Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga: "What Do Science, Technology, and [...]" | Talks At Google
Clapperton. Shakunetsu. Mangas, professional. Interests, lie, in the history theory and practice, of science technology, innovation and, entrepreneurship, in the international, context, with, a focus on Africa. He. Joined MIT as an assistant professor in 2008. After completing. His PhD at the University, of Michigan, he. Is the author of transient. Workspaces. Technologies. Of everyday innovation, in Zimbabwe, and his. Second book is an edited volume which will hear about today entitled, what do science technology, and innovation mean, from Africa, please, join me in welcoming professor, malanga. Thank, you all for coming, I, would. Like to. Start. Off by giving. Just a brief. Background. To, how, this project came about. It's. A, progression, from my first book translate, workspaces. And. What, I was trying to do in that book was. To ask this, very important. Question why. Is easy, that in, the, history. Of Technology, science, and innovation. Africa. Does not seem to be on the map is, it, a question that he does not have any technology, or. Simply. That it, has been ignored. So. As you know. Africa. Is a very, big, continent. 54. Countries. Probably. Plus, if. You include the eyelids and this. Is not something that you can just you. Know cover inside. One. Book on your own in. A short period of time so, I, wanted to ask this question on, a larger. Scale and this. Was the birth of this book take. A closer look at the title, the major. Where. There is from. The. Idea. Was to take. Seriously, African, voices. Not. Just is empirical, evidence, or a cannon, fodder for theory, but is. Intellectual. Agents, in their own right what. If we took what, they know seriously, enough. To. Do that I, organized. A number, of scholars. Some, of them mentors. To me others. Colleagues. At the same level. Da. My solo at Louisville. Shadrach. Chili curry at University, of Cape Town sherry, or gusto, at Brown. Katrine. Peapod kay you live in Ronny, eglish who some of you may know it. RPI. L, enforced his, student. Totally. Autumn also and. Derrick. Lewis both, of them at.
University. Of Virginia both. Engineers. And. They. Are colleagues, nazim ax so. The idea, was could. We have, a conversation, across. Disciplines. III. Didn't, want this idea of us just, the. Science, and technology studies people, speaking, to ourselves I wanted. To open up this conversation, to multiple, disciplines, the. Bench science is, engineering. Disciplines, lawyers. The. Conference, that I organized, in November, 19 to. 2014. Was. Actually. Very eclectic, as. And. Actually, it this became, the actual title of the book. We. Had, all over this some, of you may know from publishing, that publishers, want a certain, type of, title. For. Marketing reasons I, say, no, this, is V, title. Like. I said is this persistent. Negative image, of Africa, but. There is also the, agency. Of some of us working on Africa to escape, a rather. Stifling. Western. Dependence. On theory. Could. We imagine, science. Technology, and innovation from, say our, own languages, I. Look. At definitions, of science. Technology and innovation today and I'm sure, you would agree that they are very. Reductionist, science. Comes. To be. Removed. From, a, all. Kinds, of social, dimensions. But. As we know science. Itself is a social, activity, the. Idea, was to restore that, and see, where we'd get. In. Africa's for example it's. Impossible. To reckon. With any. Major, innovation, without checking seriously. Religious. Aspects, that are negated the ritual, of knowledge production, the. Same for technology, if you look at technology today. It's. As if it's. Just technical. Gadgets. And. I'm saying this at Google. But. It's. A whole, complex, system, social, technical. Cultural, etc. Etc. My. Interest, was to restore that but also to disturb, the meaning of technology, is, it that obvious. Or. Could it be something more could. It be that we are in. Being in reducing. It, to gadgets. We. Are missing, out on something, else what. Could that something, else be. The. Same with. If. You look at innovation. Innovation, has, been reduced, to this very, commercialized. Tech. Techno. Centric. Riau. So. What are we what are we to do with those. Activities. That people engage with that fall, outside that. Now. Why. Did these conversations. Okay when they did. This. Was just a year before I got 10 and 20 15 and. I. Was beginning to be. Frustrated, by the insula. Way in which, academia. Engages, with questions, of that, affect, the world. And, so I began, to engage. Policymakers. For example, could I see myself playing, a role making. Interventions. In policy, I. Had. Been conducting. Research since. 2008. On what. I call everyday, knowledge that, knowledge that sustains, people, with. The. Our. Nice. Careers, here. When. People don't have those careers, they, never went to school or if they were fired from work many. Of these people in Africa go back to. What. Is now called informal. Sector. Or the informal, economy. What. And against the informal. Activity. These. Skills, that you need to go by every. Day most, of them are not. In the curriculum in the school curriculum a good. Number of them. Actually. Dismissed. Traditionally. As primitive. Or. Simply. Unknowledgeable. So. I said I started this 2000. This project 2008. By. Then I had already begun to hear this talk Africa, is rising. Using. A new. Young. African, who is quite, driven, to, make. A difference. The. There. Is one generation, that still says. Colonialism. Is to blame for all our ills there's another that says no no no we have been independent, for a while, quit. This nonsense this. Generation, that I am. Talking, about the younger generation, I, felt.
