Maybe it’s the fact that Brexit seems never ending, or the feeling that it’s the biggest sideshow of them all, pushing real issues to one side, that prompted the Hay festival to change its strap line from “Imagine The World” to “Imagine Other worlds”. This expansiveness was reflected in its growth, with talks or shows (James Acaster, Laura Mvula et al) going on 3 or 4 hours later than last year.
Whether such growth in revenues is actually increasing our wealth and well-being was the subject of Diane Coyle’s talk. Starting with the shortcomings of GDP, which doesn’t measure “free” work such as domestic chores (20-50% of GDP), she set out 4 other measures of wealth and well-being – good jobs, income inequality, happiness and health (avoidable deaths) – issues which recurred throughout many of the talks that I attended.
Three specific themes emerged for me:
- Curating our media. There is lots of information now so there is no reason to be uninformed. But it’s beyond our ability to absorb it all so how can we be well informed? Bots Trolls and Ruskies have invaded the open spaces and trusted sources are not as trusted as they used to be, partly because they are controlled by plutocrats. So where can we turn to? I’ve subscribed to WikiTribune. I’ll let you know how I get on.
- Getting on with each other. In these increasingly febrile times it looks like we never will. Thankfully we have people like Scilla Elworthy (three times nominated for the Nobel Peace prize) to give us hope. She has written a business plan for peace in which she observes that humiliation produces war, respect produces peace. Shashi Tharoor, a Hindu diplomat, said that people talk of respect but it’s probably with fingers crossed! He suggested that acceptance is better and expounded on the all-encompassing, all accepting nature of Hinduism. But I observed that it’s easier said than done; it’s all too easy to reject extremism rather than see it as a tough test of the principle.And others observed that it’s hard to defend the middle ground of liberalism without a leader of the Free World who embodies it. It occurred to me that that could be a benefit of a president of Europe. Mr Tusk may consider putting himself forward for election by the populace but he may find campaigning hampered by the association of his given name. I mean who would want the first President of the EU to be a lame duck?
- Intelligence. Wales is starting to get the hang of devolved government with an Act to ensure that its actions consider the long term impact, and now a new school curriculum more suited to the 21st Century. Its precise format is still developing but it is well thought through with, for example, each school choosing the subjects in which it should be assessed (as well as language and numeracy) rather than being told. A University of creativity sounded challenging to someone who came bottom in Art but is a great step towards resourcing people for the jobs that AI won’t do (yet). But the missing link was a way of providing a bridge of objectivity for employers, who were curiously absent from the platform, and the audience.
Maybe a system is irrelevant anyway. Rowan Hooper’s studies have concluded that it’s all in the genes. Apparently there’s even a gene for being able to practice a lot! They key message that I took was to try different things until you find what you’re best suited to, and leave other things to others. You could say that you already knew this. It’s mentioned in WealthBeing (pp88-93), but that’s another world.