February 10, 2017

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What Davos 2017 taught me about the future of the world

Attending the World Economic Forum has been an enriching experience. Reflecting back on the four days, here are some of my thoughts and takeaways:

  • Technology takes center stage - The technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution are exiting and full of opportunity. Adoption and advancements in Digital, IoT and automation are changing business in a fundamental way and every business is eager to adopt them in a meaningful manner. It was interesting to hear about how advances in AI is being projected as the black swam event that could potentially impact society at large. For those of us in the IT field it’s only going to get more exiting!
  • AI is for real - If you peel away the hype surrounding AI, there are serious dollars being invested by companies across the board to bring about advances in this area. Even if we are not able to realize the dream of creating an artificial brain, for sure we will achieve much humbler goals  in the near future. In the meanwhile keep talking to Siri and Alexa - the day they start understanding what you said and responding like Jarvis of Iron Man fame …we would have taken our first step into the world of the future.

  • Man + Machine Augmentation is the name of the game - The "humbler" near term goals for AI, is to augment how it can enhance what humans do. Based on the data deluge that we experience daily in our own professions, I believe we all do need some help here. Systems that help doctors read and make sense of the latest developments in oncology, or lawyers sift  through previous case histories would be welcomed. For now machines will have to content themselves by playing the role of  the meticulous chronicler Watson to the human Sherlock Holmes. 

  • Business Case Driven Adoption - While Digital is disrupting businesses by creating a new business model and customer experience, IOT adoption in the enterprise seems to be following the well-trodden path of creating transparency and efficiencies in the value chain and providing enhanced customer service. Cost effective sensors and internet ubiquity has made it possible for us to monitor and sometimes manage all machines remotely similar to what we are already familiar with in the IT field in a cost effective manner.

  • Promote inclusive growth  - While technology advancements are cool, we cannot afford to ignore the people it impacts in a real way by eliminating their jobs and livelihood. It's an issues that needs to be tackled urgently by governments as well as business. There are partial solutions available that I spoke about in my blog, but it needs a far greater push and collaboration.

    Jobs of the future are not where you turn the wrench, but rather program the machine that turns the wrench.

  • Continuous Learning - A famous quote by Alvin Toffler often repeated within HCL is " The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn". As a wise friend of mine quipped  - the manufacturing jobs of the future are not where you turn the wrench, but rather program the machine that turns the wrench.Keep reskilling!

Hearing what I heard, there are great things happening across the globe and… yes the world does have big problems to solve as well but the encouraging fact is that there are equally big and brilliant minds working to solve them.