They Needed a different, kind, of narrative about Africa, deeply. Rooted in history but. Also tackling. The key. Keywords. In their, own time like, tech, like. Science, like, innovation, like entrepreneurship. And. Yet. When you look at Africa's, history's a blank slate historians. Have you note that. Anthropologist, yeah they are beginning to come round to it is. For. Engineering. Science and tech they don't deal with that stuff. So. Each, nation. Subsists. On its own myths and heroes. What. Kind of heroes would this generation, subsist on. That's. The basis, for. Writing. This book it was intended, for, what. Since. The book was published is, now. Imaged. Clearly, in my mind is a. Project. Of, training. Critical. Thinker to us. In. Other words is to say that Africa, is a lot of critical thinkers. But. Most, of them are not doers and. Those. That actually do, things are not critical thinkers. So. How do you bring this to and square, the circle. The. Research that I had done since, both, during, and since PhD. Had. Taught me that the. Best way, to be. Effective, in the world is. To, be humble before, knowledge. To. Not appear, like you monopolize. The, space of common, sense and reason. And. I was coming from being. At MIT as an academic and. What. I learnt in my field work and through growing up, was. A lot, of knowledge, that is handed, down from. Generation to generation through. Practice. And. Part. Of this required, me to have, to really. Look at Africa. In a different light as somebody, was coming back from. Years, in. A sport, I. Found. That one of the most underestimated. Strengths. The. Most underrated, assets. Of Africa, is. What one, would call creative, resilience. Where. Even, when people's, backs are against, the wall they, don't just die or. Roll over and die they, die fighting, and so. That. Creative. Spirit is often. Take, ignored. People. Just talk about Oh Africa's. People are very resilient look at what is thrown at them. No. It's, not just resilience. It's also creativity. You, can be resilient or all you want but. If it's, you are faced with hunger. And death you have to innovate. The. Concern, for me was that a lot of what is what we are seeing now. In. The African, context, in, terms of innovation. Arises. Out of trying. To make do to deal with a very tough, situation. So. Let. Me take you through the individual. Chapters in the process, of, answering. This, question what, do science. Technology, and innovation mean, from Africa I have. Seen that I held in I. Convened. A meeting at. MIT, in, 2014. I had. Also, organized, the previous, one in South Africa to. Recast, the idea, of laboratory. Y. Recast. It because, I don't. Believe that the. Built. Laboratory. Is. The only laboratory that exists, if, limited. To that we. Are shutting out the door a lot, of possibilities. Now. Where. Would you start, with this. The. First part of for me was could, we engage, philosophers. We have been dealing with a lot of, these questions about, african knowledge and. So. In the chapter, that da, masala rice it's, a very interesting example, from. Egypt. The. Concern, for the afterlife and. How. It gives rise to the, science, of mummification, and. This, discovery, of Natron which, was used to preserve the body. And. One of the theories the advances. Is that, this. Was. The. The, rationale, for turning. To Natron and, magnifying. A body or. Preserving. It in a fridge state was, so that it could travel. The journey to. The afterlife, in. A fresh state in instead. Of arriving, there in a decomposed, State.
