What to do with galloping Technology?

Exponential

The curve above is representative of how technology is developing at a breakneck speed. The title is neither a rhetorical question nor a controversial statement. This thought came to my mind while I was reading about the galloping speed of progress in many areas the humans are making. In the movie “Back to the Future” (1985) the person goes back to the year 1955 using a time machine. The differences he sees are interesting but not surprising. There was nothing exceptionally different or path-breaking in those 30 years. Had the movie been produced in 2015, the time machine would have taken the person to 1985, with 30-year logic. That change would have been exceptional for the person to guess!  What is the meaning of life with no PC’s, no Cell phones, no Internet, no WA, no FB? The person would not believe that life only 30 years back was so different.  

Just imagine that a human being was transported from 12000 years back, pre-farming era, to the year 1500. The cities, the carriageways, farming equipment would be such a big change that this person suddenly exposed to so many changes, might die of shock. A person from the year 1500, will be reasonably shocked to be taken to the year 1750 but he won’t die! How much change can human mind accept and absorb at a time? The rate of change is really galloping in the recent past. Change from the year 1500 to the year 1750 and the change from 1750 to 2015 cannot be compared. Change of scene that we see in the year 2015 compared to the year 1985 is really vast. But the human mind will not be able to accept changes from 1750 to 2015, the person could also simply die! It initially took 12000 plus years for such deadly changes to occur but later it took only 250 plus years for similar deadly changes. We can call such changes as “Deadly Change” (DC).

This comparison tells us that the rate of change is dependent on how advanced the society is at that time, it is the datum level that is important. For obvious reasons, we see terrific changes happening in the Bay area in the USA. We know that such change was happening in the area of Electronics, Computers and the Internet; but along with these changes, it appears that this area may also surge ahead in Car manufacturing as indicated by Tesla! We really don’t know where Apple and Google are the car domain but one thing is sure, they have technical wherewithal, passion and money. All changes are not DC type but the rate of change is galloping.  

If such changes have happened in the first 18 years of 21st century itself, what is lying ahead, we simply do not know. The changes that happened between the year 2000 to the year 2015 could get squeezed to seven years between the year 2015 and year 2022! Enormous changes can happen initially in 7 seven years, then in 3 years and then one year and then one month and then one day! Friends you may think that Pramod is dreaming and writing a fictional scenario of how things will change. But I get a feeling that changes that are going to happen in future will take an exponential curve.

The curve shown above displays the rapid speed at which things are moving.

  1. The rate of change can be represented up to the year 2000 by the slope at value –1 on X axis! What we are going to get in future will be slope after that! The high growth slope at +1 value is due to Microsoft, Google, Facebook coming in the picture during that time period between years 2000 and 2005. 
  2. Our historical perspective has been up to –1 value so we keep on thinking and expecting that the change will always be gradual and slow!  
  3. We are “Old people” of the gone era and I am talking of people in 50’s too! We are stubborn and we say that change can happen only so fast! How can change happen exponentially?  

But something is already happening in the background; you, me and the general public think that AI is something that is shown in Sci-Fi movies. It is for graduate students to take up the projects as a requirement, it is not real life! When we talk of AI, we always think of Robots; Robots are containers for AI stuff. AI is the brain and Robots is the body. When we talk of AI, we always think of computers but do not forget that another area which is making progress in leaps and bounds is biotechnology. The progress in this area is the result of tremendous progress made in the last 30 years; along with this terrific progress is made in the medical field too! These technologies are going to be the drivers of rapid change.

All this lead leads to a question of how much is the shelf life of technology? To me, some will evolve slowly and the concept will continue for a long time. For example, aeroplanes. Aeroplanes have been there for more than hundred years, only major has been jet engine! But no other path-breaking stuff is visualized. The telephone also has been around for a similar time but this technology has also changed slowly. The change now is faster after cell phones arrived on the scene. But now cell phone is really evolving in a different animal, fast! It is getting converted into a personal tool which might do everything for you, from phones to camera, to photo repository, to the music system, to chat system, to a chequebook and a bank! This change has really happened fast in the last 15 years and what form and shape it will take, only God knows. 

Biotechnology and medical fields are progressing rapidly! Last hundred years have seen some major breakthroughs in reining in epidemics. People dying in hundreds of thousands or in millions due to illnesses,  was a norm, in old days! There was plague, there was black death. The systems and the doctors just could not contain them and the way was you die or you run away elsewhere! Medicines and cures were, more prayer and faith-based than science-based. Last fifty years have seen the dramatic change in this scenario; when AIDs became rampant, doctors found basic details about it, in 2 years and now they know that it is an Auto Immune thing and per se is not as dangerous as it looks. A person with AIDs dies with other infections! Had AIDs appeared 500 years back, half the then population of the world could have been wiped out. Ebola came but was reasonably well controlled, quickly!  

This speed is good for humans but technology changes in day to day stuff can be difficult to handle with galloping speed. We have seen in front of our eyes, pagers come and go, so did fax! Cameras with the film are a history and music pieces can be composed in two different continents and a song gets created in the third continent.  

Some of these changes, humans will handle well and others can be tough to absorb. The working population will have to get themselves reskilled every ten years (am I too optimistic?) or perish. You can’t become a banker and a chartered accountant and work lifelong in the same career. Block Chain technology may eliminate such concepts! Experts may make a lot of money by the time they are 40 and may want to retire! And do what? Some young friends of ours are already contemplating this scenario.

Average Deepak or a John did not have face Cancer or Heart Attack because he never lived that long. With better products, diagnostics tools,  and cures, better solutions from biotechnology, the lifespan of Deepak and John is increasing rapidly. With better cures, these dangerous diseases are also more controllable and many times curable. Now more people die of old age instead of dying due to illnesses.  

Friends, I am very positive that humans will find a way to handle these galloping changes but some thoughts and concepts will change on their heads! Don’t be surprised if you meet a banker friend of yours after ten years and find him growing organic farms or has become potter of beautiful ceramics! We always find our path, some find it quickly, some find it late and some don’t find at all! Darwin’s theory of “Survival of the fittest” is one thing that will never change!  

 

 

 

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Age is just a number!

Every society has its way of handling age and old people. What does it depend on? Relationships, money, closeness in the family, decide many aspects in life. Of course age is not the only factor, along with age comes the factor of health! If these two combine badly, the situation becomes dicey! In the current scenario where migration is the name of the game, things can be even more difficult; it is not migration to another country but it can be migration to a city from village or to another city, for work! Old are of course left behind!

My observation is that in western society, health permitting, senior citizens do a lot of things independently, without giving too much thought about age. This is probably because many generations have had a large number of senior citizens and are used to handle their own things, financially and otherwise!

In the generation of my grandparents, there was hardly any migration and most of the family continued to live together, many a times in the same house. Household requirements and individual requirements were very low and people survived with low incomes. At a later stage in my grand parents case, I think my father and uncles used to give additional support to them. It was always discussed in those days and even today, that people from that generation were really strong! They had to be! During young age of my grandparents, the life expectancy was so low, that those who were really strong, survived. Large number of people would die of influenza, plague and so on. There were no modern medicines or diagnostics. You catch the dreaded illness and you are gone!

But in today’s times, with Modern medicines, general improved health awareness, you see a lot of senior citizens around, with reasonably good health and in some cases wealth too! That’s a great combination if used properly. You have everything and diminished family responsibilities. So why not use the situation fruitfully? This is right time to start using ones bucket list! It could be books, travel, watching sports events, music events or whatever you have not been able to do in younger age.

In India we consider the age around 70 as old. Old enough to be reading Scriptures, living a contented life, interacting with grandchildren if they are around, maybe go to Mandirs and so on, in short doing nothing! This thought process is changing albeit slowly. Many of my friends in this age group have  become globe trotters, travelling with spouses and certain cases alone. In Western countries thought process about old age is  pretty different, the oldies are quite independent. We as a society should try and emulate good aspects of western thought process.

In last two years on different excursions we met a lady who was 99, travelling alone! Recently we met a 87 year old person again travelling alone. He has travelled to 99 nations in the world. Mind you, the examples I am giving here are all westerners. We have seen people who needed wheel chairs, one young man needed 100% Oxygen support. Yes, in foreign countries the facilities for physically challenged people are superb. That helps but it is the will to do it, will to travel, to explore through the physical challenge. Our group in both cases was predominantly of westerners!

In India our thought process is not very open to such thinking because for the first time, in our history, a large number of fitter & willing senior citizens are around. There is no history of independent senior citizens wandering about. We met an Indian couple, in early fifties, from Mumbai, at Matterhorn in Switzerland; they were kind enough to help us with some photos. While parting, the gentleman made a remark, “Sir, it is creditable that you are doing this journey at your age!” He had a valid point, not many Indians of our age travel internationally in mountains, independently. In the group in which we travelled, we were in middle range of the age group, many were 75 plus!

In general we take our age very seriously and think in terms of “Vanaprasthashrama” (fourth and final stage of life cycle)! Of course we have to be careful that when we travel we do not have any health issues! When we were travelling my wife Jaya had a minor foot injury. Our tour manager suggested, in good faith, that we should avoid mountains so that there is no mishap. But we were careful, reasonably confident ( of course not over confident) and did most of the things that were possible on the tour. We enjoyed the ride on the open deck of double decker cable car at Stanserhorn in Switzerland! Was the weather cold!

DoubleDeckerCableCar

Another thing that happens with the age is that we become a little inflexible with our eating habits. But we always followed the dictum ” Be like Romans when in Rome”! So we did have Pizzas and Pastas and Salads when we were Italy and enjoyed them. Of course “Kartoffelsalat” while we were in Germany! Did we have lovely wines when were in wine country? Of course we did!

What we can do post retirement is dependent on our mind set and openness to try new untried things. Don’t forget that many westerners do come to India where systems, food, weather are quite different for them. They can do it because of the flexibility that they show. You must be wondering why I am giving examples of western world. This is just to explain how differently old age is treated by westerners and what are the joys of this different treatment.

While walking around in Lucern, we had 76 years old Jones from Montreal for company. We saw one Indian restaurant and she said, ” Since you and Jaya are with me, I would like to try Indian food!” We went there and enjoyed the really pleasant food, even by our standards! Only thing I did not manage is to make Jones eat raw onion, the way we eat it! I had also offered to show her how we eat with our fingers but at her request we passed it too! I am sure we also will become more adventurous and try different things! Happy globe trotting folks!