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← To help solve global problems, look to developing countries

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Showing Revision 5 created 12/12/2019 by marialadias.

  1. I am an ideas activist.
  2. That means I fight
    for ideas I believe in
  3. to have their place in the sun,
  4. regardless of which side
    of the equator they were born.
  5. As well I should.
  6. I myself am from that part of the world
  7. often euphemistically referred to
    as either "the Global South"
  8. or "the developing world."
  9. But let's be blunt about it:
  10. when we say those words,
    what we really mean is the poor world --
  11. those corners of the world
    with ready-made containers
  12. for the hand-me-down ideas
    of other places and other people.
  13. But I'm here to depart
    a little bit from the script

  14. and to try and convince you
  15. that these places are actually
    alive and bubbling with ideas.
  16. My real issue is: Where do I even start?
  17. So maybe Egypt, Alexandria,
  18. where we meet Rizwan.
  19. When he walks outside his souk,
  20. walks into a pharmacy for heart medicine
  21. that can prevent the blood
    in his arteries from clotting,
  22. he confronts the fact that,
  23. despite a growing epidemic
  24. that currently accounts for 82 percent
    of all deaths in Egypt,
  25. it is the medicines that
    can address these conditions
  26. that counterfeiters,
    ever the evil geniuses they are,
  27. have decided to target.
  28. Counterfeiters making knockoff medicines.
  29. Luckily for Rizwan,

  30. my team and I,
  31. working in partnership with the largest
    pharmaceutical company in Africa,
  32. have placed unique codes --
    think of them like one-time passwords --
  33. on each pack of the best-selling
    heart medicine in Egypt.
  34. So when Rizwan buys heart medicine,
  35. he can key in these one-time passwords
  36. to a toll-free short code
  37. that we've set up on all
    the telecom companies in Egypt
  38. for free.
  39. He gets a message --
    call it the message of life --
  40. which reassures him
  41. that this medicine is not one of the 12
    percent of all medicines in Egypt
  42. that are counterfeits.
  43. From the gorgeous banks of the Nile,

  44. we glide into the beautiful
    Rift Valley of Kenya.
  45. In Narok Town, we meet Ole Lenku,
    salt-of-the-earth fellow.
  46. When he walks into an agrodealer's shop,
  47. all he wants is certified
    and proper cabbage seeds
  48. that, if he were to plant them,
  49. will yield a harvest rich enough
  50. that he can pay for
    the school fees of his children.
  51. That's all he wants.
  52. Unfortunately,
  53. by the reckoning of most
    international organizations,
  54. 40 percent of all the seeds
    sold in Eastern and Southern Africa
  55. are of questionable quality,
  56. sometimes outrightly fake.
  57. Luckily for Ole,
  58. once again, our team has been at work,
  59. and, working with the leading
    agriculture regulator in Kenya,
  60. we've digitized the entire
    certification process
  61. for seeds in that country,
  62. every seed -- millet, sorghum, maize --
  63. such that when Ole Lenku
    keys in a code on a packet of millet,
  64. he's able to retrieve
    a digital certificate
  65. that assures him that the seed
    is properly certified.
  66. From Kenya, we head to Noida in India,

  67. where the irrepressible Ambika
  68. is holding on very fast to her dream
    of becoming an elite athlete,
  69. safe in the knowledge that
  70. because of our ingredients
    rating technology,
  71. she's not going to ingest
    something accidentally,
  72. which will mess up her doping tests
  73. and kick her out of the sports she loves.
  74. Finally, we alight in Ghana,

  75. my own home country,
  76. where another problem needs addressing --
  77. the problem of under-vaccination
    or poor-quality vaccination.
  78. You see, when you put some vaccines
    into the bloodstream of an infant,
  79. you are giving them a lifetime insurance
  80. against dangerous diseases
    that can cripple them or kill them.
  81. Sometimes, this is for a lifetime.
  82. The problem is that vaccines
    are delicate organisms really,
  83. and they need to be stored
    between two degrees and eight degrees.
  84. And if you don't do that,
    they lose their potency,
  85. and they no longer confer the immunity
  86. the child deserves.
  87. Working with computer vision scientists,
  88. we've converted simple markers
    on the vials of vaccines
  89. into what you might regard
    as crude thermometers.
  90. So then, these patterns change slowly
    over time in response to temperature
  91. until they leave a distinct pattern
    on the surface of the vaccine,
  92. such that a nurse,
    with a scan of the phone,
  93. can detect if the vaccine was stored
    properly in the right temperature
  94. and therefore is still good for use
  95. before administering this to the child --
  96. literally securing the next generation.
  97. These are some of the solutions at work
    saving lives, redeeming societies,