Now. However, we may think about the, belief systems, of the ancient Egyptians, is not the question here. Usually. In the past Africa knowledge has been dismissed oh this is cuckoo that can't happen. And. Yet. When you look at the science, that follows. Visually. That's what we just take, and say okay this is what we hold on to the rest is. Rubbish. Masala. Also touches. On what is. Often, conceived. Of as a primitive. Society, in. Trying, to find. Technology. And innovation. In. That space the. Masai of Kenya. And other, parts, of East Africa and. How, they, have been able to both maintain. Salient. Aspects, of designing, Spears as well. As. Adopting. And adapting. Some. Elements, that are coming in. In. My own chapter I focused. On. Something. Different I. Wanted. To see if we, can really think about science, from a truly indigenous. Language. And. If, we did that what. Kind of keywords might, we come up with. And. What. I found was. Quite interesting. In. Several. Parts of the of the chapter I give the example of the. Way in which observations. Of animals. And animal, science. Gave. Rise to a. Whole. Way of, defending. Agonistic. Enemy attack and constructing. Defense systems. My. Best is mice, as. A, rule. Mice. Always, have a plan B. When. They dig they, have two exits. One. Is the obvious one the other is the other you don't see. So. They, enter this way if you wait here and think that the mouse is going to come back this way and. You. Are ready poised, to, hit, it oops. It, has already bolted the other way is gone, when. It digs there. Are all these various, caverns. That. It. Hides. In. So. You may be digging, this way and it. Takes a detour and just hides there. Mice. Are also known, to be, very, good at defending, against situation. One. Example I give there is. They. Stick, and squirrels. Do this as well but. In, this case it was mice. And. This, had very substantial. Consequences, to the concept, of chima Renga the. Idea, that women would be stalking food. In the caves, while. All the men would be busy, mounting. The defenses, it. Was a communal. Effort. What. I am interested there, is not so much the war, I tend to be anti-war, I, am. Much more interested in, the. Idea, that you could learn a lot of, things, from. Other animals. And. I'm sure if you look at some of these signs that that's, coming out like geckskin for example. It's. Coming out of this idea, to learn the animal world in. Order, for, you to, apply. To other purposes. For. Shattering chicory, the. Interesting, thing was to think about the laboratory as a. Site, which. Is not fixed or tethered, to space it's, something, that is moving, you. Can lift it and press, it somewhere, what remains constant, is the practice, and. For. This example this is this is a stunning example of how you could actually build. Furnaces. Blast furnaces, in clay in. Order to smelt iron and. Do. So in a way that is, capable. Of being shifted. Elsewhere. And. I'm. Calling, this, science. Because how else do you explain the fact that these iron, Smith's, on, this bobbin Plateau in Congo, in. The.
16th, To, 18th centuries they. Out competed. The portuguese we had come with their engineers, from europe to, construct, foundries, and. The. Portuguese, lo, and behold they. Couldn't penetrate their local, market in. Fact they did not even have confidence, in their own. Iron. And, then. They deferred, to these locals. In. Order, to continue. To be viable. Part. Of what I find interesting is, the, way in which these, irons, means were able to manipulate, air, supply, to. Initiate. Combustion, and control, it. To. Know what kind of trees, were. Required, to provide wood. With. Good, charcoal. And to. Be able to, do so in such. A way that they prepare, the charcoal under specific conditions. That's, science. There. Is no way we can go around it, that's. Science. So. Ironworking. Is one of the two. Activities. That she really looks at the other one, is. Pottery. Potter. Is interesting, because, it's. Practiced. By women. Mostly. Women in Africa I've not heard of societies, where men are to be found you know making. Pots no, if I head off and to, perhaps, the recent. Times of any. Women. Smelting. Iron. Both. Were. Governed, by taboos, if. A woman comes, near. Anywhere. Near the. Furnace. The. Iron. Would not come out nicely. At. The same time if. A