Don’t fear Intelligent Machines: Work with Them…
With the popular works like ‘The Matrix’ or ‘The Terminator’, where the humans get replaced, enslaved or hunted to almost an extinction by their own creations, our deepest fears of technology taking over humans have time and again resurfaced. If you look back, from mythology to science fiction, human and machine have been often pitted against each other. This essay portrays that although technology can be intimidating and many of today’s skill sets, careers and business models will be challenged by the rise of the machines, there is no escaping them. As Gary Kasparov points out – “We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of our technology, and we must conquer those fears if we want to get the best out of our humanity.”
For eras, mankind has looked for ingenious ways to get rid of grueling manual labor and duties. We tamed animals, invented the wheel, crafted new tools and made novel machines. The successful inventions and adaptations have generated wealth, upgraded our lifestyle and constructed new opportunities. Machines can’t be separated from our daily lives. As a blogger and a self-claimed gadget freak, I have even forgotten the count of times I use Google or the Google translator for work. And what is it? “SMT” (Statistical Machine Translation)! Those of you who use online translation to catch the gist of a news article from a foreign newspaper will know that it is far from perfect. But we use our judgment and make sense out of it.
A century ago, when elevators became automated, many people were scared to go inside without an operator on-board? Do you recall the first time you took an elevator? Or take an instance of a public railway. In 1825, people thought that human bodies were simply not capable to withstand the traveling at a speed of thirty miles per hour! It took humans to take some time to get used to the technology but here we are! At the point of using driver less cars and isn’t it saying something?
Today, when we are living in a world on the cusp of the next industrial revolution and are witness to breakthrough advances like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) or nanotechnology, wondering if robots or machines are coming to steal our jobs can’t be far from our imagination. But is our fear real or baseless? Are machines really so bad? The answer is NO. Let’s explore some facts that would throw light into our assumptions. Since old times, humans have feared technology expansion, afraid that it would put them out of work. But it hasn’t.
It all depends on perspective. While one can see these changes as a humanoid robot replacing our existence, one might choose to see it as a hand that can guide us move forward than where we are. With the advent of antibiotics, many had complained about putting grave diggers out of work, but the invention of antibiotics was a great boon for mankind. Hence it doesn’t serve to romanticize the loss of jobs due to the modernization.
History has shown time after the time that technology paves a path and creates far more than it destroys for new industries, jobs and prosperity. We are forgetting that if robots can take over our existing jobs, many new are getting created. As Kasparov proposed, some of these new jobs, like a drone pilot or robotic surgeon, still need the operator to work together closely with the machine. The productive and profitable collaboration of human and machine is here to stay.
Google engineer Ray Kurzweil says that intelligent machines will enhance humans, not replace us.
As a Chess grand-master who has played the game against the machine, Garry Kasparov has mentioned his observation that machines are really good at taking on board huge amounts of information and making sense of it in a way that humans simply can’t do. But they have no perception or mindfulness. Machines were created to reduce our workload. They are mechanical and don’t have the capabilities to understand the situations and behave accordingly. They have a man-made intelligence. While humans can do anything original, machines can’t. They can’t think independently. They are programmed by humans and do as instructed. They can’t question their duties and just follow the orders.
Nowadays Machines with artificial intelligence prepare coffee, play games, even diagnose patients, carry out medical surgery and drive cars. But humans are superior when it comes to reasoning, originality, creativity, evaluating risks and using resources beyond limits to name a few.
As Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Chinese e-commerce site Baidu, puts it: “There’s a big difference between intelligence and sentience. Our software is becoming more intelligent, but that does not imply it is about to become sentient.”
Science and technology advancements always come with pros & cons. Like two sides of a coin, the fire that cook food can also burn down the house. With more and more machines replacing the physical job and getting over unskilled jobs, we will get more time to focus on exploring and elevating activities that bring us joy and satisfaction.
As IBM’s head of research, Guru Banavar, mentions, “AI will work with humans to solve pressing problems such as disease and poverty.”
Being a human is more than playing a game of chess or developing a skill like putting a hammer to the metal. We humans will still have plenty to do: for an instance painting a masterpiece or composing soulful music.
