Welcome to the Club of Amsterdam Journal.
The Club of Amsterdam launches The Future Now Show starting in September!
and join our special event in Amsterdam – Monday, 13 October about the future of Historic Pianos
Felix F Bopp, Founder & Chairman
Colombia’s Path to Prosperity
by Philippe G. Nell, Minister, Head of Americas Unit, State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Bern, Switzerland1
President Manuel Santos has been reelected on June 15, 2014 for a second four-year term as President of Colombia. During his first presidency, he has provided new orientations to his country which is now at several crossroads. On the political side, the government negotiates with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) a peace agreement. Peace is long due and would unleash significant investments in departments strongly affected by the conflict and open new perspectives for their population. The negotiations face however great challenges and the most difficult issues remain to be settled. On the economic side, fundamentals have been strong for years and Colombia has started its accession process to the OECD with the progressive adaptation of rules in several areas. In order to close significant gaps with OECD members, major efforts will be necessary to improve competitiveness, to diversify the economy and to reduce informality, poverty, inequality and corruption.
The objective of this article is twofold: first, show why Colombia is on the path to prosperity; and second, highlight some of the most important challenges to achieve the status of a developed country.
1. Colombia at a Glance
Colombia has very interesting characteristics. The population of 47 million is young, eager to learn, to work and to improve living standards. Significant natural resources play a key role in the economy. Its location is unique in South America with ports on two oceans. Second in the world for biodiversity, Colombia offers a great potential in terms of commercial applications of natural products. The size of the country is impressive, twice Texas and three times California. Huge parts are yet to be developed. For 2014, economic growth should reach 5%. Colombia has become Latin America’s third largest economy and has overtaken Argentina which is undergoing a very deep crisis. According to the Finance Minister, Mauricio Cárdenas, an ambitious road-building program using private investment will add an extra point to growth in the next four years. Moreover, a peace agreement with the FARC, ending an insurgency of half a century, would contribute an additional point.
2. Economic Policy
Colombia has pursued a rigorous monetary and fiscal policy for years and never had to reschedule any foreign public debt. Even during the world recession of 2009, growth was positive (1.7%). Since 2000, except for 2002-2004 and 2007-2008, inflation has remained modest.
For the coming years, the perspectives are encouraging for growth, inflation and public debt. Colombia implements a 2011 structural fiscal law and a medium-term fiscal plan with a framework for deficit and debt reduction to 2025. Ambitious fiscal targets and primary fiscal surpluses of 2% and above as of 2016 should be achieved; this will require a new tax reform to increase revenue and reduce evasion. Growth in expenditure will be driven by transfers to victims of the armed conflict and subsidies to address social needs, as well as higher spending on energy, road and housing infrastructure. The debt/GDP ratio of 41.7% (2013) should decrease to 37.5% by 2018.
Colombia has a sustainable foreign debt burden and should maintain a current account deficit of 3.3% of GDP during the 2014-2018 period to be financed with substantial foreign direct investment inflows focused primarily on energy, infrastructure and communications. Foreign investment has strongly increased, moving from a yearly average of USD 2.5 bn (1994-2002) to USD 6.9 bn (2003-2010) to reach a new record in 2013 with close to USD 17 bn, that is more than 3% of GDP.
These inflows complement domestic savings, contribute to higher productivity and production and strengthen the international reserves position. The steady increase of the investment/GDP ratio from 14.5% in 2000 to 28.4% in 2012 has been the basis for economic growth.
3. Rating Agencies: Investment Grade
Colombia’s sound position has been recognized by credit-rating agencies. In 2012, Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s lifted Colombia’s sovereign debt rating to investment grade, coinciding with excellent economic and financial conditions. This reflected a reduction in vulnerability to external shocks, the historic fulfillment of debt obligations, confidence in the country’s macroeconomic policy and a tangible improvement in security.
4. Foreign Economic Policy
Colombia is a member of the Andean Community and of several other Latin American integration schemes. In 2011, President Alan Garcia of Peru initiated in Lima the Pacific Alliance with Chile, Colombia and Mexico. The objectives are twofold: first, deepen integration with the creation of a single market including the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. Second, define common actions to promote trade links with the Asia Pacific Region.
