This is my general response to those that have asked me to explain what I mean by “Mines of Knowledge” as posted on my feed. This is a fast feedback which could not be posted on comment section because of space limitation.
Thanks for the kind comments. Mines of Knowledge is not really that complicated. The construct is that we can invest in education and seed deep knowledge base which can be mined for human progress. The latent creativity and ingenuity of our people remains the best mines, across Africa, over the ones of platinum, gold and crude oil.
Mines of Knowledge could show through top class universities, excellent primary/secondary schools, good technology ecosystems and making sure that Africa’s finest minds stay home. The world competes on Knowledge and anyone that figures the best way to create knowledge dominates.
During the golden era of Egypt when Pharaohs controlled some of the best thinkers, Egypt ruled the world. In short, when Moses appeared before the Israelites, according to Bible and Torah, they marveled that he had studied under the Pharaohs. Recall Joseph, son of Jacob, who interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. He saved the world from famines as Egypt was the only country that stored grains, during abundance, for the famine period. The best thinkers, then, lived in Egypt.
The best moment of Greece was the era of unprecedented knowledge generation. The finest philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle lived therein. They had their moments. Greece blossomed and the world was on the feet of the Greeks. Take a big example: When the world was debating the material component of the universe, it was like a family affair in Greece; Thales said water, Heraclitus said fire, Pythagoras said numbers, etc. The world just watched them because the best ideas were emanating from Greece. Hipparchus had perfected Trigonometry in Greece and Euclid of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician, had invented Geometry. They owned knowledge and helped to shape the designs of some of the best ports off the coast of the Mediterranean.
When General Titus and Vespasian destroyed Jerusalem circa AD 67 – 70, the Romans were the best fighters. They had the best knowledge and the best technologies. They destroyed the rebuilt Temple of circa 408 BC and made Jerusalem desolate (the temple was originally built by Solomon in 10th century BC),. They dominated the world and imposed their vision of the world, just as America is doing today. No one could challenge Rome because Rome is power. From Apostle James, the brother of Jesus and the first Bishop of Jerusalem (who was martyred in AD 69) to Bishop Polycarp, through Apostle Peter, Rome controlled some of the best thought-leaders. By the time Apostle Peter was crucified upside down, the finest lawyers, philosophers were under the control of Rome. Subsequently, Catholicism was formed, and Vatican was consecrated as the Holiest spot on earth and existed undisputed before the birth of Prophet Mohammed (born 570 AD), the Father of Islam.
From the Babylonian Empire to the American empire of today, when you win on Knowledge you win on economy and human development. Babylon (today’s Iraq) used to be an intellectual domain. When Islam was founded in the 7th century, there were many intellectuals that actually helped. Abu Ja’far al-Khwarizmi, the Father of Algebra, lived in Baghdad and was known to travel to Mecca to help fix mathematical puzzles. He postulated and built the foundations of modern Algebra. There was relative prosperity as Islam had thinkers and they actually made enormous progress. The first University in the world, created in Morocco, was renowned for its ability to create knowledge creators and thinkers. Some men went to Mecca just to meet Khwarizmi solve their business problems disguised as mathematics. He was a pioneer in the beautiful science of numbers we have come to admire and he made many merchants better through application of numbers in their businesses.
The Great Britain ran great ideas during the Industrial Revolution and they ruled the world. They built mines of knowledge in science. In such, then, the rulers of Britain were inspired by science and technology. Michael Faraday was an icon, and in the Houses (Lords and Commons), doctors, engineers, pharmacists were everywhere. Britain later chose Law, Logic and Philosophy, over sciences, and they crumbled in sustaining knowledge. They lost the steam of the Industrial Revolution.
The beauty of America today is not the Mother of All Bombs but the finest mines where they create knowledge. If the top 10 universities in US close, within two decades, America will lag in military, economic development and political power. The monies some American universities control eclipse the GDPs of most countries. They invest in knowledge creation and dissemination.
Hard Evidence on How Knowledge Builds Nations
There is hard evidence that when nations build mines of knowledge, they prosper. Over the last 500 years, productivity increase has driven GDP (gross domestic product) growths across nations. When nations improve their productivity capabilities, they always experience expansion in GDPs. And when GDPs expand, the results have correlated with higher standard of living. Higher standard of living is better living welfare for citizens.
Technology penetration or diffusion has been a catalyst to this global economic redesign. Technology anchors innovation which typically drives productivity gain.
As shown in the plot above, using the two most dominant economies today, the gross world product (GWP) started expanding around 1700. Around that time, many efforts were made around the world on Intellectual Property Rights. They created a system to enable nations build mines of knowledge and own rights to some ideas that emanate from them. U.S. awarded the first patent to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790. The impact was huge because men could now take risks on ideas, commercialize them and own the exclusivity to the monetization processes. That triggered a virtuoso circle that pushed capitalism to pursue lofty goals where Pfizer can invest billions of dollars to find cures to diseases knowing that if it succeeds, it will have time to recoup the invested money. Without that structure, they would not take that risk. This also explains that making knowledge to work requires strong legal systems.
My vision of Africa is that we can build Mines of Knowledge where young people can have their minds liberated from norms and dogmas. And the ones that will help find solutions to our problems in our own ways. I am so pained that after decades, Nigeria does not have regular electricity. There is nothing that says it must be imported or provided by GE technologies. The problem is that we have been nurturing the wrong mines of crude oil which has made it impossible to develop one that can help Nigerians to build the one that will give us light.
I have worked in America and Nigeria – the reality is that everyone is smart. The difference is preparation. Before I made it to U.S., I did not know how to wire a simple diode. But after going through the knowledge creation system of America, I filed a patent on making microchip that controls surgical robots. I have my circuits in the iPhone as I helped to design a critical interface for the MEMS accelerometer (in Analog Devices Corp) which was shipped to Apple. It is not that I am now brighter. Rather, it is just that I have found myself in a system that supports anyone that makes efforts to flourish on knowledge creation – they have these companies that create campuses which focus on innovation over mere invention. The progress of my team on Zenvus tells me that companies like Apple, Google and Facebook could be African if we begin to build mines of Knowledge, at scale.
Across history, from the Babylonians during Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC to the Roman Empire, to the British, and the present America, knowledge has always ruled humans. Anyone that builds the best knowledge mine wins. The cure to cancer and AIDs will not come through political rallies, but through support those rallies give to technical minds to find miracles. Creating Mines of Knowledge remains the most competitive weapon available for defining the wealth of nations.
If I lay hands on the videos, I will share but this is a big summary of what I mean by Mines of Knowledge.