Rapid growth in technology & innovation - What about sustainability?

I came across this excellent video on speed of Technology and innovation in YouTube. It really puts things in perspective of the progress we have made in the last several decades/century. 20th century has been the most event filled one in terms of technological progress, innovation & growth in the human history. Never before have we seen several disruptive innovations on a global scale (Ex: Airplane, Automobile, Television, Telephone/cell phone, Computers, Internet etc) within such a short span of time. We made huge progress in almost all fields, most notable amongst those include medicine and science. Technology and innovation has been instrumental in elevating our quality of life and life expectancy. It has shrunk time & distance and enabled us to communicate and express ourselves better. It has made the world one global village!

While there are many positives due to technology, there are also several negatives. We have developed several mass destruction weapons and biological weapons that has potential to destroy the entire life on this planet. We are our biggest enemy and our biggest risk today! In our enthusiasm to advance technology and improve our quality of life we have forgotten the whole concept of 'sustainability'. We have been abusing our planet and have been depleting its resources at a rapid pace. We have been polluting our environment, triggering off large scale environmental changes and global warming. While technology may seem to elevate our quality of life in the near term, if we don't reduce our impact on the environment and fix these issues immediately our future generations will have a drastically reduced quality of life and there is a possibility that their very survival will be threatened.

The need of the hour is to channel our knowledge and innovation to develop sustainable technologies that reduce our impact on this planet. While the last century had been focused on developing new technologies that improved our quality of life, this century should be focused on fixing these technologies, making them sustainable and reversing some of the damage we have done. In order to do that and ensure the survival of our future generations we need to drastically increase the pace of innovation of sustainable technologies.

A lot of political will and investments are required to trigger the next wave of disruptive innovation. In the last decade the awareness of our 'unsustainable development' has definitely increased. However our reaction to it has been somewhat muted and it is not coordinated. We need to shed our differences, geographical boundaries and unite as a single force. We need to act really fast and decisively for us to succeed. The next 2-3 decades will be critical and will determine the course of our future. It will be interesting to see if we can achieve this transformation in our lifetime!

Pls share your thoughts/comments on the above.

Believe in yourself!

One of the most widely reported and talked about story this week has been the appearance of Susan Boyle, a 47 year old singer on the show 'Britain's Got Talent'. This has been the most viral video ever with around 50 million views within 72 hours! As part of the show she attempts to sing 'l dreamed a dream' song from Les Miserables and it was a fabulous performance. The complete audience & judges were stunned and they gave her a standing ovation.

I found this video very inspirational. Here are some of the key learning's from this:

- Belief in self: In life you will always have people who would mock you and doubt your capabilities, having self-confidence and believing in yourself is very critical to success. Initially when Susan came on the stage, both judges and the complete audience were being very cynical and were mocking her. Susan did not let this affect her. She held her nerve and went on to give a fabulous performance. This was possible due to her self-confidence and belief in self.

- Appearances can be deceptive: Most of us typically tend to form opinions on a person based on looks, without interacting/making an effort to know them better. The same happened in Susan's case as well. Everyone including the judges were very skeptic about her and mocked her initially. However at the end of her performance they were stunned. Don't form opinions based on looks alone. Take time to know them better before forming opinions.

- Talent & hard work triumphs: If you have the right talent and work hard you will surely succeed irrespective of the adversities faced. Inspite of all the odds against her Susan went on to score the highest rating in the show due to her talent and hard work.

Check out Susan's performance. Its 7 minutes spent well!

Grazie Susan Boyle! from seb fil on Vimeo.

Dream of flight in a high-tech wingsuit

This guy rocks!!! Wingsuit jumping is the leading edge of extreme sports -- an exhilarating feat of almost unbelievable daring, where skydivers soar through canyons at over 100MPH. Ueli Gegenschatz talks about how (and why) he does it, and shows jawdropping film.

Ueli Gegenschatz takes flight just about every way a human can: paragliding, skydiving, BASE jumping (from the Eiffel Tower), and most breathtakingly by donning a wingsuit and soaring.

Internet penetration: An analysis

Came across this interesting presentation by Microsoft on Internet trends in Europe. Europe & North America are leading the pack in terms of internet penetration & usage. By 2010, Internet is expected to overtake television as the primary media as Europe. Europeans are expected to spend more time in Internet than on television! This is a significant milestone in the history of Internet. With this Internet has truly gone mainstream. The trend in North America is similar.

Asia is lagging global Internet penetration by a sizable margin. In terms of absolute number of users Asia is the highest (Thanks to China), However in terms of % penetration we are still a good 5-10yrs behind NA/Europe. Current internet penetration in Asia is in the mid-teens. Internet penetration in most major developing countries in Asia ranges between low single digits to 20%, compare this with Europe/NA where the penetration is north of 70%.

Listed below are major stumbling blocks and some of steps that could help with improving the internet penetration in Asia:

PC Penetration: PC penetration rates in Asia are very low. Of the developing countries china leads the pack with around 22% penetration but rest of the populous countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia etc are lagging behind with single digit penetration rates. Making PC's more affordable(tax holidays etc.) and enabling easy availability of loans/low interest loans etc could help with improving the penetration.

Network Infrastructure: Internet bandwidth & Broadband penetration is very low. Per capita bandwidth availability is a fraction of what you see in developed countries. Also bandwidth charges are still high. Massive increase in bandwidth capacity coupled with drastic decrease in bandwidth rates is required to increase broadband adoption rates.

Regional language support & content: Currently a major portion of internet is in English/European languages. Most of current penetration is driven by urban users who are conversant in English. As more rural population/non tech population come online, serving localized content in regional languages is critical to increase penetration and make internet more relevant to these rural users.

Computer literacy & Internet awareness: Literacy rates in most of these countries are low. Computer literacy rate is even lower. Increasing computer literacy and internet awareness is very critical. This should be become a core part of the education system and should be mandated in all schools.

Utility apps: One of the most effective ways to improve internet penetration is by making it more useful to people for their day to day functions - online utility billing/payments , Online taxes, Online registration, online accounts(Banks, Brokerage etc), online shopping etc. Both Governments and corporates should aggressively invest in internet enabling key functions. Making things useful for people and enabling them to do all their tasks from the comfort of their home is a sure fire way of improving internet adoption.

Mobile internet: Globally in the next decade mobile internet users are expected to overtake PC users. Mobile penetration in Asian countries is fairly high. Enabling utility apps(mentioned above) through mobile internet would be a good way to increase penetration. This should also be complemented by lowering of mobile data rates.

By 2020, I expect Asian internet penetration to catch up with penetration levels in NA/Europe. I also expect global internet user base to exceed 5 Billion users (4-5x today's user base).

Future of War: Is Terminator/Matrix scenario going to be a reality?

I saw an interesting TED speech by P.W. Singer about the future of warfare. As part of his speech Singer shows how widespread use of robots in war is changing the realities of combat. He shows us scenarios straight out of science fiction -- that now may not be so fictitious.

A lot of these technologies are either operational or in prototype today. The day is not far when you will see battalions of robots/machines, and warfare would be fought from remote. One of the key aspect of this robotic warfare is that the profile of soldiers is changing. Soldiers of tomorrow will be techies/nerds that will be remotely operating the robots and directing the warfare from the safety of their desks. This is like an extension from some of the video games that we see today. Some of you techies out there watch out there is an interesting career option opening up for you :) On a positive note ,this is a great innovation and will result in lesser fatalities during war.

While these technologies are great and very progressive the flip side is, these robots/devices are prone to be/will be hacked. It opens up possibilities where terrorist groups consisting of few hackers can wire the devices to attack innocents or turn against the countries that own them. It reduces the entry barrier to terrorism and will enable a very small group of terrorists to cause great damage. Size, number of people they have, funding etc. will not matter any more. Total dependence on technology is the biggest risk in this electronic warfare.

Check out the below video:

This video has got me thinking and too many questions are floating in my head - Is the scenario portrayed in Martix, terminator etc going to be reality in the not too distant future? Is there a possibility we might see it in our lifetimes(next 4-5 decades)? This is a great innovation/achievement however given our long history of conflicts and wars is this a direction we should be taking? Finally what are the options available to mitigate some of the risks caused by robotic warfare?

Pls share your thoughts on the above.

Photo Credit: joberrr
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