As we kick off the new year with news often conflicting on how does the latest crop of technologies help and / or support our life’s initiatives and goals per our newly adopted resolutions, should not we first be aware of these and what would their impact be on our future. Could this Engineering.com produced article throw some light on us which in our view, ought to be pondered upon. Here are then the following :
If there’s one thing the twenty-first century has delivered, it’s explosive technological growth. Since the beginning of the Aughts, technologies like mobile computing, artificial intelligence, improved sensors, self-driving cars and even bio-technologies like CRISPR have brought the shimmering vision of a borderline techno-utopia into sharper focus.
Though this century is only 16 years old, the promise it holds for the betterment of the human condition is boundless (provided we don’t destroy the planet in the next twenty years), and large tech firms like IBM are scrambling to figure out exactly how to maximize this century’s potential.
In an effort to inform public opinion—or possibly prime the pump for upcoming innovation—IBM has released its list of the 5 technologies that will most impact the globe over the next 5 years.
What is IBM looking forward to as the 2010s fade into the 2020s? Let’s take a look.
AIs Will Detect Metal Disorders by Combing Speech and Writing
Some of the most insidious conditions affecting humanity are the hidden away in our genes or psychology.
Sometimes those suffering from brain disorders, psychological illness or chronic disease are aware of these problems, however, in some cases those affected have no idea that a condition is developing.
IBM predicts that in the next five years, the power of massive artificial intelligence systems will be able to audit the speech and writing patterns of individuals and make assessments about the state of their health.
According to IBM: “Cognitive computers will analyze a patient’s speech or written words to look for tell-tale indicators found in language, including meaning, syntax and intonation. Combining the results of these measurements with those from wearables devices and imaging systems (MRIs and EEGs) can paint a more complete picture of the individual for health professionals to better identify, understand and treat the underlying disease, be it Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, PTSD or even neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and ADHD.”
Whether potential AI-docs will be combing Facebook feeds, YouTube posts and other social media forums to create a baseline for diagnosis is still up for debate. I imagine that before this technology becomes widespread there’s going to be a rigorous ethical review of how an AI-doc collects information and parcels out diagnoses.
2. AR Will Improve Our Vision Beyond the Visual Spectrum
Augmented reality (AR) has been a hot topic among technology firms for the past few years. Devices like Google Glass and Microsoft’s Hololens headset are the harbingers of what’s to come. However, the experience of augmented reality has tended to exist within the realm of the visual spectrum. IBM’s futurists believe that in the coming years, augmented reality systems will not only accommodate data derived from what we can see, but it will also pull in information from the electromagnetic spectrum and other sources, lending humans superhero-like vision.
According to IBM: “In five years, new imaging devices using hyperimaging technology and AI will help us see broadly beyond the domain of visible light by combining multiple bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to reveal valuable insights or potential dangers that would otherwise be unknown or hidden from view. Most importantly, these devices will be portable, affordable, and accessible, so superhero vision can be part of our everyday experiences.”
Imagine this type of technology being employed in cars, where fog, snow and torrential downpours can disrupt traffic and lead to fatal accidents. With a fully developed suite of electromagnetic sensors connected to an embedded HUD, drivers (if there are still any on the road) could be completely aware of their surrounding even if their visual sense is impaired by the weather.
3. Big Data Transforms into a “Macroscope” for Investigating the World
Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) is getting a lot of press because it previews a world that’s intimately connected. Though the IoT is still a fledgling technology, it offers the chance of interconnecting a vast amount of data that can be mined to harvest indicators of social trends, disease development and economic inclinations. While the technology is currently being used to serve consumer demands, product development cycles and industrial stocking schemes, the technology’s future looks to be very bright.
Or at least that’s the opinion of IBM’s brain trust:
“In five years, we will use machine-learning algorithms and software to help us organize the information about the physical world to help bring the vast and complex data gathered by billions of devices within the range of our vision and understanding. We call this a ‘macroscope’ — but unlike the microscope to see the very small, or the telescope that can see far away, it is a system of software and algorithms to bring all of Earth’s complex data together to analyze it for meaning.”
Building a digital twin of the physical world is an enormous task. Analyzing the data that underpins that model will be even more difficult. However, if a system similar to the one IBM envisions ever comes into being, whole new methods of predictive analytics will be available to scientists and researchers around the globe.
