By

Alan Rusbridger

Amid our fear, we’re rediscovering utopian hopes of a connected world

(This post originally appeared in The Guardian, 29 March 2020; Illustration: Dom McKenzie/The Observer) The coronavirus blitz spirit has focused our interest on networks that make us stronger – the NHS, the BBC and the internet itself By Alan Rusberger, WATATAWA Senior Adviser If this is the worst of times, it is also the best of times. In our anxiety we are drawing deep reserves of strength from others. In our isolation we are rediscovering community. In our confusion we are rethinking whom we trust. In our fragmentation we are rediscovering the value of institutions. To each their own narrative or metaphor. If this feels like the blitz spirit to you, all well and good. Others find it helps to imagine a world recast through virtual networks. But what it amounts to is this: there is such a thing as society and we are all interdependent. And if it sometimes takes a grave crisis to remind ourselves of these truths, then this moment may well be historic for the possibilities of hope as well as for all the tragedy and turmoil. Nearly 200 years ago, the French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about the power we have been re-experiencing over the past few weeks: “In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.” Read more on The Observer >>

Why your next corporate hire should be a moral philosopher

By Alan Rusbridger, WATATAWA Senior Adviser (first published in Quartz at Work, 03 February 2020) Oil and water are, famously, not great mixers. Nor, it seems, are oil and theatre, which became apparent when the Royal Shakespeare Company announced it would no longer take sponsorship money from oil mammoth BP. Shortly after, the company severed its relationship with Shell. What the theatre’s namesake would have made of all this—like most things to do with the clouded life of the playwright—is difficult to know. As well as being a writer and actor, Shakespeare was a skilled entrepreneur, developing profit-share schemes, patronizing the wealthy and their institutions, and negotiating commissions (or “sponsorships” as we call them today) to underwrite his work. Was Shakespeare squeamish about who to take money from? We can’t know that, either. His plays famously wrestle with some of the great moral dilemmas of all ages. But the quandary of how to respond to the existential threat of a climate emergency, with all its potentially devastating impact on millions of species and billions of human lives, is one that Shakespeare never had to consider. To navigate this age of corporate-social existentialism, any CEO today is being called on to add a new skill-set to their CV: that of the moral philosopher. Read more at Quartz at Work >

Will we just accept our loss of privacy, or has the techlash already begun?

By Alan Rusbridger, WATATAWA Senior Adviser (first published in The Observer, 2 February 2020) Not so long ago we searched Google. Now we seem quite happy to let Google search us Probably too late to ask, but was the past year the moment we lost our technological innocence? The Alexa in the corner of the kitchen monitoring your every word? The location-betraying device in your pocket? The dozen trackers on that web page you just opened? The thought that a 5G network could, in some hazily understood way, be hardwired back to Beijing? The spooky use of live facial recognition on CCTV cameras across London. With privacy there have been so many landmarks in the past 12 months. The $5bn Federal Trade Commission fine on Facebook to settle the Cambridge Analytica scandal? The accidental exposure of a mind-blowing 1.2 billion people’s details from two data enrichment companies? Up to 50m medical records spilled? Read more in The Guardian Observer >>