Like many Millennial and Gen X New Zealanders of my generation, my knowledge of New Zealand’s nuclear history has been told through my parents’ stories. My mum protested after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in the 1980s and my dad traveled throughout the Middle East when the Soviet Union was the dangerous part of the world to travel to. But aside from studying these events and time periods in high school history, I have little firsthand knowledge and understanding of the impact nuclear weapons have had on our society. Despite the Soviet Union collapsing only a few years before I was born, I really have no idea what it was like to live in a society which feared nuclear war.
We don’t really appreciate how lucky we are to live in an isolated country where exposure to nuclear weapons is unlikely. We don’t live in fear, although being nuclear-free is a big part of our identity. Our generation is actually largely apathetic towards nuclear issues as we feel the war has already been won. It’s hard to imagine the destruction which these types of weapons have caused the planet or to imagine that we could still potentially experience it again in our lifetimes.
The Cold War is over, the arms race is over. Despite this, there is still a risk that nuclear weapons will continue to pose a threat to the world. They are difficult to disarm in a way which ensures their very existence is a continuing threat. In the wrong hands, one nuclear weapon has the potential to destroy the world as we know it, hence the need for disarmament and neutralization of nuclear weapons. As much as they may form part of a state’s identity and sense of pride, they pose grave danger to the rest of the world.
While nuclear energy can also form a crucial aspect of a state’s energy reserves, it can too pose a grave danger if left unchecked. Nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima demonstrated the deadly and destructive power of nuclear energy, even when they are not weaponized. The nuclear forces of today are hundreds of times more powerful than the weaponized bombs of World War II, and could destroy our planet with a mere press of a button.
Where do we look to when we long for change? For a long time now, people have started to lose faith in traditional arenas like government. Instead, people have turned to technology. From Google to Amazon, tech companies have had a tremendous impact on society, transforming how we work, play, and communicate.
But have our hopes been misplaced?
Consider Elon Musk, who was once seen as a self-made visionary. Tesla and SpaceX promised to revolutionise the way we travel, now and in the distant future. Yet a series of alarming events have cast his reputation into doubt. In the span of a few weeks, Musk has had multiple public meltdowns on Twitter, baselessly accused a diver involved in the Thai cave rescue operations a “pedophile”, and invited investigations from regulatory agencies following a failed plan to privatise Tesla. Meanwhile, Tesla continues to bleed money quarter after quarter with no discernible path to profitability amidst reports of human rights abuses.
Now consider Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon recently struck $1 trillion market cap. Reports after reports unveil questionable practices within its warehouses, where workers are allegedly denied bathroom breaks. One survey suggests that over half of workers have suffered from depression since working at Amazon. In its search for a second headquarters, cities across the US offered tax breaks and other incentives in a bidding war, hoping to boost their local economies. Yet the effect of Amazon on these cities remains uncertain. Many argue that these incentives outweigh any potential benefits that Amazon might offer, while others fear the inevitable gentrification that this move might bring. Don’t forget decades of anti-competitive practices, including its questionable use of patents to force out competitors and even completely removing their products from its website.
These issues are rampant throughout the tech world. On one spectrum, Apple, accused of human rights violations within its supply chains; Facebook, embroiled within “fake news” and free speech debates; Google, fined €2.42 billion by EU anti-trust regulators; Uber, the poster-child for negative workplace culture. On the other end, Juicero, a startup focused on high-end juice subscriptions, whose products required a proprietary $700 juicer that was ultimately revealed to be unnecessary. Even as startups grow into full-fledged companies, they often remain being seen and treated as if their purpose remains the same, to disrupt. Never mind what needs to be done to fix the mess they leave behind.
Recently, governments have begun to hold tech companies accountable for their decisions. San Francisco decided to temporarily ban ride-share scooters from its streets, a contrast to Uber’s early days. Auckland itself is considering taxing properties used for Airbnb, given its well-documented negative effects on local rental supply. Under public scrutiny, tech companies have conceived plans to improve diversity, doing away with metrics like “personal fit,” often used arbitrarily to justify discriminatory hiring practices.
Technology remains a place where people can, and are, making positive differences. At the same time, we still need to acknowledge its very real shortcomings. Regardless of our attitudes towards tech, as global citizens, we need to hold tech accountable for the decisions it makes, the impact it has, and the values it upholds. If we long for change, instead of looking towards elsewhere, we should begin with ourselves and see our own potential to do good.
Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Innovation & Enterprise Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.
We suggest a legal business definition for ‘social enterprise’ to mitigate the current limits to growth. To allow for social enterprises to have a more widespread impact, we suggest a legal definition that includes:
Business objectives being outlined and approved through application;
A requirement that profit is not a primary objective;
Tax exemptions and broader investment conditions all monitored by a reporting system on financial and social goals.
We believe the lack of innovation within New Zealand industries, such as dairy, could lead to future market stagnation and economic dificulty. We advise the tax credit initiative implemented by the Government in 2008/2009 is extended to provide tax credits to companies that are using research and development (R&D) to improve their e ciency and sustainability. We see this as a cost-effective measure for government to encourage innovation.
New innovations such as blockchain, automation and AI have the potential to both transform the e ciency of New Zealand enterprise, and disrupt the future of jobs. We call on the Government to make upskilling and retraining accessible for youth and the existing workforce so our population can adapt. We suggest:
Adapting existing Polytechnic programmes;
Changing student loans and support requirements to increase accessibility for mature students.
We want to see government-funded incubators to support growth of SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) beyond the initial start-up phase (defined as registering the business). In particular, support should be provided to SMEs affected by disruption from large national and international companies. Providing SMEs with similar innovation, community spaces and resources as start-up incubators will help New Zealand businesses stay competitive against international pressure.
We suggest increasing promotion of innovation based development schemes and the creation of country specific conversion processes for qualifications. This will help resolve the skill shortages identified by the 2018 revision of the New Zealand immigration skill shortage list. If we invest in the necessary workers, they will invest in New Zealand.
New Zealand has potential to be a great testing environment for new products and services. We recommend corporate tax rates for entry “tester” businesses are assigned revenue-based tax brackets. For example, one model could be for businesses with an annual income under $100k to have a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, and all those earning over $100k taxed at the normal rate of 28%. We also propose “tester” businesses are given access to a pool of highly-skilled New Zealanders in various fields and assistance to establish an HQ in New Zealand, to enable long-term international links for New Zealand businesses.
We suggest the government supports innovation in sustainable and re- generative technologies to further the impact of the Zero Carbon Act and other environmental initiatives. We want to see more open syndicated government contracts aimed at stimulating environmental research and innovation, and the establishment of government involved joint ventures for increasing innovation in the environmental sector.
An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Yasith and Josh, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.
Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Science & Innovation Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.
We are concerned by the underrepresentation of women, Māori, Pacific Islanders, LGBTQIA+ and other minorities in STEM fields, and we suggest that proportional representation be achieved by methods such as, but not limited to:
Exposing children at a younger age to STEM subjects, to challenge the current social perceptions of STEM as options for a future career;
Increased media representation for minorities in STEM.
We believe every student should have the opportunity to pursue quality STEM education regardless of socio-economic or regional differences. A substantial portion of STEM education in New Zealand takes the form of private initiatives or extracurriculars, which are not universally accessible. We advocate for nationwide publicly funded STEM initiatives focused on accessibility.
We think children should be exposed to scientific ideas with an emphasis on inquiry, discussion, collaborative learning and critical thinking. We encourage the Ministry of Education to develop the curriculum to ensure that STEM subjects teach these skills, and have a more holistic approach.
We recognise that sustainable technologies will underpin industries of the future. We urge the promotion and development of sustainable technologies so that we may uphold the tikanga principle of kaitiakitanga and protect the taonga of Aotearoa, through:
Encouraging industries such as nanotech, software, and specialised industry through investments and preferential policy;
Working to ultimately make sustainable industries the backbone of the economy and preserve taonga by aiming for a significant but gradual reduction of polluters in the dairy and meat industry;
The development of new farming methods and technology to reduce the environmental impact of unsustainable industries.
We think that some jobs require human interaction. Automation is growing exponentially, bringing both benefits and challenges, including the loss of jobs in some sectors. We suggest:
Educating people on harder to automate skills in areas such as creativity, collaboration and critical thinking, at a younger age. We encourage the educating of these skills, especially at secondary school level;
Proactively exploring and supporting the creation of jobs based upon newly available technology.
We believe that the privacy and data of New Zealanders should be a greater concern of the Government, and we are uncomfortable with our data being collected and sold. We should be able to trust that our decision to opt-out of data collection is respected. Furthermore, we believe that terms and conditions should be more transparent, and this can be achieved by:
Limitations on the length of terms and conditions agreements;
A requirement that each agreement is understandable for the average reader.
We recognise science is a complex topic that may be hard to communicate with audiences. The media often misrepresents scientific topics for commercial or entertainment purposes. We would like to see a publicly funded independent organisation that holds the media and individuals accountable for inaccurate or misleading scientific claims.
An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Jason and Oscar, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.
“Surveillance is the business model of the internet,” — Bruce Schneider, Harvard Kennedy School of Governnment
2013, Yahoo. 3 billion users. 2014, eBay, 145 million users. 2015, Anthem, 80 million users. 2016, Uber, 57 million users. 2017, Equifax, 143 million users. As the globe progresses further into the internet era, what will 2018 look like for online privacy? How many breaches will occur? How many people will they affect?
A mere 5 months into 2018, we’ve already begun toppling some of these records. The recently unveiled Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is perhaps one of the most harrowing example. Dating back to 2011, over 87 million Facebook users saw their personal information breached and shared in an attempt to influence public opinion.
Though some of Cambridge Analytica’s highest profile activities were overseas, including the 2016 US elections and Brexit, New Zealand has not been spared. Despite only an estimated 10 people in the country downloaded the app through which user data were illegally obtained, over 64,000 users were impacted as friends’ data were also shared. Intended to provide useful data for academic research, Cambridge Analytica blatantly exploited this policy for sketchy commercial and political purposes, while Facebook did little to enforce its own rules. Yet what is more concerning is not necessarily the breach itself, but what purpose it was serving. With information on every aspect of your life: friends, family, location, interests, photos etc., Facebook has built a complete profile of who you are. The same ad-driven business model sustains numerous other household names: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.. Companies like Google probably know you better than your friends and family do; indeed, who would lie to Google? Some might think: What’s the big deal with getting more personalized ads? That might not even be a bad thing. Yet we need not venture far to see the potentially negative consequences. Authoritarian countries have already begun experimenting, such as China, which has recently rolled out a social credit scheme. Such a system punishes behavior, often by restricting access to fundamental human rights. The dystopian TV anthology, Black Mirror, also comes to mind. One particular episode, “Nosedive”, is set in a world where life is driven by getting good feedback from others on an app. Disturbingly, a similar app already exists in real life in the form of “Peeple”, which has received significant criticism for cyber-bullying and harassment on the platform.
Though these scenarios, both real and fictional, seem distant, we as global citizens need to actively reject them to prevent them from affecting our lives. So, what action can we take to combat them in a world increasingly saturated with the internet?
For one, enable 2-factor authentication on your online accounts, which prevents parties from breaking into your account with your password alone. Never reuse passwords, as a single breach might affect multiple accounts if you do so. Consider using a password manager, many of which are free of charge, or simply jot your passwords down on a physical notebook. Ever get annoyed by apps asking for permission? Go into your phone’s setting and revoke access for non-essential functions, with the added bonus of better performance and battery life. Visit Facebook and check what apps you have connected, and maybe remove some of them. You’ll be surprised by how many services accumulate over the years, many of them you may not even remember granting access to. These are but some of the easier steps everyone should take. Many around the world are deleting their Facebook accounts to protest its attitude towards privacy, while others are forgoing Google, opting for search engines that don’t track its users, for instance DuckDuckGo. These actions might not be realistic for many of us, yet it’s always important to keep your privacy at the forefront of your mind whenever you are online, which is most of our time these days. So ask yourself, what will 2018 look like for your online privacy? From instituting the guidelines above to educating others about this vital issue, there is so much we can do for ourselves, our communities, and society at large. As citizens of the internet, make your voice heard, and make your actions matter.
“Looking at the earth from afar you realise it is too small for conflict and just big enough for cooperation.” – Yuri Gagarin.
As the early rays of sunlight slowly bled across the horizon, Yuri Gagarin clambered into the spherical capsule spanning 2.3m in diameter1 – the Vostok 1. He would call this home for the next 108 minutes1. At 6:07 UTC, April 12, 1961, the cosmonaut launched into orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launchpad. He made one orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 327km above sea level. After 89 minutes in orbit at speeds of 27,400km/hr2, the spacecraft corrected its orientation for re-entry. As the one-man vehicle hurtled toward the ground, Yuri experienced forces 8 times that of gravity, but remained conscious enough to eject 7km3 above ground. As Vostok 1 made fiery contact with the ground, Yuri gently cascaded and landed in a dazed, safe and in a state near the town of Engels; thus, marking the first human space flight.
International Day of Human Space Flight was declared 12 April by the General Assembly passed in the resolution A/RES/65/271 on April 7 20114. The resolution reads as follows: “[IDHSF aims] to celebrate each year at the international level the beginning of space era for mankind, reaffirming the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples, as well as ensuring the realization of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.”
Every year we commemorate the accomplishment born from the Cold War rivalry, and every year we remember how the Space Race brought unto civilisation the fastest growing technology witnessed in its time. We recognise these feats not for the conflict for which allowed this progression, but for the limitless possibilities mankind can achieve by transcending unnecessary dissension. Further, we seek to establish fundamental principles in the conquest to better understand our universe. Cornerstones which ensure that in our time, and those to come, space exploration is synonymous with cooperation, accord, and unison.
For if Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind, then Yuri taught mankind how to leap.