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.


‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

Updated 57 min 44 sec ago
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‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

  • The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon
  • The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag”

SRIHARIKOTA, India: India will make a second attempt Monday to send a landmark spacecraft to the Moon after an apparent fuel leak forced last week’s launch to be aborted.
The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
The mission comes 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon, an occasion celebrated by space enthusiasts globally on Saturday
The fresh launch attempt for Chandrayaan-2 — Moon Chariot 2 in some Indian languages including Sanskrit and Hindi — has been scheduled for 2:43 p.m. (0913 GMT) on Monday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said.
“Chandrayaan 2 is ready to take a billion dreams to the Moon — now stronger than ever before!” it said on Thursday.
The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag.” Local media, citing ISRO officials, said that issue was a fuel leak.
The agency tweeted Saturday that a rehearsal for the launch was completed successfully.
Chandrayaan-2 will be launched atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII, India’s most powerful rocket.
Experts said setbacks were to be expected in such missions given their complexity, and that it was more prudent to delay the launch instead of taking risks that may jeopardize the project.
“In such an ambitious and prestigious mission like Chandrayaan, one cannot take a chance even if a small flaw is detected,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of space policy at the New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation, told AFP.
Former NASA scientist Kumar Krishen said India’s space agency should be praised for taking on ambitious projects like Chandrayaan-2.
“We should keep in mind that space exploration is risky as many systems have failed in the past and many lives lost,” he told AFP.
Aside from propelling India into rarefied company among spacefaring nations, Chandrayaan-2 also stands out because of its low cost.
About $140 million has been spent on preparations for the mission, a much smaller price tag compared with similar missions by other countries — whose costs often run into billions of dollars.
Chandrayaan-2, and India’s space program as a whole, are a source of national pride in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined an ambitious plan to launch a crewed space mission by 2022, and India hopes to seek out commercial satellite and orbiting deals.
The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India’s first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the Moon and searched for water.
The rocket carrying Chandrayaan-2 will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The spacecraft will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover, which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The orbiter is planned to circle the Moon for about one year, imaging the surface and studying the atmosphere.
The lander, named Vikram, will head to the surface near the lunar South Pole carrying the rover. Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists.
It is expected to work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, and will look for signs of water and “a fossil record of the early solar system.”