Book discussion about Human Development Index (HDI) 2021-2022,#5

Presenter         : Radhitiya Al Furqan
Date presented : December 7th 2022
Part presented  : Chapter 5, pg. 158-173
Chapter title     : Advancing human development in uncertain times

Presentation

This chapter is included in part 2 of the report which discusses shaping the future in a transforming world. It argues that uncertainty possesses both positive and negative outcomes, and options to address the uncertainty are either to stick to the current situation/ known paths (yield to paralysis) or explore new possible paths. To give a clearer picture, this chapter shows 2 examples of uncertain conditions and how they provide positive outcomes for humanity, which are rapid technological change and COVID-19 pandemic period.

  1. Rapid technological change

Rapid technological change became one of the “uncertainties” on the development of humanity. The technological change itself affects many aspects of human life, 3 aspects that being discussed are the energy, artificial intelligence development, and synthetic biology.

In the energy field, technological change and development provide us with better and cheaper renewable energy alternatives. Option on renewable energy usage emerges due to the planetary pressure put by humans to improve their well-being. Energy demands for electricity keep increasing especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where online communications become dominant. As seen in figure 1, the majority of renewable energy alternatives showing a declining pattern in the cost to provide it, especially solar PV (89% declining) and onshore wind (70% declining), in the last 10 years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic also affected clean energy development due to pressures on the public and private budgets.

Figure 1. Declining pattern of renewable energy cost in 10 years
(source: modified from UNDP Human Development Report 2021/2022 according to Roser, 2020)

In the artificial intelligence (AI) field, AI is expected to leverage the demand for labour. It has been a big concern lately with machinery starting to take over human occupations. However, this chapter argues that there is no clear evidence yet that AI completely replaces an occupation. Instead, it is believed that AI could increase the labour demand as AI will open the opportunity to create new occupations. Rather than substitution, a complementary implementation of AI to human jobs is more to be expected (figure 2), e.g. data analysis and decision-making through teaching people cognitive strategies.

Figure 2. Illustration on augmented human tasks through AI and technological development
(source: modified from UNDP Human Development Report 2021/2022)

Technological change also rapidly developed in synthetic biology. Currently, we are in an age where biological systems can be re-engineered and redesigned for various purposes. Several fields where biological engineering is implemented include the health sector, agriculture, manufacturing, environmental management sector, and energy sector.

Lastly, rapid technological development did not come without consequences. Several measures need to be considered to balance out the development with ethics and norms. Several implementable measures include; institutional transformation, behavioural transformation, proper incentives, and regulation.

  • COVID-19 pandemic period

The uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic period was treated as a reflection of where it is possible to make decisions that lead to the development of human life. Three main aspects being discussed are related to technological breakthroughs; improvement in social protection and economic policy; and the alteration of norms and behaviour.

The breakthrough in technology during the COVID-19 pandemic period related to vaccine development. According to the report, the vaccine was introduced only 11 months after the virus’s genetic sequence is published. On the development side, vaccine development showed how multistakeholder collaboration could be carried out appropriately to achieve a common purpose. The collaboration was carried out through the government as the investor; academia as researcher and developer; and industries as mass producers.

The social protection field and economy also made some breakthroughs during the pandemic period. It has been identified in the report that there is an increase in the share of countries that provide health measures from 30% to 100% from the period of January 2020 to July 2022. Country share on monetary support was also provided and increased extremely to almost 90% from January 2020 to around May 2020. The last major improvement that a lot of countries also made is the expansion of affordable internet access, especially considering where school activities were carried out online. Those examples show how a country can provide health and economic support for its citizen during an uncertain period, especially during a pandemic.

Lastly, related to the alteration of social norms and behaviour. Indeed, many social conducts have been altered due to the pandemic, like social distancing, contact tracing, wearing a mask, restrictions on gatherings, and self-sanitizing. And those behaviour are being carried out through a collective awareness and sense of shared responsibility. It shows how people are willingly altering their daily conduct to achieve the common purpose; reducing impact and eliminating the pandemic.  

Discussion 1: What kind of job that will most likely to disappear and emerge with the technological development

This question came up responding to the argument about how AI could leverage labor demand instead of declining it. The main concern raises for occupations related to physical labor, for example how programmed machinery will replace human physical labor. However, human labor is still considerably cheaper than machines or AI, at least for now. Hence, even with the current technological development, it is not in the phase where it is available to be mass implemented in economic activities yet.

