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As the Future Catches You October 31, 2009

Posted by Aaron Schwartz in As The Future Catches You.
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I found myself frustrated with this book. Until the end, that is, when Enriquez notes: “I apologize for simplifying so many debates and concepts. My objective is not to teach you everything you need to know about technology but, rather, to start a debate.” This made the work come together for me.

The book is about change, and rapid change; this is encapsulated by the phrase, “Future catches up to the imagination too quickly”. First it was improved communication. Then the Internet. Then micro-knowledge (genes, nano, etc.). He’s not just pointing this out for us to digest, but almost as a warning. Those countries, people, companies, families, groups that do not value technology and that do not prepare themselves to understand the movements that are going on (let alone lead those changes) are shooting themselves in the foot. Some think you have to run to stay in place. Enriquez thinks you have to be on a rocket ship to stay in place, and figure out something faster to move ahead of others.

I was interested in his thought that national resources are actually a constraint, because resource-rich countries end up being intelligence-poor. Similarly, I’m encouraged by his take that, the more you learn how to learn, the better off you’ll be. As a liberal arts undergrad, that makes me happy . . .

He has one point that is probably true, but which I think he would approach differently if he were writing in 2009 in Berkeley. The top 20% of society that understands technology is getting richer, faster, than ever before. True! But what that 20% do is what matters in this situation, and if social entrepreneurship takes off, if “doing good by the world” wins out, then that acceleration may not necessarily be a doomsday scenario.

 

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