Two Shades Known To A Clear Conscience

Classifying humans on a simple spectrum

The fringes of society is a dangerous place. A place that symbolizes a wasteland of economic deprivation, eventual social atrophy with a possible bleak streak of humanity in an otherwise dark world. The word possible is deliberately used to indicate that there are exceptions to every generalization. If there was a general explanation for such exceptions, it could be the panacea for inequality. However, a loving family and good education does go a long way in explaining progress in the most difficult environments. More importantly though, it is the will of the individual to escape the morass that guides efforts and eventually grants freedom from an otherwise hard life.

Picture a young woman, in an urban downtown, in search of an opioid, possibly heroine. The landscape dotted with shades of green moss and the rusty metallic remains of a flourishing industrial past. The promise of an intravenous high guiding her thought process lower and lower until there is no price too high. The underbelly of a city landscape that has seen its best days pass by as fast as the decline of the local economy. A place that harbors propagators of many epidemics.

On the same planet, but in a rural setting, a teacher that has lost his livelihood because the local school will not pay enough. The teacher , therefore, transforms into a godown keeper toiling with barebodied laborers on a scorched earth and under a blinding sun.

Somewhere in between is a working class star employee that is now accustomed to seeing stars in broad daylight as the factory that he served in has been replaced by a factory on a different continent.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning poses a conundrum before vast swathes of white collar employees and managers. If everything is automated, what will humans do?

The above stories can sound familiar. All these problems exist in every country. There are certain unstoppable trends such as an ageing population, an unskilled workforce, globalization, technological change and geopolitics that have had a multiplier effect on inequality.

While there has been a lot of research on problems, a daily, healthy discussion on solutions, especially in the media, is needed to spur positive thinking and signal a call to action for the global youth. There are certain mega trends that can help alleviate poverty and spur inclusiveness:

  1. The mobile is the personal computer. It will very soon be a personal identity.
  2. Digitization of money: In Sweden, the local population use an app called Swish. Swish is a peer to peer payment network setup by banks that is up 24/7 and allows bank account holders to seamlessly transfer money.
  3. Authentication mechanisms such as the blockchain/distributed ledgers can be adopted by banks and financial institutions driving down cost, bringing efficiencies and promoting inclusiveness.
  4. The likes of Alipay and Taobao have accelerated the spread of commerce to the remotest counties of China. Alipay has approximately 450 million users.There is no doubt that mcommerce can reach vast swathes of people in all developing countries .
  5. Entrepreneurship, combined with technologies mentioned above, can provide employment to a large population. It can also bring employees outside the labor force back into the economy.
  6. Global co-operation on immigration and human development is the need of the hour. Perhaps, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is a good start.

Most human strife is economic in nature. The solutions, therefore, should be based on sound economics. Economics, by its very definition, is making the best out of scarce resources. It is time to think about sharing global resources for the ultimate benefit of the society.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, stands out as a firm conviction that corporates must serve societal goals. Eventually though, serving humanity should be everyone’s goal.

Empathy is the catalyst for international co-operation. The clear conscience therefore, should know only two shades of humans – a good human and a bad. The good need to work towards converting more into their fold by attacking issues not people. This means forgetting every other classification of humans that have occupied our brains as well as our hearts. Unlearning prejudice may sound impossible but it may be our only hope.