We often marvel at the speed of technological change in our societies.
But are we ready for what is going to come next, and what are we going to do about it?
These are the questions regenerative medicine and bioastronautics expert Eleni Antoniadou put to the audience at the Global Education & Skills Forum 2018 in Dubai.
“We are at the very early stages of immense technological change,” said Antoniadou, who is also President of the European Health Parliament.
She warned that across all sectors, and particularly in her own fields of health and space exploration, there is the potential for technologies to cause huge shifts in the way our societies and economies function.
For example, she said there is the potential for technology to reinforce existing social barriers and take them to a new level.
“How do we prepare society for a time when financial differences between a population could lead to biological differences,” asked Antoniadou.
“A time when the elite minority can augment their human capabilities, edit their genes, cure their kids, but poor people cannot?”
To avoid such a scenario, Antoniadou said individuals and society as a whole must decide to use technology as a force for good, solving problems “anywhere and everywhere” as we become increasingly globally connected.
To ensure a brighter future for all, Antoniadou said children must be taught to be globally aware.
She cited her own example of working in the field tissue engineering.
While she found the work challenging and exciting, it wasn’t until she visited Latin America and met the victims of illegal organ harvesting that she realised the necessity of her work in developing artificial human organs.
“Gaining this sense of intense urgency of what I was doing completely changed me,” she said.
A global awareness can help ensure technological change is a force for good, she added.
By encouraging the next generation to be globally minded and to develop an understanding of different people and cultures, we will help to ensure that the immense technological advances coming in the future will benefit the many, and not the few.
But we have to be brave to make sure advances are shared equally across the world, added Antoniadou.
“Are we brave enough for the future we think we want?” she asked.
“Disruptive innovation means prosperity for all is in our grasp. But we have to hope not for what is feasible today for us, but for what is possible and might be needed in the future for everyone. We have to fight for the rights of the many over the privileges of the very few.”
Are we brave enough for the future we think we want, asks @E_Antoniadou? Disruptive innovation means prosperity for all is in our grasp, she says, but we need to fight for the rights of the many over the privileges of the few. #GESF
— Global Education & Skills Forum (@GESForum) March 17, 2018
Her final piece of advice to young people hoping to be the future scientists and technologists delivering these immense changes of the future was simple: “Be what your education tells you that you can be – the best.”
Now in its sixth year, the Global Education & Skills Forum welcomes global leaders and education practitioners to solve education, employment and equity for all. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.