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Sina Odugbemi's blog

Quote of the Week: Niall Ferguson

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Niall Ferguson at a Chatham House event on 9 May 2011"Politically, most of the world has never been more boring. Instead of the alarms and excursions of the past, we now have technocrats versus populists. Any violence is verbal and the technocrats nearly always win."

Niall Ferguson, a British historian from Scotland, who specializes in international history; economic history, particularly hyperinflation and the bond markets; and British and American imperialism. Ferguson's books include Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World and Civilization: The West and the Rest. He is also the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University; Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford; a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University; and visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities.

Quote of the Week: Pavel Durov

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Pavel Durov"Our right for private communication and privacy is more important than the marginal threats that some politicians would like to make us afraid of. If you get rid of emotion for a minute and think about the threat of terrorism statistically, it’s not even there. The probability that you will slip on a wet floor in your bathroom and die is a thousand times higher than the probability of you dying as a result of terrorism."

Pavel Durov, a Russian entrepreneur, best known for founding the social networking site VK and later the Telegram Messenger, on his admiration of the US but also his belief it has been corrupted by the country’s global dominance.

Quote of the Week: Matteo Renzi

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"I’m the scrapper. I’m cleaning up the swamp."

- Matteo Renzi, in response to political opponents who call him il rottamatore, the demolition man. Renzi was elected Prime Minister of Italy in February 2014 and was referring to the waste, bureaucracy, high unemployment (40% among Italy's youth), slow pace of the Italian judicial system, culture of cronyism, tax evasion, and other areas of reform that he is hoping to change.

 

Why I’d like to believe that a robot cannot do what I do

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Human-Cyborg HandshakeWhat follows is something that arrested my attention the other day. Around the febrile atmosphere that has developed between officials from Greece and officials from partner EU states and other institutions, an anonymous diplomat made the following point to the Financial Times:
 

In diplomacy, national interests set the stage, but human emotions determine the script. The longer the negotiations take, the more sympathy, love, rancor, jealousy and exasperation come into play. It’s the one profession that robots are least likely to take over.” (FT 20 June/21 June 2015, “Months of Greek debt talks yield bad blood but no deal”).

In other words, if your job involves understanding and working with, and through, human emotions, then it is reasonably safe from the growing imperialism of robots.  When I read that, I chuckled. Then the thought hit me: if that is the yardstick maybe the business I am in – the business of aligning stakeholders, winning friends and influencing people – is also one that robots are least likely to take over. Let me explain.

Quote of the Week: Thomas Piketty

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Thomas Piketty"The success of my book shows there are a lot of people who are not economists but are tired of being told that those questions are too complicated for them." [...] “ What pleases me is that this book reaches ‘normal’ people, a rather wide public.”

- Thomas Piketty, a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is the author of the best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013), in which he argues that the rate of return on capital (wealth) in developed countries is persistently greater than economic growth. Other things being equal, he states, faster economic growth diminishes the importance of wealth in a society, while slower growth increases it. To counter the steady concentration of wealth, Piketty proposes a global tax on wealth. Piketty is also a professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), professor at the Paris School of Economics and Centennial professor at the London School of Economics.

Quote of the Week: Hélder Pessoa Câmara

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Hélder Câmara“When I give food to the poor, I am considered a saint.  But when I ask why they are poor, I am called a communist."

Hélder Pessoa Câmara, the Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, serving from 1964 to 1985 during the military regime of the country. He was an advocate of liberation theology, and is remembered for the above aphorism.

Quoted in the Financial Times on June 20, 2015, "A rock-star Pope puts his faith in science" by David Gardner

 

You leak, but I brief. Who is the scoundrel?

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Secret meetingJames Callaghan, Labor Party Prime Minister of Great Britain (1976-1979), is reported to have quipped: “You leak, but I brief”. In other words, while the politician that he was addressing leaked official documents to the media (a wrong, probably illegal move) he merely briefed the media. His practice, he was implying, was less blameworthy. The question is: is it?

Leaks of official documents and the leakers involved are in the news a lot these days. Some of these leakers are leaking documents on an epic scale, exploiting the weaknesses of modern electronic document management systems. Documents that in the past you would have had to break into safes in a thousand different locations around the world to access you can now find in a single online repository…if you have the right hacking or document stealing skills. While in the past a leaker would send a single document by mail to the editor of a leading newspaper, now we are getting thousands of pages stolen and shared all at once.

There is a romantic, Hollywood view of the epic leakers, and movies are also being made about them, usually hagiographies. The epic leakers are seen as heroic figures, doughty champions acting in the overall public interest. Perhaps. I have no doubt that there are leakers who are genuine whistle blowers, determined to expose wrong doing by public officials. But one also suspects that some of these leakers are complexly motivated individuals. And some of the epic leakers are egomaniacs who fancy themselves as world-historic figures.

Quote of the Week: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala“I am misfit and a happy misfit.”

- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a world renowned Nigerian economist currently serving as Finance Minister of Nigeria. She is credited with developing reform programs in Nigeria that helped improve governmental transparency and stabilzing the economy.  Previously, she worked for the World Bank, including several years as one of its Managing Directors (October 2007 – July 2011). 

As quoted in the Financial Times on June 5, 2015, Lunch with the FT: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, by William Wallis

 

Quote of the Week: Milan Kundera

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Milan Kundera in 1980"When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object."
 
- Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and a recurring nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born in Czechoslovakia but has been living in exile in France since 1975, as his books were banned by the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia until the downfall of the regime in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Quote of the Week: Arnab Goswami

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Arnab Goswami"I've often said this: that, in a choice between right and wrong, black and white, the facts that stare you in your face, will you not take a side on what is right?" 
 
Arnab Goswami, an Indian journalist and the editor-in-chief of Indian news channel Times Now. He anchors The Newshour, a live debate show that airs weekdays on Times Now and hosts the television programme Frankly Speaking with Arnab.
 

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