A decade of revolutions in communications, automation and AI.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Invention of the smart phone and advent of social media, have been the biggest impactful developments in the last decade according to most global thinkers. Arrival  of automation and Artificial Intelligence in various sectors are the other two. On the negative side, environmental degradation and continued military conflicts in various parts of the world, were the biggest worries of the past decade. Growing anti-globalisation policies by nations has also been a concern for global thinkers.

As the world prepares to celebrate New Year’s eve on Tuesday and prepares to welcome 2020, many are also pointing out that this is just not the end of the year 2019 but also the end of the decade 2010-2019, so there is some discussion and debate about what did we gain and lose in this decade and how would history record this decade.

Asked about what has changed the world most in these last ten years, most scientists, technicians, sociologists and historians or global thinkers agree that it is the invention of the “smart phone” and advent of social media that has changed the world most. In 2010 we all used phones which could make voice calls, perhaps just take some photos and send sms text messages, that was just about it. In 2019 now we have phones that can do almost everything that a computer, camera, video editing machine can do and in addition, it can connect us to social media, which has revolutionised the world. This clearly is the biggest change that has happened in the world since 2010.   

What the smart phone and social media together have done amounts to a revolution in communications, they have empowered any common person to become a content creator. With the smart phone and social media, everybody is a photographer, everybody is a writer/journalist and everybody is a broadcaster. Television editors or anchors and presenters no longer can take the role of “gatekeepers of content”, everybody is empowered to create and transmit content! This has its positive and negative sides. Good impact and bad impact which we will realise in the years and decades to come.

The other big revolution that took shape in this decade is that of automation. In industry, agriculture, business, communications, manufacturing in almost all sectors, automation has come to stay. It is now affecting employment opportunities and making impact on various other aspects. Again the good and ill effects of this will be seen in the coming years.

The third big revolution that gripped the world in this last decade was that of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some scientists in fact say that if there are three things that can destroy the world ever in the future, war and environmental disaster being the first two, AI could really be the third one. Today everything that you surf on the internet, every call that you make on your phone, every purchase you make, every travel plan you decide, is getting recorded through AI and billions of bytes of data is being recorded and used to track your behaviour so that your consumption needs can be predicted by the companies that want to sell you their products and services. All this is done only through AI. It’s one of the biggest inventions of our times!

Three things about the last decade that worry global thinkers that are threatening the very existence or wellbeing of this planet are a) continued military conflicts in various parts of the world, b)environmental degradation and global warming and c)extreme reversal of economic globalisation and exclusive approach (instead of inclusive) by nations.

Environmental degradation is the biggest worry. Time magazine giving its ‘person of the year’ title to young environmental crusader Greta Thunberg is a clear indicator of this. Unfortunately the world seems to have seen more negative developments in this decade than positive and most of the concerns from the past still remain unresolved. One can now only hope that the next decade will bring solutions to some of the big problems the world has faced and more positive developments happen in this ‘new decade’!

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