Cantor’s World

For policy makers, using indicators such as GDP, HDI or IWI is about trade-offs. What are the limitations of using these indicators, especially in a context riven by challenges related to sustainability and growth? Cantor's World, a multi-player computer-based game designed by Fields of View (FoV) and UNESCO-MGIEP, provides participants a first-hand immersive experience of the tension between economic growth and the country’s available natural and human capitals.

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Cantor's World is a game designed by Fields of View (FoV), a not-for-profit research group in India, and UNESCO-MGIEP, provides participants a first-hand immersive experience of the tension between economic growth and the country’s available natural and human capitals.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the most popular indicator used to measure a country’s economic progress, and the Human Development Index (HDI) was introduced to shift the focus to people’s capabilities. Both GDP and HDI do not bother about our dwindling natural resources, environmental issues, and its subsequent impact on our future. In order to address this gap, in 2012, a trio of organisations under the UN umbrella introduced the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI), which measures a country’s natural capital, produced capital, and human capital. The IWI is a way to acknowledge and articulate the interconnectedness of the economy, environment, and human well-being.

How can economists, students of sustainability studies, planners, policymakers, and anyone critically engaged with the question of sustainable development understand the IWI? To answer this question, Fields of View in collaboration with UNESCO-MGIEP designed Cantor’s World, a computer-assisted game designed for classroom or workshop settings for students of social sciences and policy-makers. Games have been widely used to understand complex problems as they allow participants to reflect upon their choices, explore and experience multiple outcomes, and learn from failure.

Cantor’s World is built on a model whose source database contains inputs from 140 countries listed by the UN. The source database comprises the data points for IWI, which include produced capital, human capital, natural capital, and the country’s available resources of most of the independent or stock variables used to calculate the wealth of capitals. The game has been designed based on databases on all dependent and independent variables, incorporating both mathematical and in-the-game equations.

A game session involves briefing (explanation of the game’s rules), game play, and a debrief to reflect on the play experience. In the game, participants will play the role of a chief decision-maker of a country. They will set goals in terms of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The game is played in rounds (each round marks a year) and in every round, players make choices about which policies to invest in. In other words, players can experiment with different policy choices, and experience first-hand the tug-of-war between short-term results and long-term sustainability. The game allows players to choose policies in each term and the impact of policy implementation will lead to changes in stock variables, and further changes to related capitals. As the game engages players to play the role of their selected countries’ chief decision-maker, they will be able to observe the impacts of changes made by them in the gaming platform. This will lead them to understand the theoretical part of their studies on Macroeconomic indexes and policy research methodology. At the end of each term or at the end of the game session, players will be able to map the in-the-game situation of produced, natural, and human capitals of their selected countries with the real world scenario.

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