4. Lab on a Chip Makes Disease Diagnosis Faster, More Accurate and Earlier
Not all diseases display symptoms immediately. Parkinson’s disease, for example, can hide within the human body for years before any symptoms appear. What’s more, even when symptoms do appear, it’s often difficult to diagnose, requiring many trips to neurologists to reach a clear-cut verdict. Moreover, even if the disease is diagnosed, it’s often so far progressed that treatment is limited.
IBM predicts that labs-on-a-chip—medical diagnostic tools the size of a USB—will change the timeline for disease diagnosis, potentially improving treatment outcomes.
“Lab-on-a-chip technology could ultimately be packaged in a convenient handheld device to allow people to quickly and regularly measure the presence of biomarkers found in small amounts of bodily fluids, sending this information securely streaming into the cloud from the convenience of their home. There it could be combined with real-time health data from other IoT-enabled devices, like sleep monitors and smart watches, and analyzed by AI systems for insights. When taken together, this data set will give us an in depth view of our health and alert us to the first signs of trouble, helping to stop disease before it progresses.”
5. Smart Sensors Help Curb Environmental Pollution
Climate change is one of the greatest existential threats facing humanity, impacting our planet, global economies, migration and a litany of other issues. To curb these effects, nations will need to take direct action to limit carbon-based pollution and the first step in doing that is monitoring the facilities that generate our carbon-based energy.
“Most pollutants are invisible to the human eye, until their effects make them impossible to ignore. Methane, for example, is the primary component of natural gas, commonly considered a clean energy source. But if methane leaks into the air before being used, it can warm the Earth’s atmosphere. Methane is estimated to be the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide (CO2). Networks of IoT sensors wirelessly connected to the cloud will provide continuous monitoring of the vast natural gas infrastructure, allowing leaks to be found in a matter of minutes instead of weeks, reducing pollution and waste and the likelihood of catastrophic events.”
Although monitoring wellheads and other carbon-based fuel facilities is a first step towards combating the potentially devastating effects of climate change, more will need to be done to ensure that our planet isn’t completely corrupted by our ravenous need for cheap, carbon-based energy.
The United States, China, India and Russia will need to take the lead in developing real strategies for stemming humanity’s growing appetite for carbon-based fuels. Even more, nations that are already implementing renewable solutions like Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, etc. will need to lead the way in showing that a carbon-free or carbon-weening world can exist even as our demands for energy continue to grow.
What do you think of IBM’s predictions? Are they big enough and bold enough to stand as the five most impactful technological trends of the next five years? Are there other technologies that should have been included on the list? If so, what are they? Leave a comment below or on the original Engineering.com site.
As we head into 2017, and further to our previous contribution Leadership Priorities in Year 2017we would like to give this opportunity to our readers to go through this article written by Rawan Al-Butairi, Financial analyst of Saudi Aramco and published on Monday 2 January 2017 on the WEF website. The author questions leaderships attributes but within the specific Arab context of the MENA countries. Experience tells us that practitioners love to see what is happening in their domain and for one reason or another do generalise it to all by asserting that Real leaders need to make globalization work for all .
A young person could almost be forgiven for feeling despair and hopelessness today. Everywhere they look, there is escalating inequality and a lack of opportunity.
In certain regions and countries, the problem is more acute; from hyperinflation and a collapsed economy in Venezuela to an Arab Spring in Egypt which toppled a government but ultimately has yet to improve the lives of ordinary Egyptians. In fact, with a recently de-pegged currency and an IMF bailout, it will ostensibly get much worse there before it starts to get better.
At the time, many pundits argued that the 2011 Arab Spring was about people in the region demanding greater democracy and liberal freedom. However, I think this misses the heart of the problem. At that time, Egypt was still suffering from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, with important industries such as tourism still far from recovery. Moreover, large increases in food and raw material prices caused a huge trade imbalance (Egypt- as well as Venezuala – is a significant net importer of food).
With the rising cost of food, an unsustainable trade imbalance leading to unaffordable domestic subsidy programs, an overly concentrated economic model susceptible to crippling exogenous shocks, and a growing population to “feed”, the situation mirrored the predictable fall of a neatly stacked set of domino chips. These countries simply ran out of room and ran out of time to modernize their economies to provide opportunities for their growing young population.
Leaders fell back on the status quo, too afraid, too self-interested, or too corrupt to make the difficult trade-off decisions to fix the numerous structural imbalances. These were tragic and epic failures.
In this context, what does responsible leadership mean? While it is tempting to provide the never incorrect “it depends” answer, I believe there are two universal and key themes.
First, globalization, like capitalism, must be effectively managed to be more inclusive. Globalization leads to a bigger overall pie, but responsible leaders must find ways to distribute that pie to more people. Conversely, protectionism and populism to me is just Neo-Luddism, a misguided and ultimately futile tilting against windmills which will only lead to a smaller pie for everyone.
