As The Future Catches You , by Juan Enriquez

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Book Description from the Publisher

You will never look at the world in the same way after reading As the Future Catches You. Juan Enriquez puts you face to face with a series of unprecedented political, ethical, economic, and financial issues, dramatically demonstrating the cascading impact of the genetic, digital, and knowledge revolutions on your life.

HARDCOVER Edition -- As The Future Catches You : How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health and Wealth - by Juan Enriquez - Nonfiction - ISBN 0-609-60903-3 / ISBN 0609609033

Genetics will be the dominant language of this century. Those who can "speak it" will acquire direct and deliberate control over all forms of life. But most countries and individuals remain illiterate in what is rapidly becoming the greatest single driver of the global economy.

Wealth will be more concentrated and those with knowledge to sell -- both countries and individuals -- will be the winners.

Consider what will happen when:

  • Your genetic code can be digitally imprinted on an ID card and your insurance company and employer see that you are genetically disposed to, say, heart disease.
  • Pharmaceutical products are developed so that you can eat genetically modified broccoli to protect yourself from cancer.
  • Cloning will be as common as in vitro fertilization and scientists can influence the genetic design not only of other species but of your own children.
  • Creating wealth no longer requires many hands. Lone individuals are giving birth to entire new industries that rapidly become bigger than the economies of most countries on earth, but create very few jobs.

As the Future Catches You resembles no other book. A typical page may contain just a few dozen words. But each seemingly discrete fact is like a chip in an intellectual mosaic that reveals its meaning and beauty only as you step back and see the big picture. Juan Enriquez is like the best teacher you ever had, one who helps you to see something in a new light and makes you say, "Now I get it!"

Juan Enriquez's main point is that technology is not kind, it does not say "please," but slams into existing systems and destroys them while creating new ones. Countries and individuals can either surf new and powerful waves of change -- or get crushed trying to stop them.

The future is catching us all.

Let it catch you with your eyes wide open.

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by Juan Enriquez (Hardcover) - ISBN 0-609-60903-3 / 0609609033 book reviews
Hardcover - 320 pages
First Edition, October 2001
Published by Crown Business
A Division of Random House
ISBN 0-609-60903-3 / 0609609033

The book's subtitle, How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health and Wealth, might lead the reader to expect that the book is about to answer the question how. Yet Mr. Enriquez emphasizes several times that his objective is to kindle your own imagination.

The book is, in fact, a brainstorming exercise workbook. While reading it, your own lightbulbs begin to flash, and at an accelerating pace. Your own vision of humanity's technological future -- not necessarily that of the author -- approaches clarification. The author doesn't set out to impose his social goals; rather, you find your own imaginative seeds sprouting in his nourishment.

If you happen to be developing a futuristic glimpse, whether you are outlining the plot for a science fiction novel, an innovative platform for a political party, or a business plan for a new company, the book is likely to make revolutionary ideas pop into your mind faster than you can write them down.

The title of chapter 4, Empires of the Mind, is an allusion to a remark once made by Winston Churchill: "The empires of the future are the empires of the mind." While we are enlightened about the importance of eduction and technology in the decades to come, we are also reminded about the inevitable decline, seen anywhere in world history, "when societies turn their backs on technology and stop building empires of the mind." [Page 59] In fact, "data drives empires."[60]

Enriquez suggests a definition of what it is to be human. "What distinguishes people from animals is the ability to understand abstract concepts and to communicate these concepts. The history of civilization can be summarized as a series of efforts to transmit and use increasing amounts of information." [61]

Important features of As The Future Catches You are its graphs and tables. These are not sequestered in inserts or appendices, but placed within the text wherever the need to make a point arises. Sources and concentrations of wealth from 1896 to 2000 [Pages 27, 40-42] ... some of the contrasts between rich and poor countries [52-53] ... numbers of genetic patent requests [94-96] .... But the book is nothing like an almanac, where raw facts are tabulated. The presentation is of obvious trends, some of which can be alarming. A first glance ensures that the reader gets the point, and the point is sharp.