Over the years, Colombia has also set up a wide network of bilateral investment2 and double taxation agreements3. Preferential trade relations were established with the European Union, Switzerland and its EFTA partners, Israel, Korea, the United States, Canada and most Latin American countries; negotiations are presently under way with Japan and Turkey. China has become the second source of imports after the United States and represents a formidable competitor for some local industries; between 2000 and 2013, its share in Colombia’s imports has grown from 3% to 17.4%.
International trade openness4 has increased from 24.9% in 2000 to 31.4% in 2012 but remains much smaller than its partners of the Pacific Alliance5; Colombia protects sectors such as dairy, meat and automobiles. Trade must be further enhanced and the potential of free trade agreements (FTAs) fully exploited. To this effect, the government has recently established a center to promote the effective use of FTAs. In order to increase agro-based exports, major work is necessary to address the sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements of developed countries.
After Mexico (1994) and Chile (2010), Colombia aims to become the third Latin American country joining the OECD. This illustrates the willingness to undertake a wide range of domestic reforms to adopt OECD codes – liberalisation of capital movements and current invisible operations, corporate conduct, corporate governance, … – and guidelines thereby increasing the international competitiveness of the country.
5. Economic Issues: Export Dependence on Commodities
Since 2004, exports have grown substantially mainly due to a strong increase of commodity prices. Export concentration has also strengthened over the years. In 1991, 15 products made up 62.2% of exports; in 2012, only five products accounted for 68.1%. In 2001, commodities and commodities-based products made up 74% of exports, and in 2012, 87%.
The share of manufactured products in GDP is low and has been declining from 14.4% in 1996 to 11.3% in 2013. Why did manufacturing not keep up with the economy which grew at about 4% per year?
a) The exchange rate of the peso adjusted by inflation differential with Colombia’s major trading partners has appreciated by 41.7% during the past 10 years. As a consequence, manufacturing has been facing growing difficulties to compete on foreign markets and internally against imports.
b) Venezuela has fallen from second export market (16% share, 2008) to seventh (3.8%, 2013). Major disruptions in trade flows have affected Colombia’s manufacturing sector.
c) Some sectors are excessively protected.
A shrinking manufacturing sector in GDP terms cannot boost job creation; nor does mining (8.5% of GDP), agriculture and fishing (6.9%), or electricity, water, gas (3.6%). This implies that the majority of the work force (60 to 70%) operates in the informal sector, is mainly self-employed, active i.a. in services (69.5% of GDP), and lives in very modest conditions.
6. Business Environment: Improved Performance
Starting in 2005 and with greater emphasis from 2007 onward, the Colombian government has improved the regulatory environment by strengthening policies and institutions with the aim of increasing productivity, accelerating economic growth, and promoting competitiveness.
During the last eight years, Colombia gained 30 ranks in the World Bank Doing Business classification to hold a position ahead of all Latin American countries except Chile and Peru (same ranking) (Figure 1). The difference with Argentina, Brasil, Ecuador and Venezuela is very significant. Twenty-five programs were implemented with the objective to facilitate entrepreneurship. The most important improvements were in the areas of firms creation, paying taxes and protection of investors.
The focus of the reforms was the reduction in transaction costs, for instance through the creation of one-stop-shop systems for starting a business, registering property and trading across borders. Electronic data interchange systems were developed to file and pay national taxes, duties and social security contributions. In December 2012, the government passed reforms lowering the cost to hire workers and modifying the general royalty system to stimulate investments and regional development.
7. Doing business: Selected Criteria
Colombia fares fairly well for starting a business, paying taxes and construction permits. Its performance is weak for enforcing contracts due to the judicial system and for the cost of importing a container due to local infrastructure (Table 1). It is more expensive to move a container from a Colombian Pacific harbor to Bogota than from China to Colombia.
