The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The wisdom of planning ahead.

I have often wondered whether Mankind is a truly intelligent species. I am led to wonder because, on the whole, Man does more stupid, than intelligent things. Mankind is more remarkable for its moments of utter dumbness, than its peaks of intelligent action.

Now, many of you might be moved to argue with me, over this. Yet, it only takes a little reflection on what Man actually does, to realize that it is true. I will give you one example: New Orleans. Most of you will remember that Hurricane Katrina demolished this US city, some years ago. What you might not be aware of, is that this was entirely avoidable. You see, for many years before Hurricane Katrina, disaster planners would use New Orleans as an example of what could happen in the event of a hurricane hitting the US. They even ran a simulation not long before the actual hurricane hit (a year or so, I think). In that simulation, they calculated the devastation that would be caused and all agreed that it would be terrible indeed. Yet, what did they do to prepare for it? Nothing much. As I have noted, Mankind is stupid. When confronted with the knowledge that certain death and destruction is going to occur, sometime, in the future, in a particular locality, the collective will of Mankind is to do nothing about it. People would rather "save money" now, than worry about a "hypothetical" disaster later. Of course, this makes said disaster inevitable, when it could have been avoided. I am even led to propose a principle: there is no such thing as a natural disaster, only human inaction, before it. Hurricane Katrina was as much a product of a human unwillingness to prepare for the future, as it was a result of the movement of air, over water.

What gets me about this, of course, is that the cost of not preparing for the future, is always greater than the cost of actually doing so. There is, in truth, no money to be "saved" by doing nothing to avert predictable disasters.

Another disaster waiting to happen to Humanity, is bird flu. The H5N1 strain of bird flu has occasionally showed itself, over the past decade or two, in Asia, promptly killing most of the people it infected. Indeed, the World Health Organization website says that "avian influenza can reach a mortality rate of 100% in 48 hours of onset". So, bird flu is something to be feared. It is also something, one would have thought, to prepare against. Just imagine that bird flu, say H5N1, mutates to become readily transmissible between humans. Just think what would happen once it boards planes around the world, from China (a likely source), to scatter widely about the Earth before anyone notices. (China has a history of hushing up disease outbreaks, which leads to the world being unaware of what is happening until too late). Imagine a disease as infectious as the common cold, or typical flu, but with a fatality rate approaching 100%. It could destroy the human race.

Yet, what, precisely, is the human race doing about it? Zero. As far as I am aware there is no real preparation for this eventuality which will, eventually, occur, without any doubt. It is just a matter of time. Somewhere, in a rural area of, most probably, Asia, a sick chicken is going to make a child sick and that child is going to kill the world.

What can we do about this, you might ask? Well, it is simple really: make a stockpile of vaccine that immunizes against all the strains of H5N1 that have been noted so far and give two shots to everyone one can find, on Earth. Now, some of you might object that we can't know what the proposed highly infectious strain of H5N1 looks like. It might differ significantly from the known strains. Well, this might be true - but I have read something which is very hopeful on that front. Some people were immunized against a 1997 strain of H5N1. Later, their immune reaction was tested against a 2005 strain of H5N1 - and CONSIDERABLE cross protection was noted. Thus, immunizing against the known versions of H5N1, would probably confer a significant degree of protection against future strains. It may, for instance, turn it from a disease which kills, to a disease which merely makes people sick. Another benefit is that it might shorten the period that specific immunization might take, needing, perhaps, only one shot, rather than two, of a vaccine, to confer specific resistance.

So, here we have an example of something Mankind can do to prevent millions, perhaps billions of human deaths. Indeed, something which might even save the human race. Yet, no nation is doing it. They prefer, instead, to wait until disaster strikes, to wait until people are dying en masse of H5N1, before trying to protect against it. The problem with that is that the lead time for producing a vaccine is about 6 months. Thus, in that period, a pandemic H5N1 could kill millions or billions of people.

It seems that Mankind is so enamoured of money, that "saving" it now, is worth more than the death of the human race, later.

I hope that H5N1 never becomes pandemic. Should it do so, one thing seems most likely: the human race will be completely unprepared and millions of people will die. Should you be among the survivors, remember this: all those deaths were unnecessary, caused only by the collective unwillingness of Mankind to prepare for the future.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:11 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Valentine,

I just chanced upon your blog yesterday and I had been doing intensive reading of your articles. In my opinion, your articles were well articulated and I am learning a lot from them. I'm trying to read them all but it will take me a few more days.

A sudden emotive urge leads me to leave you a comment. I'm a Singaporean who remembered some news about about your son and your family when you left Singapore.
After reading this blog, I am sad that you left. Yes, even after reading articles that you wrote criticising Singapore. You see, I travelled, I backpacked, and I see what you pointed out in your articles, too many for me to list here. And I agree with you. Can I just roll my eyes at the typical Singaporean who thinks Asian values is better than Western values (as if human rights differs for different humans), and who will ask one to leave if they "hate" Singapore by criticising it?

I'm sad because from now on, your articles will touch on topics related to KL, Malaysia. Such a loss for Singapore but a gain for Malaysia if they will just take note of your articles. However I am glad that your family has found a better place to raise the boys. I will continue to follow your blog and I'm sure I can still learn from your writings even if they no longer write about Singapore.

My best wishes for you and your family.


7:07 PM  
Anonymous Louis said...

I'd venture the idea that government and people's dependence upon it are the disasters. If you follow the money and the subsequent motivations, it makes perfect sense why a government would take no preventative action until it was too late.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am touched, JK, that my articles have managed to affect you, positively. I do not get to know, often enough, how people feel about my writing, so it is warming to hear it, from you.

I will still write about Singapore, from time to time. You see, I know Singapore well (almost a decade of my life there, after all) so I feel able to comment from afar, on things that are happening there. Sometimes I shall do so.

I think it is important to be flexible with regards to where and how one lives. If the environment is not providing what is necessary (as Singapore wasn't for us...) it is time to leave. Rigidity on this issue, is harmful to any family's prospects. So, I think we did the right thing. Life is better for us, now.

I wish you and your family well.

Thank you so much for your comment, JK.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Louis, then I suggest we change our governments - or at least the way they do things.

Why do you think the money makes them behave as they do? Please specify.


7:10 PM  
Blogger Desmond said...

@Mr Crawley

Your opening paragraph couldn't be any more true. Even Albert Einstein, one of the few genius physicists, had something to say with regards to that. Sometimes it makes one wonder if it is true because of Mankind's population-at-large.

Accordance to Myer-Briggs Type Indicator estimations, the vast majority of humans tend to be Sensors.

Just because simulations and data show a theoretical possibility does not mean that countermeasures needs to be taken unless a reactive action is taken. Very befitting of the type that lives and looks almost exclusively at the present, no?

7:47 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I agree Desmond. This predominance of sensing/reactive thinking has caused many problems for Mankind, and may even bring an end to us, if not overtaken by wiser, more forethinking types.

I don't Einstein had a very high opinion of much of the human race. He must have been a lonely man, peering down at it, from afar.

Thanks for your comment.

8:15 PM  

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