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Sina Odugbemi's blog

Quote of the week: J.K. Rowling

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J.K. Rowling"Those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy."

-J.K. Rowling, a British novelist best known for writing the Harry Potter series. The books have gained worldwide attention, selling more than 400 million copies. Rowling led a "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years.


Quoted in her 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University that has been published as a new book, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, and re-published online by the Guardian, "JK Rowling's life advice: ten quotes on the lessons of failure"

Quote of the Week: Mariana Mazzucato

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Mariana Mazzucato“We are living in a depressing era in which we no longer have courage. We no longer think governments should have missions. But the market never chooses anything. IT wasn’t chosen by the market. Biotech wasn’t chosen by the market. Nanotech wasn’t chosen by the market. So why should green technology be chosen by the market? It comes back to the austerity craziness that we’re in today where governments are not allowed to dream; and green is a dream.”

-Mariana Mazzucato, an economist and author of The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths, which was featured on the 2013 books of the year lists of the Financial Times and Forbes. She is also the RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Sussex, SPRU

Quote of the Week: Barrie Goodridge

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Hong Kong football spectators“You can change your home, you can change your country, you can even your wife, but you can never change your football team.”

- Barrie Goodridge, veteran of the publishing sector and former CEO of Edipresse Asia. In 1983, Goodridge joined Asiaweek, rising to the position of Publisher before leaving to join Global Sources Media Group. In 1997, he became the CEO for Asia of Publicitas Promotion Network (PPN), the international division of PubliGroupe. He joined Edipresse in 2004 as Regional Director for Asia and was later appointed CEO of Edipresse Asia in 2005.

Quote of the Week: Justin Farrell

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Justin Farrell, author of The Battle for Yellowstone"Environmental conflict is not ultimately about scientific true and false, but about moral right and wrong. It is not about the facts themselves, but what makes the facts meaningful. There are important moral and spiritual bases of conflict that observers and participants in the conflict have ignored, muted or simply misunderstood."

- Justin Farrell, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University and the author of The Battle for Yellowstone
 

‘Authoritarianism Goes Global’

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Policeman patrols 99% protestNorms, especially global norms, are exceedingly fragile things…like morning dew confronting the sun. As more players conform to a norm, it gets stronger. In the same way, as more players flout it, disregard it or loudly attack it, it begins to lose that ever so subtle effect on the mind that is the basis of its power.  When a norm is flouted and consequences do not follow the norm begins to die.

Looking back now, we clearly had a magical moment in global affairs a while back. Post 1989, as the Berlin wall fell, communism ended in most places, apartheid South Africa magically turned into democratic South Africa, and so on; it seemed like an especially blessed moment. The bells of freedom tolled so vigorously mountains echoed the joyous sound. It seemed as though anything was possible, that the form of governance known as liberal constitutional democracy would sweep imperiously into every cranny of the globe.

Just as important, there were precious few defenders of autocracy in those days. Almost every regime on earth claimed to be democratic, even if the evidence was discrepant. They could at least claim to be ‘democratic’ in some utterly singular if implausible way. Now, all that has changed. Despots and sundry autocrats strut the earth. They are not ashamed. They are not afraid. They are brazen. They are in your face. They say to anyone who asks: “Hey, I am a despot. I have my own League of Despots. Deal with it”.  And what is confronting the brazenness? The apparently exhausted ideals of liberal constitutionalism suddenly bereft of defenders.

The specific occasion for these reflections is the July 2015 issue of the Journal of Democracy (Volume 26, Number 3). It is a special issue focused on these matters, and I took my title from the lead essay: “Authoritarianism Goes Global: Countering Democratic Norms”, written by Alexander Cooley, Director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. His basic claim is as follows:

"Over the past decade, authoritarians have experimented with and refined a number of tools, practices, and institutions that are meant to shield their regimes from external criticism and to erode the norms that inform and underlie the liberal international political order." (Page 49)

Quote of the Week: Janan Ganesh

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Office workers"Another word for 'profession' is 'ghetto'.  People who work in the same field develop their own codes and slang.  They sleep and socialise with each other.  Without intending to, they seal off their world from uncomprehending outsiders."

- Janan Ganesh, a political columnist for the Financial Times. Previously, he was a political correspondent for The Economist. He appears weekly on BBC1's Sunday Politics television show and wrote a biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor

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.

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