Average investment in transportation infrastructure in Colombia increased from 0.62% of GDP (2008-2010) to 1.14% (2011-2013). Colombia has a weak ranking in Latin America for roads, railroads, ports and airports due to geography and incomplete road infrastructure. For transportation costs, the country ranks 130 out of 148 in the WEF classification. The government plans to invest 3% of GDP (1% public; 2% concessions) and looks for public-private partnerships to fund its National Development Plan. Huge projects are under way and envisaged. Investments of USD 55 bn are foreseen by 2021 including:
- Roads: USD 47 bn, 47 projects, construction and rehabilitation of 8,000 km of roads during the coming 5 years.
- Railroads: 1,154 km, concessions; projects have recently been awarded by tenders.
- Rivers: 800 km for maintenance of Rio Magdalena.
- Ports and airports: several projects are under way.
9. Other Issues6
- Education: while 87% of the children get a primary school education, the number drops to 71% for secondary school. Colombia ranks very low internationally in the PISA ranking (the assessment of 15-year-old students’ proficiency in reading, mathematics and science…but still better than Brazil, Argentina and Peru) and the PIRLS test (10-year old, reading). Three universities get 50% of the public funds, reflecting a very high concentration. Overall, the level of English is low and there is a lack of specialists in technical fields such as software. Major efforts were made during the past ten years to increase technical education with significant results registered by SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje).
- Innovation: 60% of the firms in manufacturing and 68% in services do not innovate. Invention is much more developed in Brazil, Mexico and Chile with coefficients 7.6, 4.5 and 1.3 times larger than in Colombia.
- R&D: resources allocated to R&D remain modest at 0.2% of GDP and are much smaller than in Brazil (1.2%) and in the OECD countries (2.4%).
- Justice: there is a lack of mechanisms to enforce contracts and apply rules and a significant backlog of cases. Various measures were taken to address this, including the compilation of an inventory of the various types of cases in cooperation with the World Bank. The judicial system must also be modernized. A strategic plan is under way to deal with electronic processes, information and judicial training.
- Energy costs: they are higher than in the USA and Peru.
- Corruption: it is a significant problem in both the public and private sector. In 2013, Colombia’s ranking (129) was lower than Brazil (133) but higher than Peru (111), Mexico (105), Panama (85) or Chile (23)7. In the public sector, the perception of corruption is highest for political parties and Congress (4.3 on a scale up to 5), public officials (4), the judicial system, health services (3.8) and the police (3.7).
Transparency norms are not met by several departments. In the private sector, corruption is mostly present with payments to facilitate and accelerate procedures.
The costs for society are very high in terms of misallocation of resources which should instead be devoted to education, health and infrastructure. The cost of doing business is higher and foreign investors are affected. There is a need to develop a culture of prevention.
Various measures are being taken including the adoption of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the establishment of the Transparency Secretariat in charge of designing a public anti-corruption policy and to coordinate public entities.
10. Political Issues: Peace Process
Negotiations with the FARC are under way under a six-point program; three parts are concluded:
a) Comprehensive agrarian development policy: aims at transforming the conditions in the countryside and reversing the effects of violence. It is necessary to close a big gap between the urban and the rural worlds with programs providing a boost to farmers’ living conditions; the government is aware that violence has flourished there due to extreme poverty, lack of opportunities and weakness of institutions to regulate public life.
b) Political participation of the FARC: the objective is to break forever the link between political activity and weapons and reestablish a basic rule of society: “that nobody uses weapons to promote his political ideas and that nobody that promotes his political ideas be victim of violence8“. The essence of any peace process is to facilitate the transformation of an armed group into a political movement in a democratic environment. To succeed, the whole population – farmers, indigens, Afro-Descendants, business people, scholars, social organisers, members of the church – must feel part of the same system. It will be essential that the central, regional and local authorities work together to build an harmonious and cohesive society. Consensus has been reached on: rights and guarantees in general for the exercise of political opposition; democratic mechanisms for citizen participation; effective measures to promote wider political participation at national, regional and local level from all sectors of society, including the most vulnerable and with security guarantees.
c) Solution of issues related to illicit drugs: the agreement covers first comprehensive development plans including community participation in the design, execution and evaluation of the substitution and environmental recovery programs for the areas affected by illicit crops; second, drug use prevention and public health programs; and, third, measures against narcotics production and commercialization.
The three pending issues refer to a) ending the warfare, disarming the guerrillas and punishments; b) rights of the victims; and, c) implementation, verification and endorsement of the peace agreement.
