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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Emeagwali says democracy without technology is void

Nigerian-born digital giant, Dr. Phillip Emeagwali has predicted that technology would enable the entrenchment of press and democracy on the continent of Africa, saying that democracy without technology is void.

Emeagwali bared his mind in Paris, while presenting a paper on Nigeria’s 50 independence anniversary recently.

He noted that the late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana once said “Socialism without science is void,” but for at this era, “Democracy without technology is void.”

According to him, a scientist could be famous yet remain unknown, stressing that the grand challenge for scientists is to focus on discoveries that reduce poverty rather than on winning prizes.

“To focus on the prizes we have won, instead of the discoveries we have made, would be akin to dwelling on a hero’s medal and ignoring his heroism,” he said.

Emeagwali also said that discoveries and inventions that increase wealth and reduce poverty are the “heroes” of science and technology and one hundred nations have printed their revered scientists’ likenesses on their currency, which has elevated those scientists as exalted bearers of their people’s best vision of themselves.

For him, his contribution traverses science and technology, culminating in reformulated and solved nine partial differential equations listed in the 20 Grand Challenges of computing.

The equations, he said, was invented akin to the iconic Navier-Stokes equations listed in the Seven Millennium Problems of mathematics.

“Those Seven Millennium Problems are to mathematics what the Seven Wonders of the World are to history. To be accurate, the equations I solved were not exactly solvable, but were computably solvable. That is, I digitally solved the grand challenge version, not the millennium one that must be solved logically,” he said.

He buttressed his point by saying that a novelist is a storyteller, and a scientist is a history maker; while a novelist creates a fictional world, a scientist discovers factual stories about our universe.

“I am an internet scientist who discovered factual stories. I reprogrammed and reinvented an internet to tell 65,000 factual stories to as many sub-computers,” he said.

As said by him, the internet meets humanity’s fundamental need to compute and communicate as well as spreads like bush fire, and resonates decade after decade capable of being relevant several centuries to come.

“The internet is a technology that both connects people and connect with people in a way that will forever remain deep and enduring,” he asserted, saying that as the artist that told stories about how the Laws of Motion gave rise to the eternal truths of calculus; timeless truths that will outlast the changing opinions of all times.

“My restated Second Law of Motion became my footprints; my reformulated partial differential equations became my handprints; and my reinvented algorithms became my fingerprints on the sands of time,” he said, emphasizing that told a story in which a new technology came alive through three boards, namely the storyboard, blackboard, and motherboard.

“My story has been retold from boardrooms to newsrooms, from classrooms to living rooms. It all began as a dialogue between a supercomputer programmer and his 65,000 sub-computers, which he reprogrammed as an internet,” Emeagwali said.

He elaborated his position saying that during a conversation conducted in the languages of physics and mathematics between him and his machines, in 1989, “I performed a world record of 3.1 billion calculations per second. This occurred when my keyboard replaced the handwriting on my blackboard and bridged the gap between man and motherboard. I became known for my discovery that a supercomputer is an internet and vice versa, and I, the storyteller, became both the story and the witness.”

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