These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Middle-Class Heroes: The Best Guarantee of Good Governance
Center for Global Development
The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.
The State of Broadband: Broadband catalyzing sustainable development
Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development/UNESCO
The report finds that global broadband connectivity shows strong growth, with 300 million more people connected in 2016 than in 2015, putting the number of people online by the end of 2016 to 3.5 billion. However, more than half the world’s population (some 3.9 billion people) remains offline. The report highlights that offline populations, who are now found in more remote, rural areas, consist disproportionately of poorer, minority, less educated, and often female, members of society. The report traces the progress made towards achieving the Broadband Commission’s targets for broadband. Progress has been mixed.
Promoting Development Approaches to Migration and Displacement | Five UNDP Specific Focus Areas
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development fully recognizes migration and displacement as a core development consideration. It has introduced a range of specific SDG targets on migration and pledges to “leave no one behind”, including refugees, displaced persons and host communities. The SDGs also underscore the need for development investments in preventing and resolving protracted displacement. There is widespread and growing recognition that migration and displacement are not merely short term issues, but that their costs, benefits and dynamics are part of longer term global trends. Effective and sustainable solutions can only be reached through joint actions by development and humanitarian actors.
MIT Technology Review
"Computers will not be first-rate teachers unless researchers can solve four basic problems: how to get machines to talk, to listen, to know, and to coach. ‘We speak as part of our humanness, instinctively, on the basis of past experience,’ wrote Patrick Suppes of Stanford University, one of the pioneers in computer--aided instruction, in a 1966 Scientific American article. ‘But to get a computer to talk appropriately, we need an explicit theory of talking.’ Unfortunately, there is no such theory, and if our analysis of human intelligence is correct, there never will be. The same holds true for the problem of getting computers to listen.
Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks
World Health Organization
The main message emerging from this new comprehensive global assessment is that premature death and disease can be prevented through healthier environments – and to a significant degree. Analysing the latest data on the environment-disease nexus and the devastating impact of environmental hazards and risks on global health, backed up by expert opinion, this report covers more than 100 diseases and injuries.
The state of macroeconomics is not good
The Washington Post
Yesterday’s post about the stale quality of international relations theory provoked some pushback from international relations scholars. It also probably generated some bemusement by economists. This is mostly because economists are close to insufferable when they opine about the other. Indeed, in “Economics Rules,” an otherwise critical book of his discipline, Dani Rodrik offers up numerous asides about how economics is more rigorous than the rest of the social sciences, such as, “economics is by and large the only social science that remains almost entirely impenetrable to those who have not undertaken the requisite apprenticeship in graduate school,” which allows him to conclude that, “because economists share a language and a method, they are prone to disregard, or deprecate, noneconomists’ point of view.” And this is empirically true: Other academic disciplines cite economists frequently, but they do not return the favor nearly as often.