What’s Up in the World? - Weekly Digest 27/05/2016 Written by Harriet Lane-Tobin

This week's digest flies in the face of progress, whether it be in regards to innovation, education, technology and the discussions that ‘need’ to be hand. Here I contend with how this can be empowering in one context and disillusioning in another.

Innovation, progress, these are good things, right? Most would say yes. However Zoe Williams in a Guardian article argues otherwise, suggesting that technological advancement has the potential to create a new, problematised kind of people. With reference to Yuval Harari, “The rise of a useless class: humans who don’t know what to study because they have no idea what skills will be needed by the time they finish, who can’t work because there’s always a cheaper and better robot” (Harari cited Williams 2016). Technology does not just enhance our lives, but also how we are understood within them. 

Illustration by Matt Kenyon

Illustration by Matt Kenyon

However this is not to say this ever growing technological divide is just a ‘future’ issue. Rather, it is at the forefront of current debate. This is due to its ability to expand inequalities that exist because of accessibly and socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthermore Kim Bellware’s Huffington Post article argues that this is not just an issue of technology, but also an issue of civil rights - one which needs to be observed geographically and payed closer attention to.

Amongst the current, global refugee crisis, Pierre Krahenbul’s Aljazeera piece details how valuing humanity and education can bring a new kind of hope. Kranhenbul grounds his piece in the tale of Batoul, a fourteen year old Syrian refugee, who highlights the importance of education as a form of power to those who can be seen as powerless. “Education is what gives me hope” (Batoul cited in Krahenbul 2016). For mean important point here is how people reclaim their spaces and their lives through something which can be seen as certain among what is relative uncertainty. 

Richard R. Bebout’s Washington Post article addresses issues centered around homelessness. Bebout argues that in order to solve societal issues they must be addressed at the structural level. Once casual factors are addressed it is not about using them as a means of justification, but rather they should be used to remedy the issues they bring about. Anthropologists and policy makers at large need to be wary of structural violence in order to enact a change to benefit the groups that are being studied and affected.

Finally I close this week's digest with an article broaching the sometimes awkward but important issue around fostering workplace diversity. Diversity here is used interchangeably by Anna Kegler in her Huffington Post article both as a descriptive means and as a tool of strength for workplaces who choose to use it. Diversity falls into two categories, inherent and acquired diversity, which include race, gender, life experience and so on. She implores that readers should embrace the awkwardness of discussing diversity rather than avoiding it completely to find a more enlightened middle ground.