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Rise Of A Connected World: Technology Vs. Technology

Posted by: Lakshmanan C On August 03, 2017 04:37 PM

We have undergone a series of revolutions which started from the hunter and gathers days. About 11000 years ago came the agricultural revolution, which is when we started settling down and began creating cities. Mankind has since come a long way, going over the renaissance age to the recent industrial revolution that took us from muscle-powered to machine-made era.

Mankind: Always Ready To Tackle Any Challenge?

What has remained constant through the annals of human history is man’s persistence in engineering solutions and in many ways using engineering to avoid re-inventing the wheel. This brings us to one of the most primitive inventions of mankind that has been used time and again to quite simply, make life easier – it is the Wheel. After inventing the wheel, man realized that there is much scope in improving its utility.

This led to the invention of axle for balancing wheel movement, and it gave birth to an entire new breed of carts, wagons and chariots. Development of a wheel that rotates on an axle can be traced back to about 3200 B.C. to the Sumerians. Invention of the wheel has paved the way for several more creations, a tradition mankind continues to thrive on - using technology to solve problems created by technology.

Our planet has witnessed a tremendous surge of human population from 1 billion in 1800 to over 7 billion as it stands today. In the past, it had given rise to some gloomy speculations made by the likes of the famous American biologist Paul R Erich who warned of absolute scarcity of essential food to feed the very hand that toils in the farm and the factory. It was widely believed that countries like India and China would face a massive shortage of food compounded by their growing population.

However, in the1960’s, Norman Borlaug brought about the ‘Green Revolution’ which contributed to an extensive rise in agricultural production and resulted in self-sufficiency of food in countries like India. With the use of high yield seeds, fertilizers etc., although India’s population doubled from 452 million to more than 1 billion during 1961 and 2001, the food deficit problem was considered solved. Though there is much room for improvement, negative speculation about India’s ability to feed its own people has been put to rest. Grain production has tripled from 87 million to 231 million tons during this period to resurrect India’s reputation as a robust agrarian economy.

Technology Creates History Depending On How We Use It

In the late 1970’s, India witnessed the home-coming of a new information technology revolution with the introduction of computers. Thus, started the next cycle of automating manual tasks done in those days at all levels. This sudden change in business as usual made many people wary of new technology and worry about job security. However, technology created many new jobs contrary to the displacement it was rumored to cause. In India alone, the IT industry grew exponentially to become a $100B+ mammoth thanks to the adoption of new technologies. India managed to turn around its wading fortunes by cultivating a mindset of curiosity and change. Looking back at history, apprehensions have always been cast before any radical change. By taking evolutionary strides in technology, mankind has always managed to overcome challenges, at every step.

Technological advances will continue to happen and we humans simply cannot stop or delay it. In fact, the last two years have seen rapid development in AI as compared to the previous decade. AI patents have grown exponentially giving rise to a total of 10,000 patent applications filed last year as per data released by CB insights for just 5 companies alone - going from 3,565 patent applications filed collectively in 2009 and 9,804 patent applications in 2013. This frantic activity has raised concerns on how we must prepare for a future full of threats to our data security.

Let us go back to the internet – It has changed the way we access information and conduct business, but we also face a situation whereby our children need to be monitored. Here, once again, technology is working overtime and helping us strengthen privacy, avoid breaches, and enforce security. Nuclear power is another example of how technology can be used for the larger good of humanity. It is the same energy that is known for its devastating consequences during the World War that we use today to combat climate change. It is perhaps our best chance at saving the planet till natural sources of energy like solar, wind, etc., mature and become more sustainable.

We Are At The Cornerstone Of A Connected Future

Once again, we are at the cusp of a radical change in society with a new breed of technologies, consumers, workforce, and businesses. We are willful participants in the digital revolution where sensors, networks, the cloud, and analytics are disrupting the way we live and work. It is an anxious moment for everyone in this journey as we expect to encounter new concerns emerging out of the closet. Let’s take the recent turn of events when India made a very strong case for a ‘Cashless, Paperless, and Faceless Banking’. An unprecedented 219 million Indians opened bank accounts and over 14 million downloaded banking apps. On the one hand, it is a great incentive for India’s digital future, yet it raises questions on cyber security and citizen safety.

On the positive side, us of digital payments in recent times witnessed an 80-fold jump among India’s 260 million smartphone owners. Indian smartphone owners have helped the country overtake the US as the second largest smart phone market after China. This shows us how fast the world around us is changing and it is not too far when robots, virtual machines, and virtual assistants will become a part and parcel of our daily lives. It is a future where the bedrock of human civilization will come in the form of connected and convergent devices. According to a recent Business Insider market report, riding on the AI wave, the combined market for VR and AR tech could hit $162 billion by 2020.

Robots Are Coming: Who Will Come Out On Top?

At a recently held Wall Street Journal CIO conference, Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency said, “The Government is geared to protect us from any attack on land, sea or air but not in Cyber space.”

We are at a point in time where technological development is outpacing the ability of Governments to regulate it. Government and business will have to jointly evolve to tackle the new situation - Robots. It is widely agreed that the future of everything is soon going to be connected through robotic digitalization. This presents a tremendous opportunity to unlock the power of data, to listen, connect, act, and mitigate any challenge on hand. Also, embracing future digital technologies will create a connected smart workforce and bring new opportunities for employment.

The idea of robots delivering key processes is quite simply ‘Old Wine in a New Bottle’. Automation occupies every sphere of life - in the supply chain, in cars, factories, and even in the e-mails we use every day. There real merit is in addressing concerns like we always have, by working smarter. We can do so by making robots perform repetitive tasks so that we scale faster and build the future of networks and deliver on customer experience. It is this very premise of doing things smarter that has guided the course of human history and built the case for the industrial revolution that we till-date continue to re-launch.

Today, when we speak of using AI or robots to counter cyber threats, it quite simply means - humans are going to use AI to teach another AI on how to stop a cyber-attack or to code faster or to respond accurately. The possibilities to build, manage, and improvise through the application of AI is simply infinite. What we must understand here is that robots aren’t taking over in any manner. They are simply augmenting our everyday lives by making us better versions of ourselves.

In the words of Elbert Hubbard – “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”

The future of technologies through connected and convergent experiences will therefore determine how mankind uses AI to build a better, brighter, more secure, and an extraordinary future.

About Author

Lakshmanan Chidambaram, President, Americas Strategic Verticals

Lakshmanan Chidambaram (CTL) heads the Core Business Verticals comprising of Banking & Financial Services, Insurance, Manufacturing, Retail CPG & Travel, Aero & Defense and Healthcare Life sciences. Follow him @CTL_TechM

Tags: Leadership Talk, In The Future, DAVID
 
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