With technological advancement and the oft-touted “knowledge economy” naturally favoring a small group of the highly skilled, government and the private sector can and must do more to even the playing field, including potentially higher minimum wage laws or progressive taxation to fund more targeted and effective social programs. These programs must be financially sustainable, free of corruption, and efficiently enacted.
At a community level, responsible leadership must encourage more volunteerism and gifting – of not just money, but time, knowledge, and mentoring those with less opportunity – and these individuals and institutions must personally lead by example. The leaders and workers of tomorrow need to understand the impact of globalization, both its benefits and its implications, so that workers are motivated to develop competitive skills in an increasingly global and interconnected economy. Inevitably, there will be groups who will be marginalized and unable or unwilling to adapt to this future, and the social programs will need to be creatively designed to reach and help these people.
Second, responsible leaders must have deep social capital, particularly “bridging social capital”. According to Robert Putnam, a political scientist and Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor, bridging social capital builds key networks between different social groups. It allows people from different socio-economic backgrounds, genders, ethnicities and cultures to share and exchange ideas and build consensus among groups with diverse interests.
Responsible leaders must develop empathy and solidarity with all people they serve, so that they will forge collective benefits that enlarge the pie for everyone. Again, volunteerism and community engagement are crucial. Unfortunately, with social media and an overabundance of choice, people are easily conditioned to only seek out interactions with people they “like” or to “friend” people of similar views or backgrounds. This is the exact opposite of the desired outcome, and can lead to irresponsible leaders with low social capital, and low empathy, who see the world as a fixed pie that must be divided up with the largest slice going to themselves and people like them. The future of the world, particularly the one that the young will inherit, must be defined by what we share, not our superficial differences.
So what, again, is a responsible leader?
In summary, a responsible leader to me is person who has abundant social capital, an intrinsic desire to maximize the economic pie to create opportunities for everyone, someone who is able to effectively manage globalization, and looks to build bridges instead of walls. He or she will enable hope to once again flourish within the sea of hopelessness, and turn despair into optimism.
About this article: Rawan Al-Butairi is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. Her article is one of the short-listed entries in the 2016 Global Shaper essay competition on the theme of responsive and responsible leadership.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom, surveyed major world cities and produced Another Ranking of Top World Cities that are generally metropolises of developed countries. The report was published on September 7th, 2016; we reproduce excerpts of it below.
London claims pole position for the second time in a row in a comprehensive benchmarking study of 30 leading business centres globally, boding well for its ability to withstand post–Brexit competition on a number of fronts. (more…)
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its latest report on Human Development 2015 notes a marked improvement of Human Development in Algeria. This report examines the links, positive and negative, between work and human development in a rapidly changing world, where rapid globalization, demographic transitions, and numerous other factors create new opportunities, but also risks, which generate winners but also losers
1 – The Human Development Index or HDI was developed in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and Indian Economist, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. The HDI is a composite index between 0 (abysmal and 1 (excellent), calculated by the average of three indices. The first aspect (A) quantifies health and longevity (measured by life expectancy at birth), which indirectly measures the satisfaction of basic material needs such as access to healthy food, to drinking water, decent housing, good hygiene and medical care as adopted by the Programme of the United Nations Development in 1990.
It is more reliable than the previously used indices, Per Capita GDP, which gives no information on individual or collective well-being apart from quantifying economic production. In 2002, the United Nations Population Division took into account when estimating the population impacts of AIDS epidemic for 53 countries, compared with 45 in 2000.
The second aspect (B) is knowledge or education level measured by the adult literacy rate (percentage of 15 years and more as knowing to write and easily understand a short and simple text dealing with everyday life) and the gross enrollment rate (combined measurement of the rate for primary, secondary and higher education). This translated the intangible needs such as the ability to participate in decision-making on the workplace or in society.
The third component (C) is concerned with the standard of living (logarithm of gross domestic product per capita in purchasing power parity), to include elements of quality of life which are not described by the two first indices such as mobility or access to culture thus giving HDI = A D E/3 .
2 – According to this World Report 2015, the score of Algeria has improved with its ranking at the 83rd in 2014 against 93rd in 2013 out of 188 countries, i.e. ten position up, and at the third position in Africa behind Mauritius Islands and the Seychelles which were not on the list of countries concerned by the multidimensional poverty index. So with an Index of Human Development (HDI) valued at 0.736, Algeria is amongst the 56 countries with a ‘high’ human development, with a life expectancy at birth in 2014 estimated to be 74.8 years while an average duration of enrollment of 7.6 years and a gross national income per capita (GNI) estimated at $13,054.
