Aug 7, 2021

Building Common Purpose with Sir Paul Collier (podcast)

A continuous process of dialogue in which people hear each other — rather than just shout at each other — gives rise to common purpose.

By Templeton Staff

“A healthy society works on a presumption that people will behave decently to each other in a thousand little ways.” The willingness of citizens to enter into this kind of mutual obligation (that extends beyond paying taxes and obeying laws) “adds up to the pleasure of mutual rights,” says Sir Paul Collier, professor of economics and public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

To forge a common purpose and then coordinate action around it, there must be an underlying feeling of that purpose being co-owned by all the participants—a feeling that everybody's voice is heard. A healthy democracy is a continuous process of dialogue in which people hear each other, rather than just shout at each other.

For this episode of the podcast, Professor Collier and Richard Sergay talk about how democracy depends upon building an informed citizenry, and how an informed citizenry needs to have common narratives. Citizens understand roles, or misunderstand them, through narratives. For example, Collier shares how populations who are habituated to mutuality, largely through leadership communicating a well-informed narrative to their community, have had success with Covid mask and social distancing compliance, in contrast to the higher Covid mortality rates associated with polarized societies, whose focus has been on individualism and who were often overly-reliant on “social media bubbles” for their information.

“Social media to date has by and large, amplified divergence, because it's enabled people to join into echo chambers where everybody agrees with each other. It doesn't have to be like that. All of the evidence is that Artificial Intelligence allied to good human purpose makes it easier to achieve those human purposes,” says Collier. In the podcast discussion, he further shares his thoughts on both the dangers and the hopeful possibilities of AI and algorithms in response to the Templeton World Charity Foundation funded Oxford report “Citizenship in a Networked Age,” which explores the influence of technologies, such as the Internet and machine learning, on civic ideals in the 21st century.

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay, presented by podcast producer Tavia Gilbert. Featuring: Sir Paul Collier, professor of economics and public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and best-selling author, including The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties, and his latest release, with John Kay, Greed is Dead: Politics After Individualism. In 2014, he received a knighthood for services to promoting research and policy change in Africa.

Built upon the award-winning video series of the same name, Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” podcast features stories of new scientific research on human flourishing that translate discoveries into practical tools. Bringing a mix of curiosity, compassion, and creativity, journalist Richard Sergay and producer Tavia Gilbert shine a spotlight on the human impact at the heart of cutting-edge social and scientific research projects supported by TWCF.