TECHNOBYTE for 23 January 2015

A pair of new articles published in the BMJ this week highlight the debilitating effects of sedentary lifestyles and suggest a new public policy focus on getting the most inactive people moving. The average American is now sitting or otherwise inactive for over eight waking hours per day — a figure which only rises with age — and no age group above 30 is committing more than 30 minutes to moderate or vigorous activity per day. All adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week — a broadly supported guideline that has been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the new BMJ papers suggest that even that modest goal might be too high for some people and the priority should be to avoid inactivity as much as possible. The WHO identifies physical inactivity as "the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality" and estimates that it's caused 3.2 million deaths globally. Physically inactive people struggle against a variety of factors that discourage them from healthier lifestyles, according to the BMJ reports.

That’s the takeaway from the 2015 Trust Barometer survey, released by public relations firm Edelman every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This year’s survey, which came out Wednesday, looks at thousands of consumers in 27 countries to get a sense of public trust in business, government, NGOs, and media. This year, it’s falling across the board, with two thirds of nations’ citizens being more distrustful than ever of all institutions, perhaps no surprise given that neither the private nor the public sector seems to have answers to the big questions of the day—geopolitical conflict, rising inequality, flat wages, market volatility, etc. What’s interesting is how much people blame technology and the speed of technological change for the feeling of unease in the world today. Two to one, consumers in all of the countries surveyed felt that technology was moving too quickly for them to cope with, and that governments and business weren’t doing enough to assess the long term impact of shifts like GMO foods, fracking, disruptors like Uber or Apple Pay, or any of the the myriad other digital services that effect privacy and security of people and companies.

The lives of the world’s poor will improve more over the next 15 years than ever before, driven by technological innovations, from better vaccines and crops to mobile banking, Bill and Melinda Gates said Wednesday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. The co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who describe themselves as “impatient optimists,” laid out their vision of the transformative power of technology in the interview and an annual letter. The number of children who die before age 5 will be cut in half by 2030, to one in 40 from one in 20 now, thanks to vaccines and better sanitation, Mr. and Mrs. Gates said in their letter. The number of women who die during childbirth will decline by two-thirds, they said. Four diseases will be eradicated, they say—an optimistic stance given that a campaign to eradicate polio has faced challenges. Between now and 2030, most of the world’s poor will benefit from major technological breakthroughs in health, agriculture, mobile banking and education that will help them live longer and more prosperously, the billionaire philanthropists said.

This article first appeared on 702 : TECHNOBYTE for 23 January 2015



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