Massive Leap in Technology | Time to Rejoice or Worry?
In the last ten years, there has been a massive leap in development and adoption of technologies- an unprecedented global phenomenon that is likely to have a profound impact on mankind in years to come. How did we get to this point so fast?
Let us briefly look at the evolution of technology over the last 40 years:
The 70s PC Revolution
In the 70s, the invention of the Microprocessor by Intel Corporation led to the development of affordable Personal Computers (PCs) by Apple and IBM and subsequent development of useful software applications to run on those computers by Microsoft, Lotus and the like. By the early 90s, close to a billion people were using personal computers at the office and at home as well. The PC revolution empowered more than a billion users globally over a period of roughly 15-20 years. It had a positive impact on office productivity, home entertainment and more importantly had a far-reaching effect on the emerging regions to get into the world of computing in a substantial way.
The 90s Internet Revolution
In the mid-90s, another high profile and disruptive technology revolution emerged when the Internet came into the picture to connect all those who had personal computers. It involved a connectivity device aided by a complex system of networks to communicate with each other irrespective of one’s location on the planet. In just about SEVEN to TEN years more than a billion people connected through the Internet. So, in roughly half the time compared to the previous era, technology evolved to a point of connecting more than a billion users— in other words, they all went “online” to do information browsing, playing games, sending emails, transacting business, watching streaming video, etc. Now, it has been estimated that more than 3 billion users are on line. It had far fetched implications on how globalized business was conducted. Back-office work and outsourcing became major business opportunities especially for the emerging regions like India and China.
The Mobile Revolution
Then, in the mid-2000 time frame many forces came into the picture—pervasive and inexpensive computing, high bandwidth connectivity (thanks to superior Wi-Fi and Cellular technologies) and a phenomenal invention called SMART Phone famously launched by Apple in 2007. The Apple iPhone in one shot amalgamated all of the innovations and advancements into one simple miniature device that people can carry anywhere.
Implications of the advent of the Apple SMART phone –
- “Connected” all the time; access to phenomenal information, entertainment and mass social connectivity
- Created mind- blowing apps and disruptive business models
- Our well-preserved privacy was silently invaded; subject to security threats via these systems (cyber threats as they are called)
- Necessitated legislating privacy protection measures and taking security protection measures
- Triggered the SMART technology revolution –
Paved way for highly sophisticated spheres—Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT) and Blockchain technologies, Clean Energy Grids, Genomics and many more like AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) that could potentially impact us in myriad ways
- Gave rise to a break-through technology called Cloud Computing which enabled computing on demand in a cost-effective way for mobile SMART phone users, thus leading to what I term as a MASSIVE LEAP in technology
The Smart Revolution
The SMART revolution rocketed the technology entrepreneurs to a different sphere of infinite possibilities. This storm can be best summed up by the words of the famous song Hotel California by The Eagles– it could be HEAVEN or it could be HELL!! WHY? –
1. New technologies can be difficult for people; they raise tough questions and policymakers must make prudent choices. Policymakers, parents, educationists will have their hands full in helping the future generation to make the transition to a new world order driven by technology.
2. It will be beneficial and bring many eureka moments to the creators but brutal on certain established companies, careers and financial resources. For example, AI, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles and Drones can potentially wipe out millions of jobs – not just factory workers but truck drivers and delivery workers as well. We are already seeing the movement towards automated accounting and digital bank transactions that can threaten the livelihood of finance professionals.
3. New 3D printing technology based manufacturing can cause a reverse shift—outsourced jobs moving away from India and China to on-demand manufacturing shops in North America and Europe.
4. Advent of Human Genomics (study of human genes) will compel us to deal with profound issues. Advancements in gene-editing technology can alter genes and thus transform a human being into something more superior. This can lead to a biological divide and the impact on society can be devastating.
Author’s Concluding Note
So, what can we do about these Massive Leaps of Technology surrounding our daily lives? My answer is two fold:
I subscribe to the fact that the Future will be really better than what we all think. I truly believe that technologies will systematically drive down costs and make products and services, and will enhance our quality of life! For example AI will make healthcare easier to access and more affordable. IOT will make factories more efficient thus leading to cost benefits. So, it is important that we manage our choices well and push policymakers to clamp down on society-threatening use of technology while encouraging positive advancements.
Being deeply involved in the business of technology, I see new technologies creating innumerable opportunities in many key sectors globally. I can bet on the fact that demand, once monopolized by big companies, will get de-aggregated and unbundled by small companies with the help of these technologies. So, we can expect a level playing field going forward.
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Massive Leap in Technology will lead to disruption but it will not have that adverse an effect as people are predicting. Robots taking over the world as fictionalized by movies like Endhiran will not happen- at least not in this century. A new world order is imminent -in which companies adapting to new technologies will thrive and people will mindfully work towards reaping benefits on a large scale. And, of course, policy makers will wake up and create the appropriate guidelines and protection measures. In fact, the recent Sci-fi movie 2.0 calls for responsible use of technology towards the end! I noticed many in the audience applauding the social message calling for careful use of technology to preserve the environment and our well-being!!!
My final take is that it is up to us to make it heaven or hell!Why read about this on Paandu?