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Ibrahim Farsight Award

2055, Australia; European Union; England

This article from the Ibrahim Farsight award illustrates the gradual global shift from short-term to long-term political thinking:

There are some names among today's announcement of the Ibrahim Farsight award winners that everyone will recognise: Saitta, Lindemann, and Markus Wolfe. But as with previous years, most recipients of the award are barely known outside of their home cities.

The purpose of the Farsight Foundation is to recognise and reward the politicians and public administrators who have made difficult decisions — decisions whose effects can only be evaluated many years or decades after any potential short-term political gain. In honour of that sentiment, we feel it's important to champion three of the lesser-known winners who will be receiving the Ibrahim Farsight award.

1. Francesco Cardoso, English MP 2025-2030

During his first and only term in Parliament, Cardoso was one of the few MPs to vote against a highly popular bill to invest billions in virtual reality hardware for schools. Cardoso argued that the available VR educational content was poorly devised and that not enough money was set aside for teacher training. For his pains, he was painted as a luddite by many delegated authorities and subsequently lost his seat in the next election.

Cardoso's other achievement, of increased preschool funding in his home constituency, was only recently proved to have significantly increased the quality of life of thousands of individuals over the past 30 years. The funding has also been linked to noticeably decreased crime rates compared to other English regions. What Cardoso did was not particularly novel or complicated — even at the time, research on the efficacy of preschool spending was widely available — but he did it at the expense of his own political fortunes.

2. Kristina Ibanez, ESA Senior Research Administrator 2029-2050

During the 20s, the European Space Agency was coming off a high from their successful Mars sample return missions. ESA administrators, encouraged by EU politicians hoping to reap the benefits of a blue-and-gold flag on the red planet, pushed to realign the Agency's budget towards a human mission to Mars. Time was of the essence, since they wanted to beat a proposed CSA-SpaceX venture.

Amid the hubbub, Ibanez successfully petitioned for the ‘Space Resiliency’ budget to be maintained while almost all others were cut. Her advocacy of research into keeping critical orbital resources including weather, communication, and power satellites available even in the aftermath of a freak solar storm or similar major disaster unequivocally showed its value in 2052, following the Cascade.

While geosynchronous satellites were thankfully untouched by the destruction, thousands of important satellites in low Earth orbit were destroyed, causing untold harm to those who depended on them. The ESA's ‘Space Resiliency’ fleet of hardened, reconfigurable nanosatellites — originally commissioned by Ibanez — was deployed within hours of the Cascade, using high-powered transmitters to cut through the noise.

Designed specifically for humanitarian use, the fleet was directly responsible for saving tens of thousands of lives through continued weather monitoring and communications. Thanks to Ibanez, the blue-and-gold flag helped save the blue planet.

3. Tyler Robinson, Australian Treasury Adviser, 2032-2036

The 'Great Resources Recession' of the early 30s was a crushing burden on Australia, a country that had long benefitted from its exports of natural resources. As the economy slowed down and began contracting, the usual tactics of cutting interest rates and stimulus spending proved inadequate.

Robinson, then a junior adviser at the Treasury, made an extremely risky and very public case for the use of negative interest rates on private savings to discourage hoarding and increase economic activity. Negative interest rates had previously been seen as a purely theoretical solution given the continued use of physical money, but with more than 99 percent of transactions in Australia handled electronically by 2038, it was finally feasible.

Robinson's plan was met with fierce opposition, particularly from older voters. Arguably, it was only enacted due to the fact that other solutions had failed, and the promise that it would purely be a temporary measure. Did it work? Predictably, Robinson's supporters say yes, while his detractors claim that a general global economic improvement was responsible for Australia's return to moderate growth.

Today, the use of secure quantum computing to gather fine-grained economic activity has allowed the Australian Department of Finance to determine that negative interest rates were indeed a significant contributor to recovery. The Prime Minister at the time took the credit, but it's heartening to see that Robinson's role has finally been recognised.