It's time to take our powerMonday, January 18, 2021
World-famous futurist and president of The Future Hunters, Edie Weiner, who spoke at an International Women's Forum (IWF) event here in Jamaica some years ago, was back last week to address us at a virtual IWF conference. Weiner is convinced that we are entering a new civilisation in which humans are capable of three things — leaving the planet, destroying the planet, and designing the future.
She believes that, with Elon Musk's advances, in 10 years we may be holidaying or even living on Mars. She warns that Arctic ice is melting faster than the models had predicted. She said that, with artificial intelligence (AI), we are designing different futures in which genetic engineering, nanofabrication, and 3-D printed body parts will see us humans no longer as just this body we live in, but merged with IT.
Weiner said that the human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) functions must now be joined, as one cannot function without the other. She challenged us to “go back to square one, reimagine everything”.
She said we now have three life cycles: 1-50 years old, 51-100 years old, and the life “out in the ether” – our entries saved in a cloud and thoughts on social media. What are the ethics around these?
For architects, the built environment must take climate change into account; we must be considering designs on water as coastlines disappear, and we ought to be creating extraterrestrial developments — soil testing on Mars will be an interesting exercise.
She noted that we have moved from workplace to workspace, that gender has new definitions, and even that e-sports is gaining as much popularity as physical sports. She has seen 30,000 people watching e-sports in a stadium (pre-COVID-19), beamed to 30 million. Universities are offering expensive scholarships to 'e-thletes'!
She said the generation of energy will come from previously undiscovered sources as “everything is made up of energy”, so innovators may well be turning batteries into motor vehicles. She opines that, with the new wearables and remote medical care, doctors may become the last resort. Indeed, Texas A&M University is recruiting mechanical and electrical engineers for medical studies as that is the way of the future.
She noted that we are moving “from mankind to mind-kind”, where the mind will be far more necessary for productivity, and therefore the emphasis must be placed on critical thinking. We will go from education to learning, she said, where technology will allow you to be immersed in every subject. You will not need teachers, she noted, but you will need millions of “guides”.
She sees the rise of distributive income compensation enterprises (DICE), like Airbnb and Uber, forcing us to reimagine the structure of economies. She notes that capitalism now has two branches, private and public, wherein “things that matter will become part of the bottom line” — the relentless evolution of corporate social responsibility being among them.
She described an experiment with the female and male brain when faced with a problem to solve: The man's brain lit up in a particular place, while the woman's brain lit up all over “like a pinball machine”. She posited that organisations need both types of brains to be successful.
Weiner wants us to allow the younger generation to imagine their future, “From John Lennon to John Legend to young legends... let us pass on our hopes, not our judgement to the younger generation.”
Regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic, she declared, “The virus did not stop our lives. It has accelerated the need for change; it has forced us to re-examine health care, social welfare, prisons, and workplaces.” She said that successful organisations must promote true diversity, valuing the thinking of different types, and understanding that, in the gaming world, young people are choosing to be anyone they want, so they do not feel limited.
Referring to her humble beginnings as a foster child enrolled in a school that was described as the worst in America, Edie Weiner explained, “It's not about the haves and have-nots, it's about the cans and the can'ts.”
She said Nelson Mandela used his mind to escape from his physical 27-year imprisonment and emerged to change his country. “Power is not something someone gives you,” she explained. “Power is what you take.” She said successful leaders have three things in common — vision and passion, the ability to articulate them in word and deed, and a complete lack of embarrassment. On this Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day in the US, we can agree that he manifested these qualities.
In short, to seize the opportunities of this new civilisation we must return to square one, shrug off the old formulae, reimagine a brave way forward, and take our power to make it happen.
Gut punch for the free world
The dawning of 2021 brought us new hope. We were so glad to see the back of 2020. Then, on January 6, not even a full week into the new year, we watched with horror the attack on the US Capitol — a gut punch to the free world.
Our country has benefited greatly from the USA, via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and ambassadors appointed by both Democratic and Republican administrations have engaged generously with our people. Ambassador Sue Cobb and Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater served with excellence and grace.
The last time I met with outgoing Ambassador Donald Tapia was at an event sponsored by his embassy to celebrate Jamaica's “unsung heroes”. Past US ambassadors have come together to create the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ), raising millions each year for our worthy causes.
There is hardly a Jamaican family that does not have close relatives living in the USA and, even in this pandemic, remittances have increased — the fruit of their labour, many serving on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis.
America is our family and so we wish President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris a successful way forward through the tragic suffering and death caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the trauma of last week's insurrection. They need our prayers.
Domestic violence and our children
One of the elements of the Nurturing Care Model developed by the Early Childhood Commission is a safe environment, and so we are heartbroken at the murder of four-year-old Cloey Brown, caught in the crossfire of a domestic dispute between her father and her uncle in Trelawny early last week. Just a few days later, we learnt that two-year-old Akeira Kerr was injured in another family dispute in Trelawny; her aunt threw a stone at her father, fracturing the child's skull. Thank goodness we hear that she is showing improvement at Bustamante Hospital for Children, where she underwent surgery.
Our social workers and psychiatrists should be engaged by the relevant ministries to create mediation training programmes, especially during these COVID-19 times when tempers are short and patience is wearing thin. Mental health issues are on the increase worldwide, and we cannot afford to have our innocent children becoming victims of yet another serious health hazard.
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