Issue 16: Is Wellbeing the New GDP?

 
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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. We’re thinking about what makes for a smooth customer service interaction. Press one for a representative. – Joseph Dana, Senior Editor


THE BIG TAKE

Is Wellness the New GDP?

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You can’t avoid coverage of the global markets these days. Trade war concerns loom large over debates about a possible economic recession. But what if we are thinking about economics all wrong? Gross domestic product (GDP), dominates the way politicians, many economists, and the media think about the economy. But there is much more to a healthy economy than GDP.

Wellness indicator: Economists love growth. The goal is growth and GDP measures growth. But what counts as growth? National debt and money spent on natural disasters contribute to growth figures. But societal health and wellness are noticeably absent from the equation. This imbalance is ripe for disruption.

Building better numbers: Without happy and healthy citizens, what good is GDP anyway? Scandinavian countries have always been leaders in citizen wellbeing, but now the UAE is joining the charge. Through government initiatives like the National Program for Happiness and Wellbeing and various health-focused campaigns, the UAE is ensuring its residents enjoy all the benefits of wellness. In the knowledge-based economy of the future, wellness will be just as important as the consumer price index.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Our age of anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools!"

Marshall McLuhan, author


OUR VIEWS THIS WEEK

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The index has landed: In our first smart cities index, we set out to determine the global cities best at adopting technology and highlighting the human experience. We also considered where collaboration thrives and which cities remain true to their roots. Do you think we got it right? Which city didn’t make the list?

Big bespoke data: Over the past weeks, we've reflected on the use of data collection in our lives. While there are certainly challenges when it comes to data (we’re looking at you, Facebook), there's nothing to fear about data collection. In fact, data is helping us find better products, get healthy, and lead more fulfilling lives.


SPOTTED ELSEWHERE

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Better robots: Amazon, one of the world’s largest retailers, announcedit’s going to train at least a third of its staff on automation and other high-tech pursuits. This is big news for the Middle East. Not only does Amazon have a major foothold in the region through its purchase of Souq.com, but leading countries in the region are investing heavily in robotics. Whatever innovations Amazon crafts will be watched carefully close to home.

A fitting choice: A couple of weeks ago we pointed out that the US state of New Hampshire unveiled a highway marker honoring computer programming. The UK is now following suit with an announcement that the great mathematician Alan Turning will appear on the new £50 note. Without Turing's contributions, we wouldn’t be discussing many of the topics we pick over today. It’s a fitting memorialisation by the Bank of England to this towering figure.


 

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