Enriquez relies little on conventional paragraphs of words. Moving from to a catchy quotation to a startling fact to a bar graph to a bulleted list, individual pages of the book have the appearance of having been designed to be used as transparencies viewed on a projection screen at a discussion seminar (even while our copyright law tells us not to do that).

When he composes text, the author uses spaces unconventionally, like a beat poem by e. e. cummings [30, 31, 44, 58]. He switches mid-sentence from smaller to very large type, as if to imply "I am now screaming into your ear." [35, 45, 47, 54] Anticipating the use of the book as a workbook, the author anticipates where the reader is likely to scribble notes into the margin, and leaves the blank space there for your convenience.

But the book is not entirely free of the author's bias. Enriquez displays that he interprets world events in terms of competition among economic empires. He sets out to study the differences between the winning empires and the losing ones. This may be contrasted with the approaches of other writers, some of whom prefer to view the information revolution more organically, as a cellular interconnection from the smallest to the largest building blocks of life (as when Carl Sagan used to observe often that evolution has extended "repositories of information" to expanding domains, "from genes to brains to books").

However, for Juan Enriquez, who is, not coincidentally, affiliated with the Harvard Business School, the basic building blocks of human civilization appear to be economic empires, particularly, multinational corporations. Therefore, he chooses, as a significant data point worth pondering, the fact that, in 1998, the U.S. Patent Office granted 15 patents to Venezuelans, but 3,362 to South Koreans. [139] "To compete globally, one has to patent globally." [139] The reader may decide whether the author is making an observation about how the world is now structured, or taking a stand about how the world should be.

If I were to anticipate a future based so foundationally on big fish eating little fish, I would regard that as abyssmal pessimism. I don't consider any political or economic institutions to be untouchable. But those are only my personal values. You may decide for yourself whether the presentation here promotes futuristic optimism or pessimism -- or neither. But this is a fact: The option of building a less hierarchical and more noncompetitive future, in which everyone may more equitably enjoy the abundant fruits of technology, is not treated in the book. The mere possibility of a future in which people, having moved far beyond the need to convert everyone and everything into commodities to be exploited, may instead concentrate on personal growth and fulfillment, is not once mentioned in As The Future Catches You.

Therefore, book sellers and reviewers may have a tendency to classify the book strictly as a business management strategy book. In my view, however, the book is best filling its potential when used as a multi-purpose brainstorming tool, consistent with any vision of humanity's future each reader may prefer.

Reviewed by Mike Lepore for

So let the book climb the bestsellers list for business books. To me, however, it's a valuable resource for all futurists and social dreamers.

260 pages, including 12-page 2-column index. B&W illustrations.

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As The Future Catches You , by Juan Enriquez - Hardcover Edition - ISBN 0-609-60903-3 / 0609609033

As The Future Catches You : How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health and Wealth
by Juan Enriquez

