Shit! I’ve not posted in ages. What must my five followers be doing with themselves?
I must have been doing some important and exciting, eh? In fact it’s the opposite, I’ve done nothing; work has meandered from the mundane to the irrelevant; entertainment has involved weekend trips to the nearest watering hole and my thoughts have been stale and uninspiring.
This one was entitled The Challenges of Global Poverty, provided by MIT. I was discussing some of the points with a friend of mine, who considered the whole task of poverty alleviation as hopeless. The best thing that course taught me that it was far from hopeless. To illustrate this… I give my five followers a task.
Look around you; on your desk, in your room, in your kitchen. Count how many items there are, designed to make your life a little more comfortable, convenient, enjoyable.
Now look again at those items, how many of them have been designed to alleviate poverty, or would be of use or accessible to someone in absolute poverty? I assume very few of them would be.
Despite this abhorrence, people are pulling ‘themselves’ out of poverty; designing their own solutions, systems and making their own decisions independent of, or in some cases in spite of Western intervention, to make their own and the children’s life’s far better. Furthermore imagine a nation like Britain in 1900 for the majority of people. Pretty shitty, huh? It wasn’t until the conclusion of two World Wars and another 45 years before a systematic and comprehensive system of poverty alleviation was created. We call this the Welfare State and it is commended the world over. Many of what are poor nations today only achieved independence 50-60 years ago, their journey is only just beginning.
I passed and got 78% on my stats course! Feckin delighted! It was provided through University of California Berkeley via edX, a collaboration between some of the world’s leading educational institutes; Harvard, MIT, UTAustin, Stanford and as mentioned Berkeley. They provide the courses, actual modules undertaken at these universities, to a global audience for free. On this particularly course Stat2.1x, I believe nearly 50,000 people started!
My 78% was slightly below the median, that was 80% (slightly more than 50% of the people who finished scored more than me). But hey I ain’t bragging, despite what the title of this post is!
I can’t recommend enough how brilliant this organisation is. If you want to learn to code, investigate the economics of poverty, study Greek mythology, get some foundation knowledge in the areas of biology, quantum mechanics, energy technologies of tomorrow, computer graphics, electronics, AI, haute cuisine and many, many more… deep breath… you can… and it’s all for free, provided by some of the world’s leading educational institutions!
In my Challenges of Global Poverty course provided by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo at MIT, the last week briefly covered health; provision, success policy etc. One of the most interesting parts discussed was that people often want a drip or shot, to over-medicate themselves, when in fact a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or even less would do the trick. They have previously been given a shot by some backstreet doctor, as this is all they had access to (think barber surgeons in Victorian Britain). This isn’t only attributable to developing countries but to developed countries and not only in critical healthcare but what could be loosely described as a consumer product.
I draw parallels with a situation discussed in From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War by Jerry Della Femina, the book that inspired Mad Men. In it he describes the introduction of a new antiseptic fluid, like Dettol (it might have been dettol, I need to revisit it). This new Dettol unlike it’s predecessor didn’t sting, but had all the benefits. That’s a good thing, they’re on to a winner, right? No.
It bombed; no one wanted this product! The sting, that brief moment of pain reassures the patient, the user, the consumer that it is working, that everything is going to be alright.
If over many years you have been taught or have experienced one particular situation and formed a solid perception of this ‘reality’, regardless of the authority of whomever is telling you it is wrong, that perception and the resulting behaviour will be extremely difficult to change. This equally applies to anyone of any economic or educational background and multiple contexts as it is only human nature.
Human nature is a bitch to break, but as a child I was known to my Mother as ‘The Destroyer’.
“It is possible to make significant progress against the biggest problems in the world through the accumulation of a set of small steps each well thought out, carefully tested, and judiciously implemented.”
Starting my new course today via edx.org with MIT – The Challenges of Global Poverty. Above quote attributed to Prof Esther Duflo; @pooreconomics
Also had ACL reconstruction and got out of the hospital yesterday; I’ll keep you posted with my progress and pics for the not so squeamish.