Synopses & Reviews
You will never look at the world in the same way after reading As the Future Catches You
. Juan Enriquez puts you face to face with a series of unprecedented political, ethical, economic, and financial issues, dramatically demonstrating the cascading impact of the genetic, digital, and knowledge revolutions on your life.
Genetics will be the dominant language of this century. Those who can “speak it” will acquire direct and deliberate control over all forms of life. But most countries and individuals remain illiterate in what is rapidly becoming the greatest single driver of the global economy.
Wealth will be more concentrated and those with knowledge to sell–both countries and individuals–will be the winners.
Consider what will happen when:
• Your genetic code can be digitally imprinted on an ID card and your insurance company and employer see that you are genetically disposed to, say, heart disease.
• Pharmaceutical products are developed so that you can eat genetically modified broccoli to protect yourself from cancer.
• Cloning will be as common as in vitro fertilization and scientists can influence the genetic design not only of other species but of your own children.
• Creating wealth no longer requires many hands. Lone individuals are giving birth to entire new industries that rapidly become bigger than the economies of most countries on earth, but create very few jobs.
As the Future Catches You resembles no other book. A typical page may contain just a few dozen words. But each seemingly discrete fact is like a chip in an intellectual mosaic that reveals its meaning and beauty only as you step back and see the big picture. Juan Enriquez is like the best teacher you ever had, one who helps you to see something in a new light and makes you say, “Now I get it!”
Juan Enriquez’s main point is that technology is not kind, it does not say “please,” but slams into existing systems and destroys them while creating new ones. Countries and individuals can either surf new and powerful waves of change–or get crushed trying to stop them.
The future is catching us all.
Let it catch you with your eyes wide open.
About the Author
Juan Enriquez is the director of the Life Sciences Project at Harvard Business School, where he is building an interdisciplinary center focusing on how business will change as a result of the life sciences revolution. His article in Harvard Business Review, “Transforming Life, Transforming Business,” received a McKinsey Award, which recognizes the best articles published each year in HBR. Juan Enriquez has also published articles in Foreign Policy, Science, and Trends in Biotechnology and written op-eds for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Boston Globe. Earlier in his career he was the CEO of Mexico City’s Urban Development Corporation and an outspoken advocate of the need to reform Mexico’s economic and political structure.
Table of Contents
I -- Mixing Apples, Oranges, and Floppy Disks . . .
We are beginning to acquire direct and deliberate control over the evolution of all life forms . . . on the planet.
II -- The 390:1 Gap
The disparity in wealth between the richest and poorest nations used to be around 5:1. It is now 390:1 and increasing.
III -- The New Rich . . . and the New Poor
Why wealth is now based on knowledge...and how one person can generate more wealth than that produced by all people living in Israel, Malaysia, or Chile over the course of a year.
IV -- Empires of the Mind
The Singapore Law . . . Why the future belongs to small, clustered populations who build empires of the mind and ignore the temptation–or do not have the option of–exploiting natural resources.
V -- Data Drives Empires
The world’s dominant language is no longer English, nor does it have a twenty-six letter alphabet . . . The way a country, region, or group becomes dominant is by transmitting knowledge faster and more widely . . . This is now done with two letters.
VI -- Genetics . . . the Next Dominant Language
Societies that don’t understand genetic discoveries or the challenges and opportunities that arise from these discoveries are functionally illiterate in the language that codes all life on the planet.
VII -- Genetics Is . . . a Hockey Stick
A revolution that may be 50 percent faster than the computer revolution.
VIII -- The Most Powerful Information System
Biocomputing could make genomes the world’s most powerful and compact coding and information systems.
IX -- Nano World
Big changes . . . on a small scale . . . Biorobots the size of a virus.
X -- Revolution . . . in a Few ZIP Codes
The knowledge revolution is taking place in small, sharply defined areas. One company generates more U.S. patents than 139 countries do together . . . This generates new EMPIRES and new ghettos.
XI -- Technology Is Not Kind . . . It Does Not Say “Please"
It slams into existing systems and destroys them while creating new
systems. Countries and individuals can either surf new and powerful waves change–or try to stop them and get crushed.
XII -- Sleepless...(and Angry) in Seattle
Many people, even some of the heads of megacorporations, feel that the world is moving too fast as companies, even industries, disappear.
XIII -- High Tech . . . High Pay . . . High Mobility . . .
Wealth is concentrated and portable. MIT faculty and alumni produce as much wealth as all but twenty-two countries in the world. The United States keeps its leadership not by educating its own but by importing more and more brains.
XIV -- The Digital-Genomics Diaspora
Three-quarters of the world’s countries did not exist fifty years ago. We are likely to soon breed a further hundred states. Flags, borders, and anthems survive only where citizens are treated like shareholders . . . Otherwise they leave, and take much of the country’s economic future with them.
XV -- Time Warp
We are in a time warp. Technology accelerates trends, be they positive or negative. We are just beginning to glimpse how profoundly different our children’s lives will be in a post-genomics world.
Who do you see as your audience?
This book is for anyone who is curious about the future, and I hope it will spark debates around family dinner tables. No matter what Mom and Dad do for a living, or how much they know about science, they can read the book quickly and have a different take on what’s happening around the world. The same for their children, whether they’re in college or high school. Topics like genetic engineering and cloning are constantly in the news, and I want to help people understand them and wrestle with them.
Why did you use this unconventional format of bulleted facts mixed with charts and graphs and pictures?
Many people are afraid of science--they think it’s beyond them. Scientists reinforce this by cloaking their work in their own private language. As a result, we rarely understand and debate the greatest single driver of wealth and growth, which is knowledge. But today’s discoveries affect us all, so we have to frame the debate in terms everyone can understand and relate to.
Also science is fun and whimsical, and I really wanted the book to reflect this. I hope it can transmit some of the excitement I feel about the marvelous adventures going on in science and technology.
Your background is mostly in economics and international politics--how did you get so involved in genomics and other science topics?
I never intended to get involved, but during the course of my research I found that technological discontinuities are the greatest single driver of long-term economic success…or failure. And the ability to understand and apply gene research is probably the greatest single discontinuity we have seen since the Industrial Revolution.
Bigger than the Internet?
Yes. The digital revolution was just the beginning. The genomics revolution will be far more powerful.
Give us an example of that. How differently do you think medicine will be practiced in 20 or 30 years?
Medicine will evolve the way dentistry has evolved--from brute–force intervention to prevention. Your grandparents went to the dentist to get their teeth pulled. You went to get your teeth filled. Kids today go to get their teeth cleaned. A dentist’s office is now mainly a collection of hygienists because our mouths are a lot healthier--we need less intervention.
As we understand disease better, because we can map and attack microbes better, or because we can start to tell to which diseases we may be statistically more prone, we will live a lot longer and remain much healthier. We will carry genetic ID cards. Medicine will be personalized and preventive. We will need fewer and fewer surgeons
When you think about the future, what excites you the most and what frightens you the most?
We are acquiring direct and deliberate control over the evolution of most life–forms. This is a power that will allow us to feed more people, cure more people, and live far better lives. That’s very exciting. But it will also change the nature of things like warfare and terrorism, which of course is very frightening.