What a difference three years makes. In December 2015, world leaders gathered in a historic display of species consciousness to sign the Paris climate accord to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Today, in December 2018, Paris is experiencing a winter of discontent, with a virtual uprising against a tax increase on fuel aimed at fulfilling France’s 2015 obligations.
In a dramatic illustration of the battle between the present and the future, the mantra of the protestors, angry over the affordability of the increase, is that their top concern is not “the end of the world” but surviving until “the end of the month.” On Tuesday, the government temporarily suspended the tax.… Seguir leyendo »
Everybody knows about the Great Firewall of censorship in China. Many see the specter of an even deeper surveillance state in the times ahead, as artificial intelligence and big data controlled by the authorities track all citizens with a social credit score.
Previously in The WorldPost, Francis Fukuyama wrote about “the unimagined forms that a 21st century totalitarian state can take” in China. Xiao Qiang, the founder and editor in chief of China Digital Times, has also warned of the rise of a “digital totalitarian state.”
But there is another side to the story of Chinese society so densely connected through the Internet.… Seguir leyendo »
The seas are the lifeblood of our blue planet. They are the critical element in forging that narrow band of livable climate that distinguishes us, so far as we know, in the universe. It is thus not an overstatement to say that the fate of the oceans is our own fate as well. From sea to shining sea globally, the warning lights are flashing.
The challenge is daunting because the planetary economy, as Jacques Cousteau argued in an interview back in 1996, does not price in the real value of the Earth’s natural assets. “We are selling off the future in the name of immediate gain,” he told me when we met at the Cousteau Society offices in Paris, where a scale model of the Calypso, Cousteau’s famous research vessel that roamed the seven seas, was on display.… Seguir leyendo »
Algorithms and surveillance based on electronic data are penetrating all aspects of modern society, from medical diagnosis to monitoring domestic violence to illegal immigrants awaiting asylum hearings. As is the case with digital technology generally, the positive intent carries with it the collateral damage of misinformation and invasion of privacy. Where to draw the red lines that separate the benefits of these fast-arriving innovations from their abuse is becoming a central issue for all open societies.
In The WorldPost this week, we look at specific cases that illustrate the challenge of how and where to draw those lines.
Adam Hofmann discusses how algorithmic screening tools that are used to identify depression or prevent self-harm and suicide can misdiagnose mental illness — a label that could then stick with the person.… Seguir leyendo »
If further proof were needed that majoritarian democracy is not a friend of liberal values, the election in Turkey this week provides it. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s march toward autocracy was affirmed by nearly 53 percent of the vote for his continuing role as an all-powerful president. His Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) will once again dominate parliament, now in a coalition with nationalist, anti-Kurdish allies. The other half of society, which mobilized to defeat the turn away from liberal constitutionalism, has essentially been disenfranchised even though they voted.
It seems the return of the repressed from Turkey’s military-enforced secular past keeps on returning at the polls.… Seguir leyendo »
Italy is considered the birthplace of modern political science for good reason. Its Florentine son, Niccolò Machiavelli, not only wrote “The Prince” but also his less famous “Discourses on Livy” in 1517, which reflected upon the rise and fall of the Roman Republic centuries earlier. The lessons he drew on the survival of republics are no less relevant today for Italy — and for all Western democracies.
Following the Greek historian Polybius, Machiavelli concluded in those reflections that the best form of governance is a balanced mix of monarchy, or executive power; aristocracy, the rule of the few; and democracy, the rule of the many.… Seguir leyendo »
“In the regions where it is more deeply rooted — the Americas and Europe — representative democracy is in crisis,” former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso wrote in The WorldPost.
“At the core of this crisis,” he continued, “is the widening gap between people’s aspirations and the capacity of political institutions to respond to the demands of society. It is one of the ironies of our age that this deficit of trust in political institutions coexists with the rise of citizens capable of making the choices that shape their lives and influence the future of their societies.”
Sprouting in that gap is a burgeoning movement toward direct democracy in which voters bypass elected elites and make laws themselves through citizen ballot initiatives, referendums and other tools.… Seguir leyendo »
Technology is not a neutral tool. Its use is infused with the cultural ethos of those who deploy it.