It was also discussed how technological development will require incentives or improvement on the human side to balance out the situation. In most cases, it is related to skill improvement. Taking an example, in the past, a taxi was a horse-pulled carriage hence less skill was required to become the driver. With the introduction of the automobile and its implementation in the transportation business, taxi drivers must have automobile driving skills, even licensed. This is also expected in the future when perhaps a job will evolve and require humans to develop their skills to carry the job. However, it also needs to be understood that not everyone has the same opportunity to improve themselves or upgrade their skill, hence measures for this issue also need to be considered.

Discussion 2: What things/ behavior that will remain post COVID-19?

As mentioned in the presentation, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped many life aspects and social conduct now. One of the simplest points is whether people will keep wearing masks even after the pandemic is over. Some responded they will still wear a mask just to be safe and others will not because of its annoyance. Another one is related to the self-sanitation behavior which has been practiced during the pandemic. Behavior such as using sanitizer and staying away from crowds will most likely remain. It was also discussed that this kind of behavior may remain only in certain generations (e.g. generations that experienced the COVID-19 pandemic) and will disappear in the next generation making them need to adapt again if a similar case occurs, except when the knowledge is passed through the generations.

Reference

Roser, M. (2020). Why did renewables become so cheap so fast. Our World in Data.

UNDP. 2022. Human Development Report 2021/2022, Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World. United Nations Development Programme. New York.

Book discussion about Human Development Index (HDI) 2021-2022, #6

Discussion date: December 14, 2022
SPOTLIGHT 6.1-6.7 (Page 192-212)
Responsible: Riho TOKUMARU

<Summary Part>

In the SPOTLIGHT 6.1-6.7 (Page 192-212), there is the following topics:

SPOTLIGHT 6.1 Principles to be cultivated to navigate uncertainty

SPOTLIGHT 6.2 How local communities confront rapid environmental change

SPOTLIGHT 6.3 How volunteerism, inclusion and deliberation can work as insurance

SPOTLIGHT 6.4 Addressing mental distress: Capabilities for people and policymakers

SPOTLIGHT 6.5 Social media misinformation and freedom of expression

SPOTLIGHT 6.6 Collective action and social movements shaping culture and coping with uncertainty

SPOTLIGHT 6.7 Feminist mobilizations defying gender social norms

I am especially interested in the SPOTLIGHT 6.1, 6.2, 6.4, 6.5, 6.7, so I would like to mention these 5 topics here.

SPOTLIGHT 6.1 Principles to be cultivated to navigate uncertainty

To be cultivated to navigate uncertainty, the author focused on four major points: Creativity, Solidarity, Incorporating solidarity, Inclusion.

These four motivating principles are non exhaustive but balancing them could help pathways to transformation. riving transformation requires acknowledging the links and tensions between them. These principles are not mutually exclusive.

They often coexist and enable each other. For instance, inclusion can unlock innovation. Exposure to diversity motivates people to learn, and iterative learning is part of innovation.

SPOTLIGHT 6.2 How local communities confront rapid environmental change

Towards this question, the author highlights that having the perspective of local women. This is especially popular in South African countries, and the book mentions the following three example.

  • Example 1

Women in Upsher villages formed a vegetable-growing community

  • Example 2

The Mansomani initiative, led by Black women—mobilized community support to convert a piece of land into an irrigated sugar cane field and liaise with a local sugar mill

  • Example 3

The African Institute for Integrated Responses to Violence Against Women and HIVAIDS at the Panzi Hospital to research mental health in African contexts

SPOTLIGHT 6.4 Addressing mental distress: Capabilities for people and policymakers

To address mental distress, the author focuses on “Preventing distress”, “Mitigating crisis”, “Building Resilience”.

In terms of Preventing distress, socioeconomic policymaking can contribute to this goal. Income support, for instance, has been shown to significantly decrease mental distress of children and young people living in a household. Also, education is key to empowerment, enabling people to filter good-quality information out of abundant information during the digital age.

In terms of Mitigating crisis, the pandemic has shown that strong social institutions can help mitigate crises by contributing to stability. Relying on a well-connected social protection system can ensure people’s livelihoods and emotional distress until the crisis is overcome.

In terms of “Building Resilience”, with universal access to mental health services as well as other culturally aligned resilience building and healing approaches, people are often able to absorb mental distress and thrive in the context of uncertainties. For example, Yoga, Mindfulness exercises and meditation.

SPOTLIGHT 6.5 Social media misinformation and freedom of expression

Along with the potential benefits of rapidly expanding virtual social spaces, social media provide fertile ground for spreading misinformation and fake news, and the targeted and intentional use of platforms to enhance polarization and radicalization.

Prominent social media platforms have been called to action on this front by users, policymakers, authorities and their own conviction.

