Governing in an Interdependent World

Autonomy is so 20th century—at least in terms of governing nations. A half century ago, governments were relatively independent entities. They could make fairly autonomous decisions about their nations’ economic futures. MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer, a noted economist, sees a new world order today in which individual governments no longer enjoy the same kind of economic independence they once had.

OttoA world economy, Scharmer explains, is one in which capital accumulation proceeds throughout the world, while a global economy has the capacity to function as a single unit “in real time on a planetary order.” A world economy has existed for five centuries, he points out, but a global economy has been in place for only the last two decades, driven by new infrastructures built on advances in information and communication technologies.

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Tracking obesity with system dynamics

On the surface of it, obesity can be misunderstood as a rich nation’s disease.  After all, a glance at the World Obesity Map shows that in historically famine-stricken Ethiopia, obese women account for 1% of the population, while that number skyrockets to 35% for women in the United States. But obesity is every bit as much a cultural indicator as it is an economic indicator. In Sweden, undeniably a prosperous nation, the obesity rate among women is closer to 14%.

World_Obesity_Federation___World_map_of_obesity

Professor Hazhir Rahmandad, MIT Sloan School of Management Visiting Professor, is using system dynamics (SD) to create a model to track and predict U.S. adult obesity trends and recently published his findings in the American Journal of Public Health. In the article, Rahmandad and his colleagues examine the energy imbalance gap (EIG)—an individual’s average daily excess energy intake minus the total daily energy expenditure. Rahmandad believes that the EIG is at the heart of understanding obesity. It’s an essential step, he says, toward the design of obesity prevention and intervention programs targeted at specific population groups.

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