Why is our Refugee System Failing — Part Four of Iris.AI’s Favorites from TED2016
Why is our current refugee system failing so miserably, and what can we do to fix it? How can we achieve radical leaps such as interstellar travel? And how can we move beyond our intuition to explore territories outside our grasp?
In the past couple of weeks we’ve watched a number of mind-bending talks from the TED Conference 2016, held in Vancouver last month. Of them we picked 10 talks that raised the roof. This final set of our picks seeks answers to the questions above. Check them out, and explore the relevant open access science pulled together by our artificial intelligence.
#8 Alexander Betts: Rethinking our response to the refugee crises
How has the situation come to this, that we’ve adopted such an inhumane response to a humanitarian crisis?
“Although we have international treaties, signed by 147 countries, that recognize that refugees are a shared responsibility, we accept that tiny Lebanon hosts more Syrians than the whole of Europe combined”, points Alexander Betts, the director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. In his TED talk, Betts asks two very fundamental questions about the crisis: Why is the current system failing so miserably, and what can we do to fix it?
The global refugee regime today presents refugees with an almost impossible choice between three options: encampment, urban destitution, and dangerous journeys. Betts urges the audience to reconsider that choice. The system is currently framed as a zero-sum issue: if we benefit refugees, we’re imposing costs on our citizens. Our collective assumption is that refugees are an inevitable cost to society. But that’s not true. They can contribute too if we let them do it.
With concrete examples from Uganda, Betts demonstrates how providing refugees with opportunities for human flourishing benefits everyone: the host states and communities, our societies and refugees themselves. He suggests four concrete ways, all linked with the opportunities of globalization, mobility and markets, to transform our current refugee paradigm.
Yes, there’s a lot of research done in different domains related to the topic. Iris.AI figured out part of it – although struggled a little with a couple of concepts (by the way, if you’d like to help her improve to choose keywords, sign up for our AI Fellowship Program at iris.ai).
#9 Cedric Villani: The thrill of mathematical reasoning
Mathematics allows us to go beyond intuition and explore territories outside our grasp.
“What is it that French people do better than all the others? If you take polls the top three answers might be love, wine and the whining. Maybe, but let me suggest a fourth one – mathematics”, says Cédric Villani, mathematician from l’Institut Henri-Poincaré. He tackles problems in mathematical physics with precision and personal style and has resolved difficult problems of kinetic theory, for which he received the Fields Medal in 2010.
In his talk Villani points out how mathematics pushes us to go out of our intuition, measure and explore territories which do not fit within our grasp. Remember, for example, the story about Jan Richter who noticed in 1673 that a pendulum swings slightly slower in Cayenne than in Paris? From this observation Newton deduced that the earth is a bit flattened at the poles. More recently, mathematics made it possible to explore and find relevant information from the vast amount of content online. Villani mentions the Page Rank, one of the early cornerstones of Google, as an example. The algorithm behind it uses the laws of mathematical randomness to determine automatically the most relevant web pages. This is, of course, just one of the numerous industrial applications that leverages mathematical theories today.
Mathematics may be abstract, but it’s not dull. It is about reasoning and… imagination. “So, when you come to Paris, after you’ve tasted the great crispy baguette and macaron, please come and visit us at l’Institut Henri-Poincaré and share the mathematical dream.”
The reasoning of Iris.AI is based on a number of mathematical theories, like mathematical randomness, mathematical analysis of multidimensional vector spaces and functional analysis. Have a look at the science pulled together by our unique combination of NLP algorithms: https://the.iris.ai/map/6720
#10 Mae Jemison: Radical leaps
Human interstellar travel is necessary for building a better tomorrow. It fosters radical leaps in our understanding.
What’s the common denominator of a wheel, a light bulb and the germ theory? “They all represent radical leaps, something that we changed the world with, something that actually transformed us from one generation to the next and caused discontinuity in the way things were”, explains astronaut Mae Jemison, the first coloured woman to have travelled to space.
Achieving these leaps is now more important than ever. There are a number of gigantic problems that our humanity is facing, and we cannot solve them through incrementalism. Yet we are building our world with an incremental mindset that only lets us to take baby steps forward. So, the question is, what holds us back?
Jemison’s next radical leap is to achieve interstellar travel in the next 100 years. She runs a US-government-funded initiative focused on this endeavour. In her view, there are two cornerstones to take into consideration when building radical leaps. First of all, goal-setting. People need to feel comfortable and connected with what they are pursuing. Secondly, you need to get rid of our current research silos and build teams across disciplines. “None of the problems we are facing today can be solved by just one discipline”, she argues. Just think about the the case of interstellar travel, which is certainly not just about rocket engines. The challenges are huge — objects are incredibly far apart, crews have to be autonomous, and everything is very, very dark. So you need to think about clothing, sustainable agriculture, communication, health and so much more…
Iris.AI picked relevant concepts from Jemison’s talk: https://the.iris.ai/map/6719. However, she didn’t find many papers from the open access research database she currently pats (DOAJ). She’d like to read more. In case you know databases that are open and cover these topics, let us know and we’ll give them for her to read!