Today I attended the opening of the 4th Annual Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum in Kyoto, Japan. I’m here at the invitation of Mr. Koji Omi, Member of the House of Representatives and former Finance Minister for Japan. Mr. Omi is also notable as the founder of the STS Forum.
It is a genuine honor to be here; both to attend the conference and be invited to speak during one of the sessions. I say it’s an honor because the attendees at this conference are amazing; world famous scientists, educators, Nobel Prize winners, captains of industry and high-ranking government officials. On one panel discussion alone this afternoon there were three Nobel Laureates among the speakers.
The day started with a short address from Japan’s new Prime Minister, Mr. Yasuo Fukuda. Mr. Fukuda noted that the era of the economic engine that made Japan and other developed nations so great, mass production and mass consumption, was now coming to an end because we are slowly running out of the natural resources that are vital for manufacturing activities. He also proclaimed that our precious global environment is increasingly being eroded by pollution from the waste that results from mass production and mass consumption. This at a time when lesser developed nations are focusing their efforts on achieving economic development based on the patterns of the past. Mr. Fukuda called on all nations to join Japan in what he calls “Cool Earth 50“, an initiative to cool down the earth by reducing carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2050. It is certain to be a major topic at the G8 Summit which meets next July in Hokkaido.
But this isn’t a conference focused only on global warming. It covers advances in health, physics, chemistry, computing and more. I was especially struck by comments made this afternoon during a panel discussion by Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. In speaking about the science of genomics and our progress to date, he said, “We can no longer focus on the components of life. We must understand the software of life.” He said we must transcend today’s methods to revolutionize the practice of medicine. We must focus on preventing disease before it occurs and use technology to extend the services of healthcare providers who are going to be in increasingly short supply as the population ages. HealthBlog readers will immediately understand why those statements resonated so well for me. In fact, as the day progressed it became increasingly clear that ICT and software are essential tools for solving so many of the global challenges we face.
Bill Crounse, MD Worldwide Health Director Microsoft Corporation