drinking a cup of coffee. When you can explain the global economy through those daily habits you conquer the imagination of people and can transform their behaviour.

Perhaps science can’t provide answers in 140 characters any more, but can raise good questions. If Twitter were turned into a social network for sharing questions on the mysteries of nature and humanity, wouldn’t it be empowering science for society?

We will resume the enquiry in the next leg of our journey: let’s meet at ASU, Phoenix on 14 April.