Currently showing: Funding longer lives


24 Jul 13 09:08

I will be the moderator at Swiss Re's 150 Years Anniversary events. My starting point is that the two biggest risks we face are complacency and mono-dimensional thinking.

Complacency, because although all of us who will attend the events are aware of the topics of longevity, food security, climate and sustainable energy, most of us think that these are really someone else's problem: someone else in the world, someone else in the power hierarchy, or perhaps even some other, future, generation. We'd rather think now about other things: our jobs, our incomes, our families, our Facebook profile...

Mono-dimensional thinking because even if we do think properly about these issues, too many of us tend to think about them in isolation. That is easier: we know we need to fund pensions and health care, and work longer with more technology; we know we need to ensure food supply will be adequate for a world of nine billion people and will be well distributed; we know the climate is changing and that human activity is a main cause; and we know that the way we use energy is contributing hugely to climate change. But what we don't do is think about the trade-offs and interconnections: eg, the fact that costlier energy, even if it is "sustainable" in some definition of that word or if it thereby helpfully reduces demand, may make it harder to fund pensions, or to maintain a good food supply.

Only by connecting these topics, confronting the trade-offs and hard choices that lie ahead, and by accepting that the challenges are ours and not someone else's, will we make progress.

Bill Emmott


Category: Funding longer lives, Food security, Climate/natural disasters, Sustainable energy, Other


6 Comments

Nicola Oliver - 24 Jul 2013, 12:55 p.m.

'My starting point is that the two biggest risks we face are complacency and mono-dimensional thinking'...
These points seem insurmountable but, as you rightly highlight, we have no choice; they have to be tackled.
It's a curious thing then that this blog separates those challenges in exactly the way that encourages mono-dimensional thinking.
As regard complacency, do you not think that this has become something of a default position for many? I don't just mean as individuals, but the response from successive governments to the whole demographic challenge in the UK, for instance, appears to have been one of denial. The classis response of putting off tomorrows problems until tomorrow in the hope that someone else might be able to sort them out. (or that they might go away!)
But how to start the process of change??

Rashunda Tramble - 24 Jul 2013, 1:02 p.m.

"...most of us think that these are really someone else's problem: someone else in the world, someone else in the power hierarchy, or perhaps even some other, future generation. We'd rather think now about other things: our jobs, our incomes, our families, our Facebook profile."

With all due respect Mr Emmott, I'm not sure if this is the case, at least in my world. I am surrounded by people who are engaged and aware of what's going on beyond their front lawns. Social media - and the evolution of media overall - has a lot to do with this.

The issue is that no one knows what to do, how to tackle these issues.

Don't write us all off yet.:-)

Bernd Wilke - 24 Jul 2013, 1:14 p.m.

Interesting comments so far. My personal impression is also, that people are complacent because they don't know what to do. And it's a big challenge. The WEF showed the interconnection and feedback loops between risks in the video below. Worthwhile to watch if one want's to get an overview.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=btP9uve633A

Good question is: where are the leaders and the role models who set examples in tackling these challenges

William Trump - 31 Jul 2013, 9:37 a.m.

Are we talking about the complaceny & mono-dimensional thinking at the individual level, or the "macro" (i.e. governments etc) level?

The reason I ask is that at the individual level, I'd agree that complacency is a big risk we face (can I really be bothered to change my behaviour for some future benefit that may only be enjoyed by others?), but mono-dimensional thinking is a risk that belongs in the realm of policy/decision-makers

I suggest that mono-dimensional thinking may be - for individuals - part of the solution. People are more likely to take action if it's a simple, attractive, social task (i.e bite-size chunks) - and complexity is likely to put people off and lead to more complacency.

Are we more likely to get people to increase their recycling by sending them folders on the inter-connected social, geographic, political risks of global warming? Or simply by giving them a free bin bag and saying that for every time they recycle, they get a mini-voucher they can redeem at the local supermarket?

I suspect I know the answer.

Susan Holliday - 7 Aug 2013, 4:08 p.m.

I think the political process means that governments tend to put things off, especially if they are unpopular. The problem is that the answer to this would be longer, fixed term parliaments, which neither I not most other people would like as it would be harder to get rid of a government which had lost support. However, corporations can take a longer term view. After all some are around for 150 years! I have a strategy role and one of the challenges is balancing the shorter and longer terms priorities as we all only have 24 hours in the day, and that has to include some sleep.
I see a greater risk of "group think" in corporations, because they tend to attract the same type of people. Maybe we need to ask people from completely different types of companies to try to solve each other's problems eg. how would executives at Google or Shell go about improving the NHS? I really think this could be extremely revealing.

Urs Leimbacher - 26 Aug 2013, 1:33 p.m.

Glad to see that Swiss radio & television engages on the path of encouraging thinking (and talking) about risks during a whole week: check it out at: http://www.srf.ch/risiko

This will be a great opportunity for all who are dealing professionally with risk to both hear about how people perceive and deal with risks, and what we can do to manage risks better.


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