SPOTLIGHT 6.7 Feminist mobilizations defying gender social norms

Feminist movements and women’s different forms of resistance and action have come a long way, so amid uncertainty, we can imagine and build a feminist future. In the face of uncertainty and shocks, advocates and social movements can demand governments and institutions act to prevent disproportionate increases in and intensity of inequalities.

Grassroots and community-level organizations and feminist collectives, as relevant actors within broader movements, can be vital sources of knowledge, experience and perspectives to enable transformation.

There is great potential in community-based interventions—apart from institutional reforms—that could be leveraged to move the needle on social norms.

<Discussion Part>

I asked to lab members the following two questions:

Q1. How should social media companies and governments approach information regulation?

Q2. How are biases against gender equality and women’s empowerment changing?

Here, I sum up with the main point in the discussion.

To Question 1,

  • Sexual and violent expressions should be regulated.
  • Since the information that should be restricted is often different for each individual, a system that filters by itself is also necessary.
  • There are a number of cases in which slander on SNS drives victims to commit suicide. In addition, although the victim her/himself was not at fault, there are cases in which the manipulation of information by the media led to radical criticism from the public, leading to such cases.

To Question 2,

  • Gender equality has improved in recent years.
  • Any discussion of gender equality should also focus on gender differences. In particular, regarding jobs, there is a strong tendency for gender differences to have a direct impact on occupations. Physical labor is relatively easy for men to accept, and from the perspective of sexual harassment, there are many women in nursing care jobs.
  • Rather than gender equality, equality of opportunity is important for both men and women.

Book discussion about Human Development Index (HDI) 2021-2022, #4

Discussion date: December 14, 2022
Chapter 6 (Page 175-191)
Responsible: Taro MIYAUCHI

【Summary】

(Introduction)

In this chapter, the methods to face to uncertainty are introduced. It is difficult to predict the emergency of uncertainty and almost impossible to avoid it perfectly. So we have to avoid the negative effects of uncertainty, and at the same time, we should grab the opportunities that emerge. Then, to accomplish them and expand human development (H.D.), authors divided into 2 phases: ① Institutions and Policies, and ② Culture aspects. ① is composed 3 types of policies; Investment, Insurance and Innovation (=3 I). ② is related to consider general values and briefs to reduce the insecurity of uncertainty. About ②, especially the 3 keywords; education, social recognition and representation, have the important roles for H.D.

(3 I)

“Investment” is the way to grow up our capabilities to face to uncertainty. In this report, 2 main methods of investment are introduced; investment to governance system and to Nature-based H.D.

First, about investment of governance system, when we invest to international scale of governance system, it is important to create the system that can encourage experimental approaches, respond quickly, utilize all relevant knowledge, and take into account the uncertainty on a global scale. Then, of course it is important to cooperate and coordinate among nations. However, there is an imbalance of power created by vested interests among nations, so we should remove them for the first time.

Second, investments to Nature-based H.D. are to pay the cost to green areas to control risk of extreme weather, to ensure water availability, and so on. All of them depend on the initiative of local communities and indigenous peoples. So if we can encourage their proactivity of participation, those approaches are not completed in community, but can solve national challenges across territories through collaboration between nations, and finally we can encourage the share of knowledge and education between countries.

Next, “Insurance” is compensation and protection for the shocks of uncertainty, so tends to be conducted after negative influence of uncertainty happens. Financial approaches are one of most useful methods as insurance, like utilizing government bonds after the uncertainty happens, giving minimum guaranteed income, etc. Except for financial approaches, methods to support human welfare are also utilized as insurance; expanding the scope of universal basic services, to not only education and health, but also housing, mental-health, and so on.

Finally, “Innovation” is mechanism looking for new approaches through creativity and iterative learning. It is introduced in some areas; peacebuilding after war, tackling misinformation, new ways of measuring H.D. And to generate innovations, iteration is one of good methods. We can generate innovation to circle the process of planning, analysis, design, implementation, and testing continuously.

(culture aspect)

It is emphasized that we need to improve the fixed social norms to be more flexible and face to uncertainty in the future. Authors mention it is important to reconsider the 3 keywords.

Firstly, education can grow up children’s skills to deal with uncertainty, because it can instill reasoning and critical thinking and open possibilities for new values and attitudes in younger generations. Through education, we should consider the well-being of next generation, teach the method to cooperate with other ones, and lead youngers to accept diversity. Secondly, to expand the scope of recognition is also important. It can lead people to accept different types of other ones. Finally, who is represented is also important. If we increase women’s representation in government parliament, it can influence policy priorities and expand aspirations for other women and girls.