While discussing the technology and its implications on human life as species, we have always feared automation and then eventually accepted it. Although technology advancement may seem turbulent, we are living at the best time in human history where wonderful things are happening. We as species possess the strong human spirit and collective ability to adapt and grow.
I completely agree with this view of Kasparov as he urges us to not to hinder progress or fear machines: “We must speed them up. We must give them, and ourselves, plenty of room to grow. We must go forward, outward and upward.”
“So, I want all the people reading this article here to think that whether you want to live the rest of your years fearing the machines or be a part of a new day that is on the horizon! We are at the door of this unique opportunity to grow and evolve and it will be because of a lot of magnificent people like you, and some pretty incredible men who take us to the time where humans have never been taken before. Are you ready?”
Today being 31st Dec and the year 2019 is about to end. The decade is about to end, and we are geared up to welcome the next decade of 2020. Got a message on my WhatsApp couple of days ago indicating how do we write date to avoid confusion in year 2020…responded with three options a) write with apostrophe i.e. ’20 or b) don’t complicate as no one has edited the date when we wrote date in current year…the chance of getting the date was equally high when we wrote 2-Oct-19 or c) use digital signatures!!! 😊
We have come a long way; I still remember the day when we transited from year 1999 to 2000. There was a big noise about the millennium bug (aka Y2K bug). People were indeed scared and concerned about the technology in use and our dependence on technology at that point of time. Nothing major incident happened as enough preventive steps had been taken and we sailed into year 2000 smoothly.
First decade post year 2000, was an era of mobility where in we saw rise of mobile networks. The next decade (2009-2019) was of smartphone and cloud compute and we all got hooked to it! Today mobile penetration has crossed 100% in most of the urban markets. Our mobile is more than supercomputer for an individual compared to old computers in 1970. Today, right from train ticket to air ticket to paying bills to paying to a local kirana wala most of our day to day transaction got executed using a smartphone.
In today’s world we are surrounded by disruptive technologies be it Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning or Blockchain or Virtual Reality or Drone or chat bot or Robotics or 3D Printing…now is the era when the confluence of multiple technologies would take shape and more and more new use cases would evolve to our benefit. Many say that machines would rise and take over our jobs. While technology is eating away our jobs, technology is also creating new jobs. Future of work is an interesting topic and is being studied and discussed at length in universities & conferences. If decade of 2009 was known as decade of mobile networks and decade of 2019 was of mobile applications; the next decade would be known as decade of 5G, edge compute and quantum compute.
The solution to a problem which used to be a fiction few of years ago is being converted to reality at the supersonic pace. Thanks to technology and the entrepreneurs around. The amount of trust we have on technology today is much higher than it used to be a decade ago. This rise of technology and innovation is result of uniform availability of internet infrastructure, robust hardware & on demand compute.
Now let us have a look at the technology trends for the years to come. Top 10 technology trends which would drive disruption in 2020 are:
- Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
- Internet of Things
- Robotic Process Automation
- Edge Compute
- Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality / Mixed Reality
- Cyber security
- Voice Compute / NLP
- 3D Printing
These trends would lead us to confluence of technology and new / improved use cases such as:
- Nextgen Commute i.e. Autonomous cars, drone taxi, Hyperloop
- Supply of life saving drugs in remote areas using drones
- Block-chain enabled electronic health records
- Smart Speakers in homes and enterprise
- Smart homes
- Next level entertainment and sports enabled by Virtual Reality
- Streaming platforms providing 4K & 8K video
- Auto mitigation of Cyber Attack using Deception technologies
- 3D printing in healthcare
- Digital Transformation in Enterprise
- Edge Compute in Smart Cities
- 5G enabled autonomous factories
Still there a few challenges (including but not limited to) we need to focus and put more efforts upon:
- Clean potable water & air
- Food for all
- Containing wildfires
- Global Warming
- Reduction of fossil fuel
- Efficient recycling waste and e-waste
- Ethics in Technology
- Ocean Clean up
- Fake news
- Prevent Soil erosion
However, we are progressing in the right direction and here are few use cases which renews our confidence that with use of technology we can overcome any challenge:
- An AI enabled device to detect 90% of diseases in flat 10 minutes
- Lab grown meat to overcome food shortage
- 3D printed organs & medicines
- Biodegradable plastic
- Space tourism
- Smart Fertilizers and precision agriculture
- Super microbes eating oil spills in the ocean
- Human Augmentation and Hibernation
- Smart IoT sensors to ensure right quality of clean air in smart cities
- Time travel
- Gene editing i.e. CRISPER
- Inter plenary communication network
- Holographic Telepresence
- 3D Printers in Space to build space colonies
- Block-chain enabled Crypto Currencies
- Human Head transplant using AI, ML & Robotics
Steve jobs rightly said, “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they are basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they will do wonderful things with them.”
