Mr. Carlos Slim met distinguished UNAM students, teachers and researchers to talk about diverse Mexico’s problems, Mexico’s insertion in the current world, its institutions, UNAM and the world as well.

The talk came about in UNAM campus. Dr. José Narro Robles, UNAM rector, welcomed Mr. Slim.

México City, June 21, 2010.

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José Narro Robles: Please, seat down. I am pleased of being in here and I m going to make a brief speech to warmly welcome you. I am very pleased in having this meeting.

Welcome to your home, Mr. Slim. Mr. Slim is a distinguished graduate from our engineering school, where he has also lectured, besides having imparted several courses in other schools. To him and his son, Patricio, I say: you are very, very welcome.

I am going to give an explanation for this meeting. Some weeks ago, Mr. Slim asked me in a challenging manner, as he uses to, to have a work meeting, a free dialogue, especially with young people. To get a balanced gathering, I decided to invite older people, like Dr. Martuscelli, by instance.

Our aim is to talk about Mexico, its affairs, themes and problems.

So, you all are in here as outstanding university people, and I m going to start by naming madam Norma Samaniego, who is a chair member of the UNAM trust, although she is not in here in such a representation, just by her own individual merits. Welcome, Norma Samaniego.

It is also in here, of course, Mr. Rolando Cordera, emeritus professor of the Faculty of Economics and member of UNAM directive board. He is in here as a professor and researcher.

I have also invited my own immediate collaborators and some faculty, institute and center directors because their participation could be important since all of them are academicians.

So, in here are Sergio Alcocer, general secretary; Rosaura Ruíz, secretary of institutional development; Ramiro Jesús Sandoval, secretary of community services; Carlos Arámburo de la Hoz, coordinator of scientific research; Estela Morales, coordinator of Humanities; Enrique del Val, coordinator of planning; Jaime Martuscelli Quintana, coordinator of innovation and development, and Luis Raul González Pérez, UNAM general attorney.

In here also are Eduardo Bárzana, director of Chemistry School; Gonzalo Guerrero, director of Engineering School; Adalberto Noyola Robles, director of the Engineering Institute; Leonardo Lomelí, director of Economics School, welcome doctor Lomelí; Jose Manuel Saniger Blesa, director of Applied Sciences and Technological Development Center.

In here it is also Ciro Murayama, university professor, who has been awarded several prizes for young researchers. He has been awarded DUNJA prize, that is, University Distinction for Young Professors.

A distinguished group of graduate and postgraduate students is also in here.

I ask them to stand up as I mention them one by one: Carlos Alberto Balbuena (engineering postgraduate), thanks and welcome, Carlos Alberto; Luis Camacho (law postgraduate); Karina Culebro (law postgraduate); Mario Andrés de Leo (astronomy postgraduate); Jose Luis Navarro (music postgraduate); Beatriz Sánchez Basurto (engineering postgraduate)… I realize that this gathering is biased to engineers, it is well planned.

We also have in here in graduate fellowship students, very distinguished all of them. I ask them to stand up as I mention them one by one: Nancy Arellano Buendía (mechanical-electrical engineering), welcome, Nancy; Irene Cerón Martinez (pharmaceutics-biologic chemistry), welcome, Irene.

Alan Antonio Cisneros Ledesma (law); Miguel Angel González González (mecatronics); Luz Belem Hernández Martínez (mechanical-electrical engineering, welcome; Ramiro Hernández Ramírez (he studies managment in accountability and administration school), it is right? OK.

Francisco Salvador Hernández Pérez (computer engineering); Luis Abel Leon Mercado (psychology), thanks, Luis; Sergio Olguín Plata (civil engineering); José Gilberto Parra Leyva (Biology, School of Sciences).

Aura Rebeca Ramírez Reyes (Design and Visual Communication); Laura Marisela Rosales Lopez (social work); Héctor Iván Sánchez Mendoza (School of Economy, FES Aragon); Omar Valencia (mechanical-electrical engineering), welcome; Leticia Vázquez Mena (mechanical-electrical engineering); Jesús Vergara Gutiérrez (basic biomedics research), welcome, Jesús, and Fausto Ivan Zamudio Herrera (informatics).

I think I have named all of the attendant students. All of them are excellence students of our university.

Before asking Mr. Slim to talk, I am going to suggest two things. First, I propose the sequence for this meeting. Oops! I have missed Dr. Celis; she is already looking at me, as discrete and prudent as she is. Thanks and welcome, Dr. Celis.

I am going to make an introductory speech; then I will ask Mr. Slim to talk as long as he takes; then a question and answers round will be opened.

Since it is foreseeable that senior professors will overwhelm here present students as they use to do in the classroom, we will not allow such a conduct in this gathering. I suggest having one question for each one senior professor or functionary against two from students. So we will have three-intervention rounds up until depleting the scheduled time.

This meeting is planned to end at 14:25 or 14:30 pm if you will.

My introductory speech is simple and it goes in two directions:

First, it is an honor for UNAM to have so eminent and thoroughgoing graduates like Mr. Carlos Slim.

We are proud that Mr. Slim, being what he is, what he symbolizes, having a technical-scientific education plus varied economic-financial talents and his ever-present social commitment, be one of our graduates. We are pleased in having him with us.

Second, we are pleased for having the opportunity to talk with him about all the issues you like, about our university and the world as well.

Mexico is living very important moments. Mexico is a great country and it has many serious problems, but, without a doubt, it is a great country. There is all its history, its culture, its geography, its people, its economy and its big developments, which I just refer to state evidence and reasoning in this field.   

For sure, it will be around that, around México, its institutions and its insertion in the world, that we will talk today, welcome all of you.

I would ask to Mr. Slim, then, give us an introductory speech.

Carlos Slim Helú: Good afternoon to all of you. Thanks Rector Narro, I really thank you. It is a pleasure, an honor, and a privilege to be in the university.

I am afraid I am the older of all of us, as a graduate, I mean, 1955 class. What is yours?

Answer: age old or class pertaining?

Carlos Slim Helú: Class, I mean…

Answer: 1958…

Carlos Slim Helú: I belong to the 1955 class, preparatory school; 1957 in engineering school. I thank our rector to be invited. Thanks for being in here with all of you.

In fact, that meeting was brought about in a bit different way. It was David Ibarra’s 80th anniversary. David Ibarra, as you know, uses to be very provoking in expounding ideas. So, we, I mean rector Narro, Carlos Tello, Rolando, and Enrique, stood chatting after dinner.

It was in this chat that the idea of a gathering came about after a comment about a UNAM meeting which has reached out one hundred conclusions, if I recall well. Then I said: “Well, one hundred conclusions are equal to none; if you have one hundred priorities, there are no priorities at all.” That was the reason.


I am going to take advantage of seizing the microphone to make a little bit extensive speech, not as extensive as it would appear at its starting. Let me start by doing a little bit provoking introduction.

Since the rise of man or Homo habilis, about two and a half million years ago, all human societies and social changes have been drove by two fundamental factors: technology and communications.

During these two and a half millions years, five glaciations and concomitant one hundred meter sea-level on-average variations did occur. Since then, many societies have arisen and extinguished themselves. We don’t know if some kind of inter-glacial civilization did exist. Yet, it is clear that at the end of the last glaciation, about 12,000 years ago, human civilization began.

Perhaps human civilization began about 8,000 years ago, once the ice melted away. It is estimated that the last glaciation lasted about 120,000 years. Then water receded into the oceans, while, surely, portentous storms dropped down on earth. Climate was hostile, yet it began to become milder, gradually. Then many earthly paradises began to flourish. Abundant fresh water, mild climate, flora and fauna favored human life. Eventually, human groups stopped to be nomadic to become sedentary.

I don’t conceive agriculture as someone’s invention. Our ancestors discovered it in a bountiful natural environment. It was such an environment that made them sedentary in many places, in Euphrates, Tigris, Nile and Yang Tse rivers, and in the Valley of Mexico as well. Small human groups, amounting about 40 or 50 people, did live by collecting fruits and hunting. Eventually they began to gather themselves to become sedentary.

Roughly speaking, human civilization has run through four steps.

The first one goes from the collecting-hunting man to the ascent of the Homo habilis, and it lasted about two and a half millions years.

For those inclined to paleoanthropology, there is a very interesting field work by Richard Leakey (Louis Leakey’s son) in Turkana Lake, showing fossil evidence –the Turk Ana boy– suggesting that the Homo sapiens could be born there, having about 190 thousand years. Abundant fossil evidence has been found there, and systematic scientific work is on the making.

In that era, all of our ancestors were hunters, anthropophagi, scavengers, etc., and they used to wander from here to there. It was until agriculture’s discovery that those groups began to gather themselves and become sedentary.

Estimations about the number of people living then vary from eight million to ten million persons, and they could be gathered in groups about 40-50 people, yet all of that is mere assumption. It seems clear, however, that there were a lot a people gathered in small groups. That seems to be the reason for human surviving in a context of mass starvation.

With agriculture our ancestors became sedentary. Agrarian society brought about big civilizing leaps.

Agrarian society crises deeply differed from ours. Our ancestors did not use to say: “Technology and productivity is speeding up; machines are diabolic because they create unemployment”, etc.

Nobody went into such a mess. In the primitive small group, everybody did collect fruits. In the face of abundant food, nobody would say: “We should continue to be nomadic in order to avoid unemployment.” That was an elementary society, so there were no diagnose problems.

That is the way human civilization began in several places. Agrarian society did last about 10 thousand years and it had paradigms of its own. These paradigms differed from the preceding ones and, above all, from ours, 180 degree dissimilar.

Agrarian societies evolved with technology and communication. Technology, however, had appeared before, when fire was discovered and, above all, when humans began to imitate flora reproduction. So, our ancestors began to cultivate, plow and irrigate land; they began to use water and fire power and invented clothes. By observing the course of stars, they began to organize society accordingly, as it is well known. Advancement was uneven. Some groups lived in the Stone Age while others went into the Bronze Age, yet advances diffused themselves by communication. Some groups learnt from others.

So, by instance, the first globalization did occur three thousand years ago due to the Phoenician civilization in the Mediterranean Sea, the very origins of our Western Civilization.

Sea navigation stands for the driver of that big civilizing leap because it allowed communication between distant cultures. Cultural, ethnic and commercial exchange flourished because of trade, so creating the basis for further progress.

That is why I underline both technology and communication as the main factors of civilization. One hundred or two hundred years ago, backwardness was the rule for many human settlements along the world because of isolation. Even today we see isolated backwardness spots in Amazonia and some places of Africa.

Agrarian society paradigms, as I was saying, completely differed from the preceding ones. For agrarian society, social control was critical, and social control meant social immobility. Class differences were also critical, and the ruling classes could only govern by maintaining the rest in ignorance.

Political power was monolithic and theocratic. Those having the political power were supposed to descend from divinities. They kept political, religious, military and economic power.            

It was not by chance that Egyptian Pharaoh, Aztec Tlatoani, and Peruvian Inca claimed to descend from divinity. The Japanese Emperor gave up his divine pretensions after World War II. Even today, the Jordanian King claims to be Muhammad’s offspring.

Agrarian society needed monolithic power and that religious power, by instance, didn’t get independent from political power to avoid rupture and conflict, etc.

Economy, however, was stagnant, zero sum. Climate variations counted more than human labor. Egyptians assumed an alternating pattern of seven good years and seven bad ones, as the Bible asserts.

Freedom and democracy were unknown. Slavery was a matter of convenience because the economy rested upon human exploitation. Conquest wars were recurrent to accrue land and slave labor, etc.

In such a society, justice and freedom were wholly banished as obstacles to efficient social functioning.

Obviously, there also were great moments, cities and luminous epochs: the Greek golden age; the Phoenician commercial expansion through the Mediterranean Sea and beyond, so creating a rich culture; the Roman engineering which did introduce the arch and the vault; the Renaissance, a great moment for arts, science, philosophy and thought in general, etc.

Yet, as great as they were, those moments and achievements did not change the social functioning. Society continued to be monolithic and dependant upon slavery, while social immobility remained to be its main feature.

Social rigidness inhibited print’s social effects because of widespread illiteracy during XVI, XVII, XVIII plus an extended period of XIX centuries. Literacy began to diffuse itself up until the end of the XIX century and ensuing years.

With the industrial revolution, society began to transform itself. Since then, technology has been at the core of constant change. Technology did innovate food processing, weapon manufacturing, architecture, road construction, irrigation, water supply, communications, navigation, etc. Suddenly, a mutating process broke up. Changes were so radical that society became substantially transformed.

Industrial society had two steps. The first one is related to the steam engine. Railroad substituted horse speed; steamship substituted sailboat. The steam engine is introduced into industry and agriculture. As a result, productivity increased twenty or thirty times. Eventually, countries adopting such a technology became developed ones.

In the second step the industrial revolution accelerated itself by the introduction of the internal combustion engine and electricity at the turn of the twentieth century. Things began to be moved at both sound and light speed.

Since the industrial revolution, chiefly since its second step, society has been guided by entirely new constantly changing paradigms. We are already living into the postindustrial society, the age of knowledge, in fact a fourth civilization, the technological society which is moving things and processes at light speed through telecommunications.

The knowledge society is guided by entirely new paradigms: democracy, freedom, creativity, innovation, plurality and diversity. I am not playing wishful thinking; I am talking about the effective features and paradigms of that new society. They count for the fittest conditions for a global society based upon competitiveness, competence, productivity, human rights, environment, etc. This is a 180-degree different society in respect to the agrarian society. Rulers don’t descend from divinity and nobody is able to exert monolithic power, any longer. Instead, we already have democratically-elected governments and separation of powers.

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