【Discussion】

First topic is “Is the system necessary to just give some money to some people like universal basic income?”. Through reading this chapter, student being responsible this part thought “sustainability” was one of the most important keywords, due to almost all policies and methods considering next generation. However, this system is not sustainable, but short-term policy. On the other hand, some people being economically challenged need minimum income to live. So we discussed this system. Some unique examples and policies were introduced from some students living in different countries, and almost all students agreed that just giving some money directly is not considering future, and it should be changed to other methods, like discount system, investing to teach some people to work and get money by themselves, etc. On the other hand, “universal basic income” is the system to give some money not only to poorer people but also all civils. So the point of discussion became difference if we focused on the system giving money to all people. To consider this system, one student said the system of earning itself can collapse, and it was not effective.

Second topic is very individual one, “Are there any insurance that you have decided to get in the future or already have?”. Some students will have “cancer insurance” for the future or have already had one. The common of these students were many of their ancestors had cancer and genetically they were more likely to have cancer in the future. It was also pointed out that there was some mandated insurance. For example, health insurance in Japan, and even in university, we have insurance related to academic research. Especially foreign students had some insurance created by scholarships, etc.

Book discussion about Human Development Index (HDI) 2021-2022, #3

Discussion date: November 30, 2022

Chapter: Chapter 3 “Harnessing Human Development to Navigate Uncertain Times”

Pages: 99-115

Presenter: Meg Niki

Summary

Behavioral changes and institutional reforms are mutually interdependent and influential. Human development is not only an end but a necessary means to create a better society; enhancing human development creates new paths for necessary changes by making possible the productive embracement of diverse and plural views.

Assuming people are always “rational” is not a realistic or effective approach in research and in policymaking. People are influenced by emotions and beliefs as well as by cultural/social norms. Understanding people’s behavioral tendencies and the role of emotions in people’s actions can provide a better explanation for people’s actions and help develop better policies and meet people’s needs. By paying attention to and dissecting processes that create misconceptions, it becomes possible to intervene in those processes and potentially mitigate political polarization.

There is a mismatch between existing cultural configurations, such as people’s common behavioral patterns and institutional settings, and the uncertainties that the Anthropocene, transitions, and polarization can bring. The existing and prevailing institutions and systems, including social norms and behavioral patterns, have helped society make progress and achieve some level of certainty. Therefore, many people instinctively want to stick to those patterns and systems. However, we are at a point in history where we need to embrace uncertainty and to enforce systemic changes to our institutions. Human development is an aspiration but also a way to navigate uncertain times and actualize the behavioral changes and institutional reforms that would allow us to shape a more hopeful future.

An interesting, relevant quote from Rebecca Solnit’s book “Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities” (2015) on the relationship between uncertainty and hope: “

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes–you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.” (p. xii)

Discussion

Can you think of examples where people collectively have not acted rationally but rather based on emotions and biases?

  • The situation of mask wearing varies significantly between countries. People are not wearing them/taking them off necessarily because of scientific information but rather based on how many people around them are wearing them or how culturally used to they are to mask wearing.
  • Anti-vaxxers in Shibuya

What are some factors that you think are driving the polarization in the perception of the state of our world?

  • There is a generation gap in how we get information and how we perceive the world. The younger generation are more likely to be impacted by climate change so they are more interested.
  • There is so much information that is circulating at such a fast pace that it is difficult to keep up.
  • Kids these days are growing up with social media (e.g., TikTok and Instagram), and their self-esteem is being impacted by what they see regularly. The social media culture is normalizing drug use, for example.

What are some effective ways to recognize our own biases and the ways in which we deviate from rationality?

  • Look at multiple sources of information
  • Compare countries and cultures

Do you agree with Solnit’s argument that hope is in fact grounded in and an embracement of uncertainty?

  • Very difficult question!
  • Hope requires action; action requires hope.

Book discussion about Human Development Index (HDI) 2021-2022, #2

“Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our future in a transforming world”

Presenter: Loren Chloe BALAOING                                                                         
Date:November 09, 2022
Presentation: Part I, Chapter I: A New Uncertainty Complex, Pages 51-71
Keywords: Anthropocene, Epoch, Resilience, Uncertainty Complex

 

Hello everyone. Loren here, I am a new member of the Abe Research group, and this marks my first entry in this blog! As Tom mentioned before, this is the continuation of the UNDP Human Development Report 2021-2022, in which I read the second half of Part I, Chapter I: A new uncertainty complex.

