Mar 7th 2009

Prediction: Asians win all Nobel Prizes

by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. 

Johnson worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his journalism career. He covered European technology for Business Week for five years, and served nine years as chief editor of International Management magazine and was chief editor of the French technology weekly 01 Informatique. He also spent four years as Moscow correspondent of The Associated Press. He is the author of five books.

Michael Johnson is based in Bordeaux. Besides English and French he is also fluent in Russian.

You can order Michael Johnson's most recent book, a bilingual book, French and English, with drawings by Johnson:

“Portraitures and caricatures:  Conductors, Pianist, Composers”

 here.

BORDEAUX - In a new best-selling book, French media consultant and author Alain Minc says he can see the day in the near future when all Nobel Prizes will go to Asian scientists and writers.

Imaging himself 11 years into the future, he writes: "All our habits and certainties exploded on that day in 2021. Suddenly the bell tolls in the Western educational establishment, and particularly the United States. The shock is terrible at Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford and Heidelberg."

Americans of the future quickly understand that this is no coincidence, and foresee that Asians are now positioned to dominate research and development indefinitely. "As for the Europeans" muses Minc, "they don't even feel this reaction, as if the confrontation with Asia had long since left them marginalized in the battle for knowledge."

Minc cites the rise of Asia as one of the trends that will overturn the global status quo. He takes this and nine other themes as starting points for essays examining how the world got to this stage. His book, "Dix jours qui ébranleront le monde" (Ten Days that Will Shake the World) was published this week in Paris by Grasset.

Minc's pedigree as a product of the elite Ecole Normale d'Administration (ENA) and a close adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy has given this slim collection of essays credibility and made it an instant sensation.

Of China's educational system, he notes that 15 million students are working for advanced degrees at 4,000 institutions, including several subsidized "private" institutions, "bearing witness to a new élitisme clearly in evidence". The government, he continues, " treats higher education the same as sports, keeping a single objective in mind: a maximum number of medals".

Minc cites India's past as a British colony, and its adoption of the English language, as conferring a great advantage over competing nations in Europe. And while he sees that the United States and Asia will collaborate, Europe's "marginalization will be even more obvious, and it will already be too late to do anything about it."

Japan, already confident of its excellence, will "do everything to avoid being equalled or beaten by the Chinese and Indians". And Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea "will continue their progression, stimulated by their constant flow of new talent".

The Minc scenario for this and other trends in the book is considered plausible because of real events leading up to each of his ten days.

Although concocting such lists is no great achievement (Minc says he could list a thousand events), he has chosen his top ten for their upheaval factor and their proximity to reality, often with dangerous implications. His essays are thoughtful and well-researched.

His other themes are:

-- Israel attacks Iran's nuclear installations

-- Google buys the New York Times for one dollar

-- Terrorists acquire a nuclear weapon and threaten London

-- China invades and takes back Taiwan

-- Scotland breaks off from the United Kingdom

-- Young white male professionals demonstrate for their rights

-- Gazprom makes a bid for Total, the leading French oil company

-- The U.S. dollar falls through the floor and hits $2.5 to the euro

-- French population exceeds that of Germany

Particularly chilling is his scenario for the disappearance of the New York Times. He imagines it happening like this:

It is March 25, 2013, and New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzburger Jr. has nowhere to go but Chapter 11 bankruptcy court, and tomorrow is his deadline. The phone rings. It is Eric Schmidt, Goggle chairman and CEO, with a proposition. He wants to buy the deeply indebted newspaper for one dollar. It just might work, Sulzburger thinks to himself. Google could at least save our name.

Giving this story impact is the fact that advertising and reading habits are rapidly shifting from the printed page to new forms of media on the internet, including Facts & Arts. Although Europe has not yet experienced the collapse of major titles, several dailies are struggling to adapt to the assault. Meanwhile, the U.S. newspaper market is reeling from a string of recent failures.

Minc imagines Sulzberger reasoning that a sell-off to Google for one dollar would be as humiliating as filing for bankruptcy, but at least the changes of saving the Times's identity would be better.

Google likes the idea, he goes on, because it offers a chance to rebrand Google News and thus "achieve a degree of credibility which, despite its power, it still is lacking", especially in Washington, where Google needs lobbying influence to expand its other businesses.

Following Sulzberger's acceptance of the Google offer, commentators conclude that the print version of the newspaper is living on a borrowed time, and may end up as a sort of dumbed-down New York Review of Books with reduced circulation and higher cover price. More ominously, the new owners would go for "different type of journalist, a philosophy of opposite from traditional press, and a revised set of professional ethics".

Six months after the acquisition, The New York Times is nothing more than a gigantic website that can claim only one success -- it quadruples the audience of the former Google News.

Minc enjoys a career as a French thinker in the world of business and the media.He has written a thought-provoking book that is part alarm bell and part a call to arms for Europeans. His technique of focusing on the climatic events, then backtracking to fill in the history, makes for a racy formula that focuses the mind effectively.


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Somewhat related, please watch Erich Schmidt, Google's CEO, at Morgan Stanley's technology conference on March 3, 2009:




 


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