Digital connectivity may have been conceived in the algorithmic imagination of Silicon Valley libertarians as a way to free the individual from institutions. But in the hands of China’s institutional civilization, shaped for millennia by a communitarian and authoritarian mindset, it further empowers the state.
The marriage of big data with the analytic capacities of intelligent machines has spawned twin big brothers: surveillance capitalism in the West and a monitory mandarinate in China. Neither fit within the original libertarian vision. Both invade privacy by tracking personal information, for social control in the East and for profit in the West.… Seguir leyendo »
Because of manifold advances from resource-efficient technologies to abundant renewable energy production, the shift to a clean and climate-friendly economy is well on its way. It is not surprising that, as we approach this transition of global scope, the dinosaurs of the fossil-fuel age — most notably in the Trump administration — are mounting a formidable last hurrah. At the same time, though, green progress is hitting roadblocks that arise from its own success.
As always, solving one set of problems inevitably gives rise to new and unforeseen challenges. Solar-generated power, which in recent years has become the fastest growing energy source, is running up against the barrier of how to store, transmit and efficiently utilize all that captured sunlight when and where it is needed.… Seguir leyendo »
The global trade and investment patterns that have undergirded the long peace of the last several decades are being upended and scrambled. The challenge going forward is to not break that peace while reassembling the system in response to present practices that have failed and to new changes that have taken place.
By and large, the multilateral trading system has succeeded in spreading prosperity, particularly to Asia — first to Japan and South Korea, and then to China. Without question, those advances came at the expense of certain industries and communities now politically awakened in the West.
Along with that expansion came an interdependence of supply chains in which end products for export are a mixed bag of imports from all over — for example, German cars manufactured in the U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
The rise of populism in the West, the rise of China in the East and the spread of peer-driven social media everywhere are prompting a deep rethinking of how democracy works — or doesn’t.
The election of Donald Trump realized the worst fears of the American Founding Fathers that democracy would empower reckless demagogues. Contrary to post-Cold War assumptions in the West, China has shown the path to prosperity is not incompatible with one-party authoritarian rule. Despite expectations that the Internet age would create an informed public more capable of self-government than ever before in history, fake news, hate speech and alternative facts have seriously degraded the civic discourse.… Seguir leyendo »
Technologists across the world have frantically embarked on the quest to create a new species in our own image — general artificial intelligence with superior computational brain power. But we are only just beginning to understand the foundations of human intelligence and consciousness that cannot be captured in an algorithmic formula divorced from the functions of the body and the long evolution of our species and its microbiome.
As the celebrated neuroscientist Antonio Damasio argues in a WorldPost interview based on his new book, “The Strange Order of Things,” it is the feelings and emotions, which originated and dwell in that biological terrain, that are constitutive of human intelligence, consciousness and the capacity for cultural creation.… Seguir leyendo »
Having slowly recovered from the great recession a decade ago, the global economy is finally back on the growth track — including in the United States, as the American president characteristically trumpeted in his State of the Union speech this week.
The coming peril resides in the promise of this good news. As unemployment falls and puts pressure on wages to rise in the age of digital capitalism, automation of labor by intelligent machines will accelerate. That in turn will reinforce a trend already underway: the divorce of employment from productivity and wealth creation. Inequality then deepens as wealth concentrates among those who own the robots, so to speak, while those who have only their labor to sell increasingly scramble to cobble together a living wage through precarious gigs.… Seguir leyendo »
Just as the welfare state was born out of the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, so too a new social contract must emerge today as the economic ground shifts again with the dislocations of globalization and the steady disruptions of digital capitalism.
The paradigm for such a contract, rooted in the idea of “flexicurity,” is beginning to take shape in reforms around Europe. This approach, coined by the Danish government in the 1990s, combines flexibility in the workplace to accommodate the robust dynamics of trade and innovation with a universal safety net and opportunity web that catches those who fall in the cracks and helps them move on and up.… Seguir leyendo »
Con su campaña para reformar Francia y luchar por una Europa más federal, el presidente francés, Emmanuel Macron, puede lograr que el continente recupere su importancia en el mundo.
