Thursday, August 09, 2018

Survival Models

Always have some time between thinking and sleeping, for your mind to calm down. I learnt this lesson most vividly when I was doing a course called ‘Survival Models’ at University. If you think that name is bad, it used to be called ‘Mortality’. In it, you learnt to model different states and the probabilities of moving between them. After spending a day studying this, I can remember not being able to sleep. In my head, I believed I was allowed to go to sleep once I had calculated the probability of such a transition. A nonsense problem that couldn’t be solved. I would flip between realising that, and scolding myself, and then going back to trying to solve the nonsense problem. Neither resulted in sleep.

A Self-Portrait from my Survival Models days

I had to do that course twice. I failed the final exam horribly along with most of my class. I had to transition to doing the course again. The second time around, suddenly things started to sink in better. I was able to help those doing it the first time, and in doing that I was teaching myself. Sometimes we move on from what we have learnt too quickly. Failing that exam was a blessing. I got to spend more time genuinely wrapping my head around which were real problems, and which were nonsense ones.

I am now very interested in the way Hans Rosling (Gapminder) argued that we should reframe the ‘Developing World’ and the ‘Developed World’. In 'Factfulness', he argues that the gap between the two has disappeared. That instead, we should be talking about Income Levels. He defines Level 1 as people living on less than $2 a day (about 1 Billion people). Level 2 live on $2-8 a day (about 3 Billion People). Level 3 live on $8-32 (2 Billion), and Level 4 live on more than $32 a day (about 1 Billion).

Level 4 people know very little about actually living on Level 1, but are often in a position to start trying to help. Help often comes with strings. I prefer empowerment. One of those methods of empowerment is recognising the strength that is already there. I would love to learn about more real Case Studies of the transitions between levels. How do real people get from Level 1 to Level 2. From Level 2 to Level 3. From Level 3 to Level 4. How often are these transitions happening every year? What is working? What isn't?

If we built Community Wealth Funds with 150 people on a variety of those Levels, that could be a powerful tool to create a bottom-up Universal Basic Income. People living on $32 a day, could probably kick-start transitions by ensuring no one lives on less than $2 a day. There are about as many people living on more than $32 a day as living on less than $2 a day. They could buddy up. I always prefer names and faces (real) to abstract (nonsense) problems.

I know I would sleep better as part of a Community that was looking after each other.
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