The technology seemed distant is coming to our life at a higher pace solving our problems and making our life more comfortable. Indeed we are in an era where fiction is becoming fact. Let us embrace benefits and continue to learn-unlearn and relearn to progress with technologies and the trends around.
Thanks for your time. Hope you liked our collaborative effort. Feel free to Like/Comment/Share !
Wishing you a Happy New Year 2020 !!!
This article is a collaborative effort by Chintan Oza, Biren Parikh, Ajit Joshi & Chander Wanchoo who are members of TMI group. TMI Community is a professional community of Technology, Management and Innovation enthusiasts. Started in 2016, the community has been growing every year and collaborating on an ongoing basis.
While we have just celebrated 25 years of the Internet in India and been celebrating this milestone with memories, the authors of this article have collaborated to provide a crisp futuristic view of next decade. This article has been divided into 3 phases, Journey of 25 years, Factors that drove growth until now and factors which would drive growth in future.
During the Late 80’s and Early 90’s Personal Computing was at a very nascent stage with its presence in few pockets across the country. During the time of MS-DOS, Windows 3.1 and subsequently Windows-95, modems, teleprinters & fax devices started appearing on the networking landscape. Prior to the launch of the Internet, Bulletin Board Services (BBS) were quite famous which entailed a person creating a server with content hosted on it. Users would connect to the BBS through a dialup connection to access the content stored on the server. Dial up connections entailed 14.4 kbps to 32 kbps modems. A 128 kbps connection was considered high speed at that time and only used for commercial purposes.
However as the content was more text oriented compared to heavy reliance on graphics, media and video content the speed of connectivity seemed to suffice the needs of the day for communications.
Circa 1995, 15th August Internet was introduced in India by VSNL in the top metro cities with links through Satellite and subsequently through submarine cable systems plugging in India into the global connected ecosystem. Price of a 128 kbps leased line connection was 10 lakhs per annum with dial up connections costing between 5000/- to 15000/-. The Internet of those days primarily was used by corporations for running their email systems, hosting websites and running basic chat applications. In the late 90s content consumption was limited and E-Commerce was a newborn in this ecosystem. In this era, the computer network architecture was centralized and mostly with hub and spoke topology. With the rise of the Internet, a mesh global network emerged, fuelling the exponential growth with any to any communication.
Internet reach was initially limited to wired connectivity through dialup and leased lines which slowly graduated to mobile service providers offering mobile WAP services on 2G GPRS and EDGE networks.
The introduction of the mobiles (iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Android) and smart computing devices were a renaissance period for the world at large causing Internet consumption to move from the limited and restricted usage on PCs and Computers to that on hand-held devices. With this, the accessibility of the Internet has increased exponentially with mobile devices users availing Internet services by default.
Fast forward to 2020, with more than 50% mobile penetration has made the Internet an essential commodity across geographies and social strata with higher adoption of smartphones as well as feature phones supporting Internet based applications. Additionally with the Covid 2019 pandemic forcing people to be indoors, Internet connectivity has become the lifeline for students, teachers, work from home employees, entrepreneurs with unified collaboration services, e-commerce, social media, medical consulting, digital payment solutions, public cloud services becoming mainstream.
Factors Driving Growth
Growing at the rate of more than 11 users per second, or 1 million new users each day, global internet users now make up 62% (4,833.521 million) of the global population (Jun 2020). Over three-fourth of the global population will have Internet access by 2023. There will be 5.9 billion total Internet users (74 percent of global population) by 2023, up from 4.8 billion (62 percent of global population) in 2020 considering 6% CAGR.
