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As the Future Catches You: A Call for Convergence September 24, 2009

Posted by Katie Swinerton in As The Future Catches You.
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Reading Juan Enriquez’s book As the Future Catches You I found myself, more than once, raising my eyebrows and shaking my head, thinking, “is this guy for real?” For instance – “If you can grow computers organically, it will be much easier for them to fix themselves” or “Gene chips will lead to personalized medicine…You will be able to test whether one medicine or another works better for you…Before you take it.”

And then I started to realize, that this shuddering reaction is sort of his point. I believe Enriquez wants us to confront our fear of change and of the acceleration of technology so that, instead of being blindsided, we can adapt appropriately to what will surely be a changed world (within our lifetimes). In recent conversations with friends of my generation, I’ve been surprised by a strong attitude of wanting to protect the status quo – they do not like the idea of Google’s store of personal data or the concept of electronic medical records. As a Haas student, I am one of the lucky few who is receiving an education about the forefront of the knowledge economy. I think the knowledge that we are receiving endows us with a responsibility to be stewards of the system wide changes that are, as Enriquez points out, all but inevitable.

Another thing that struck me is that, as Haas students, we have the relatively unique opportunity to explore and experiment with the convergence and integration of different disciplines. We have 240 individual backgrounds in our class and are surrounded by a campus full of leading edge research institutions. Enriquez sees a clear convergence between computer code and genomics, two disciplines that developed completely independently but actually have much in common. I wonder what breakthroughs members of our class could come up with if we thought through the merging of other fields.
While I am not sure that I agree that the future success of economies will revolve solely around “digital-genomics”, I think Enriquez is right in that those individuals and societies that will succeed most are those that understand and can harness system wide change instead of ignoring and denying it.

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