Saturday, August 27, 2016

Good news for a change. Nah, I am kidding!

One of my favorite ideas that I try to convey to students in the introductory class is this: Everything economic that we can think of is a mere 200 year story, which means that we humans are not mentally ready for the kinds of changes that keep coming our way.  We are not biologically wired for such a pace.

I suppose it might be difficult for a 20-year old to really, really appreciate what I tell them.  If I were a 20-year old, I might not even taken classes that I offer ;)

Consider the simple aspect of having children.  Even a hundred years ago, people did not give much thought to having children.  People had kids, was a simple fact.  If they didn't, it was either because they were biologically incapable--and cultures had lots of awful words to ridicule them--or they had opted for a life without sex.  But, life has changed, and changed rapidly.  Now people choose to have no kids, or only one child, or maybe two.  

The pace of such dramatic changes leads us to being completely unprepared as "the largest youth population in human history is coming of age in a steady, unstoppable wave."
societies across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia are experiencing youth booms of staggering proportions: More than half of Egypt’s labor force is younger than age 30. Half of Nigeria’s population of 167 million is between the ages of 15 and 34. In Afghanistan, Angola, Chad, East Timor, Niger, Somalia, and Uganda, more than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.
How well these young people transition to adulthood — and how well their governments integrate them economically, politically, and socially — will influence whether their countries thrive or implode. Surging populations of young people will have the power to drive political and social norms, influence what modes of governance will be adopted and the role women will play in society, and embrace or discredit extremist idesituatiologies.
Idle young men, in particular, filled with testosterone, can easily slip into various kinds of anti-social and destructive activities--more so if they do not have war or sex as outlets for the testosterone.  
As we ponder our path forward, we should consider that the developing world’s youth boom coincides with four interrelated global trends: an information revolution, the largest movement of refugees and displaced people in recorded history, growing urbanization that will concentrate youth in cities, and a rise in terrorism and extremist ideologies. Together these trends will spread not just people but, more importantly, their ideas at an unprecedented rate. They will raise and dash expectations pushing and pulling young people toward and away from their hometowns and homelands, toward and away from their desired futures. They will make young people around the globe aware of how others are living, the divisions within their societies, and how those they identify with are treated by governments, security forces, and other groups. This knowledge can inspire or anger. It can commit people to elevating their families and communities — or make them lash out against them.
I tell ya, Major Buzzkill General Malaise is always ready to brighten your day ;)

This situation sets up the probability for more migration:
As poor countries prosper and their young become more educated, they are more likely to migrate. It explains in part why India has the largest diaspora in the world: In 2015, 16 million Indians were living outside India, double the number in 2000.
The youth will be highly motivated to move if employment prospects are dim in their home countries:

"Given the bleak future faced by many, it is little surprise that 40% of 15-29-year-olds in Africa, eastern Europe and Latin America would countenance a permanent move abroad."
I hope the political leaders are paying attention.  Oh, wait, of course they don't pay attention.  Which means, I get yet another opportunity to utter a favorite phrase of mine: we are screwed! ;)


Mike Hoth said...

We live in a strange world, where rich nations have no time for children and poor nations have too many children to deal with. Of course, we in the developed world have so many other ways to spend our time that raising a family takes too much of our Netflix and Facebook time away to bother with!

I'm reminded of a bit from the old sitcom "Barney Miller", where an Amish man gets robbed and the police are talking to him. One detective asks the Amish man if he can own a car, television or radio only to be informed that Amish people don't do anything that isn't in the Bible. When asked what he CAN do, the Amish man replies "I have 12 kids. That's in the Bible."

Ramesh said...

You really should stop uttering your favourite sentence. The issues you raise and the analysis you make are often top notch. They are incisive, deep and well argued. But your conclusion is often way too pessimistic.

Humans have the incredible capacity to innovate and cope with challenges. They are also capable of enormous good. Just see what has been achieved over the last 200 years globally - the time frame of this post. There has been almost a miraculous economic upliftment of all. Famine has largely been abolished. improvements in health and quality of life has been astounding. Even in destructive activities like war, we are way better off - nothing like the scale of the wars of 100 years and before happens now. The youth have far better opportunities today than before. We really must celebrate the wonderful spirit of humankind and be confident that all the problems you rightly identify will also be dealt with, with reasonable success.

We have to find a new moniker for you, than those two horrible ones. Mike is back (he never went away) and Anne will be too. We shall form a committee to give you a name. And get your father to approve it :)

Sriram Khé said...

Even in the poorer countries, women are having way fewer kids than before. I often quote a science writer, Ronald Bailey, in my classes--the huge population numbers are not because people breed like rabbits but because we don't die like flies. We have simply stopped dying easily. Our lifespans now are seemingly eternal compared to an average life expectancy of about 30 before all this transformation began.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, life for humans has never been better. The last 200 hundred years have been phenomenal. But, we need that "we're screwed" reminders because we live in our daily lives only one day at a time. Our time horizons are way, way, lower than the vastness of the 200 years and more. In that kind of a daily life, we humans are capable of inflicting considerable pain and suffering on others :(

Good luck with the committee work--almost always, nothing every good comes from committee meetings ;) check this out:

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