The number of internet users in India was 636.74 million in 2019 which has touched 700 million by mid-2020. India has the second highest internet users in the world after China. The number of internet users is around 50% of Indian population.
The Internet users are spending their time on various applications as below
- 90% of users are using instant messaging applications
- 74% use social media
- 70% use it for watching online video
- 69% users for shopping & other consumer services. Daily people are spending at least 6 hour 30 minutes per day on the internet as of mid-2020
Following are some of the drivers for increasing faster internet in India
- Growth from Rural Market:
- Rural India has 264 million internet users and this is expected to reach 304 million in 2020.
- Local language content and video drive the internet boom in rural India, with a 2.5 times rise in penetration in the last four years.
- Online crop analysis & remedy for enhancing crop yield through mobile apps
- Mobile is the device of choice for 100% of active users for internet surfing
- The use of the Internet helps farmers manage their farms and market their products in a more efficient and timely manner. Being an agricultural country, this is going to be one of the prime growth drivers.
2. Increasing Spending power
- Due to increasing disposable income, the average Indian household spends more on high-end mobiles & gadgets thereby fuelling the growth of the Internet bandwidth & the demand for faster internet. Adoption of smart & voice enabled speakers & health wearable’s are examples for the same.
3. Connected devices
- Increasing connected devices like IOT, virtual assistants, autonomous & connected cars, consumer appliances & drones has fuelled demand for high-end internet bandwidth
4. Social Media, Online Payments, E-commerce & E-learning
- Most Indians have started consuming e-learning, e-commerce shopping, online medical consultation, video chatting, view content on OTT etc has also significantly fuelled the internet bandwidth
- There has been an exponential growth of digital transactions across all sections of the society due to
- demonetization further accelerated by pandemic,
- the ease of convenience and
- innovative technologies (UPI, Gpay, PayTM etc.)
- Other key drivers for Internet growth are social media platforms predominantly Facebook, Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram & others.
- Due to the variety of languages spoken across India, there is a high demand for different localized content. The growth of search in Hindi has grown a whopping 155 percent in recent years. Growth in traffic in other languages, too, was impressive. This all started in 2014 and has been growing at a consistent pace.
Factors that would drive growth in next decade
- Rise of Digital India:
- Adoption of Aadhaar, eKYC, eSign, UPI, Digital Locker, India Health ID, and others will build a uniform layer of technology-enabled citizen services. This next level of e-governance would be achieved by 4 layers namely – presence less layer, paperless layer, cashless layer & consent layer. More about the India Digital Adoption can be read here.
- BharatNet is an ambitious project to provide fiber optic connectivity to all gram panchayats of India. Entire project is divided into 3 phases, the first phase is already about to be completed where 1.5 lac gram panchayats have been connected. The second phase would cover 1 lac gram panchayats and phase 3 would upgrade the infrastructure already deployed.
3. Building Greenfield Urban Infrastructure:
- Around 40% of the Indian population will reside in urban cities by 2030 and will contribute as high as 75% of the GDP
- 12 new smart cities coming up in next decade
4. Content-driven growth
- Leapfrog in digital advertising – 1.2 billion to 2.6 billion by 2023
- Exponential usage of online streaming music (13.8 CAGR to 0.7 billion), podcasts, and video on the demand
- Increased social media network users by 42%
- Increased Surveillance
5. IOT driven growth
6. Smart Wearables
7. Lowered entry barrier for the bottom mass of the pyramid
8. Pan India rollout of 5G
Technologies to fuel growth of the Internet
Following are few emerging technologies which we think will drive wider adoption of cloud, digitization and in turn drive the growth of the Internet.
Industrial operations like Smart Factory, logistics, healthware etc. have been gathering a lot of traction as people start monitoring factories remotely. With this move, the manufacturing plant network is getting extended to cloud, IT and OT are getting integrated, sensors are being installed in factories, obviously all these are linked to cloud through edge computing which would lead to data and internet growth over the time.
Smart Operations is a gradual combination of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices with digital technologies, The companies need to invest in technologies like cloud computing, Business Intelligence (BI), Internet of Things (IoT), advanced sensor technologies, 3D printing, industrial robotics, data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), enhanced machine-to-machine (M2M) communication along with building the capability of the workforce.
