Governments will have to be more human, says thought leader Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, the social theorist and writer
Updated 13 February 2018
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Governments will have to be more human, says thought leader Gladwell

DUBAI: Policymakers should adapt their relationship with citizens, moving away from the 19th-century model which has framed government thinking in the modern world, Malcolm Gladwell, the social theorist and writer, told the World Government Summit in Dubai.

“Government institutions were mainly formed nearly 200 years ago to protect their people from unforeseen circumstances. Now there has been a shift in what citizens want from their governments,” he said.

Gladwell, best known for his influential thought leadership books The Tipping Point and Outliers, was speaking at a session entitled “The Future of Humanity” on the last day of the summit.

He said changes in technology and information-processing techniques had led to a change in risks, and in how policymakers and professionals deal with them.

He quoted the examples of officials’ responses to two global crises — the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and the 9/11 attacks on the United States — as an example of these changes.

“With Cuba, the USA gathered information and then decided on a course of action; in the lead-up to 9/11, there was already a lot of information on the conspiracy and the perpetrators. The challenge was to make sense of what they already had. Cuba was a puzzle, whereas 9/11 was a mystery,” he said.

He explained that “puzzles” and “mysteries” needed different problem-solving approaches, and that changed the relationship between the professionals and their clients, as well as between governments and citizens.

Gladwell said the same process was in evidence in medicine, where doctors’ approach had changed from simple diagnosis and operation, for example with prostate cancer in men, to analysis and evaluation.

“Tackling modern health care problems requires governments to speak to people in a way they’ve never had to before,” he said.

It was also true of education, where the evaluation of teachers’ and students’ relationship had replaced a more simple approach of finding the best teachers.”Now the government’s task in managing a good school has got a lot more complicated,” he said.

The rising threat of cyberattacks — such as the one that halted the British health service last year and which are increasingly feared in the autonomous vehicle industry — has created a “novel kind of risk” for citizens, as had the dangers of climate change-related incidents.

“If there are mass pile-ups on our roads, and major flooding in big cities, it could lead to breakdown in societies. In the 21st century, governments will have to consider how to calm peoples’ fears, not just allocate resources. That’s the challenge: governments are going to have to find a way to be more human,” Gladwell added.


Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

Engineers and researchers at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology display the payload they have developed after months of painstaking research and testing. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

  • The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017,
  • Under the agreement, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space censoring system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.

JEDDAH: Saudi engineers and researchers have completed work on a payload for a Chinese space vehicle that will explore the moon, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017, the SPA said, quoting Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
The joint venture intends to study and explore the moon, "particularly the invisible side of it to provide scientific data for researchers and specialist in space research and science."
As agreed upon by the KACST and the Chinese Space Agency, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space sensory system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.
"The payload was readied in a record time of no more than 12 months during which the Saudi research team faced numerous challenges, most prominent of which was the importance of manufacturing a compact payload with a high capacity of less than 10.5 cu.cm and a weight of no more than 630 grams on the Chinese satellite," the KACST head said.
The payload consists of photographic and data processing units, among others, that is not only light in weight but also able to endure the space environment.
The equipment is capable of taking photos from different angles and altitudes that varies according to the lunar orbit changes, Prince Turki was quoted by the SPA as saying.
"Saudi Arabia's taking part in this great event would boost, no doubt, its efforts to develop its satellite technologies and use it in several fields of reconnaissance and distance censoring as well as space telecommunications, in addition to proceeding with the march of catching the world race in this field," he said.