Articles Tagged Life & Society

Nov 20, 2016
What did the Trump ascendancy reveal?

Donald Trump is now the world’s most powerful man, put there willingly by the world’s most successful nation. There were people who saw this coming, but I wasn’t one of them. I did not believe that a majority of voters would install this man as their leader. Consider what has just happened. Americans have voted […]

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Nov 06, 2016
Universal basic income – could it actually work?

Predictably, my column last week brought on a storm of responses. I wrote then that we might soon all be considering universal basic income (UBI) a possible response to a changing world. We might think it appropriate to give every person in the country an income to cover essential needs – without linking that income […]

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Oct 30, 2016
Will we be paying people to do nothing?

What would you say if I told you we might soon be giving every adult a basic income – whether they work or not? You would think I’ve finally flipped and lost my marbles after coming close to doing so many times in the past, yes? Well, allow me to explain a little further before […]

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Oct 23, 2016
Nature is our mother, and we must honour her

Nairobi in October is a sight to behold. It is as though a giant hand descends from the heavens wielding an artist’s brush, and paints vast swathes of the city a beautifully subtle shade of purple. I am referring, of course, to the fact that we have so many Jacaranda trees in our city. They […]

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Oct 09, 2016
You can’t resist an idea when its time comes

Two years ago I wrote on this page about Uber, the taxi-hailing app that has taken the world by storm. At the time, Uber had not entered these shores. It did so shortly after, and as predicted, overran the local taxi industry. One year ago I wrote that it was time to start thinking about […]

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Oct 02, 2016
To understand human endeavour, understand Hubris and Nemesis

In her book Signals, author Pippa Malmgren asks us to understand how the world economy works by going back to the ancient Greek concepts of Hubris and Nemesis. Hubris is what happens to people when they overdo it. They succeed, and therefore they become overconfident. They think they have unusual powers. They imagine they are […]

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Sep 18, 2016
Actually, I’ll wear brown shoes whenever I feel like it

“There are no circumstances in which you should be seen here in brown shoes.” Those were the words uttered by one of the old warhorse bosses in my first-ever job. He was talking to a group of us who had started out straight from university, in a global consulting firm located in the City of […]

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Aug 28, 2016
What our Marathon Man taught us

At the start, it looked like a fearsomely crowded field. There seemed to be a dozen or so highly talented fellows who could win this thing. I knew we had an outstanding man in the race, but I was afraid. There were many others there who looked equally well prepared and in prime physical condition. […]

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Aug 14, 2016
Your show-off purchase is not your achievement

For many people, the pinnacle of their existence occurs when they rock up at the village of their birth in a gleaming new 4WD. Or when they hold the housewarming party (which, let’s admit it, is just a house showing-off party) at their new abode. Or when they place that new iPhone on the table […]

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Jul 31, 2016
Get ready to reinvent yourself for a new economy

Technology threatens to upend our assumptions about work, employment and income. Is this a real threat to society, or just hyperbole? First, the optimistic scenario. When I was a young man in an economics class many moons ago, I was introduced to the “lump of labour fallacy.” This is the idea that there is only […]

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Jul 24, 2016
Will you have a job in the (near) future?

You know that the employment landscape is undergoing fundamental upheavals, right? You appreciate that the advent of robotics and artificial intelligence is going to give automation a big push, I hope? You realise that some studies suggest nearly half of all today’s jobs could be lost to automation – yes? And that it won’t take […]

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Jul 17, 2016
A city that’s lost its neighbourliness

It starts as a pulsating thud in the evening and gets progressively louder as the night goes on, often going into the early hours of the morning. Many, many Nairobians lie on their beds wide awake because of this noise, wondering what happened to good neighbourliness. The noise I refer to is the music being […]

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Jul 03, 2016
What did the United Kingdom just do?

The market reactions said it all: the pound plunged to levels last seen in the 1980s. British shares endured a bloodbath, some losing a third of their value. That tells you that no one had factored in a ‘Brexit’ – Britain voting to exit the European Union. I know I hadn’t – I never thought […]

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Jun 26, 2016
Humanity unites us; insanity divides us

This is a story about two mothers. The two women live side by side. They are neighbours. Each has a child, of similar age. The children go to the same school. The two mothers are often at each other’s houses, since they have much in common. They discuss the school, its teachers, their children’s nutrition, […]

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Jun 19, 2016
Why the grass is always greener on the other side

We are constantly peering over fences and into windows. The lives of others fascinate us. We have a lifelong obsession with knowing what they are doing; how they do it; what we need to copy from them. What are they wearing? Where do they get that stuff? How do they look so effortlessly stylish? I […]

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Jun 12, 2016
Beware of being imprisoned by your past

Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea was probably the first proper work of literature I read in school. Its vivid descriptions of ocean life and the ultimate heartbreak of the old fisherman stayed with me for long afterwards. I am always drawn to the sea, and for the past few years I have […]

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May 29, 2016
Peculiarly Kenyan occupations for your children

Fear of automation and disruptive change is everywhere. The traditional occupations are all under assault. The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics is expected to lay waste to so many traditional jobs across the world. Some think a third of all current jobs in the world could be rendered obsolete. Even the hallowed professions are […]

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May 22, 2016
Protect your ‘madness’ – it may be your distinction

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” So said Robin Williams, comic genius. I read that recently and found myself nodding, then thinking deeply about it over the days that followed. It is true. You must protect your madness. Robin Williams led a troubled life and committed suicide in 2014. […]

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May 08, 2016
If you want to fight evil, start with yourself

(Photo credit: suchosch / Flickr) Microsoft recently encountered an unexpected problem online. It introduced Tay, an artificially intelligent chat ‘bot’ to the world. It was conducting an experiment to see if Tay would learn from its conversations with people online and get progressively smarter. It was a train smash. Within 24 hours, Tay had turned […]

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May 01, 2016
Arresting the evil that lurks within us

I heard of a disturbing incident recently. Some young schoolchildren came across a cute little stray kitten in their compound. Far from being enticed by its innocence, they decided to pick it up and throw it against a wall. Repeatedly. Picture the scene: the tiny, helpless animal tries desperately to escape; the children grab it […]

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Apr 24, 2016
The things money can’t buy

We are obsessed with, fixated on and deranged by money in this country. From the top dogs to the little mutts – all seem to wake up with just one overwhelming thought in mind: “how do I lay my hands on more money?” Money, we think, is the escape from poverty and misery and the […]

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Apr 10, 2016
Life lessons from a happy porter

(Photo credit: Pixabay) The temperature was more than 40 degrees celsius. Dubai in summer is no joke, and when we arrived at the airport and stepped out of the air-conditioned car, it was like stepping into a furnace. Nonetheless a porter came running up in the blinding heat to take our bags and load them […]

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Mar 13, 2016
Could we all calm down and focus on our own lives?

This country just revels in drama. Every day it’s the same. A dramatic new bunch of stories to consume. Corruption accusations and counter-accusations. Televised arrests and sackings. Campaign insults and counter-insults. Hysterical family inheritance fights. Grim warnings of trouble to come. Pleas of innocence and claims of witch-hunts. Courtroom battles. Seven-day ultimatums. Who needs pulp […]

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Jan 31, 2016
Are you a ‘dead sea?’

(Sunday Nation, 31 January 2016) One thing that’s great about social media is that it reconnects you with old friends. Andrew Blacknell and I have a shared history. We went into our first job together, straight out of university. We were fresh-faced junior management consultants in one of the big consulting practices of the time, […]

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Jan 24, 2016
Where is everyone in Nairobi rushing to?

It’s Nairobi. There is, of course, a traffic jam. Many, many people are stuck in their vehicles. What is interesting is how agitated everyone gets. No one is calm. No one is reflective. No one meditates. No one takes the opportunity to catch up with the news headlines on the radio; to chill out to […]

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Jan 17, 2016
Our obsession with the ‘secrets’ of examination success

Every year, it’s the same. Every year Kenya’s public examination results are announced. Every year, the whole nation goes into a frenzy. Every year, we are told about “winners and losers.” Every year, there will be a newspaper article where the most successful students are asked to reveal the “secrets” of their success. And every […]

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Earth from Moon
Jan 03, 2016
In 2016, please start to play BIG

As 2016 opens and you trudge back to normal life, I fear you are about to do something very predictable. You are about to play SMALL. You will greet a few people and ask them the same banal questions about their holidays. You will settle down at your desk and use your employer’s bandwidth to […]

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Dec 27, 2015
What is your calling?

As the year ends and most of us spend some time away from work, we should cast an eye back. What is the actual work we did in 2015? Was it the work we should have been doing – or something else altogether? By the work you should be doing, I am referring to your […]

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