The name of the late Ester Boserup came into my mind during a recent discussion in comments. The Danish economist – who is well respected by specialists, but perhaps insufficiently well known outside the ‘inner circle’ – had some pretty interesting views on global population, agriculture and technology. One of her central themes is that it is the pressure of rising population which acts as a motor of technological change (and not vice versa). A kind of Malthus in reverse. Now the point is that when a process hits a constraint, ingenuity may be brought to bear in a way which not only circumvents but supercedes the original problem. All of this was brought into my mind by news of what has been happening in Harvard recently:
“Scientists at Harvard University have found a way to ?reprogramme? adult human cells to an embryonic state. The discovery could provide an alternative to therapeutic cloning, as a way to make embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to the patient.
The researchers fused adult skin cells with embryonic stem cells, producing hybrid cells in which the adult nucleus had returned to an embryonic state. The journal Science will publish their findings on Thursday.”
Ingenuity once more triumphs over adversity. This I think was also George Steiner’s point about the East European and Latin American novel in the 70s.