I -- Mixing Apples, Oranges, and Floppy Disks ...
We are beginning to acquire direct and deliberate control over the evolution of all life forms ... on the planet.
II -- The 390:1 Gap
The disparity in wealth between the richest and poorest nations used to be around 5:1. It is now 390:1 and increasing.
III -- The New Rich ... and the New Poor
Why wealth is now based on knowledge...and how one person can generate more wealth than that produced by all people living in Israel, Malaysia, or Chile over the course of a year.
IV -- Empires of the Mind
The Singapore Law ... Why the future belongs to small, clustered populations who build empires of the mind and ignore the temptation–or do not have the option of–exploiting natural resources.
V -- Data Drives Empires
The world's dominant language is no longer English, nor does it have a twenty-six letter alphabet ... The way a country, region, or group becomes dominant is by transmitting knowledge faster and more widely ... This is now done with two letters.
VI -- Genetics ... the Next Dominant Language
Societies that don't understand genetic discoveries or the challenges and opportunities that arise from these discoveries are functionally illiterate in the language that codes all life on the planet.
VII -- Genetics Is ... a Hockey Stick
A revolution that may be 50 percent faster than the computer revolution.
VIII -- The Most Powerful Information System
Biocomputing could make genomes the world's most powerful and compact coding and information systems.
IX -- Nano World
Big changes ... on a small scale ... Biorobots the size of a virus.
X -- Revolution ... in a Few ZIP Codes
The knowledge revolution is taking place in small, sharply defined areas. One company generates more U.S. patents than 139 countries do together ... This generates new EMPIRES and new ghettos.
XI -- Technology Is Not Kind ... It Does Not Say "Please"
It slams into existing systems and destroys them while creating new systems. Countries and individuals can either surf new and powerful waves change–or try to stop them and get crushed.
XII -- Sleepless ... (and Angry) in Seattle
Many people, even some of the heads of megacorporations, feel that the world is moving too fast as companies, even industries, disappear.
XIII -- High Tech ... High Pay ... High Mobility ...
Wealth is concentrated and portable. MIT faculty and alumni produce as much wealth as all but twenty-two countries in the world. The United States keeps its leadership not by educating its own but by importing more and more brains.
XIV -- The Digital-Genomics Diaspora
Three-quarters of the world’s countries did not exist fifty years ago. We are likely to soon breed a further hundred states. Flags, borders, and anthems survive only where citizens are treated like shareholders ... Otherwise they leave, and take much of the country's economic future with them.
XV -- Time Warp
We are in a time warp. Technology accelerates trends, be they positive or negative. We are just beginning to glimpse how profoundly different our children's lives will be in a post-genomics world.
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As The Future Catches You by Juan Enriquez (Hardcover Edition) - ISBN 0609609033 / 0-609-60903-3

Additional information from the publisher

About the Author

Juan Enriquez is the director of the Life Sciences Project at Harvard Business School, where he is building an interdisciplinary center focusing on how business will change as a result of the life sciences revolution. His article in Harvard Business Review, "Transforming Life, Transforming Business," received a McKinsey Award, which recognizes the best articles published each year in HBR. Juan Enriquez has also published articles in Foreign Policy, Science, and Trends in Biotechnology and written op-eds for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Boston Globe. Earlier in his career he was the CEO of Mexico City's Urban Development Corporation and an outspoken advocate of the need to reform Mexico's economic and political structure.

From the Back Cover

"With amazing insight and with a graphical, almost poetical style of writing, Enriquez describes how computers, genomics, and other new technologies are shaping our present and future."

-- Hamilton O. Smith , Nobel laureate in medicine

"By far the best book I know to help us understand and cope with the powerful technologies that are about to change every aspect of our lives."

-- Roger Fisher , coauthor of Getting to Yes : Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

The following review is reprinted with permission from's Best of 2001

In As the Future Catches You, Juan Enriquez of the Harvard Business School attempts to capture the trajectory of technological progress and understand the forces shaping our social and economic futures. Enriquez argues that February 2, 2001 -- the date that anyone with Internet access could contemplate the entire human genome -- is akin to 1492 and Columbus's discovery of America. Instead of a new continent however, Enriquez sees the alphabet of DNA (A, adenine; T, thymine; C, cytosine; and G, guanine) and predicts that it will be the "dominant language and economic driver of this century." While none of the ideas presented here are entirely new, As the Future Catches You stands out because of Enriquez's ability to view and connect trends -- genomics in particular -- in a way that just about anyone can understand. Eye-popping typography and graphics coupled with a compact and almost poetic writing style make this thought-provoking book one to savor. Highly recommended.

-- Harry C. Edwards link to buy the hardcover edition ... As The Future Catches You , by Juan Enriquez link to buy the e-book edition for use with Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader