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A reflection on “As the Future Catches You” September 30, 2009

Posted by Nii Sai Sai in As The Future Catches You.
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Talk about getting a rude awakening! This book has changed the way I look at the world around me, and how I will make decisions in the future. It’s truly amazing that there is so much incredible stuff going on in science, right under our noses, yet most of it still remains obscured from our everyday lives. Several thoughts raced through my mind as I read the book, three of which stood out from the rest.

–          Genetically engineered food is here to stay, and will increasingly become mainstream

–          It is crucial that my wife and I raise our 3 kids with an awareness of where science is headed – genomics, proteomics, nanotechnology, etc.

–          How can I help my home continent of Africa to be a player in the changes that are taking place, rather than simply an afterthought?

 

Of course I’ve been aware of genetically altered plants and animals, but somehow I had never seen myself as being highly dependent on them. Yet I’m more convinced now that feeding the world’s ever-growing population will be a gargantuan task which could be eased by applying new science to how we ‘grow’ our food. I’ve even gone as far as to  wonder whether we’ll be using land to grow food at all in the future. Far-fetched, maybe, but then nothing should surprise us these days.

 

After reading this book, I know that I need to seek out more information about what is happening on the cutting edge of science and technology, and how the amazing innovations from science are being woven into everyday life. My wife and I have great aspirations for our three young children. We hope to help them pursue their dreams in life with uttermost dedication. Cool parents, right? Yes indeed! But how can we effectively guide them to the most promising careers of the future if we ourselves do not know or understand which way the wind is blowing? I remember my wife’s reaction when I told her that scientists had built a fully-functioning car the size of a grain of rice. Total amazement! Yet it’s humans who are pushing the envelope here, which means our children should have every opportunity to dream such big dreams too.

 

This leads to my third main thought stimulated by the book. Africa has long been plagued with problems that seem insurmountable. With the pace of advancement in science and technology, it seems as though the continent is being left behind even faster. However, there was a time when Egyptians were at the forefront of technology. There were incredibly powerful empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. There was vibrant trade with partners in the Middle East and Asia. But the current Africa is in need of an urgent tourniquet because we are a rather pale shadow of our past glory. We have not gotten into the ‘Knowledge Business’ on our own soil. We have thousands of accomplished scientists who ply their trade everywhere except in Africa. Our governments do not seem to give a hoot about that. We hear complaints about brain-drain every day, and those cries are certainly warranted and well-founded.

 

A lot of the aid flowing to the continent is to keep the engine running, barely, but not to build a totally new vehicle for advancement. Personally, I see the greatest hope for the continent in its youth. Whatever we can do to help Africa’s youth dream audaciously bigger will be of immense help. They too can be absorbed with genomics, proteomics, and nanotechnology, and create new fields of science themselves. I am therefore thrilled to see institutions like Ashesi University and the African Leadership Academy take root and gain support. We need more of those in Africa very quickly, because a few sprinkles will not do the trick. I have been thinking about how to create an exploration-driven summer program for high school students in Ghana, and am even more motivated now to make it a reality, really soon.

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