6363 The Knowledge Society as a Lynchpin for Development

Sunday, February 19, 2012: 1:30 PM
Room 214 (VCC West Building)
Alex Dehgan , U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington, DC
We face massive global challenges in the coming decades to our security.  The planet will need to feed 9 billion people by 2050.  Virtually all the population growth in the next 45 years will be in the developing world. Increased population growth will require 70-100% more food.  The new middle classes in Brazil, India, China, and Indonesia will mean more people eating dairy, meat and fish – which require more intensity of water, energy, as well as inputs of nitrogen, phosphorous and pesticides as more production of agricultural commodities is needed to feed livestock.  Moreover, although the final scale of the impacts of climate change is yet unclear, there is unequivocal evidence that the world is rapidly changing around us. Entire biological and physical systems are demonstrating change against observed temperature increases, including include shifts in spring events (for example, leaf unfolding, blooming date, migration and time of reproduction), species distributions and community structures, responding to physical changes. Climatic change intersects with tremendous modification and degradation of the planet.  Environmental degradation, such as habitat loss, weakens ecosystems and the communities that populate them, by facilitating invasions of novel species (including disease), eliminating prey, changing food species, altering biophysical conditions, and increasing inbreeding, and exceeding the behavioral plasticity of species accelerating their drive to extinction.

The next wars will not be prevented through diplomacy, but through development.  Science, technology, and engineering are at the core of development – they provide the fodder for creativity and solutions to our global challenges – and are part of the calculus to solving multidisciplinary and multivariate systems problems with high degrees of complexity that are represented and intertwined within the development portfolio. The challenges we face shared with other countries, and they are truly global in scope.  Accordingly, to turn the grand challenges of our century – food security, energy, water, biodiversity loss, health - into opportunities, we must harness the planet’s creativity –talent is everywhere - and share our knowledge freely to empower all people to contribute solutions. One of the greatest challenges to our security comes from the unconnected.  Development has become a living condition where billions of people have access to a few centuries of human technological progress, but where another few billion people do not.  There is an accelerating gulf between those who are connected to a few hundred centuries of progress and those who are not as more and more human knowledge is made more accessible online. We must use the power of science and technology to connect people with the knowledge to solve their own problems, rather than building dependency cultures.  We may share knowledge not only address problems in the developing world, but the shared challenges that affect all countries.

<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation