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As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth Hardcover – October 16, 2001
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In As the Future Catches You, Juan Enriquez of the Harvard Business School attempts to capture the trajectory of technological progress and understand the forces shaping our social and economic futures. Enriquez argues that February 2, 2001--the date that anyone with Internet access could contemplate the entire human genome--is akin to 1492 and Columbus's discovery of America. Instead of a new continent however, Enriquez sees the alphabet of DNA (A, adenine; T, thymine; C, cytosine; and G, guanine) and predicts that it will be the "dominant language and economic driver of this century." While none of the ideas presented here are entirely new, As the Future Catches You stands out because of Enriquez's ability to view and connect trends--genomics in particular--in a way that just about anyone can understand. Eye-popping typography and graphics coupled with a compact and almost poetic writing style make this thought-provoking book one to savor. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards
From Publishers Weekly
Harvard Business School research fellow Juan Enriquez has great enthusiasm for his subject and his audience in As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth. "I would like you and I to have a conversation," he writes. "There is space on each page for your own notes, thoughts," etc. Space indeed, and more: this consideration of scientific advancement, technological and economic trends and their effects offers graphically arresting pages complete with pictures, highlighted words, graphs, and large blank margins. Enriquez's hyperventilating presentation (how many ellipses can one author use?) might get in the way of the facts at times, but the facts about the ability of genetically modified bananas to vaccinate those who consume them against particular diseases, for example can be very interesting indeed.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
My book copyright says 2001 but some data points referenced are from 2003, 2004 and 2005. I think I received the newer 2006 edition but they failed to update the copyright page.
The author tried to predict the future in 2001 based on the recent success of The Human Genome project. He doesn't do so well but who would? He firmly believes that genomics will fundamentally change the world. I wonder if he is less starry-eyed now? The writing style is a bit like Thomas Friedman's books on globalization: big on hype, pro rapid, disruptive change, pro science but weak on examples and naively assuming change will not be challenged, opposed or encounter unexpected stumbling blocks. And like Friedman, drunk on the history of rapid change in computer chip tech as if that same rapid change will occur equally within all other fields. News flash: even if we know an entire genome, the purpose of each gene and protein and how to express each, we still need to test it before injecting DNA modifications into humans and that portion of the learning curve won't go any faster just because Intel releases a faster chip.
If you have read other books about recent advancements in biology, then you will welcome the brief history lessons and the names of small biotech businesses actively pursuing genomics and proteomics.
However, 11 years later, many cited companies are no longer around. There is the obligatory James Watson and Craig Venter worship. Rather than elaborate on the benefits of 100 patents of animal species and how that differs from current animal husbandry techniques, there is an elaborate essay on the purported value of patenting without acknowledging that many patents are merely monopolistic attempts to protect "discovered" gene sequences without knowing what they do. The absence of any critical thinking such as doesn't that prevent others from use without licensing and won't that prompt retaliation in return that slows down future research after sequencing is complete speaks volumes regarding the author's comprehension of the field and the political realities of the U.S. Patent Office.
If you like computers and biology, then you will enjoy the hint at possible future job opportunities but the author merely knows how to type, not how to program so he glosses over whether the positions cited really need a Ph.D. in Computer Science with an emphasis on statistics or merely a Doctorate in one of many microbiology specialists with an ability to do basic programming. Genomics and Proteomics sound like big data problems but he doesn't elaborate on that either.
The condescension towards the Europeans unwilling to eat GMO is palpable. I'm all for Dow engineered corn with plastic-like properties because the material made from it can biodegrade unlike real plastic so it makes a sensible replacement for candy wrappers, snack containers and airline forks but none of that is mentioned. On the other hand, when Monsanto hurriedly studies a tomato only long enough to detect the gene that manages ripeness, replaces it by writing it backwards without any understanding of what that instruction now means or what it might do to gene expressions that occur in combination, studies the result only long enough to confirm that the ripeness issue has been addressed and demands the least amount of FDA approval in order to quickly get to market when there is no competition simply because investors got impatient and want to dump their stock, I'm unlikely to buy it or eat it. But according to the author, all science is great!
The last two chapters were thrown together to kind of address a need to improve science education in the U.S. so most ideas are not well-formed and lack supporting evidence.
The book does not cost very much and is a fine collection of facts from other sources that span a broad range of relatively recent scientific achievements. You can Google most of these for more information about whether they eventually led to something bigger or never actually panned out.
Inter-dispersed among the fun science facts are many fun, thought-provoking ideas such as if cloning really works without damage, then why not clone a human? why not clone a dead relative? why not freeze dry your cells so that you can be cloned in the future? will your progeny decide to clone you based in part upon how you live your life? Would the introduction of all these new people impact world resources? But again, none of these ideas are developed.
It's a quick read as the text size makes many pages read like captioned imaged. It's a great collection of fun facts to introduce as conversation starters in a bar or at a party with friends. It's a horrible attempt to proselytize the possible benefits of studying DNA in hopes of combating crop loss, developing medicine, fighting disease or delaying old age.
Recommended alternative reading
1) The Double Helix - James Watson
2) The Road to Dolly - Gina Kolata
3) Food Politics - Marion Nestle
4) Genome - Matt Ridley
5) Evolution - Carl Zimmer
6) Intervention - Denise Caruso
7) The Second Creation - Ian Wilmut
8) The Genome War - James Shreeve
Immediately after this book I picked up "Dream Palace of the Arabs" and realized that many backward-looking middle eastern societies professing "love of the land" and desires to restore "homelands" are completely missing any opportunities for catching up with western culture [or at least its potential for economic productivity] and are doomed to falling further behind. Societies where poets are glorified and contributions of engineers are denigrated can't be helped by any amount of economic assistance and even those that export natural resources today will be in trouble when those source of income start to fall off. Reading As the Future Catches You with an eye toward today's headlines of unrest and resentment of the US in the middle east and misguided protests over globalization and offshoring of jobs provides deeper insight than offered by the popular [but shallow] media.
The author illustrates key changes in human history as being brought on by the introduction of a new language and makes the point the digital technology is really the language of zeros and ones and that our life sciences will be written in a language of 4 characters.
I was happy to see the author tackle the social impacts brought on by the rapid march of technology. He's keenly aware of the digital divide in the standard of living between countries that are harnessing and growing their technology skills and those that are not. The point is clearly hammered home when you see the large gap in the number of patents issues by a country like Mexico versus the United States. The situation is not being helped by many of the brightest minds leaving their lesser-developed homelands for greater financial rewards in the United States. The book offers up some obvious solutions for addressing the global divide in technology, but not at length. In all, the book serves as an excellent appetizer for getting a taste of our future direction.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A little bit frightening, very much interesting, it makes us retake some...Read more