In the Maghreb, Libya has been classified in the category of countries with high development (94th), Tunisia ranked in 96th place (high HDI), Morocco at the 126th (average HDI), and Mauritania at the 156th (low HDI). The last ten countries in this ranking are all African with Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Eritrea, the Central African Republic and Niger. The top ten countries with the best HDI in the world (ranging from 0.944 in 0.913 indices) are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand.
Despite the extent of poverty, the report notes that the number of people living in a not very favourable background for human development, has decreased from 3 billion people in 1990 to a little more than one billion in 2014 on 7.3 billion people on 4 hours of unpaid work, women make it 3, more than 200 million people whose 74 million young people are unemployed, 2 billion people were able to get out of a low level of HDI over the past 25 years, 7 billion people today subscribe to a mobile phone service, 61% of those working in the world have no contract and only 27% of the world’s population enjoys full social protection.
3 – HDI represents a significant breakthrough in the field of the use of indicators more credible than the gross domestic product (GDP). But according to many international experts this indicator has significant gaps which are mainly :
The choice and weighting of the chosen indicators remain arbitrary;
The quality and reliability of the data used to calculate it are highly variable from one country to another;
It uses averages, without taking into account inequalities such as socio-professional as well as space related, hence the concentration of national income to the benefit of a minority of rentier;
The level both of schooling and health, vary considerably depending on the country;
Some social indicators are hardly quantifiable, distorting comparisons from one country to the other;
The qualitative analysis must necessarily complement quantitative deficiencies. It is also desirable to complete this index by new indicators that take into account the participation, the kind, the enjoyment of human rights, civil liberties, social integration, and environmental sustainability and especially for Third-Word countries, perhaps the weight of the informal sphere. All this however would suppose another statistical performance apparatus to be adapted to social situations. As previously analysed, in the future it should include the participation rate of women, signs of development, in the management of the city, of environmental and democratic indicators including freedom of the press and corruption indices.
4 – In short, I welcome the positive note attributed to Algeria by the UNDP, hoping that the country’s structural reforms are initiated quickly in order to consolidate these very achievements.
Meanwhile, I also noted that in its latest report on Global Innovation Index, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO-2016) reported that Algeria got a score (admittedly very mixed because no development could be had without innovation and no correlation with the important education budget) of 24.5 points and ranked 113rd out of 128 countries, but up 13 notches. Its neighbours, Morocco has progressed six places from 2015, and arrives at the top of the countries of North Africa, followed by Tunisia (77th) and the Egypt (107th).
For Arab countries, we have the United Arab Emirates at the 41st followed by Saudi Arabia (49th), Qatar (50th) and Bahrain (57th). South Africa (54th) comes at the head of the African countries.
Globally, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Finland and Singapore are the most innovative countries. In the bottom of the ranking, there are five African countries (Burundi, Niger, Zambia, Togo and Guinea). Also, let us both avoid any free pessimism and be lulled into complacency : many achievements since political independence, but also many shortcomings that it is correct, taking account of the transformation of the world, avoiding utopian schemes of the past. Before all of the internal actors, adaptation, depending on strategies must be based on both fundamental development of the 21st century, namely, good governance and the knowledge economy.
I watched some TV this week and like most people, I paused the TV and went to make myself a coffee during the adverts. I often record a programme so I can watch it all the way through skipping ad breaks and recaps whilst still remembering the content and mood of the thing before it deflates in my mind. Since I was young (long ago) the reach and extent of advertising has mushroomed. I never expected to find adverts in my child’s school book-bag, for example!
It wasn’t always like this and yet advertising in some shape or form has existed for thousands of years. Of course, it is completely unnecessary in small communities you can simply ask face-to-face or find what you need via a close friend or relative. Word of mouth is still the most effective form of advertising; after all, what could be better than a trusted friend telling you something is good? The rise of large populations and cities meant that sellers could reach buyers with no personal knowledge of them and hence the first adverts on clay tablets in ancient Babylon from 3000 BC.
It was, however, the onset of printing that gave advertising its biggest boost. Tracts were common in the seventeenth century and the line between informing and advertising or spin began to blur. By the nineteenth century adverts were well-established but they often made extraordinary claims.
