These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond
World Economic Forum
We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
Media, discussion and attitudes in fragile contexts
BBC Media Action
Drawing primarily on quantitative data from nationally representative surveys collected for BBC Media Action programming in Kenya and Nigeria, the paper develops and tests the hypothesis that balanced and inclusive media-induced discussion can be a positive force in mitigating attitudes associated with conflict. The results reveal a rich but complicated picture. We find relatively consistent evidence in both countries that our discussion-oriented media programmes are strongly linked to private discussion among family, friends and others. Evidence from Kenya also suggests that exposure to debate-style programming is potentially linked to public political discussion, but that this relationship is likely to be mediated through other variables such as private political discussion. Finally, in both cases, both private and public discussion is strongly associated with individual attitudes towards conflict. However, the relationship is a complex one and bears further examination.
A New Report Identifies 30 Technologies That Will Save Lives in the Next 15 Years
President Obama wasn't the only head of state visiting Ethiopia this summer. In early July, the United Nations brought global leaders to Addis Ababa, for the third annual International Conference on Financing for Development. The goal of the meeting was to outline what the UN calls Sustainanble Development Goals—a series of financial, social and technological targets that they want countries in the developing world to hit by 2030. At the conference, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Norway, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and global health nonprofit PATH released "Reimagining Global Health," a report outlining 30 innovations that will save lives in the next 15 years.
The Coming Robot Dystopia
The term “robotics revolution” evokes images of the future: a not-too-distant future, perhaps, but an era surely distinct from the present. In fact, that revolution is already well under way. Today, military robots appear on battlefields, drones fill the skies, driverless cars take to the roads, and “telepresence robots” allow people to manifest themselves halfway around the world from their actual location. But the exciting, even seductive appeal of these technological advances has overshadowed deep, sometimes uncomfortable questions about what increasing human-robot interaction will mean for society.
Two weeks ago, I attended a public dialogue at the International Monetary Fund between Managing Director Christine Lagarde and President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. I did not know much about Bachelet, except that she is the first female president of her country. While waiting, I was picturing her as a forceful, powerful iron lady. Instead, she appeared on stage as more of a mother-like figure, smiling and waving at the audience.
During her talk, Bachelet was soft-spoken and humorous. Once in a while, she would ask the audience members for help translating Spanish words into English. She kept us engaged and made us laugh. At one point, I could not help uttering, “I like her.” My neighbors nodded in agreement.
I wonder, what makes Bachelet so likeable? Her status? Her power? Neither. Instead of holding tight to her status, she was, in fact, letting go of her power by seeking help from the audience, and this is exactly why she was so warmly welcomed with such applause.
This might sound counterintuitive. Aren’t presence and charisma conveyed through strong, assertive, and dominant mannerisms and words? Often yes, but not always.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from an old friend in the diplomatic community. He asked for my “thoughts on a public communications approach to countering terrorism and radicalism” since, he continued, this has been identified as a "gap in the global counter terrorism" arena. My mind immediately went to an area of applied and scholarly interest that the international affairs community calls “public diplomacy.” While conceptually contested, there seems to be broad enough agreement on the types of initiatives it encompasses, such as international broadcasting (BBC World Service, Radio Free Europe/Liberty, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, to name a few), scholarships (Fulbright, British Chevening, etc.), international study tours, and other types of academic, cultural, and political exchanges.
Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye argues in a Washington Post op-ed that at the heart of these initiatives is the desire of governments to enhance their “soft power”, defined as “the ability to use attraction and persuasion to get what you want without force or payment.” Nye's definition suggests that the soft power that undergirds public diplomacy is not limited to enhancing security and defense; it is also relevant to international development. This type of thinking is particularly critical in projects that seek to influence attitudes, opinions, and behaviors of multiple stakeholders in developing countries. In this broader sense, cross-national influence is not limited to coercing people, nor is it about manipulating incentives. It’s largely about appealing to hearts and minds through persuasion, which is only credible when what one says is consistent with what one does.
Watching current international events unfold, we increasingly see how foreign policy acknowledges the role of the public in politics. Since the 1990s scholars have used the term "soft power" to describe a certain kind of international diplomacy, and it seems that this kind of cooperative diplomacy gains more and more weight on the international stage. The term "soft power" was coined by Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye in his 1990 book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power and he developed his concept further in Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, published in 2004.