Pese a ser, a sus 39 años, el presidente más joven de la historia moderna de Francia, Macron no ha querido perder tiempo en campaña para reiniciar el país y el continente. Su objetivo es eliminar los obstáculos a la innovación que han dejado relegada a Europa. Si logra reformar Francia y unir más Europa, quizá estemos ante la mejor oportunidad de que Occidente mantenga su presencia como civilización, ahora que Estados Unidos se encierra en sí mismo y China está en pleno ascenso.… Seguir leyendo »
En una famosa cita, Sartre dijo que el antisemitismo hace al judío. Del mismo modo, el regreso del “alemán feo” (como decía el exministro alemán de Asuntos Exteriores Joschka Fischer) ha “fabricado” a Syriza en Grecia y a los nuevos partidos populistas de derecha e izquierda que están surgiendo en España, Italia, Francia y otros países.
El pensamiento social percibió hace tiempo la relación existente entre las amenazas y el fortalecimiento reactivo de la identidad. Según apuntó Amartya Sen en su obra germinal Identidad y violencia, cuanto mayor es la amenaza de problema económico, violencia, disturbio o exclusión, más rígidas y “aislacionistas” se tornan las identidades.Al reducir el proyecto histórico de la integración europea a un euro defendido por una despiadada austeridad, la canciller alemana Angela Merkel y su ministro de Finanzas, Schäuble, han exacerbado los nacionalismos “aislacionistas” que la Unión pretendía sofocar.… Seguir leyendo »
Lo que estamos presenciando hoy en Ucrania es, más que el regreso de la guerra fría, la punta de un choque de civilizaciones en la actual era posamericana.
La globalización encabezada por Estados Unidos desde la caída del Muro ha producido la convergencia de modelos de crecimiento y la difusión de la tecnología en todo el mundo, con el consiguiente ascenso de economías emergentes como China, Rusia, India y Turquía. Pero esa convergencia, en lugar de crear un mundo plano y homogéneo, ha acentuado las diferencias, porque la fortaleza económica engendra una reafirmación cultural, política e incluso militar.
Como vemos a diario en el mar de China Oriental, Siria o Crimea, Occidente ya no tiene las riendas del orden mundial.… Seguir leyendo »
Primero fueron las protestas de la plaza de Taksim. Ahora, la gran “reducción” que elevará los tipos de interés mundiales y detendrá el crecimiento en las economías emergentes como Turquía.
Muchos dicen que el crecimiento de Turquía en los últimos años ha estado alimentado en gran parte, como los de Indonesia, India y Brasil, por los bajos tipos de interés derivados de las políticas monetarias expansivas de la Reserva Federal estadounidense (Fed), el banco central del mundo.
Ante la previsión de recuperación en Estados Unidos, la Fed ha anunciado que va a “reducir” la cantidad de dinero, lo cual subirá los tipos de interés en todo el mundo.… Seguir leyendo »
Western analysts have been scratching their heads trying to figure out if China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, can properly be labeled a “reformer.”
His new policies promise to end labor camps, ease the one-child policy and migrant-residency requirement in cities, grant property rights to farmers, and open up many new areas to a “decisive” role for the market. At the same time, he has strengthened the grip of the Communist Party, accumulated more power at the center, asserted ideological orthodoxy and clamped down on raucous bloggers.
To understand where China is headed in the next decade, it is best to take off the Western lenses and see Xi’s strategy from the standpoint of the present party leadership — something we had the chance to do when members of the 21st Century Council met President Xi, Premier Li Keqiang and others in Beijing on the eve of the recent Third Plenum.… Seguir leyendo »
En Pekín se especula estos días sobre si el presidente Xi Jinping va a seguir una línea dura como Yuri Andrópov, el exjefe del KGB que antecedió a Mijaíl Gorbachov, o si está señalando a la izquierda para girar a la derecha,es decir, endureciéndose ahora para ser más liberal después, porque “solo un líder fuerte puede hacer reformas”.
¿O quizá acabaremos viendo algo completamente distinto, la implantación firme, pero lenta y gradual, de reformas de compromiso durante la próxima década?
El nombre de Andrópov surge porque, para reforzar el poder del partido, el Gobierno ha tratado de reprimir Weibo, la web en la que 600 millones de internautas exponen en microblogs sus quejas sobre las expropiaciones ilegales de tierras, la contaminación ambiental o la leche estropeada.… Seguir leyendo »