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Is Technology an Enabler or a Disruptor

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Editor www.humanengineers.com

In many parts of our lives and businesses, technology is playing a dual role of an enabler and a disruptor. Digitization is bringing about sweeping changes in the lives of individuals and businesses. Digital technologies are radically impacting the manner in which work is being carried out in organisations.

The World Economic Forum acknowledged in its Future of Jobs report, we’re entering a fourth industrial revolution:

“Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another . . . On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.”

The convergence of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Internet Of Things, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Vehicles, 3D Printing, Digital Currency, Automation, Robotic Process Automation, Edge Computing, Digital Perfumes, Machine Learning, Block Chain, Genomics, Delivery Drones, BioSensing, Industry 4.0, 5G Networks, SMART City, SMART Pills are driving unparalleled business model transformation and creating a new form of Digital Labour. These technologies are threatening to be limiters for some, while its seen as an opportunity to others.

We are watching the domain of mechanical or machine-aided work extend much further into the realm of what has typically been seen the domain of human beings. We are now in a world where we are replacing human beings with sophisticated algorithms and nimble robotics.

The challenge is comprehending the impending changes and creating or analyzing the new relationships between humans, technology, society, business, and government.

We are amidst the 4th Industrial Revolution, and technology is evolving faster than ever. Companies and individuals that don’t keep up with some of the major tech trends run the risk of being left behind. Understanding the key trends will allow people and businesses to prepare and grasp the opportunities.

The key to surviving this new industrial revolution is in leading it and requires two key elements :

  • awareness of the impending disruption to be caused by technology and
  • a plan to develop talent that can keep pace with it or create disruption that others must respond.

Here are some questions that all of us need to ask and find an answer ?

  • In a few years from now, the most disruptive emerging technologies of our modern era, now in their infancy, will be “ready for prime time” and will disrupt businesses and even society in unimaginable ways. Are we ready for this seismic shift that will happen in the blink of an eye? Are we aware of (and prepared for) the challenges and opportunities that are ahead? 
  • With the advancement in technologies and automation, we are staring at a Jobless Growth. Governments were now facing profound questions about the nature and future direction of their economies. According to a 2017 McKinsey report, by 2030, robots will replace up to 800 million jobs that are currently performed by people. According to a 2016 study conducted by researchers at Oxford University, by 2040, working nations could see job losses of up to 47%. If more and more people were being made permanently unemployed, how could they afford to buy goods and services needed to stimulate growth?
  • “There is increasing isolation from human interaction and increased Balkanization of knowledge and understanding.” With so much of technological advancement and many human operations being replaced by automation & robots, what will happen to the human touch. Will this world become boring and artificial and live in a perennial virtual world/life?
  • “It turns out the hardest things at companies isn’t building the technology but getting people to use it properly” We need to ensure that our employees are constantly upgrading themselves and build organisation capability and stay relevant.

Over 50 years ago the cover of Life magazine declared “the point of no return for everybody.” Above that stark warning was this: “Automation is really here, jobs go scarce.”. For the rest of the world jobs boomed: in the following few decades, more than half a billion people were added to the employment rolls.

We are faced with this dilemma again. Automation and digital transformation is fast engulfing in every possible dimensions of our life and work. It is upto us to view this as a “Threat or an Opportunity”. Remember a Pessimist is one “who sees a Calamity in every Opportunity” whereas an Optimist is one “who sees an Opportunity in every Calamity

Clearly, the world will be quite different. The key variable is in understanding that the future is rarely technology alone, but how humans use it, perceive it, and adapt to it.

As Darwin suggested that “only the fittest will survive”. Hence organisations and people who adapt themselves to change will only survive.

I for one envision a world where tech helps everyone succeed and prosper?

Here is an Interview with Ashish Khushu, Chief Technology Officer of L&T Technology Services Ltd., sharing his thoughts and views on whether “Technology is an Enabler or a Disruptor

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