If, in the year 1411, you had been able to circumnavigate the globe, you would probably have been most impressed by the quality of life in Oriental civilizations. The Forbidden City was under construction in Ming Beijing, while work had begun on reopening and improving the Grand Canal; in the Near East, the Ottomans were closing in on Constantinople, which they would finally capture in 1453.
By contrast, Western Europe in 1411 would have struck you as a miserable backwater, recuperating from the ravages of the Black Death – which had reduced population by as much as half as it swept eastwards between 1347 and 1351 – and still plagued by bad sanitation and seemingly incessant war. The Anglo-French Hundred Years’ War was just about to resume.
Much of what is USA today was wilderness inhabited by the tribes who came to be known as the ‘Indians’.
By the end of your world tour, the notion that the West might come to dominate the Rest for most of the next half-millennium would have come to seem wildly fanciful.
One of the primary reasons this became possible was because of Western Exploration. During the next 300 years, the European explorers set out to explore every corner of the earth and in the process augmented their knowledge. China and the rest of Asia was averse to sea-faring and did not voyage beyond their own domains. Exploration led to great riches and this pushed the western civilisation forward, far ahead of the east.
If we were to look at the equivalent for western exploration in this day and age, it is research. Our knowledge expands as a result of research and application of this research, results in innovation. Innovation that has the potential to change human lives.
Much of the scientific development that humankind has seen has been registered during the past century. One of the main reasons for advances being registered in this century was the World Wars. War brought funding projects such as the Turing Machine that Alan Turing dreamt of; which otherwise would have had no hope of getting funded. But war is not the only way to advance sciences and spur innovation.
Across the river from New York, in New Jersey, there was a facility where some of the brightest mind of the generation worked on complex problems. They collaborated on projects and their collaboration led to some of the defining inventions such as the transistor, which made the digital revolution possible. This place was called the Bell Laboratories. But more than the building, it was the idea. The idea of bringing together extraordinary minds, to enable collaboration, to find a solution to complex problems the world knew not exists.
Hello Tomorrow is an initiative built on that idea. A community to bring together extraordinary minds, who can collaborate with one another. A competition to push these people to achieve things that have not been done before and a conference to enable sharing and development of ideas.