Most people don’t understand how technology works. When they flip a light switch, or tap their phone, what happens next is essentially magic to them. Oh, they may be able to handwave a bit about electrons and volts and microprocessors and radio waves and packet-switched networks, but they’re just mouthing the words. They don’t actually understand any of those things. They’ve never done the math.
Which is fine! Not everyone can or should be an engineer. And as Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Our collective network of pocket supercomputers, communicating almost instantaneously across the globe, comes pretty close to “sufficiently advanced” on its good days.
But “technology is magic” is a dangerous meme. It makes non-engineers begin to believe that technology really can do anything its wizard-engineers desire. It causes them to not understand that they don’t understand. And so it leads…
“My entire career has been guided by the fundamental belief that scientifically derived evidence is the most powerful instrument we have to design enlightened policy and produce a positive social transformation.”
The Euro is definitely here to stay, as long as the EU is a thing (ok, I’m paraphrasing), which isn’t a given either.
We see a move towards divergence of creditors from debtors, whereas historically Europe has stressed “convergence”. The point is that, for example, Italy is falling less than Germany is rising, so Germany should be allowed to push forward and not be dragged down by slow-growing economies in the Euro Zone.
However, Germany must “leave or lead.” Soros was pretty strong in emphasizing Germany’s responsibility rather than a more collective – greater European – responsibility. Germany, Soros argued, is, in fact, in charge, though the country seems to find it very difficult to accept, since they have gone out of their way historically to avoid that position. But as the country with the most economic power and the best credit rating, this naturally leaves them in the dominant position; and they have to live up to that.
The promise of the “New Ukraine” was highlighted, especially in light of the previous Orange Revolution‘s failure. The Ukranian people and the interim government, especially, are motivated and united in a shared European vision now more than ever.
Russia’s furtherance into Crimea was discussed at large as well. Soros made it clear that, for “existential reasons” – namely the country’s vested interest in Ukraine – it would not totally back down. Just as, for existential reasons as well, Europe and the West should not give up pressing for greater European integration with Ukraine. In this sense, there is huge potential for diplomacy in reconciling this situation which seems to place all actors between a rock and a hard place.
This was one of the funnier quips from the afternoon – when Soros made the example of “stupid vs. smart” sanctions. In other words, a stupid sanction would be discouraging Russian FDI. Russian oligarchs clearly have no faith in the Russian economy, which is exemplified by them sending their money and children abroad. There was an outburst of laughter in the audience, to which Soros added: “There must be a few of you here… and welcome” (followed by an overwhelming round of applause).
#LSESoros: Russian oligarchs send capital & children abroad; only stupid sanctions attack that (and George welcomes children in audience).
The point was, forcing Russian money to remain in the already weak Russian economy would just encourage money to stay within the country and, most likely, lead to a deep recession, which is never good.
Overall, it was an interesting speech. Nothing too controversial was said or discussed; but that is the nature of these public lectures, unfortunately. For a podcast of the event, click here.
“You will never be able to draw a crowd beginning a story with ‘One time, writing my dissertation…’ A dissertation is a personal hell to be suffered in silence. If someone asks you more about it, the polite thing to do is change the subject.”