The hard questions of our times

The world over, there is a “tribalisation of opinion”. Where are the spaces to listen to people not like us?

Founding Fuel

[Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash]

Dear friend,

Last week I got to sit with a group of people and listen in to the most compelling questions on their minds. One of the more interesting ones was this: Everyone agreed personal privacy is a fundamental right. But what if researchers at a pharma company, while parsing over large anonymised datasets, stumble upon information that two people are likely to die if left untreated?

On the one hand, technologies exist to zero in on those at risk and intervene to prevent them from dying. Then on the other hand, if they do, legally, it violates the patient’s fundamental right to privacy. So morally, what is the right thing to do?

We stared at each other because we had no answers.

In much the same way, when some thought is given to the second instalment of Ground Realities, this time from Indore, by Piyul Mukherjee and Team Quipper, uncomfortable questions emerge that macro-economic data does not raise.

Popular political narrative has it that when migrants flood an economic hub such as Indore, particularly during a downturn, the lifestyles of its original inhabitants take a hammering. But all the narratives Quipper has captured here are those of migrants. What has gone unstated is that they keep Indore’s economy lubricated and their home fires burning.

But questions such as these, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo point out in their lovely book Good Economics for Hard Times, are not dealt with by policy makers.

Why?

Because when faced with uncomfortable dilemmas—like what to do with algorithms that can potentially breach privacy; or challenger narratives that argue immigrant influx does not damage local economies—it is in the best interest of those in power to create a polarising narrative that deflects attention from the most urgent issues. We are witnesses to this globally. Call it a “tribalisation of opinion” if you will, where there are no spaces left to listen to people not like us.

This isn’t an optimal way to be.

That is why learning to listen deeply to those unlike us is one of the intended outcomes of Founding Fuel’s Masterclass on Navigating the Great Indian Slowdown.

May I urge you to join a very eclectic bunch of people discussing the theme on a Slack group? I am pretty sure all of us will emerge the better for it.

My very best,

Charles Assisi

For Team Founding Fuel

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