God created man in his own image – Genesis 1:27
If we have believed and followed the teachings of the Bible for over two millennia, it would now appear that we, the homo sapiens species, are aiming to be God’s nemesis and become gods ourselves! The twenty first century dawned upon us with the promise of creating new forms of life – effectively elevating us to the status of ‘Homo Deus.’ We are almost at the threshold of this completely new ‘achievement’ with Dolly, the sheep, the first cloned animal in history, being seen not as a rare creation of years of painstaking research but being accepted as part of the steady progress of science and medicine.
Maya, (Sanskrit: “magic” or “illusion”) a fundamental concept in Hindu philosophy in the Advaita (Nondualist) school of Vedanta which states – a super-consciousness pervades every living being – we only have to ‘lift the veil’ of Maya and find ourselves. In the Supreme Brahman – Vidya and Avidya are skillfully hidden by the web of Maya. Brahman casts this Maya as one would cast a net on the entire creation. One identifies with the body and does not realise the Atman within. Brahman’s all pervasiveness has to be intuitively grasped – Upanishads.
What a paradox! The more human beings play ‘Homo Deus’ the more we get entangled in the web of Maya. For all practical purposes, we now believe that the Digital Revolution would be a panacea for every human endeavour, from cradle to grave (or ‘lust to dust’). With the successful execution of the Apollo Moon Landings, the Human Genome project and CRISPR technology, which allows gene alteration at the molecular level to create personalized medicine – man is the monarch of all he surveys!
Figure 1. A Brief History of Genetic Engineering
Source: Adapted from ‘CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA’ by Yolanda Ridge
Now, let’s look at more pressing issues and try to connect the dots…the 2020 COVID19 pandemic has spooked humankind like no other event in 75 years. But knowing history, this time it’s different. Even before the pandemic struck us, we were on the cusp of a worldwide digital revolution, with AI as it’s lynchpin. No wonder with the help of big data we could decipher the genome of the virus within weeks of Jan 2020. Within a month’s time we developed diagnostics for detecting the virus and the vaccine has now started rolling out across the UK, Europe, North America, Argentina, Russia, Bahrain and other countries.
Amidst the pandemic, students are learning through laptops, tablets and smartphones, teachers are learning to conduct online classes, business executives are learning to work with remote teams, travel and transportation services while still not operating at anywhere near full capacity, are adopting social distancing, personal safety equipment and digital technologies at a pace not seen before. The financial sector and banks, nerve centers of modern global economic activity are doing strong business in disbursal of loans for automobiles, affordable housing and consumer electronic goods. Businesses that have adopted digital technologies successfully are thriving despite being in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century.
Figure 2 – Evolution Timeline of AI
Source: Adapted from hermes-investment.com
It is clear global supply chains are shifting and diversifying across industry verticals and geographies (‘China +1’ strategy), and this phenomenon will play out over multiple years. India finds itself in the proverbial ‘sweet spot’ with access to international funds (FDI) at lowest cost of borrowing; a large, educated workforce with a proven pedigree of IT/Digital skillsets; a strong, multi-layer consumer and FMCG products market, and a healthy financial sector with market indices recording life-time highs.
At the heart of this positive outlook is robust telecom infrastructure with pan-India 4G mobile data tariffs amongst the cheapest in the world, and operators waiting in the wings to roll out 5G services. 5G enabled infrastructure would be a redefining event in India’s history, especially with respect to the IoT and various other applications it would be able to support. Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics and AI applications would continue to push the limits of business and communication applications. For instance, mobile content and entertainment via OTT platforms, multi-player ‘live’ gaming etc. giving a run for their money to traditional print and electronic media businesses.
Medicine is already witnessing a tectonic shift towards the adoption of robotic surgery, 3D CT images being visible to surgeons on the operating table during live surgeries, while CRISPR and gene therapy would continue to transform medicine as we know it. Wearable bands using AI, diagnosis and personal therapies would help to usher in a revolution in the personal wellness industry.
Cloud Computing (hybrid/multi-cloud) would be enticing not only to big businesses, but to start-ups and mid-size businesses as well, helping them acquire hitherto out of bounds data storage, compute and networking capabilities at a fraction of what it would cost on legacy infrastructure. Just as SPACE for Facebook, Cloud Computing would allow small businesses host stupendous websites and virtual events. MS HoloLens would allow users new ways to connect and create. At the heart of these technologies would be a robust Cybersecurity system, without which the edifice would crumble.
Watch this space for more, as we explore the exciting world of scientific advancements and technology solutions.
References/Suggested Reading List:
Deep Medicine by Eric Topol
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Business Oriented AI Books
Applied Artificial Intelligence by Adelyn Zhou, Mariya Yao, and Marlene Jia
AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Business by Steven Finlay
Information Technology/ Blockchain
The Road Ahead by Bill Gates
The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
Fluid by Ashish Jaiswal
Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil