Today, Prof Svante Pääbo [67 years] was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet “for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution.”

Prof Pääbo accomplished the seemingly impossible and could publish the first Neanderthal genome sequence in 2010. Comparative analyses demonstrated that the most recent common ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens lived around 800,000 years ago.

Nobel winners are getting older and more specialised.

With more information flooding our spaces, it takes longer to reach a field’s cutting edge. Field definitions are also narrowing. A future Nobel winner will need to spend more time understanding the past before coming up with groundbreaking innovations in the field of knowledge creation.

We, mere mortals, are also affected. Our world’s knowledge has grown dramatically this century.

While we may definitely perform well in our current employment with functional skills alone, grasping the larger picture will get harder. It requires us to invest in learning like Nobel Prize winners.

As we migrate from industrialisation with big smoking chimneys to a world of connectedness, the internet and social media, we face a crossroads. Previous era transitions were physical, brutal and settled after several conflicts and wars.

Even today, there are indications of social instability. The populism that is sweeping the world is not going away anytime soon. It doesn’t just simply affect our politics, it impacts our lives.

If we wish to contribute to the solution, it will be essential to first understand what is driving these reactions and why the things we take for granted in our societies are the way they are.

Because there is now more information overload, there is also more noise and more distractions. As a result, it is simple to have a surface-level understanding of a topic because we are continuously distracted by a variety of things, we are unable to go deeper.

We need to steer clear of distractions and hone in on our domain expertise if we are going to find solutions to both the new and the old problems we are facing.

I’ve found that the best way to deal with the constant barrage of distractions is to learn to shut them out, go deeper into a topic, and embrace JOMO [the joy of missing out].

I’m reading The Inevitable [about technology], Guns, Germs and Steel [about evolution] The Anatomy of Greed: The Un-shredded Truth from an Enron Insider [about corporate greed], Bad Samaritans [about free trade], The Accidental Superpower [about geopolitics], and The World After Capital [on a thesis about the next era], and soon will start on The Intelligent Investor [about investments].

It’s also a good idea to go to conferences [like TED], join book clubs, hang out with people who have similar intellectual curiosity, and dig deeper into a topic every now and then.

First, we need to know why things are the way they are. After that, we can ask why not and forge ahead with new knowledge to solve our new and old problems.

Not only may this assist in solving important problems, but who knows, it could even win you the Nobel Prize!

Congratulations to Prof Svante Pääbo.

TEDxJohannesburg is hosting a salon conference with the theme Life, Past, Present, Future. From dinosaurs, climate change, mass extinctions and evolutionary insights, to ancient civilisations, food, music, art, technology and more.

Learn more –

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