Speech by Mr. Carlos Slim Helú at the gala dinner presided by him during the 1st Conference Innovating Tijuana, on October 19, 2010.

The moment has come for us to offer the floor to our special guest this evening.  Please give a warm welcome to Mr. Carlos Slim.

Carlos Slim Helú:
Good evening.  I am very pleased to be here in Tijuana, and happy to meet many of you and feel the ambience of the city.  I am also glad to see that the stands at the exhibition are full of visitors, mostly youngsters. I can feel the energy of this city.

I am also glad to acknowledge that this event has been organized by a group of private entrepreneurs with the support of the State, Federal and Municipal governments.  This is the way to work if we want to transform our country in a positive way as soon as possible.

We will ask ourselves some questions. I will begin by sharing with you my opinion about what is happening in the transformation of the world.  I do this as a tribute to Alvin Toffler and those who 40 years ago published “The Future Shock”.  40 years ago they already knew what was happening and foresaw what was about to happen. Unfortunately this great change in our civilization is still unclear.  Most countries have not yet adopted the necessary measures to transform themselves, perhaps with the exception of China.

In order to understand this thoroughly, one should compare the paradigm of an agricultural society with the current paradigms of today.  They are in opposition at 180 degrees.  Agricultural societies were ruled by monolithic powers, there was no social mobility; ignorance and slavery prevailed. There were different social classes but if one were born a peasant one would remain a peasant for the rest of his/her life.

Monolithic rule meant that political power came accompanied by military, economic and religious power. Everywhere, the monarch and the pharaoh descended from God.

For ten thousand years the earth and human beings were exploited.  There was no social mobility, Human Rights did not exist, nor the concept of the environment; life had no value for slaves.  Wars of conquest were fought with slaves as cannon fodder, as a means to loot, to acquire slaves and levy taxes.

That was an agricultural society.  During the period of transition at the beginning of the industrial era and all along the 20th Century, the idea of a divine ruler was gradually substituted by nationalism, populism and social rule.  This gave way to dictatorships which are in fact a transitory phase between monarchy and democracy.

Nowadays, in our current civilization, our paradigms include plurality –which was formerly inacceptable- diversity, democracy, distribution of powers and Human Rights, as never before. The environment was neither considered a condition for social progress.  Today, the economy, globalization, competition, innovation, education and knowledge are all important elements for success in our globalized world.

This radical transformation implies plenty of things and demands many changes. This is probably one of the reasons behind the crisis affecting industrialized countries. Their financial systems are in trouble and their governments suffer from great deficits because they have not been able to organize themselves according to this new civilization.  Big countries are facing difficult situations because their authorities have not been able to spearhead the needed change.  However, countries like Mexico and others in Asia, the Middle East and all of Latin America, have a completely different position.

My optimism about the future of Mexico is rational; it is based on some of these fundamental ideas. When a country reaches a certain level of income, it surpasses the barrier of underdevelopment.  Latin America is reaching this stage.  The first country to get there will be Chile, most certainly because it is one of the most advanced countries in the region with a better educated population and a good level of income distribution.  This is why Chile will be one of the first.  After Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina will follow, and a little later Peru and others.

I hope that in a few years Mexico will be developed and enter a cycle of virtuous growth; with the appearance of a large middle class, a stronger and more competitive society and sustainable growth.

What is interesting about this world, this new civilization, is its relative generosity.  It is a generous civilization in so far as it is sustained in the wellbeing of others.  In the past, most societies sustained themselves thanks to the exploitation of others, levying fees on them, abusing workers, whether local or slaves.  Rulers wanted people to work a lot and consume little in order to maximize their profit margins.  Today it is the other way around; it is desirable that the entire population participates in the market, the economy and the labor market.  This will support personal progress, making people richer, with more jobs, and a stronger economy based on cycles of sustainable growth.

We have already seen this, regardless of cultures, ethnic groups or other categories.  For instance, we witnessed this process in Europe, most notably in Spain that in 1981-82 had an income of US$4,500 and now it has reached US$35,000.  We have also seen this in other European countries, even in Central and Eastern Europe, where after their independence in 1989-90 they have attained a sustained pace towards development; even if today they suffer, along with Asian countries, from a crisis.  We have also witnessed this in Korea and we are now seeing it in Singapore too.  The later, just like Cuba, started in a very low level of development and became one of the countries with higher income.  Australia, New Zealand and others have gone through similar processes.

This is a very interesting situation because all countries depend on the well being of the rest.  It is a radical change from the past.  Furthermore, our society is more interested than ever in knowledge, education and training. Social mobility is automatically powered by merit, capacities and personal activity.

I would like to underline one of the most important features of this new civilization:  it advances by means of technological leaps.  We have therefore leapt from horsepower to steam-power, and steam-power was already a transition to the industrial age.  Then we attained light speed and sound speed.  Today, telecoms perform at light speed while air transport travels at the speed of sound.

Agricultural society was smaller while those dedicated to produce manufactured goods were more numerous.  In today’s tertiary society, or digital, knowledge, technological society as may want to name it, most persons work in the service sector.  In old films we were used to watch people working in factories or mines.  Today, most films depict people working in Wall Street, doctors or other types of services.

In this matter the US can be considered as an example, where most of the service jobs are concentrated in the trade sector.  Then follow health and education, which are also important sectors jobwise. Then we find entertainment and other type of services, without counting those employed by the military.

Our societies are service societies. Buy why? Why do people work in services instead of working in the production of goods? The reason lies in the fact that machines now work automatically and faster. They are computer controlled and easily produce competitive goods at large scale; thus allowing for the generation of large profits.

We have now reached the sum of 7 billion inhabitants in the world. Society was formerly more elitist. At the time when the press was invented more than 90% of the population was illiterate.  The press took a long time to function. Today, as new technologies are developed, the world population absorbs more and more. For instance, one can mention the case of mobile phones, now numbering almost 5 billion, that is almost 70% of the world’s population.

Broad band, Internet, computers and intelligent phones are all rapidly developing.  This has moved billions of people to act, work and innovate. Some of them use the new applications while others develop those applications.  We are being offered a very wide array of opportunities.

As I mentioned this morning, in many fields, like medicine for example, problems should be addressed in a different manner as they have being traditionally solved through history.  In education we should foster new methods for distance, interactive education that do not necessarily imply attendance to a classroom, especially in higher education. In the health sector things are also going to be different, there will be progress.

A great deal of what I have said refers to what I understand as a transformation of civilization.  Forty years ago, Alvin Toffler talked about this.  With no doubt we are now living it.  We should always keep him in mind if we want to know how to solve our problems or how to innovate.

I was very glad to see that among the cities I know, Tijuana is leading the way in Mexico.  I hope you will keep up with your studies, research and technological development with the support of professional Mexican scientists that have studied abroad and have come back to apply their knowledge here. Tijuana is no longer a traditional manufacturing city; it has transformed itself into an added value technological factory.

Thank you.


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