India could benefit hugely by increasing yield for food grains from 4 tons per hectare in 2012-17 to 5.4 tons per hectare by 2024 and 7.4 tons per hectare by 2034. Reaching these goals will require improvements in irrigation, farmer education, and access to inputs such as fertilizers and good-quality seeds.
Different & advanced techniques are helping agriculture industry as follows:
- GIS mapping using drones
- Pesticide spray using drones
- Use of AI and LIDAR in soil analysis for better yield; Aggregation of analytics at regional level for a larger benefit
- Advanced manufacturing techniques to use the micronutrients
- Near real-time weather forecasts for the Pre-harvest to customize fertilizers as per the soil quality
- Allows governments to align resources and insurance agencies to customize the crop insurance premiums.
- IoT sensors, smart supply chains, e-commerce platforms, data analytics and blockchain aids to “track food supply chain from farm to form” during Post-harvest phase.
- Align drip irrigation by sensing soil moisture using IoT
- Use of RFID and deploying drones for monitoring cattle’s health and field movement
Robotic in Healthcare
This is another dark horse and much talked about technology although in use since quite some time. Now there are new use cases and people have started using Robotic for health care and going forward this is going to grow multi-fold.
- There are multiple cases of world-renowned cardiologist Tejas Pate who has carried out five remote coronary procedures with an Internet-connected robotic system.
- Remote consulting, supervised surgeries along with Robotics will further give a boost to internet growth in the health sector.
OTT: Over The Top platform
OTT is riding high on consumers and will be driving Internet expansion exponentially.
- According to a report published by KPMG, there are interesting statistics which reflect when it comes to OTT/Online video viewing, Age has no bar, City or income group has no dramatic differentiation.
- Income group of less than Rs 3 lakh to above Rs 10 lakh, or Age group of 15-25 to 50+, all spends an average of 8-10 hours per week for online viewing. This is only going to go up exponentially.
What needs to be fixed with growth
No doubt, all of us are very bullish about the growth of the Internet in India. However along with just number growth, we feel a lot more to be done to take the Internet to the next level.
While all are talking about rapid growth, 5G, 6G and so on, do you feel the current Internet is good enough? Obviously, there are few inherent issues or problems which need to be fixed
- All of us are aware about the Project management triangle of Scope, Schedule, Cost & Quality, similarly for the Internet we need Good quality Internet with consistent speed rather than making bad quality unlimited internet.
- Probably in the race to penetrate and have growth of the Internet, service providers are forgetting the quality of services. It is about who provides more data at lower cost rather than who provides the same offering at much better and consistent quality.
- We lack infrastructure for universal access, today even while travelling on Expressways or National highways, we don’t get consistent 3G/4G connectivity & even call drops are frequent. In such a scenario, how will connected, autonomous cars work?
- Same are the issues in areas of well-connected Metros and Tier-2 & 3 cities where one finds it difficult to get consistent connectivity in Lifts, part of buildings, basements and so on.
We have certainly come a long way in our journey of building the Internet for India in the last 25 years; however service providers must focus on providing consistent, quality Internet access irrespective of the place.
Earlier we had said “Roti Kapda aur Makaan” (Food, Cloth & Shelter), Now it can be reworded as “Roti, Kapda, Makaan aur Internet” (Food, Cloth, Shelter and Internet). We believe the Internet is now part of everyone’s life, in fact in this connected world everything human as well as non-human objects all are somewhere part of the Internet ecosystem.
The following are major factors to watch to make the Internet more accessible, affordable
- Lower the Entry point barrier of technology
- Make technology more accessible to all
- How it would lead to more jobs
- Lead the path for connected and the Gig economy
- Biren Parekh – Vice President – Intellect Design Arena Ltd
- Biren Parikh – CIO – CERA Sanitaryware Ltd.
- Chintan Oza – Advisor – Lloyds Ventures
- Dhaval Mankad – Vice President IT – Havmor Ice Cream Private Limited
- Jamsheed Sukhadwala – AVP Product Management – Tata Communications