Science is the alphabet of the future: Life Hacks by Charles Assisi. Like many homes in India today, mine is a place where frustrated children loudly ask themselves what their future academic future will look like, amidst many cycles of closure and postponement of admission. Until recently, my 15-year-old daughter was clear that personality was her calling. This week, I felt it was time to talk to her again and explain why I think she should change her mind.
The thing is that you know I’m biased towards science. I believe the Age of Biology is truly upon us. No matter what he is called, I have said to him before, it is in his interest to get a foundation in science. My belief has been the source of many controversies at home (wife disagrees, firmly). But given the mathematical models available to us, and given where we are, I’m sure it’s not an idea that can be dismissed.
Models say the epidemic, which has been left uncontrolled at the moment, could take the lives of more than a million Indians between August and September alone. We have reached a point where we can no longer comprehend the loss, let alone mourn or comfort one another.
In his 2020 book Age of Pandemics (1817-1920): How They Shaped India and the World, economist and social scientist Chinmay Tumbe provides clues as to what we can expect next. His study states that India is also the country that was hit hardest by the 1918 flu, which claimed the lives of an estimated 20 million people on the continent alone – more than the number of people killed worldwide during World War I.
He traces how the tragedy set the stage for other histories, including the emergence of Mahatma Gandhi, the fall of the British Empire, changes in the administration of the food supply and the rise of trade unions. Although so many people died, there were no memorials for those who died in the epidemic. After we went down, everyone wanted to get back to normal. This is what most people are looking forward to right now. But I believe there is no return to normal after something like this.
Some changes cannot be undone. Things that changed after 1918, as well as after the plague and diarrhea of the first century – those things did not change. Our cities are changed forever; as was the case with our politics. The economy went through hell and was reborn.
We see the same flow now. Journalists, political scientists and historians will look back on this period as one of the changes. And I believe it is our job to make sure that our children live on foot in the new world born of this world.
Take, for example, the speed at which vaccines appear to fight Covid-19. Virologists had predicted that epidemics and immunologists were on duty to create antidepressants in anticipation. Some of the jabs he finds are now created by genetic modification using a scientific development called CRISPR.
The effects of genetic engineering have been discussed and discussed in more detail in study circles. But now that we are being caught with the vaccine made after this science, it is inevitable that it will find new programs, and it is almost certain that it will explode into the public domain. CRISPR can also be distributed to genetically engineered and make unborn babies more vulnerable to diseases such as AIDS, cancer, sickle-cell anemia, and possibly conditions such as autism. We stand in a place where genetics can be studied to predict factors ranging from a child’s eye color to their IQ or tendency to deal with depression as an adult. Is it okay? Is it a moral code? Quite frankly, I don’t know.
What I do know is that this is not a good time to spend constructive years, basically learning only personal lessons. Any dream – whether you have to be a well-known author, historian or psychologist; biologist, doctor or businessman – buildings will include science. It could be in the form of big data or new technologies, advances in scientific development or social transformations created as a result of those advances.
To begin to address the real questions of their times, future adults will need to understand these building blocks. In my mind, this is not an option; in the same way that reading alphabets is not an option. Science is not a beast, it already serves as the basis for all fields. Those are the arguments I have sent to my daughter.
You heard me this time. I leave it up to him, now, to think and decide.