How are you?
Written by Malcolm Robertson, founding partner
19 February 2021
As the face appears and the audio is connected, the digitised face I see before me invariably then asks: “how are you?”
In Scotland, at the best of times, we are conditioned to say: “not bad”, which we believe sounds better than “not good” and is therefore classified as an upbeat riposte.
This week, having been asked “how are you?” many times a day, I have finally come to the realisation that I have no better reply – certainly no better polite reply – than “not bad”.
I was brought to this point by the tired look on the face of one of my sons as I asked him the same question one morning this week. For a moment, I was struck by guilt. Why ask a question to which the answer might be “fine”, when it is plain to see that he is far from fine?
Our first piece this week is a sobering view of the damage likely being done to the social intelligence of children living through this pandemic – “the lost generation”.
We cannot yet know the long-term impact of this sustained and increasingly uncomfortable period of isolation, but it is reasonable to assume that it will be not be good.
The ability of children to solve problems, plan, pay attention, empathise, develop language – all skills we adults take for granted – is being undermined, every long hour of every long day. Unlike the pandemic itself, we can see this crisis coming and one can only hope we are better prepared.
Elsewhere, we have found a typically eclectic mix of long reads, brought together by an inspiring team of brilliant, inquisitive minds. I hope you enjoy those.
In the meantime, I hope your weekend is not bad.
1. The lost generation
They may be less likely to get ill as a result of Covid-19, and their transmission rates may be low, but children are still victims of the global pandemic. From their mental and physical health, to their education to neurological development – they have not been unaffected. While it may be years, if not decades, before we fully understand the full impact, we already know that children have all but lost any opportunity for social learning during three long lockdowns. How has this affected their development, and what could be yet to come?
Most importantly, what can be done about it?
Read in The Conversation
2. Bill Gates’ plan to save the world
Bill Gates has recently become fairly synonymous with the pandemic. Whether through ludicrous fears about him microchipping vaccines to – more importantly – his scarily prescient predictions on how Covid-19 would play out around the world, it feels like he’s had a lot of air time recently. He’s now speaking up on climate change, and as this article outlines, there is good reason to listen to what he has to say.
Read in Wired
3. The ticking time bomb
The rapid switch to home-working in many sectors has created hope for a flexible mix of home and office working once restrictions are lifted. But a new study shows this mix may create a chasm in the workplace. Those who work from home when they have the option of working in person are likely to miss out on promotions and opportunities. Home-working is likely to skew towards those with family or caring responsibilities, especially women. This creates a growing risk that mixed working may prove to be a source of division, acrimony, and litigation.
Read in Financial Times
4. A special relationship?
The rift between the United States and the European bloc continues to widen despite President Biden’s efforts to reinforce the cultural similarities and shared interests between the US and the EU. Among them, tackling climate change and Chinese economic expansionism. These efforts have been met by a hardened Europe, one that left to its demise after four years of Trumpian protectionist policies and a global health pandemic, has become increasingly mercantilist. European silence on Alexei Navalny’s jailing by Russian authorities, and its increasing trading partnership with China, should signal to the US that their special relationship might not be so special after all.
Read in The Spectator
5. Unethical A.I
Many believe that artificial intelligence has great transformative power and the potential to change the way we live, work and interact. But as a growing number of researchers have warned, A.I. can similarly be used for unethical purposes such as profiling and surveillance. This begs the question – who should be responsible its ethical control?
Read in The New Yorker
6. France, Islam and Laïceté
Western culture is often distinguished by secularism, a principle of state governance that separates “church” from “state”. One of the founding principles of the French Republic, Michael Barbaro, host of The Daily podcast, and his guest, Constant Métheut, a reporter for The New York Times in France, question whether a secularist society is fit for purpose in an increasingly migrant and multicultural world.
As France is often target for extreme terrorist attacks, does legislating laïceté unite as a matter of national security, or does it increase hostilities and divisions?
Listen on The Daily
7. Defenders of the royal family’s honour
At this point, keeping up with the sensationalised reporting of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ every move sounds a lot like beating a dead horse. Yet, when the media looks inwards, towards its own misgivings and misreporting, it feels like a breath of fresh air.
Read in The Guardian
8. Liverpool’s levelling up
The city of Liverpool was once a byword for decline. The recessions of the 1970s destroyed its docks and manufacturing base, creating long-term unemployment and stoking social unease. The 1981 riots in the Toxteth area turned the city’s woes into a national problem.
Liverpool has since then undergone an economic revival. Manufacturers based in the area like CNC Robotics contribute £3.2bn to the UK economy and employ 50,000 workers in over 3,000 companies – almost 10% of the region’s employment base. Employers like Jaguar, land Rover, Unilever and AstraZeneca further help encourage talent to the region. In building back better after the pandemic, Sebastian Payne proposes that the Liverpool’s rebirth be used as a template for other parts of England.
Read in Financial Times
And finally… Reimagining Stonehenge
Where do we come from and how did we get here? The eternal questions. The fascinating discovery that the original Stonehenge first stood in what is now Wales, and was transported more than 140 miles to Salisbury Plain, tells us that the human story has always encompassed belonging and migration.
Read in The Conversation