man. Came. Anywhere. Near, where. Women, were making pots. They. Would crack. That. Was the taboo. Production. Could only take place under these specific, conditions. Nothing. Else and. Before. Anything, was done these. Folks. Are to go before their, ancestors, and the. Goals of. Of. Technology. If you want to. Say this is what we are going to do. If. Anything. Failed, they would blame the failure, to observe taboo. Taboo. May sound strange. Doesn't it, it's. Nothing more. Than the. Kinds. Of things that you do in science science is its own taboos here, the. Do's and don'ts. Under. Which an experiment, is carried out. We. Often think of innovation. Is, something. That, we. Are, free do. And. If you look at the narrative of innovation. It, is usually, this. Independent. Spirit of, creativity, and. Risk-taking. Particularly. By the young. Think. Slavery. How. Do you, innovate. Freedom. Or, how. Do you innovate. Survivor. Or, alive. Under, bondage. When. Your life has been reduced, to nothing more than a machine of mass, production on, the, plantation. That's. The focus of of urea or gastrous chapter she. Is trying to reposition. The. Transatlantic. Trade, in, Africans. As slaves I don't, call it slave trade. As. A. Technology. Transfer and. Innovation. Process. The. Argument, she is making through seeds and medicines. Is, an interesting one that. It's. Easy to, say they were carriers, of ready-made. Products. From Africa or knowledge, in their heads from Africa. That's. Easy to say. Some. Scholars have said that for rice others, for masonry others. For metals. The. Wake of Candice, Goucher for example. But. What. She's saying is that in, that space between, departure. And arrival. Enslaved. Africans, had to survive the. Only way you survived was to keep yourself. With. High morale of. Course. There was also the possibility that you could reduce yourself, from, the space. Of being molested by, your. Capture. And just, jump overboard and end it and deny. Them profit. The. Other way still. Very. Creative, under difficult, circumstances. Or. You could take only those those, resources, that you had there. Was nothing else to work with and. Shift. Them in form transform, them in order, to create. Something that would enable you to survive. So. The space between. Departure. And arrival, was, not a dead space. It. Was a creative space. What. She calls the inter. Transfer. The in-between. At. The same time when, they arrived picture. Yourself arriving in a foreign environment where. You have to eke out a living even. As you Ines lived. What. She is calling attention to, is, to look at the slave quarters is an. Innovation. Space, I. Like. This picture because it partly. Tells. A. Biography. Of me, growing. Up. Where. A. Lot. Of things were not did, not have space locally. It. Was during, sanctions, and. I saw the. Rhodesian community, innovating. In. Very, interesting ways. Replacing. Imported. Parts with local ones that, they could easily manufacture. And when. They. Ran. Their life, they. Actually, began. To manufacture, them locally. Examples. Include a, lot. Of the Humvees, that you see in, the battlefields, in the Middle East that are, coming from Australia much. Of that rnd was. A Rhodesian, made these, Rhodesians then migrated, after independence, they did not want to have to, be ruled by a black government they migrated. That's. One narrative, the. Other narrative, that's interesting, is that. If. You wanted your mom to. Cook food for you. You. Had to make the utensils, necessary to process it. In.
Pre-colonial. Africa, for example there were no animals there, were no steam. Machines. The only way you could. Pal. You could a grind. Grain and produce meal was. To produce mortar. And pestle and what. You see in this picture is a process, a dad, taking. His, son through the process of how you make one and to. The point, until, you your, mother actually, pounds. Grain. To, make food for you. At. MIT we talk of mind and hand this. Is as mind and hand as you can get the. Subject. Of. Talu. Or the mostest. Chapter. Is. An interesting one because. You. Are hearing more and more now, Africa. Being referred. To as leapfrogging. For. Most of Africa there. Was no land fixed, land line. Then. Comes, cyber. Which, by the way did. Not come cellphones. Did they did not come, just. By, the grace of God, Norway. They brought by foreigners. The. First, the