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2017/10/13 第188期 訂閱/退訂看歷史報份
紐時周報精選 Russia's Villages, and Their Culture, Are 'Melting Away'俄國村莊文化凋零 「很久沒有婚禮洗禮、多是喪禮」
Prepare for Change by Expecting the Unimagined學程式設計也可能會過時! 教育機制需要重建
Russia's Villages, and Their Culture, Are 'Melting Away'俄國村莊文化凋零 「很久沒有婚禮洗禮、多是喪禮」
文/Neil Macfarquhar

With its winding dirt lanes framed by lilacs, quaint wooden houses and graceful onion-domed church, the tiny farming hamlet of Baruta was once a postcard of Russian bucolic bliss.

No longer. More people lie in the tightly packed church cemetery than inhabit the village. Agriculture is slowly withering, too.



With Russia's natural population growth entering an extended period of decline, villages like Baruta are disappearing from across the country’s continental expanse.

"We have not had a wedding or a baptism for quite some time — we mostly have funerals," said a resident, Alexander Fyodorov, 59, one of just 17 men left in what was a thriving collective of some 500 farmers.



President Vladimir Putin frequently cites hardy population growth as a pillar of restoring Russia's place atop the global order. There is a pronounced gap, however, between the positive terms in which Putin and his advisers habitually discuss demographic trends and the reality of the numbers.

Russians are dying faster than they are being born, demographers said. Given the general hostility toward immigration, the question is to what degree the population of 146 million, including annexed Crimea, might shrink.



The number of deaths exceeded the number of births in 2016 by a few thousand, and the prognosis for the years ahead is poor. From 2013-2015, extremely modest natural growth peaked in 2015 with just 32,038 more births than deaths.

"The statistics and the propaganda are very different things," said Natalya V. Zubarevich, an expert in social and political geography at Moscow State University.



In terms of population loss, Pskov, which borders Latvia and parts of Estonia, is among the worst hit regions in Russia. The population peaked at around 1.8 million in the 1920s, said Andrei Manakov, a demographer at Pskov State University. It is down to 642,000, and projected to drop to about 513,000 by 2033.

Researchers estimate that out of 8,300 area villages in 1910, 2,000 no longer have permanent residents.



Under the most optimistic projections by demographers, Russia’s population by 2050 will stay the same, about 146 million, if immigration from Central Asia — which has also been dropping — balances out low birthrates. Less optimistic figures put the population around 130 million by 2050, and the most pessimistic say fewer than 100 million.




本文討論俄國的人口危機(demographic crisis)。俄國死亡率(death rate or mortality rate)高於出生率(birth rate),加上俄國人普遍對移民有敵意,所以人口勢必減少,問題只在減多少。

俄國出生率低,有人口學者認為主因是俄國對烏克蘭、敘利亞用兵,加上經濟不振,使人民覺得生活充滿不確定性,不願生兒育女;而俄國人大量飲用烈酒伏特加(high vodka consumption)和醫療資源分配不均(uneven health care),則使壽命變短(cut life short),平均壽命僅72歲。

標題中的melt away原指冰塊「融化」,引申為某物「消失」。postcard當名詞是明信片,但也可以當形容詞「如畫的」,等同於picturesque、picture-postcard(像風景明信片的)。本文中的postcard後接抽象名詞bliss,應解作「象徵」。


跟出生率相關的字是生育率(fertility rate),指平均每位婦女一生中生育的子女數。

Prepare for Change by Expecting the Unimagined學程式設計也可能會過時! 教育機制需要重建
文/Sendhil Mullainathan

Self-driving vehicles could upend the transportation sector and eliminate a million or more jobs. Algorithms that decode MRIs put a whole medical subfield at risk. And the list of professions and sectors soon to be obsolete grows steadily by the day.

New technologies are rattling the economy on all fronts. While the predictions are specific and dire, bigger changes are surely coming. Clearly, we need to adjust for the turbulence ahead.



But we may be preparing in the wrong way.

Both history and psychology tell us that our capacity to predict the future is limited, while our capacity to believe in such predictions is unlimited. We have always been surprised.



Rather than planning for the specific changes we imagine, it is better to prepare for the unimagined — for change itself.

Preparing for the unknown is not as hard as it may seem, though it implies fundamental shifts in our policies on education, employment and social insurance.



Take education. Were we to plan for specific changes, we would start revamping curriculums to include skills we thought would be rewarded in the future. For example, computer programming might become even more of a staple in high schools than it already is. Maybe that will prove to be wise and we will have a more productive workforce.

But perhaps technology evolves quickly enough that in a few decades we talk to, rather than program, computers. In that case, millions of people would have invested in a skill as outdated as precise penmanship.



Instead, rather than changing what we teach, we could change when we teach.

Currently, all the formal education most people will receive comes early in life. Specific skills may be learned on the job, but the fundamentals are acquired in school when we are young. This sequence — learn early, benefit for a lifetime — makes sense only in a world where the useful skills stay constant.



But in a rapidly changing world, the fundamentals that were useful decades ago may be obsolete now; more important, new essential skills may have arisen. Anyone helping a grandparent navigate a computer has experienced this problem.

Once we recognize that human capital, like technology, needs refreshing, we have to restructure our institutions so people acquire education later in life. We don’t merely need training programs for niche populations or circumstances, expensive and short executive-education programs or brief excursions like TED talks. Instead we need the kind of in-depth education and training people receive routinely at age 13.



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