01 Feb 2002

As the Future Catches You


"I would like you and me to have a conversation," HBS senior research fellow Juan Enriquez tells his readers in the prologue of his new book, As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth. He points out that he has left space on each page for note-taking, and after expressing his hope that the book will be a "fun read," he concludes by providing his e-mail address and urging readers to contact him. It's an unusual beginning, but fitting for this unusual book, a work that is informal in tone, presentation, and typography despite its serious subject matter. Alternately teasing and solemn - but unfailingly provocative - it is intended to push the boundaries of intellectual engagement in order to provide a deeper understanding of what the future will mean to all citizens of the planet.

Enriquez, the founding director of the new Life Science Project at HBS, believes that the future will be defined by the genomic revolution and that world history today is at a fundamental turning point. Combined with advances and developments in other fields, the human experience, he argues, will soon be transformed. Indeed, change - in medicine, technology, international relations, economics, and human behavior, and as a phenomenon that stimulates itself - is at the core of the book.

In the realm of science, Enriquez emphasizes the impact of the following facts: Genomics will enable humans to control evolution of all life forms; the genetics revolution is occurring 50 percent faster than the computer revolution; private companies, from IBM to DuPont to L'Oreal, will have the ability to rewrite the source code of life; and nanotechnology will soon produce "biorobots" the size of a virus. In human affairs, Enriquez points out, the wealth disparity between the richest and the poorest nations will soon be 1,000:1. In an age of super-technologies, knowledge will be key and will enable tiny, well-educated nations to prosper while the economies of much larger, less-educated countries languish.

As the Future Catches You presents page after page of thought-provoking facts, anecdotes, and ideas; it is an accessible and instructive guide to the new age that lies just over the horizon, an era for which the overworked adjective "revolutionary" will truly apply.

by Juan Enriquez
(Crown Business )


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