#tomorrow13: Guessing at tomorrow – health, terrorism, climate, economy, politics, and of course, Yair Lapid

By far the most engaging panel of the day: Will Tomorrow Be Better? Some great sound bytes in here, and not just because the panel was moderated by Channel One’s Oren Nahari and joined by former newsman Yair Lapid.

Note: Some of these excerpts are transcription, some shortened for readability. 

Israel’s economy: Finance Minister Yair Lapid

When we ask ourselves what is the one thing that distinguish between successful human societies and non successful societies – the answer is – ability to change. Successful societies know how to adapt.

Israel has this ability – we have the ability to change in a non-violent way, the ability to reinvent ourselves.

We did it in 1948 – when a nation of holocaust survivors became a state. In the 1950s, when immigrants flooded and changed the demography. Changed from the nation of Talmud, to the nation of kibbutz, to the nation of education, to the start up nation.

There’s something in the Israeli DNA, the biography of the Jewish people – that is especially legible to the information era. Centuries of studying Talmud and Torah and now looking to the information highway. Intuitive uptake of the data. Ability to dig more and more in the same place and the ability to find within it new things.

In the next two years we’re going to be changed once again: the big move we’re doing now to enter the ultra orthodox into the labor market. It’s seen by many people as a solution to a problem or a financial move. But it’s a great social opportunity.

They know how to think, they know how to explore – if we want to create an economy based on innovation – this can only be compared to when in 1991 hardworking educated immigrants came from the USSR and lifted the Israeli economy to the sky.

Intelligence and flexibility of the young Charedi kids, combined with innovation and possibilities of the Israeli economy, will change again the Israeli society.

The US, our big sister, is emerging from the crisis. Growth is better, markets are recovering. the boom in the east is not going to stop. even Europe is going to recover. One of the first beneficiaries is going to be Israel. The fact that we kept an economy in high growth – innovation based  and one of the least unemployment rates in the western world – puts us in a position without competition now that the global tendency is changing.

I sat with India the other day, discussing R&D opportunities. I sat with the CEO of Cisco the other day – who wants to expand, recently bought an Israeli company (NDS) for 5 billion. I met with a business delegation of 30 from China; a delegation  looking for investment opportunities.

They all know the world is changing. Don’t miss this opportunity. Come and change with us.

Our health: Dr. David Agus, University of Southern California

This week the US Supreme Court decided you can no longer patent human genes. Our DNA is now democratized. This will herald a new form of health care and awareness of each of us, of ourselves. Each of us has the ability, for a small amount of money, to look into our own DNA.

You can control most of your risk with this info. You’re body is talking to you all the time – we just never listened. Health care in the future: we will be listening.

The microbiome is the next field of growth. We have more bacteria in our bodies than we do hormones! Since the global climate is changing, so global micro organisms are changing, which means we are changing.

Growing genetically modified food: we have to because of the climates changing. We already have the remarkable technology that Israel has been developing for years – now we have to scale it not just for amounts, but also health-wise.

The human brain is an art. and the role of our technology is to make it a science.

Terrorism vs Global climate change: Professor Dan Gilbert, psychology at Harvard

Will tomorrow be better? Very easy to answer yes and very easy to answer no. Tomorrow will be better or worse depending on how we respond to a variety of threats.

Global terrorism: we have made great progress in the war on terror. there’s no chance that terrorists will ever wipe out the human race.

Global warming: this is a problem on massive scale  – we have made no progress in the last ten years – only backwards.

Why do humans respond to some threats so well, and some so poorly? We’ve evolved to respond to threats that have four features – and terrorism has all four, whereas climate change has none.

  1. Intentional
    1. The brain devotes specific networks to understanding other human minds – what others think, want, plan hope.
    2. This makes us hyper-vigilant for signs of all things human – that’s why we see faces in the clouds, and not clouds in faces.
    3. It’s why we care about underwear bombers but not the flu (which kills 400,000 a year). Or our children being kidnapped but not about child obesity. Terrorists, child molesters – human agents. Viruses and french fries – objects.
    4. In the same week: Boston marathon bombing – 3 people died. 4 died in fishing accidents, 186 in a China earthquake, 1,000+ in the Bangladesh factory, 
    5. If the WTC had fallen from lightening hitting the towers, we wouldn’t remember the date it happened. 
  2. Immoral
    1. Humans feel disgust and anger as reactions to moral rules. Moral rules, as they’ve been known since the beginning, are generally about food and sex. Most societies have moral rules about food and sex, but not about air conditioning.
    2. Global warming makes us worry, but it doesn’t make us disgusted – the way gay marriage and flag burning do.
  3. Imminent
    1. The human brain is a ‘get out of the way’ machine. Good at getting out of the way of oncoming dangers.
    2. Then, 400,000 years ago, we got a new trick – thinking about getting out of the way soon – not in the moment now. Our ability to think about the future is a new skill, relatively.
    3. Terror is a threat today, and climate change is all of our tomorrows.
  4. Instant
    1. The human brain is very sensitive to changes,like weight, size, light. But it’s not sensitive to these changes if they happen very slowly. It can be massive but still go unnoticed…
    2. For example: baldness happens one hair at a time!
    3. When environmental disasters happen all at once, we get upset – like a massive oil spills.

We are all the progeny of people of humans whose fear was a man with a stick coming to take their food and women. When confronted with these threats, we respond quickly and strongly.

Will tomorrow be better? if we chose our battles like our ancestors, there is no doubt tomorrow will be bleak. But if we can use this new part of our brain to consider the danger coming, our tomorrow can be quite bright.

Israel’s international politics: Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, women’s rights activist

Today Israel is an oasis of peace and economic prosperity in a difficult region. Today Israel has made effort. Today Israel has no peace.

It has something else – quiet.

A better tomorrow would be for this to come to a peaceful end for the Palestinians and Israelis. This peace has become an elusive thing; very few people believe in it, with the exception of Secretary of State John Kerry.

Despite what it is up against, Israel is stronger than it was ten years ago. Sometimes I think that the more they wish for Israel’s destruction, the stronger it becomes.

But what worries me is that Arab and Muslim leaders say they will not rest until Israel is destroyed. In the Arab spring, young Arab and Muslims are trying to stand up to their leaders. But in their passion and hatred of Israel, nothing has changed.

In their tomorrow, Israel does not exist.

Today, the ordinary Israeli man and woman in the street knows this, and is willing to live with this reality.

if Israel’s tomorrow seems incredibly hard to contemplate, we must think about Israel’s yesterday.

People who know that – people as old as the president or older – will maintain faith in Israel today, for I’m sure, if you continue to be as resilient as you are, that tomorrow will be better.

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