The negotiations must deal with the reincorporation of the guerrillas into society. It is not enough to demobilize them. Land restitution must also be addressed: it is a basic element of justice during a transition. The government has launched an ambitious plan which will be more effective if the land is being given back under the framework of development programs. Difficult questions include: to whom should the land be distributed? To the victims, to the farmers without land or to the ex-guerrillas?
Any agreement with the FARC will be submitted to the Colombian population for approval. Colombia has witnessed a significant improvement in security matters during the past years. The current peace process opens the possibility for a new era. The obstacles are nevertheless significant: corruption, clientelism, networks of interest and organized crime threaten a transition.
- Colombia is a high middle-income emerging economy with strong macro-economic fundamentals and a significant potential.
- China’s competition, the dependence on commodities and competitiveness represent significant challenges.
- The major tasks ahead refer to diversifying the economy to break the vicious circles of poverty, violence and insecurity and to bringing the internal conflict to an end: a virtuous circle benefitting the whole society would then ensue.
1 This article is based on a presentation at the 4th Impact Economy Symposium & Retreat held at Greifenstein Castle located in Thal, Switzerland, June 13-15 2014. The author sincerely thanks Beatriz Londoño Soto, Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia in Bern and Bernardo Romero Calderon for valuable information on Colombia. The views expressed are exclusively the author’s.
2 In force: Canada, Chile, China, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, India, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, United States. In negotiation: Azerbaijan, Israel, Kuwait, Panama, Russia, Turkey, Quatar, Uruguay.
3 In force: Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Switzerland. In negotiation: Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, United States.
4 Ratio of imports and exports to GDP.
5 Mexico (61.7%), Chile (58.8%), Peru (47.1%)
6 Consejo Privado de Competitividad, Informe Nacional de Competitividad 2013-2014, Bogota, 2013.
7 WEF, Global Competitiveness Report, Geneva, 2013.
8 Sergio Jaramillo, La Paz territorial, Speech, Harvard University, March 13, 2014. S. Jaramillo is Presidential Commissioner for Peace, negotiator in the current peace process with the FARC.
The Future Now Show – Launch in September 2014
Shape the future now, where near-future impact counts and visions and strategies for preferred futures start.
Do we rise above global challenges? Or do we succumb to them? The Future Now Show explores how we can shape our future now – where near-future impact counts. We showcase strategies and solutions that create futures that work.
Every month, for 15 minutes, we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges – sparking discussion about the connection between today and the futures we’re making – and what we need, from strategy to vision – to make the best ones.
The Future Now Show features
October Event: the future of Historic Pianos
|the future of Historic Pianos|
Monday, October 13, 2014
Location: Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, Herengracht 518, 1017 CC Amsterdam [this is not the regular museum entrance]
The conference language is English.
A collaboration between Geelvinck Museum Hinlopen Huis and the Club of Amsterdam and supported by PerspeXo.
Annegien Blokpoel, CEO, PerspeXo, Co-Moderator
The Club of Amsterdam in 2014 & 2015
Jurn Buisman, The Sweelinck Collection
Göran Grahn, orgel, fortepiano, clavecimbel
Giovanni di Stefano, Curator of Musical Instruments, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Richard Egarr, Conservatorium Amsterdam
Dick Verel, Museum of musical instruments Vosbergen, Eelde
and more ..
Transformation, Liminality and Change
by Colette Kavanagh, Ph.D., Cultural Psychologist.
The world as we know it is ending. There are changes in the economy, the climate, technology and lifestyle with globalization, technology and the internet accelerating this process. The evolution of societies worldwide is dependent upon the ability to generate new ideas, transform infrastructures, design new cities, services, products, organizations and companies. We need an in-depth understanding of the concept of liminality while also creating new systems of education and transforming ourselves.
Transformation and change are nothing new. Since the beginning of history indigenous societies were faced with the necessity to evolve, and those who failed to do so did not survive. However, the exaltation of scientific and technological reasoning has had its price and all around us we see its negative effects. In these times of spiritual, social, and economic breakdown, Western society is no longer equipped to deal with the disruption of liminality, nor able to integrate the tools for renewal. It is difficult for us to incorporate transient realities and transformational movements, and to navigate ourselves through the crucial liminal phase of transition.
