Saturday, December 20, 2014

" South South Cooperation and Strong Sustainability to heal the wounds of our darkest times"

South South Cooperation as a concept emerged from the World War II days. Tensions of global, political and international relations manifested and established the importance of cooperation which further oriented itself mostly towards bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the 1950s. This concept later on was mostly marked by dependency theories and a notion of self reliance of countries which finally turned more towards a developmental imperative since 1990s (

Today, south south cooperation means exchange of knowledge, skills, collaborative demonstration projects, movement of people from one country to other. This collaboration is not limited to any one field or area of expertise. It is spreading across fields related to projects dealing with renewable energy, developing solutions for securing energy, livelihoods for the future generation. It has also spread to fields like music, sports where people are coming together to spread peace, ensuring social sustainability. The reason why these collaborations are happening is a testimony to the fact that as humans, nations we are incomplete till we join our hands with another individual near us. That neighbourhood can be within and across communities, nations and different geographical boundaries with the best complementarity to make us complete. The very fact that we need to be complete has a connection with the notion of strong sustainability. We can only be complete when we think of our future and meet our present needs without destroying needs of the future generation.
This requires non substitution of the natural capital by human made physical capital. It also needs a higher emphasis on the ecological space rather than short term economic gains. A strong sustainability concept ( therefore has to primarily give the utmost priority to our ecological space (as the planet Earth has its limited bounty of resources). Only when the biosphere for future generation survives, the society and the economy will survive ( Thus a strong sustainability notion, idea needs to sacrifice short sighted economic benefits for the future gains of mother earth where the biosphere survives and ensures that society and finally economy sustains.

Now, here, I would argue that any South South Cooperation measures of today and tomorrow has to imbibe a notion of strong sustainability. This is because we want to cooperate, collaborate to ensure a sustained bright future as when the future survives, strategic gains of cooperation can be realized. Hence, this requires sacrifice of short term benefits for the bright future of our children through exchange of skills, art, music, people to people contact : moreover all these initiatives can only survive the winds of time, when there is a strong sustainability element in it. And let this initiatives get strengthened through emerging countries like China and India.

Today, Africa has become China's Second Continent (quoted from Howard W. French's new book - "China's Second Continent" - But does this becoming second been based on a strong sustainability principle? Has the collaboration, joint venture projects of China ensure a peaceful society and creates a basis for meeting the needs of the future children of Africa?  The answer to these questions might not be too optimistic in all cases.

Another emerging country like India also has been doing a lot in Africa through infrastructure building, several knowledge exchange initiatives. It has been a part of the process of continuation of India's partnership with Africa since 1950s. However, China and India together need to retrospect how we have been able to do and ensure the implementation of strong sustainability principles in our collaboration ventures in Africa.

Cant India, China set aside their strategic, political goals and interests and work together in Africa and several other parts of the world to ensure a strong sustainability in all their ventures together?. May be the question is too romantic and idealistic in the midst of these world of political strategies. However being a romantic can sometimes be a good political and economic strategy for the larger good of future.

As when these places will survive, the future generations will peacefully grow, China and India will flourish together and that will also mean long term economic gains without compromising the needs of the biosphere and society of these two countries. With the looming resource depletion threats of key resources such a partnership will forge and bring peace across the world. With respect to that, this is also a high time, when India and China needs to collaborate also to bring peace in the region by combating the force of terrorism which will also be another important factor to thwart strong sustainability for the mother earth. Today, terror activities are launched with a future perspective of creating multiplier effects of destruction to nature and gifts of nature like children. The inherent thinking is that if they are hurted, destroyed, the supply potential of terrorists  of future will be ensured more for these terror groups with more military diversion and chaos which will generate more and more human resources to sustain terrorism. In a scary fantasy world it sounds like a fission detonator which creates enough fission to sustain burning of the society like in Danny Boyle's film "Sunshine" where a group of people traverses to a dying Sun to implant fission detonator so that the Sun burns eternally.

