Politics Of The Human Heart

Logic is Overrated. Sometimes.

Immigration is an interesting issue. There are multiple vantage points to view it from depending on where you are standing.

Although the idea is a mutual benefit to the immigrant and the host country, it’s a tough decision for both. The problem for the immigrant is dislocation and for the host country, it is designing effective filters to screen potential immigrants.

Lets take a step back and look at the megatrends shaping global geopolitics. Many of the developed nations within the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) face an ageing population. More importantly, an ageing workforce. This demographic shift has two solutions: mass migration from emerging market countries and automation (including robotics, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence). Interestingly, countries such as Germany, Japan and China are countries with the highest automation and also with a graying workforce. The United States is at an interesting juncture. Tech titan Apple has joined Google and others to form a partnership on Artificial Intelligence. At the World Economic Forum (WEF), Sergey Brin spoke about the centrality of neural nets and deep learning to most of Google’s applications including search and photos. However, automation is one component of improving productivity in countries with a high component of service industries as a percentage of GDP. The other component, not surprisingly, is immigration albeit very different from mass migration- an import of the best brains.

Just as capital gravitates towards the highest returns, human capital migrates towards the best rewards, working conditions and lifestyle. It seems like a fairly simple decision for an immigrant – a move towards a better life. Until, the politics of the human heart take over.

Many immigrants face a tremendous conflict. They end up being global citizens but also end up losing their identity and in some cases, their roots. Is that a fair price to pay for material comforts for the immediate family. Like many other questions, this is a deep grey zone. A binary answer for the mind. Not so for the human heart. Consider raising children in a foreign country. Children born in a foreign country feel the full effects of this conflict.

For humanity as a whole, immigration could end up advancing the body of human knowledge. Many scientists, geneticists and economists found better resources in a host country and ended up winning Nobel prizes attributable, to a large extent, to the conditions promoting their research. But for the home country of these immigrants, a migration of brains constitutes a drain on intellectual capital.

An interesting force shaping the global landscape is reverse brain drain. An empathetic and needed migration back home. For a balance to emerge, capital flows in the form of FDI and FII must flow to low income countries i.e. countries in sub-saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Whereas labor and talent is much needed in the developed world for its growth and some may say survival. The only thing superior to logic at this point is empathy towards fellow humans. At this juncture , logic fails and the need for empathy really takes over.

During one of the scenes in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight , the joker hands the trigger to a detonation device for a ship to people in another ship. If the people in second ship do not blow up passengers in the first ship, they die. Thankfully, the people in the second ship don’t end up pressing the trigger demonstrating the superiority of empathy over logic. Will people in the developed world help the rest of the world. This is where logic fails to provide an answer .

Unfortunately, logic fails to provide answers to many of the vital questions concerning the human heart. Just like a political movement with a beating heart (such as the alt right) is a fight for survival despite logic deeming the movement illogical, it does gain momentum. In matters of the heart , logic can inform but not guide.

Immigration, in my humble opinion, is hostage to the politics of the human heart. Uncertain times call for empathetic decisions with mutual benefit for both parties.

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