pioneers. Of, cellphones. In Africa. Cellphone, who. Brought cellular. Phone to Africa. Included. People like Michael Vittori. Who. Founded. Telethon. For. Us, to, have. Undersea. Cables, that. Circumnavigated. The Cape that. Idea. Was pushed very vociferously, by. Former, South African president, Thabo make his. Argument, was simple, there. Was one slot, reserved. For hosting the World Cup. For. 2010, and it. Would go to an African, country. Now. Which country did be would, it be Egypt. It was two funnels in any case it was almost right on the path of the, undersea. Cables going to India. The. Argument, that Becky was making, was interesting, if, Egypt, gets, the. World Cup, Africa. Has lost its chance, to. Have. A, you. Know. Internet. Each. Way it has lost us chance so the only way it, can have it is if the cup came to South Africa we, now know that if you look at the map the cyber map of Africa. That. Has come to be. Come. To pass. Since. Then we have seen interesting. Developments. We. Have seen innovations. In mobile money with. M-pesa, which, is revolutionizing not. Just African, a. How. Africans, movement its, revolutionizing, the, way the whole world does. Mobile. Banking and so forth, the. Latest innovation, is by, supplying international, in Rwanda, a partnership. That is resulted, in, the. Supply. Of blood. Too. Difficult. To reach countries using, drones. By. And. This. Is now, expanding. Into. Tanzania. These. Things have policy, implications. For. Example. How. Can a sensibility. Of Africa. Is the center of technology shape policy. And. Part. Of the reason why we, produced. This. Volume. When we did is, because. We were concerned that the. Strategic. Plan, for, Africa. The. Science, technology. And innovation. Strategy, for Africa. Focuses. On big, science, and. National. Systems of innovation. Derived. From mostly European, countries. Economy's. Science. Intensive, they are research intensive, by. Contrast. Seventy. Percent of Africa's, economy is, generated, in the informal sector. Produced. By that. Everyday. Knowledge that I highlighted, earlier on. So. Part of what Chuck stereos does is. To try and, retain. Us to it, that kind of conversation. Can. We have something more sophisticated than.
Just Cutting and pasting. In. Closing, I've talked, so far about a. What. We did. This. Is what, has happened since. The. Imperative. Now is, to transform, some. Of these findings into a co-curricular. And. So we have been turning. The networks that we. We. Built through, this process. Into. Syllabi, like this for example. How. About we take students, to, these sites like, this Forge. Here and. Taking. Seriously, the science. Involved. In this and combine, it with engineering, what. Might we get. How. About we take knowledge. Of grain storage under, which. Africans. Dug. Underground. Or. Constructed. Structures, made of clay and. Heated. Them and. After. Heating and. It's. Cool they they. Put grain inside, and then. Seal it. Thereby. Ensuring, that no rivers. Get in, what. Are we to make up of that. As. Opposed, to. Using. All these toxic. Pesticides, to, preserve grain. Finally. I'll say that one of the things that I've been, trying to do is to demystify. The purpose, of Education, and, this, is a matter that is dear to my heart. When. We. Are, educated. We. Leave the. Villages, with the communities, and go, abroad we never come back and. Many. Of these insights, as good, as they were they, were produced, by academics. And these. Academics. What. Do we do, does. It just end in talk I said. Earlier, that Africa is a huge deficit, of doers. A lot. Of critical, thinkers, who are not doers a lot of tools were not critical, thinkers. The. Challenge personally. Was what. Have I ever done. Because. I want to change the whole of Africa I want, to change the world what if I ever really done for my own little village. And. So I wanted to challenge fellow, academics who, come from Africa to say, can't. We be catalysts, and builders. So. I returned warm. Remodeled. My own homestead. Into. A. Kind, of laboratory. Where. I could, try out if, I had ideas, that I thought worked why. Not try them out first to see if they work before I can propose them to governments, I, can't. Just talk from. That's. Empty rhetoric. And. As. You. Spend, substantial, presence in the village you realize that actually people.
