Science will make a greater impact on humankind in the 21st century than it has in all previous centuries combined. This is an extraordinary claim to make but, given the accelerating trends now under way, it is a reasonable prediction.
For example, the exponential growth of computer power, the continuing exploration of space and the advance of bio-technologies make it clear that the near future will be exciting and full of opportunities. Undoubtedly, our world will be very different.
The crucial question for the Cayman Islands is whether or not we will be ready for a world in which science and technology play an even greater role in the daily lives of individuals as well as the success or failure of entire societies.
This is a crucial challenge that we cannot hide from. If wise, we will commit to preparing ourselves now. The pace is quickening and the stakes are high. If the Cayman Islands hopes to maintain a high standard of living, both in terms of economics and quality of life, then our society must embrace science and elevate it to greater respectability and prominence. Have no doubt that Cayman is in need of significant change regarding its relationship to science.
It is a disturbing reality, for example, that there are many Caymanian adults and young people today who have no idea how old their planet is. They know little or nothing about our dependence on computers and satellites. They do not know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. There is nothing wrong with the potential of Caymanian intelligence. This problem is a reflection of cultural values. Science is undervalued and, therefore, much of our population is much less aware and appreciative of science than they should be. Cayman is hardly alone in this problem. There are, for example, people in Afghanistan who think the world is flat and there are people in the United States who think the world is 6,000 years old.
Scientific illiteracy is a problem that will bring increasingly severe consequences in the coming decades. There will be leaders and followers as the world adjusts to supercomputers, robotics and astonishing medical advances.
There will be those who benefit fully while others stumble behind, picking up the crumbs of a fast-moving world. Simply put, some societies will be scientifically literate and science-based and others won’t be.
We are in danger of condemning ourselves and future generations to suffer as one of the latter if we do not move immediately to make science a prominent part of Caymanian culture. We ignore the future at our peril.