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Why technology matters

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  • Why technology matters Technology can help to solve our problems, big and small. What we need is to have a better understanding of what is available to us, how we can use it and to be in control. After working for 16 years with tech companies around the world I came to the conclusion that there are 2 types of tech: gadgets (and that is what the majority of VCs or cash-rich companies fund, e.g. smart watch, Google glass, Snapchat, Uber); and tech which makes the difference, often supported by public money or less publicised private funds not promising a quick ROI or fast track IPOs, e.g. nanorobots, artificial organs, genome sequencing, 3D printing, telemedicine, immune engineering, gene editing in plants, reusable rockets. The second point is that new technologies predominantly come to the market by the initiative of their creators. Business leaders do not often lay down their needs/goals and ask how technology could help them. Lets take FinTech for example. Financial institutions think short term and their needs are not that complicated but it is a major pain to introduce tech changes for them. Because it is not about plug and play, it is about disrupting the whole ecosystem including their processes, peoples way of working, justifying new tech investments in ROI terms, taking specific regulations into account, shareholder justifications, how it will effect their products and so on. Ad hoc and random tech like bitcoin or blockchain will not disrupt banks. There is not enough being done in FinTech and what is being done is missing a strategy; everyone just seems to run after the latest fad. This needs to be addressed by both business and tech creators in a collaborative manner.

  • Further, our thinking about tech is twisted. People get angry about how technology is affecting their lives and livelihoods. We accuse robots of taking peoples jobs. But that is not the fault of robots; they are the nice guys. People who pay for making those robots (e.g. Google, Tesla), then those that are introducing them to our lives (law makers) and all those making money from it should take responsibility for AI gradually becoming part of our world. Technology is just a tool; it is up to us what we will do with it. That leads me to my fourth observation. Our society is not prepared for the fast changing world stimulated by technologies. Worse yet, we are nowhere near doing enough to think how to address these changes. Starting with education, which is not preparing our kids for their future jobs at all. Which schools in the UK have finally introduced coding as an obligatory subject, for example? Have we told our children that their parents jobs as accountants, lawyers, journalists, factory workers, drivers, traders are going to be replaced by automated services which will be far cheaper and more efficient than human efforts? Major world organisations keep warning us about global warming and its effects, about shortage of water and food in the next few decades to feed a growing world population, about lack of funding to find cures for diseases we keep fighting like cancer, Alzheimers and others, about overcrowded cities, and the rising number of conflicts. So the number of issues is piling up. If we dont start planning way ahead and gradually introducing changes to our lifestyles, education, priorities and ways of thinking, changes that will embrace technology, technology itself could become a cause for social unrest, rather than the enabler for solutions.