“an interlude or limen when the past is momentarily negated and the future has not yet begun. It is a period of “fertile chaos” when everything is uncertain, yet one of pure potentiality where the mystery of possibility invites us to explore that which is wanting to emerge” – Colette Kavanagh
The word “liminal” comes from the Latin limen. It refers to “the threshold, or the initial stage of a process” (Oxford English Dictionary 8: 964). The World Book Dictionary defines liminal as “the threshold of perception” (2: 1214). However, it is not one threshold or turning point but two. Liminality is the passage between the two thresholds where one “story” or experience ends and a new one begins.
In simplistic terms, the first threshold to be crossed is leaving the “old story” or pre-liminal phase. For example, a period in one’s personal life, a job, a marriage, or a company’s way of being in the world may need to come to an end. However, without successfully navigating one’s way through the liminal passage where transformation takes place, one cannot hope to successfully enter the post-liminal phase or “new story” with any degree of success.
Transformation and change are not the same dynamic and need to be understood separately. Change frequently involves outer adaptations to a new experience. For example, a company may re-design its logo, modernize its image, uniforms, technology, the interior of their premises or even appoint new leaders. However, the change is results focused and usually involves a shift in the external situations based upon somebody’s perception of a problem. Change is much easier for people to accept than transformation. Transformation is the inner psychological process that people need to go through to come to terms with change. It involves the three-phase process mentioned above and may not be accompanied by short-term productivity. Therefore modern culture sees the liminal phase of transition as failure. It tries to quickly by-pass it especially when it is accompanied with a great deal of resistence and the outcome is uncertain. However, the greater the change the more attention needs to be given to this liminal phase of transition.
Liminality can best be described as “fertile chaos,” a storehouse of creative possibilities striving after new forms and structure, or a gestation process. It is what goes on in nature in the fertilized egg, in the chrysalis, and even more richly and complexly in it’s cultural homologues. Liminality is the seedbeds of cultural creativity, an abyss of pure potential: a no-man’s land betwixt and between the structural past and the structural future.
Liminality is vital to the maturation of any culture, society, organization, religion or company that wishes to serve the deepest needs of its people. Society is open-ended and is constantly re-generating itself. At socially significant moments in time, between fixed cultural categories, when elements of structural organization are temporarily removed or rearranged, cultural creation takes place.
In liminality, the individual may suffer a loss of identity. The previous social status may no longer be effective, yet the new identity role has not yet manifested. This transitional phase is disorientating because it involves significant changes in the dominant self. Individuals will be at different stages of transformation along the change curve and the emotional response to change needs to be recognised. Leaders of change also need to consider their own process of transition.
In the liminal or transitional phase of the transformational process, one enters an in-between space or time where creativity is at its most intense. It is a state where new values, behaviours, social dynamics and functions or structures are emerging and coordinated. It is vitally important that this phase is not completed too quickly. The necessity to adapt to market dynamics and pressure for innovation requires individuals and corporations to continuously transform themselves. However, the process of transformation takes time, and if the liminal phase is not given its due space the positive effects of transition will be lost.
Colette Kavanagh, Ph.D., lives in Amsterdam. She is a Cultural Psychologist who lectures internationally and has spent the past twenty years specializing in transformation, liminality and change.
When Pope Benedict unexpectedly resigned in 2013, the Catholic world was thrown into a state of chaos and liminality. If a pope could resign, future popes could, perhaps, be forced to resign!! At that moment, the University of California invited Colette to speak for half an hour on their radio station to discuss this historical transition and what it might involve for Roman Catholics worldwide.
Club of Amsterdam blog
by Humberto Schwab, Philosopher, Owner, Humberto Schwab Filosofia SL, Director, Club of Amsterdam
The Ukrainian Dilemma and the Bigger Picture
by Hardy F. Schloer, Owner, Schloer Consulting Group – SCG, Advisory Board of the Club of Amsterdam
The impact of culture on education
by Huib Wursten, Senior Partner, itim International and
Carel Jacobs is senior consultant/trainer for itim in The Netherlands, he is also Certification Agent for the Educational Sector of the Hofstede Centre.
What more demand for meat means for the future
by Christophe Pelletier, The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.
Inner peace and generosity
by Elisabet Sahtouris, Holder of the Elisabet Sahtouris Chair in Living Economies, World Business Academy
News about the Future
Nanotechnology for multifunctional roads
For Germany an increase in heavy traffic volume of about 40% within the next 15 years is predicted. Under these circumstances it is desirable to have construction methods both for durable and noise reducing road pavements. Nano-optimized concrete is a suitable material for this purpose.
In the research project of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research nanooptimized ultra high performance concrete is developed for multifunctional roads. Ultra high performance concrete (UHPC) is durable, robust, bearing and fine-grained. Thus it is appropriate for realizing specially designed low noise road surface textures achieving pass-by level reductions up to 5 dB and at the same time providing good grip. In a joint project with nine partners these textures were to be produced in road surfaces made from UHPC.
The main tasks included adapting the composition of the UHPC to the purposes of site mixing and texturing, adapting the predefined texture and the texturing method to the specific characteristics of UHPC, reducing the energy consumption required for producing the UHPC-compound by 40 % compared to standard UHPC-mixes. Appropriate mixing and construction technologies for on site construction in UHPC were developed.
Bottling Up Sound Waves
Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a technique for generating acoustic bottles in open air that can bend the paths of sound waves along prescribed convex trajectories. These self-bending bottle beams hold promise for ultrasonic imaging and therapy, and for acoustic cloaking, levitation and particle manipulation.
“We need to find ways to bend acoustic wave fields without depending on the use of a highly engineered medium,” says Xiang Zhang, director of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division. “With our bottle beam technique, we can design and synthesize acoustic bottles that are capable of directing sound waves along paths of desired curvature through homogeneous space without the need of metamaterials or any other highly engineered medium.” “Our technique offers a new degree of freedom for controlling the flow of acoustic energy at will.”
“These giant acoustic traps could lead to new technologies and devices for a variety of applications in chemistry, materials, as well as biosciences,” he says. “For example, by creating this three-dimensional bottle-like acoustic trap, we could use it as a micro-chemical reactor and manipulation of biological trafficking devices.”
Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible
by Daniel Burrus (Author), John David Mann (Contributor)
Flash Foresight offers seven radical principles you need to transform your business today. From internationally renowned technology forecaster Daniel Burrus – a leading consultant to Google, Proctor & Gamble, IBM, and many other Fortune 500 firms – with John David Mann, co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller The Go-Giver, comes this systematic, easy-to-implement method for identifying new business opportunities and solving difficult problems in the twenty-first century marketplace.
A UN report.
Investing in ways to adapt to climate change will promote the livelihood of 65 per cent of Africans, the United Nations environmental agency reported, warning also that failing to address the phenomenon could reverse decades of development progress on the continent.
Africa’s population is set to double to 2 billion by 2050, the majority of whom will continue to depend on agriculture to make a living, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“With 94 per cent of agriculture dependent on rainfall, the future impacts of climate change – including increased droughts, flooding, and seal-level rise – may reduce crop yields in some parts of Africa by 15 – 20 per cent,” UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.
“Such a scenario, if unaddressed, could have grave implications for Africa’s most vulnerable states,” he added.
In a new graphical report, Keeping Track of Adaptation Actions in Africa (KTAA) – Targeted Fiscal Stimulus Actions Making a Difference [pdf], UNEP details the implications of climate change, and provides examples of adaptation projects that range from forest ecosystem management to aquatics and agriculture.
The report describes sustainable examples of how countries in sub-Saharan Africa enhanced environmental and ecosystem resilience through the use of native plants and natural infrastructure, land plans and rainwater harvesting, among other examples.
The projects are integrated into national development policies which can strengthen and enhance the resilience communities against the impacts of climate change, while also contributing to the realization of the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to the report authors.
“By integrating climate change adaptation strategies in national development policies Governments can provide transitional pathways to green growth and protect and improve the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Africans,” Mr. Steiner noted.
The projects also highlight the urgency to act now in adapting to challenges, especially in developing countries where capabilities to respond to the magnitude of the problem are limited.
This year’s Africa Environment Day, marked annually on 3 March, focused on combating desertification on the continent and enhancing its agriculture and food security. The continent has lost 65 per cent of its agricultural land since 1950 due to land degradation, according to figures cited by UNEP. Up to 12 per cent of its agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) is lost due to deteriorating conditions and 135 million people are at risk of having to move from their land by 2020 due to desertification.
Neuromorphic ‘atomic-switch’ networks function like synapses in the brain
International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA):
While modern computers have revolutionized information processing, the mammalian brain continues to reign supreme in tasks such as recognizing sounds or objects, reading handwriting, or predicting where food may be found based on both memory and environmental clues. This contrast in performance stems from the radically divergent physical structures and operating mechanisms of neuronal networks and digital circuits. Computers employ a microprocessor to rapidly perform simple, error-free calculations in a sequential fashion and store data in physically separate memory banks. In contrast, the brain comprises a vast network of neurons serving simultaneously as both information processors and memory units, resulting in comparatively slow and imprecise operations in a parallel or distributed manner.
Most efforts to mimic brain function involve programming computers to create virtual neural networks. However, researchers at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA) at the National Institute for Materials Science, Japan are developing a neuromorphic device designed to incorporate structural aspects inspired by the cortical neuropil and produce the class of operational properties which underlie cognition in the mammalian brain.
The atomic switch, a recently developed nanoscale circuit element, has been shown to possess synapse-like properties in a purely inorganic device. Using a nanoarchitectonic approach, millions of atomic switch elements are incorporated into a densely interconnected network of silver nanowires. These atomic switch networks (ASN) retain the synaptic properties of their of individual component elements and generate emergent behaviors comprised of their distributed, collective interactions. Such emergent behaviors are a principal characteristic of biological neural networks and many other complex systems. Ongoing studies involve the utilization of these emergent behaviors for information processing toward the generation of a new class of cognitive technologies.
A look inside the ASN device reveals its highly interconnected architecture which comprises synaptic circuit elements at each point of contact between nanowires. The collective interactions between these atomic switches result in unique, emergent properties which have shown significant potential for neuromorphic computing.
Futurist Portrait: Riel Miller
Riel Miller, head of Foresight at UNESCO
For thirty years Riel has been co-creating innovation, leadership and transformation in both the public and private sectors around the world. He is one of the world’s leading strategic foresight designers and practitioners. Currently Riel holds the position of Head of Foresight at UNESCO in Paris. Previously he has worked as a senior manager in the Ontario public service (Ministries of Finance; Universities; and Industry) and for some thirteen years in total at the OECD in Paris (Directorates of Economics; Science & Technology; Education; Territorial Development; Development Centre; International Futures Programme). In 2005 he founded an independent consultancy – xperidox (which means knowledge through experience) to advise clients on how to use the future more effectively . Since 1988, when he managed his first major participatory foresight exercise (Vision 2000), Riel has designed over fifty applied futures projects around the world, large and small scale, public and private. He is an accomplished and innovative designer of processes for using the future to make decisions in the present.
`[…] Open learning and closed learning can generate similar capabilities – a better understanding of knowledge creation and acquisition. While closed learning emphasizes internalization of existing knowledge and the development of pre-defined skills and competences, open learning emphasizes the process of learning itself. Open learning occurs in social networks where learners gain and construct new knowledge and capabilities. It is often self-directed and problem-oriented. It is self-motivated, grounded in the learner’s personal context, and often it leads to very rapid competence development. The learning-to-learn that can augment closed learning and vice-versa. […]` – Promethean Thinking Deeper Research Paper No.2 – Introduction and Overview – Riel Miller
Interview of Riel Miller by Sirkka Heinonen on Creativity and Futures Design2011
|Season Events 2014 / 2015|
October 13, 2014
the future of Historic Pianos
Location: Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, Herengracht 518, 1017 CC Amsterdam
This is a collaboration between Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis and the Club of Amsterdam.
January 28, 2015
the future of Collective Intelligence
Location: The Cube, Stdio 5, 155 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ
This is a collaboration between The Cube and the Club of Amsterdam.