Summary

This chapter talked about HCS (History of Climate and Society), and how natural climate change (before anthropogenic causes) influenced the lives of early human civilization and how it will help us determine the state of humanity in the future. HCS explained that the different climate and weather changes in the past lead to the adaptation and resilience of our ancestors.  An example is how the Norse settlements vanished because they failed to adopt to the chilling climate (Degroot, 2018). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defined resilience as the ability of coupled human and natural systems to “cope with hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function, identity, and structure.” There are five pathways to resilience as IPCC stated in this chapter. These five pathways paved how the modern human civilization is operating now.

Source: Based on Human Development Report 2021-2022

We are now living in the period of uncertainty due to Anthropocene. As a recap, Anthropocene denotes an epoch characterized by the geological impact of the human beings on planet Earth, as we are living now at present, but when did it start? The word Anthropocene was only given a formal word by Crutzen and Stoermer in 2000, but we are already experiencing it way before the term was introduced. As mentioned in this chapter, anthropologists believe that it started during the nuclear arms race in the cold war, when influential countries and their allies asserted dominance by nuclear weapons. However, with the concern of what nuclear testing will bring to the biodiversity here on Earth, and how the Earth would be uninhabitable as clearly painted in Jonathan Schell’s “The Fate of the Earth” in 1982, the nuclear arms race finally ended in 1991.

This new epoch questions extinction and survival. What are institutions doing now to protect this existential crisis? There are two factors mentioned in this chapter: to bring the existential risks like climate change and nuclear war down and to make sure that these stays low by making institutional changes. The chapter also mentioned about the consideration of economic security as it is fundamental to wellbeing, and that policymakers need to also consider justice and peace when making institutional changes to keep up with the times.

Source: author, based on Human Development Report 2021-2022

From lowering our carbon dioxide emissions to transitioning into renewable sources, we are now shifting into a “green mindset” to contribute to our existential security. However, there is a need to consider justice and peace in these transitions, as transitions that are half baked can only lead to transferring the risk to another aspect, and overall, may do worse than better. Notably, resource-rich countries suffered from violence, poverty, and social inequality (Aas Rustad, et al., 2022; Leonard, et al., 2022)

We are in a period of uncertainty complex brought about planetary pressures, societal transformations, and necessary action for change. We are also asked to protect the survival of our species through sustainability. To achieve this, Tim Mulgan mentioned that we need to think of muligenerationalism, where we do things that will positively influence the following generations to come, even after this generation will be long gone.

Discussion

How does multigenerationalism affect sustainability?

  • The way I understood this is like the traditions we learned from our ancestors. Sometimes, we do something in our culture, and when we ask our parents why we do it, their answer is because our ancestors did it too, and we are keeping the tradition. As we are growing older, we also need to instill the sustainable way of thinking to our descendants to add more years to our existence.
  • Some lab mates shared that mindset plays a role in this. A notable example shared was waste management in their country, where policy makers focus on economic approach rather than the environmental approach. Also, the influence of our culture affects our mindset, and how other countries may not be as aware of the things happening around the world, because this information may be limited.
  • There is also a discussion on how the younger generation is different from the older ones, and how mindset is “set” for the older generation and may not be flexible for change. However, the younger generation is “selfish”, but more aware that vulnerable countries are affected the most when it comes to climate change, social justice, etc.
  • The mindset of the new generation is changing, where some people in this generation is actively fighting for social justice and peace, but is this enough? We need to change our ways, if not, nothing will happen.

The book discussion ended with me sharing a movie that I watched multiple times with my nephew back in the Philippines: Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax, with the quote “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. It is not.” If you have the time, I suggest watching the whole movie. This concludes my blog for the book discussion. Please stick around for the next entries!

 

References

 

Aas Rustad, S., Reagan, R., Bruch, C., Dupuy, K., Mwesigye, F., McNeish, J.-A., and VanDeveer, S. 2022. “Green Curses Renewable Energy and Conflict in Africa.” Background paper for Human Development Report 2021/2022, UNDP–HDRO, New York

Crutzen, P. J., and Stoermer, E. F. 2000. “The Anthropocene.” Global Change Newsletter 41: 17–18.

Degroot, D. (2018). Climate change and society in the 15th to 18th centuries. WIREs Climate Change, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.518

Leonard, A., Ahsan, A., Charbonnier, F., and Hirmer, S. 2022. “The Resource Curse in Renewable Energy: A Framework for Risk Assessment.” Energy Strategy Reviews 41: 100841.

Programme, U. N. D. (2022). Human Development Report 2021/2022: Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World (pp. 51–71). United Nations.

Seuss, Dr. (1972). The Lorax. HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Schell, J. (1982). The Fate of the Earth. Alfred a Knopf Incorporated.