Control room

When ignorance does more than you think

Unstudied conditions are avoided as vigilantly as possible—right now, when it matters—by control room operators of large critical infrastructures mandated to operate reliably and safely systemwide. Having failed to fail because an operator was behaving ignorantly is orthogonal to high reliability management. That said, ignorance has differentiated functions in large socio-technical systems—but in ways not…

Uncertain futures and the politics of uncertainty

Since writing The Romantic Economist – Imagination in Economics (2009) I have been fascinated by the link between the human capacity to imagine new futures and the prevalence of uncertainty. Imagination is both the ultimate cause of much of the uncertainty we face and our best tool for coping with it. This month sees the…

A new framework for thinking about technological change

Global development is all about creating change for the better.  One thing is certain: if we want to address the climate breakdown while achieving a high quality of life for all of the Earth’s citizens, it will take a transformation of the way we all live. Technological change will surely be an important part of…

Poster with text: Eradicate Measles

Measles, MMR and vaccines: where do vaccine anxieties come from?

Measles and vaccines are back in the news. The UK has lost its measles-free status, according to Public Health England. The Guardian reports that about 30,000 children are starting primary school next month with no protection against measles, mumps and rubella, while 90,000 have had only the first of the two vaccines necessary for protection….

What is revolutionary about the Green Revolution?

The dramatic increase in yields of wheat and rice in the 1960s and 1970s in India, along with many other countries in the post-colonial world, was framed as a technological breakthrough made possible by miracle hybrid seed varieties. This breakthrough ostensibly averted mass scale hunger and was central, so the story goes, to realising substantive…

Unpacking the epic narratives of the Green Revolution

by Lidia Cabral, Poonam Pandey and Xiuli Xu Nearly 50 years since its apex, the Green Revolution – a chapter in history associated with rapid expansion in agricultural production driven by science and technology – retains the power to inspire. In spite of the criticism emphasising its social and environmental costs, there is talk about…

‘What if?’ Meeting, making, dreaming, doing

Each week, the System Change Hive is exploring and experimenting with new solutions to societal and environmental problems, through creative arts practice. Artworks created will be exhibited in different locations around the UK and showcased online. The group is comprised of artists, communication experts, activists and STEPS researchers. In week 5, the session began by splitting…

Farmers with irrigation channels

Irrigating Africa: can small-scale farmers lead the way?

by Ian Scoones, Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene We often hear that irrigation in Africa is too limited, and that the key to a “green revolution” on the continent is to expand to levels seen in Asia. But what if there is much more small-scale, informal irrigation in Africa than we thought? Could this be…

Could Kenya’s local flour mills be an early warning system for famine?

By Fred Ajwang, Relational Pathways project In the Relational Pathways project, we have been exploring how rural people relate to technology in their everyday lives. This has included fieldwork in a part of Kenya called Machakos. One upshot of rural fieldwork is how easily one can slip in and fit into the community. And so,…

Triple exposure photograph with road sign reading 'Autres Directions'

Towards a more convivial politics of science

This is the last in a series of three blog posts by Andy Stirling about the theme of the STEPS Centre for 2019: Uncertainty. In previous blogposts in this series, I argued that not all is as it seems in the politics of incertitude. Deep intractabilities are papered over with the apparently precise language of…