If as a response to these terror attacks, more violent military strikes are made, more societal disaster will happen and it will ensure a steady flow of terrorists for these groups who are destroying the strong sustainability of the earth by eradicating the best gift of nature.

Therefore, it is the duty of emerging powers like China and India to join hands together and destroy this force of terrorism which has started its attack on one of the central pillars of strong sustainability. All other political goals, strategic incentives should be kept aside and a full fledged mission should be started together by these countries to protect our messengers of strong sustainability - the children of this earth. Music, sports, films all instruments have to be brought in together by all emerging countries like China and India to mobilize a movement to protect our messengers of strong sustainability. Otherwise, it will become too late to act as we have already destroyed the earth and who knows as a race we now want to destroy the schools and messengers of our strong sustainability. South South Cooperation changed its orientation in 1990s to a developmental one. Time has come for South South Cooperation to adapt to a new dimension to heal the darkest wounds of our times to ensure strong sustainability for biosphere, society and finally the economy. China and India cannot stay ignorant on this for a long time. As it will be too late by then before someday another Peshawar happens in China, India or any country where sane people are wounded by insanity.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Enigmatic Delusion of Growth is just like a "Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

The chance to be a part of the symposium on "Growth, Degrowth, Green Growth" issues in last two days held at New Delhi created the scope to learn, unlearn and relearn about many dilemmas. These dilemmas have persisted about the concept of growth: and they have not just been only about economic growth. Confusions related to age and basic biological nature of growth of a human body, and what is defined as growth and a normal path of growth got more strengthened during the two days of intense discourse. Even if I wanted to avoid a comparison of these confusions with a film during all the sessions of the symposium, I could not still do so.

The film story which haunted me again and again through out all the sessions of the symposium while listening to all the speakers was of "Curious Case of Benjamin Button". For the purpose of paucity of space and shortage of time to read long blog pieces, I would assume that most of us will know the story of the film that am talking about. Otherwise, in the days of internet, wikipedia, getting access to that story is not an issue. Therefore, here, I would rather draw connections between the underlying essences depicted by the film and how my confusions cluttered up more and more.

The film narrates story of identity. Hence, Benjamin is born as an old man and therefore can associate more with the people who are old even though his age is very less. His emotional connections are much more closer to the people who are old. However, his age diminishes and becomes younger as time progresses unlike a normal human age progress. The identity of Benjamin moves in a reverse direction, his emotions also move in a reverse direction and are considered to be not normal. Therefore, he faces constant hindrances and resistances in social circles, personal space, and in companionship. With a progress in time, Benjamin becomes young and social: his personality changes. Hence Benjamin constantly pokes to us that age as a concept is not a number. My confusions suddenly get more real. I can see the growth paradigm in the story of Benjamin. Does the way Benjamin move in life can be termed as growth or degrowth? Benjamin's age is not merely a number: it perpetuates so many other aspects associated with it. It raises the constant battle between the mortality questions of death in Benjamin's life and its effect on the way he lives the life.

On a very similar note, is growth, economic growth a mere number. To me it is not. A growth of a society, economy is not a linear, mechanical, deterministic process. So will degrowth. Its just like Benjamin and very much like Benjamin's identity, age, emotions, feelings, struggles, personality which evolves constantly as he becomes young after being born as an old man. The concept of degrowth will also face similar battles and will go through the mortality questions of death of growth and its associated impacts on the forms of human lives.

It will also face the questions of how Benjamin was dealing with questions of unacceptance in various social circles and personal spaces. But he was also constantly evolving by accepting it. If growth in society, economy happened then degrowth will also be inevitable. But whether it happens in the way it occured in Benjamin's life is something that needs to be looked for. Story of Benjamin makes us also question that such a life can also be normal and questions the linear assumptions of normality. On a similar note degrowth also questions the normality of illusions related to an enigmatic growth number that human society and economies have been dealing with. Benjamin realizes that acceptance in social elitist class has a lot to do with money. Will degrowth in society, economy in the future days create more such Benjamins amongst us with such realizations. These Benjamins' will not qualify or match with the notions of normality while a degrowth happens and therefore the resistance within themselves and outside will go up. However, a transformation is going to happen and the identities of certain people will finally change over time. It might not change for some too and can stay same.

