Can Asians innovate?

Zafar Anjum

Kishore Mahbubani

Jeffrey Kluger, Editor-at-Large, TIME (l) and Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore at the event: Time The Future of Invention in cooperation with Qualcomm.

Try to stop yourself from whatever you are doing at the moment and answer this question: what is the most useful invention of all time?

It is not the wheel. Apparently, it is the cellphone. Yes, the cellphone is the most useful invention ever in the entire human history. You can say this on the authority of a Time Invention Poll, which was conducted by Time Magazine in cooperation with Qualcomm. The sample size was 10,000 people across 17 countries.

This was revealed on 28 May by Jefferey Kluger, editor at large of Time, in Singapore at a conference on innovation and invention, aptly titled 'The Future of Invention'.

"Invention does not happen in a vacuum," said Julie Welch, senior director, Government Affairs, Southeast Asia and Pacific, Qualcomm in her introductory remarks. She referred to her company Qualcomm that had started small in San Diego around the wireless industry. There was an ecosystem in California that enabled the birth of this innovative company. When it was founded, there were many who doubted if the company would succeed but time proved them wrong and Qualcomm has been helping in the birth of the digital revolution that we have seen taking shape right in front of our eyes.

Inventing Globally

The first track of discussions included Jefferey and Kishore Mahbubani, the well-known Singaporean diplomat and dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore. Mahbubani is known for his thought-provoking book, Can Asians think? Jefferey interviewed Mahbubani on the theme of 'Inventing Globally'.

Mahbubani said that before the age of globalization, there were seven billion people living on seven billion different boats. Today, seven billion people live in separate cabins on the same boat. "In (creating) inventions we are on the same boat," he said.

"This is Asia's moment in history," Mahbubani said. "Waves of inventions will transform Asia."

Invention depends on time and place, he argued. The time and place, the historical forces, are in Asia's favour now. Centuries ago, Asia led the world in inventions and accounted for more than 50 percent of the world trade.

Mahbubani gave the example of the Arabs who were once at the forefront of innovations. After the Arabs, came the European Renaissance, which took the West to newer heights of civilization. It also changed the world. Now, history is coming back full circle, and Asia once again is on the vanguard of world leadership.

1  2  3  4  Next Page