In a landmark case for advertising and law in 1892, a Mrs Carlill sued the Carbolic Smoke Ball company for breach of contract. The company advertised that if you took the product correctly you would be guaranteed not to contract flu (amongst other things) and that it would pay anyone who succumbed to the illness £100. Mrs Carlill, needless to say, took the product correctly, caught flu and claimed her £100. The company argued that their claims had been sales puff, and that it was not a proper contract. The judges ruled in her favour and now advertisers everywhere need to take care of claims they make concerning their products. Disclaimers are often found at the foot of adverts for this reason and adverts needed to be more subtle in their approach.
Adverts work on various levels and companies do employ psychologists. Many are inspirational; if only you eat this chocolate bar, you will feel like a beautiful woman riding a white horse on the beach. They’ll try to establish intimacy with a well-loved personality, harping back to the old days of a friend’s recommendation. They might try to make you feel guilty or anxious; your house will be full of germs if you don’t buy an expensive brand of disinfectant. Adverts might make you feel that you can accomplish something impressive with the product, your cakes will rise higher if you use the right eggs, for example (although care is taken not to guarantee anything!).
It goes on. Subtle advertising goes on even in films and in news stories that `announce the launch of …’ or say a celebrity has `revealed’ something (bearing in mind that celebrities are now industries of their own).
Old Ad of Pears Soap
Recently, there have been concerns. One issue is that adverts target those that are most vulnerable, the very elderly or children, for instance and some countries have tried to ban advertising aimed at children. Advertising is so common these days that we are close to the Phillip Dick sci-fi worlds of advertising floating by your window day and night or the personally targeted adverts that follow you round such as you find in `Minority Report’.
The fact is, however, that adverts are an integral part of the modern world. The price of newspapers would rocket without supporting adverts and most internet content would not exist. A great deal of creative output relies on advertising revenue because it is hard to protect intellectual rights or make money from content. Recently however, I did read an article about Keith Moor of Santander (a bank) who had doubts about advertising on a particular social media, `I was guaranteed 1.7 placements of the video…..There were 603,000 views but only 5 percent were all the way through. And I was told by my agency that was good! It’s not… is it?’ The problem is that some advertising is rather like vanity publishing, it is a business making money from clients who are not guaranteed sales revenue for their expenditure. Often I don’t mind adverts but there are places I want to keep private and I am hostile to the product accordingly if sold there.
Perhaps, however, we will find now companies questioning the saturation in places that we do not want to see adverts, I hope so.
A piece in University World News dated 12 February 2016, (Issue No. 400) reported that in Bloomberg’s index, the North African countries of Tunisia and Morocco are in the top 50 for innovation and are ranked as the 46th and 48th.
Bloomberg released its Innovation Index on 19 January, drawing on data from the International Monetary Fund, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Bank, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the OECD and UNESCO. According to UWN, “the ranking began with more than 200 countries. Those that did not report data for at least six of seven categories measured were eliminated, trimming the list to 84. Bloomberg released overall and category scores for the top 50 innovative economies.
Bloomberg based its methodology on seven criteria including tertiary efficiency, spending on research and development, researcher concentration and patent activity along with manufacturing value-added, productivity and high-tech density. The tertiary efficiency measure includes factors such as enrolment in higher education and the number of graduates in key innovation sectors like engineering and science. In Africa, Tunisia took the highest grade in tertiary efficiency at 30, but ranked worst in patent activity at 50 and ranked 45 in research and development intensity.
Morocco was number 46 in tertiary efficiency, 48 in patent activity and 47 in researcher concentration, which counts the number of doctoral students engaged in research. Besides Tunisia and Morocco, in the Middle East and North Africa region only Israel (11) and Turkey (36) made it into the world’s top 50 most innovative economies. In the top 10 were South Korea followed by Germany, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, the United States, Denmark and France. “The standings reflect the North-beats-South tale of the global economy: Africa, with No 46 Tunisia and No 48 Morocco, and Latin America with Argentina at No 49, are scarcely represented on the top 50 list. Six of the top 10 economies hail from Europe, and three from Asia,” said the Bloomberg report.
With reference to Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016, published last September, indicated that the region’s economies remained largely non-competitive. The study found the 10 most competitive economies in Sub-Saharan Africa to be Mauritius (46), South Africa (49), Rwanda (58), Botswana (71), Namibia (65), Cote d’Ivoire (91), Zambia (96), Seychelles (97), Kenya (99) and Gabon (103). The Global Competitiveness Report indicated that to move further up the development ladder, Sub-Saharan Africa particularly needed to improve the quality of higher education, the rate at which it adopts new technologies and the capacity to nurture innovation.”