If the current path continues, notion of an illusionary number will change and there is a feeling that there will be a need to write a new story of curious case of Benjamin button. But this new Benjamin in the story will be society, economy and its associated institutions, actors. Over and above it will be the enigmatic delusion of a concept called growth.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Time to create an integrated model to predict "2012" or "Die Hard 4"

Rare event is an event that happens very less in our day to day life. For instance, the event that we all saw in the film "2012" or in "Day After Tomorrow" Motion picture can be termed as a rare event. Thus the melting and displacement of earth's crust, natural disasters comes under the domain of rare event. The 2007 motion picture flip "Die Hard 4" also had a different form of rare event. It showed us about an organized terror attack that was coupled with cyber and network security attacks creating a complete shutdown of road, power, banking infrastructure. The commonality between all these events is that they are rare but have dire consequences and cannot be predicted easily as the chances of estimating the occurences of these events are often beyond the imagination of mathematicians, modellers. However, they are still possible and they do happen with high damages. Moreover when they happen if the preparation to manage those damages are less the risk of damages to society goes up. Therefore, from a perspective of risk management, it is important to know the chance of occurrence of these rare events so that measures can be taken to manage them. Risk mitigation in case of rare events should also be tried in case of some types of rare events like the terror attack mentioned in case of the film Die Hard 4. It can reduce the extent of damages and uncertainty (simply put as the consequences which are beyond the control of risk mitigation measures at a point of time) associated with the occurence of the event. However, for rare events like as depicted in the film 2012: risk mitigation measures can be difficult as controlling the occurences of the event was totally outside the human control (though the team knew it in the film few months in advance that something will happen) and was a natural phenomenon.


Therefore, it is important to understand the pattern of occurence of these events even though it is difficult to put them in a statistical distribution pattern. However, through use of multiple simulations by using Monte Carlo techniques (which creates an imaginary world of simulation and runs such a simulation again and again) and uncertainty modelling if the chance of their occurrence can be predicted even with a margin of error, it can prepare the human society to prepare in a better way to create risk management measures through preventive actions. Policies can be therefore designed on the basis of these predictions (considering the margin of errors in the predictions) to create tangible measures that can protect the human society from adverse consequences of these events when they happen. However, rare event modelling as of now is often not done in an integrated manner. Time has come to join the skills of engineers, psychologists, scientists, modellers, social scientists, people from different disciplines and policy makers to establish integrated rare event models which will capture all the elements of consequences of a damage that can happen to the human society in case of occurrence of a rare event.



For rare events, which do not have well defined probability of occurence, in other words for whom the uncertainty of probability estimates are very high, there is a larger need for creating integrated rare event models. It is because for most of these events, the damage extent and degree will be very high. Therefore the importance of mitigating risks in such cases assumes a larger relevance. Mitigation of such risks can only happen when within the construction process of a rare event model, there is an engineer who can say that what can be the chances of failure of certain engineering designs of an infrastructure in the wake of a rare event (say a natural disaster). It will also require a scientist in the model building who will incorporate the science of the natural process owing to which the natural disaster happens. Behavioral, social scientists, psychologists will need to pitch in the model-building by suggesting how people can behave in the wake of such a rare event. In case of occurrence of a human induced rare event of an extreme type like cyber and infrastructure network terrorism (as shown in Bruce Willis starrer Die Hard 4), psychologists have to be a part of the modelling process to understand the mind pattern of the terrorists who aim to attack cyber and infrastructure networks. Such an understanding will help in framing some surrogate probability distribution pattern to predict these events for possible risk mitigation measures. Finally, within the modelling team  policy makers, practitioners, have to be there who can constantly question the modelling team to be sensitive to the practical domains of policy realities coming out of the ideal world of modelling simulations while framing the equation structures and finalizing the result interpretations. This will help in coming up with policy prescriptions to create risk mitigation measures for addressing the consequences of rare event occurences. Once, all this integration happens, rare event modelling work will transform to an useful tool to capture the realistic world of imaginations that can happen in future and need to be tackled to protect the human society. However, to achieve that, rare event modelling has to be more of an art based on the science of understanding an imaginary world of occurence of certain events being placed in the present context. Therefore, a good piece of rare event modelling is one where there are many scientists, thinkers, implementors who have turned as artists and are constantly working together to move inwards towards different imaginary layers of dreams as was shown in the motion picture -  "Inception".

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The changing landscape of Indian Political space

Change in the New Delhi power regime, upcoming Lok Sabha elections, star studded preelection visits have created enough material for analyzing the landscape of  Indian Political space in minds of every common citizen of this country. Since last November 2013, manifestations of the changing landscape of Indian Political space is quite evident.

On one hand, the people who showed faith on the open ended space creating administration structure of the existing government backtracked and ousted the Indian National Congress in different states to bring new faces, ideas and thoughts in the political space: on the other hand, there are people who are also showing faith on political leaders whose political motivations and agenda are not always driven by a larger reliance on the expansion of human space and rights. At the same time, human space giving nature of the ruling government in a way has acted as a boomerang against them. May be the ruling party gave space to their state operations and gave freedom and lost the control of the local operations which led to corruption, inefficiency of operations at the state and grass root level and reduced their larger connect with the people resulting in loss of the election. The loss happened even though UPA has always brought in the developmental needs of the people of grass roots in their political agenda: be it through NREGS, be it through food security. By saying all this, I donot want to propagate or promote any particular political party. It is just an attempt to independently assess certain trends.

In retrospect, it seems that the developmental agenda within the political process has been making its way for a transparent information disclosure driven non corrupt political decision making. Does the Delhi election win of AAP indicate that? The way of winning the hearts of Delhi people by AAP through transparent sharing of information about funds, credentials of candidates hints towards it. It also indicates that people now want to see that a political party is also efficiently governed through non corrupt finances, effective, efficient information disclosures like a good firm which shares the information to shareholders (in this case the people who vote).

However, the politics of AAP is also not so simple. It has the element of an efficient manager which discloses the information of its firm to the shareholder, but it also has a moral element to it. Therefore it is also questioning morality, ethics of the existing political process and mixing it with a kind of accountable firm. Thus questions of right of people to decide through decentralised nature of operation has been brought in. It is also getting enmeshed with the morality and ethics while making decisions at the local level. It is over here, a danger lies. If the move towards a morality driven politics gets a strong tint and punch of power, then an element of intolerance and encroachment into human space can come in. It can also lead to a control driven politics which can go against the freedom of people and enrage them. If such a control driven politics increases gradually then it can actually again bring back corruption at a decentralized level through the same people who tried to eradicate it at the first instance by using morality, ethics and decentralized form of governing people. Somewhere, the success of AAP will lie how they balance these concerns in the next few months. Their successful balancing will also indicate the direction in which the country is headed in the next 10 years in terms of its political process.

The other player in this political landscape has been in a way more consistent in terms of their political stands. It has been easy to analyze their political motivations which inspite of being promoting the concerns, needs of the hour of the country might not essentially be in the interest of a human being and human right. This has been well evident in terms of their views related to sexual minority rights within the country. It has also brought in the conflict between individualism and nationalism in the political agenda making process of this key contending party of the upcoming Loksabha elections.

Thus, who ever wins the forthcoming Loksabha elections, impact of the changing landscape of Indian political space will surely be felt on human rights and space within this country. Will it be for the betterment, progressive movement of the Indian society can only be realized, felt and sensed in the next two to three years.