Technology Widens Rich-Poor Gap
by Philip Emeagwali
Oil has made us billions and fuelled our economic stability, but oil has also become the bane of our existence. For some, it is a curse that has caused poverty and corruption, but for others it is an essential source of untold wealth and power. But as the gap between rich and poor countries continues to expand, it is clear that intellectual capital and technology rule the world, and that natural resources such as oil, gold, and diamonds are no longer the primary determinants of wealth.
Surprisingly, nations with few natural resources
demonstrate greater economic growth rates than OPEC countries.
In reality, it is not money but intellectual capital that
drives prosperity. More important, perhaps, is the reality that poverty is
driven and sustained by a lack of intellectual capital. The intimate
relationship between intellectual capital and economic growth is as old as humanity
itself, and is well illustrated by this parable from ancient
“If you had a choice between the clay of wisdom or a bag of gold, which would you choose?” “The bag of gold, the bag of gold” the naïve children cried, not realizing that wisdom had the potential to earn them many more bags of gold in the future.
Seven thousand years later,
The striking economic gap that persists between rich and poor nations has increased sevenfold over the past century to what is now an all-time high. The accumulation of intellectual capital by rich nations has helped broaden this gap because it has enabled them to control technology and collect hidden taxes from less affluent nations. For instance, Nigeria pays a 40-percent “royalty” tax on its petroleum revenues to foreign oil companies that are ripping out its family jewels — the huge store of wealth in its oilfields. These oilfields started forming when prehistoric, dog-sized humans — our common ancestor with the apes — walked African grasslands on four legs.
It’s a shocking reality, but the deep oil reserves laid
down by Mother Nature millions of years ago and nurtured through the millennia
in Africa have been whittled away within decades. And, for the dubious
privilege of surrendering its natural resources forever,
Today, half the world’s population — three billion people — live on an average of $500 a year. In contrast, Bill Gates earns $500 every second. By controlling technology and taxing computer users, Gates has become wealthier than each of the 70 poorest nations on earth and using his financial might has conquered more territory than Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great combined.
While Bill Gates is the new millennium’s Prince of
Technology, he is by no means the first to have taken on the huge potential
offered by the realm of technology. The Romans used roads and military
technology to expand their empire. And, for centuries,
In the same way, the
Numerous examples throughout history support the idea that
technology can be used as a tool of oppression. And there’s little doubt that
Nigerian-born Philip Emeagwali won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, the Nobel Prize of supercomputing. He has been called “a father of the Internet” by CNN and TIME; praised as an “unorthodox innovator [who] has pushed back the boundaries of oilfield science” by UPSTREAM, a leading European oil and gas industry journal; extolled as “one of the great minds of the Information Age” by former US president Bill Clinton; and voted history’s 35th greatest African by New African.