  98. in these parts of the world.
  99. But I would remind you
  100. that there are powerful ideas behind them,
  101. and I'll recap a few.
  102. One, that social trust
    is not the same as interpersonal trust.
  103. Two, that the division between
    consumption and regulation
  104. in an increasingly interdependent world
  105. is no longer viable.
  106. And three, that decentralized autonomy,
  107. regardless of what our blockchain
    enthusiasts in the West --
  108. whom I respect a lot -- say,
  109. are not as important as reinforcing
    social accountability feedback loops.
  110. These are some of the ideas.
  111. Now, every time I go somewhere
    and I give this speech

  112. and I make these comments
    and I provide these examples,
  113. people say, "If these ideas
    are so damn brilliant,
  114. why aren't they everywhere?
  115. I've never heard of them."
  116. I want to assure you,
  117. the reason why you have not
    heard of these ideas
  118. is exactly the point I made
    in the beginning.
  119. And that is that there are
    parts of the world
  120. whose good ideas simply don't scale
  121. because of the latitude
    on which they were born.
  122. I call that "mental latitude imperialism."
  123. (Laughter)

  124. That really is the reason.

  125. But you may counter and say, "Well,
    maybe it's an important problem,

  126. but it's sort of an obscure problem
    in parts of the world.
  127. Why do you want
    to globalize such problems?
  128. I mean, they are better local."
  129. What if, in response, I told you
  130. that actually, underlying each
    of these problems that I've described
  131. is a fundamental issue
    of the breakdown of trust
  132. in markets and institutions,
  133. and that there's nothing more global,
    more universal, closer to you and I
  134. than the problem of trust.
  135. For example, a quarter of all the seafood
    marketed in the US is falsely labeled.
  136. So when you buy a tuna
    or salmon sandwich in Manhattan,
  137. you are eating something that could be
    banned for being toxic in Japan.
  138. Literally.
  139. Most of you have heard of a time
    when horsemeat was masquerading as beef
  140. in burger patties in Europe?
  141. You have.
  142. What you don't know is that a good chunk
    of these fake meat patties
  143. were also contaminated with cadmium,
    which can damage your kidneys.
  144. This was Europe.
  145. Many of you are aware of plane crashes
    and you worry about plane crashes,
  146. because every now and then, one of them
    intrudes into your consciousness.
  147. But I bet you don't know
  148. that a single investigation uncovered
    one million counterfeit incidents
  149. in the aeronautical
    supply chain in the US.
  150. So this is a global problem, full stop.

  151. It's a global problem.
  152. The only reason we are not addressing it
    with the urgency it deserves
  153. is that the best solutions,
  154. the most advanced solutions,
    the most progressive solutions,
  155. are, unfortunately, in parts of the world
    where solutions don't scale.
  156. And that is why it is not surprising
  157. that attempts to create this same
    verification models for pharmaceuticals
  158. are now a decade behind
    in the USA and Europe,
  159. while it's already available in Nigeria.
  160. A decade, and costing
    a hundred times more.
  161. And that is why, when you walk
    into a Walgreens in New York,
  162. you cannot check the source
    of your medicine,
  163. but you can in Maiduguri
    in Northern Nigeria.
  164. That is the reality.
  165. (Applause)

  166. That is the reality.

  167. (Applause)

  168. So we go back to the issue of ideas.

  169. Remember, solutions are merely
    packaged ideas,
  170. so it is the ideas
    that are most important.
  171. In a world where we marginalize the
    ideas of the Global South,
  172. we cannot create globally inclusive
    problem-solving models.
  173. Now, you might say, "Well, that's bad,
  174. but in such a world
    where we have so many other problems,
  175. do we need another cause?"
  176. I say yes, we need another cause.
  177. Actually, that cause will surprise you:
    the cause of intellectual justice.
  178. You say, "What? Intellectual justice?
    In a world of human rights abuses?"
  179. And I explain this way:
  180. all the solutions to the other problems
    that affect us and confront us
  181. need solutions.
  182. So you need the best ideas
    to address them.
  183. And that is why today I ask you,
  184. can we all give it one time
    for intellectual justice?
  185. (Applause)