Friday, November 9, 2018

Katharine Murphy on Climate Change

Greetings from the ANU Climate Change Institute in Canberra, where journalist Katharine Murphy is speaking on politics and climate change. She started by using a metaphor of car manufacturing from her book "On Disruption". She claimed that the "disruption" to journalism by the Internet was unexpected and sudden, like car workers turning up and funding their jobs replaced by robots. However, I don't find the claim the Internet's changes to journalism were unexpected to be credible.

A better metaphor would be if some car workers were seconded to a robot development program, and rather than keep this secret, gave their fellow assembly line workers regular reports over a decade warning the robots were going to take their jobs. The assembly line workers dismissed the reports, and rather than look for another job, re-skill for the change, or raise opposition, just kept working on the assembly line until one day they were replaced. This is essentially what happened with the media.

Katharine Murphy suggested that climate policy should not let "perfect be the enemy of good". She criticized the Greens for opposing Keven Rudd's carbon policy. She suggested we needed to "harness the moment" for climate policy. One of the audience asked about what was the role of scientists to support the young on climate change. In reply Katharine Murphy pointed out how many of the young registered to vote for marriage equality. She went on to express concern that the public become numb to news reports of climate catastrophe.

Getting back to the issue of the Internet's disruption of journalism, something similar is now taking place in universities. Students are not attending most lectures, to the point were universities are demolishing lecture theaters. Students now study mostly on-line, but most university "lecturers" do not accept this reality. At some point in the next few years the change will become very public, with closures of campuses, consolidation of institutions, students studying online at overseas institutions and unemployed academics. At that point the lecturers who ignored calls for change for years will express shock at this "sudden" and "unexpected" change. Those of us who re-skilled for the change and proposed how to adapt, will have to just say "that is unfortunate".

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