When. They work every day these. Are their own laboratories. Like, this young man here who told me that if you want to see, if one fertilizer, works. Among. Three, of them just, plant three crops. Right. Three plants. Right one, two three and then, put the same amount of it lies upon each. Three. Different the one that grows more. Has. Justified, itself, is the better. Option. So. You could come to that space as Elena, and not just somebody who is telling. People what to do. Finally. There. Is a concept, that I talked about in, the introduction, code namely under. Which, the. Society came together. To. Do. Communal, work the whole village to. Do. Communal, work for. Women. Who were widowed for. Orphans, or, those, that were too old to do it or simply. For. Those that had excelled, and got, overwhelmed. By. Their own crop. Production, it's. Called NIMBY. It's. An. Ethos. Of collective. Work the. Idea that, I was bringing back was can't. We do this again, but. This time focusing. On self development, in the village the. Picture you see was. Taken this morning. It. Is a picture of us electrifying. Our own village. Using. That concept. It's. Not easy. There, will be people who are still very individualistic. But. It has turned out once, you cut off the rough edges, it. Has turned out to be a very, very successful, model. Thank. You very much for. Listening. You. Remind me of an, excuse. Me an. Experience I had, recently with the community, garden. It. Is. Near. Here it is not individual. Plots for people in the community it has done communally, as a group and. Many. Of the the people in that may, be most in that group are. Engineers. And a lot of the engineers from MIT and I. Learned, from there that, farmers. In the u.s. at least in the Western world don't, innovate. The. Industry. Of selling. Them products, does. The. Development, the innovation, and sells. The answers. To their questions basically. So. They don't ask questions, at all themselves but clearly, in a village you get, this sense of being not, just empowered, but but. Required, to, ask and answer your own questions, or they, will never be known. It. Seems a natural thing, for a village environment, or. A. Group. Large enough to be, able to differentiate, who is doing what work but. Small, enough of that everyone, is an individual, and everyone can hear what one person has done today to, to do that kind of innovation, to. Learn. Perhaps. That one, other kind one kind of tree blocks, the wind better when the wind is making it difficult for young trans young, plants, so. Thank you for for bringing that to light but it very, much clicked with me based on my personal experience thank. You so much, I'm. Curious if if you see one particular, nation, in Africa or a particular city or region, as. The most likely to, sort of export, the next, world-changing. Technology, or if. That, doesn't really matter so much and if you're, more focused on some of the work you've shared today that. Really has direct, local impacting, communities. Rwanda. Rwanda. Why because, if you look at what, President. Paul Kagame is doing, he. Is willing, to take, risks, I was. Very impressed by the story that the. Killer. Ronaldo from zipline told me he was saying that, everybody. Else just laughed him off basically. Even. You, know the big. Pharmaceutical. Companies. The. Big foundations in, the United States, later. Lord government. They just said he a crazy little boy get out of here. But. Kagame. Was. Prepared, to take the risk. And. They. Piloted, that the, first it's a world's first actually. So. Darwin it's on what's happening, is very interesting, were. You already haven't better so, that. To. Say nothing of which I, now. One, could say our but these are people who are coming from outside or. The big corporations. In the case of that, are doing this but, why. Is it that it's possible, in Africa, and, what, kind, of infrastructures.
Are They creating. Zipline. Is very interesting, the where it goes next. Will. Be critical. So. I would say Rhonda without. Any, doubt. Second. To which would be Mauritius, I. Think. The big innovation, will be in, problem-solving, education. You. Have two, institutions. One in, Mauritius. Code Afghan, leadership first. Academy, they're now University. And. They, are, modeling. Their. Education. System as. Declaring. You declare, a student, declares. Not. A major, but. A mission and. One. Of their missions is to solve global challenges. Ashiya. See in Ghana is doing the, same thing I think differently. Though, but. I would. Watch Rwanda, in Mauritius, I work. On education initiatives. At Google I was wondering if you could provide a little bit more specific. Information about, those examples that you just mentioned where. There. Are these educational, models, around, mission. Right. Rather than, knowledge. For the sake of knowledge where. Where can I go and learn more information about that. They. Saw, the thing with with, with other leadership, universities, that there, is a big. Vision and. They. Have started their. Journey to get there and. They. Are on a big recruitment, drive that's. How I got to know that in the interest of full disclosure, what. Interests, me about them is that they are willing to gamble and take big risks and start, entirely. Something, new they. Are not interested. In settled. Waters. Because. In, you know when the water is crystal clear you will see where the crocodile is they. Are prepared to plunge in and gamble. That the crocodiles, will see, that they are too brave. They must be banking. On something and back off. So. Their. Website, is a good start, but they are very approachable, in terms of threats Wanaka this founder, himself is very very, approachable. They. Are mixing this corporate. Style of doing things with. I can't. Say traditional. Way of delivering, education, but. That's. That corporate, style is interesting, because when he has a vision he can push it forward. Please. Join me again in thanking professor malanga. Thank. You so much. You.