Livia Kuga, FGV-EAESP student finalist in the 2021 CoBS CSR competition, looks at the rise and place of technology in our lives and contends that greater efforts should be made to improve interaction between man and machine.
Technology and Humans: One path by Livia Kuga, FGV-EAESP.
1-2 million years ago, humans discovered fire. 3,000 years ago, we learned how to use bronze and iron. 3-3,500 years ago, the first written languages were developed. In 250 B.C.E, Ancient Egyptians invented lighthouses. ln 1609, Galileo built a practical telescope. ln 1703, Gottfried Leibniz created the binary number system. ln 1901, Guglielmo Marconi sent radio-wave signals across the Atlantic Ocean. ln the 70′ s Microsoft and Apple was founded. And in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (www).And each day, we see new technologies arriving.
Technology is the creation of value through mental and physical effort, which means that whenever human beings create more sophisticated tools or systems to make life easier or comfortable, it’s Technology. So, Humankind as we know itcreated Technology and has always found a way to work together. One can’t exist with the other, because Humans are trying to find a way to better survive and to live.
As fire came and stayed over time, machines, data and science arrived and have become an established part of our life. Further predictions have been made in movies such as Artificial lntelligence (2001) directed by Steven Spielberg or I, robot (2004) directed by Alex Proyas.
Since the rise of the Internet in the early 90’s, we have seen many massive changes in the way we all interact with each other. Although we are not yet living in space, The Jetsons cartoons have never been so real. Today, many people have an “Alexa” and the Internet of Things can be found in our homes and our lives. There are even mental diseases associated with technology – nomophobia (fear of going out without your phone), textaphrenia (fear that you can’t send or receive texts) and phantom vibrations (feeling that your phone is alerting you when it really isn’t).
ln 1996, General Electric (GE) and Shell were the biggest companies in terms of market capitalization. ln January, 2020, Apple and Microsoft were on the top. ln the 90s, the infrastructure industry was the main vision. At that time, that was a way to get closer to the consumers. Less than thirty years later, the Big-techs have taken over. And it’s all about connection and interaction.
According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans owned smartphones in 2020. Nowadays, a large part of the world is interconnected through a phone or a computer. ln one click, we can talk to someone in China or Russia or anywhere else. We, as society, have become an interconnected and multi plural world.
ln less than thirty years, once-imaginary technology has become increasingly real. And the question is: if technology has come and stayed, what should we be doing to make the best of man-machine interactions?
What we can do to create a better interaction between man and machine
According to the World Economic Forum the pace of technology adoption is accelerating. They expect that by 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal. By that year, there might be 97 million new roles that are adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms. To fulfil this gap, we should improve the educational system so that our children learn about how to use and create technological tools. As such, when they enter the workforce, it will be easier for them to fit in.
There are already some schools with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, but this is not a current practice in the whole educational system. One good example of this kind of initiative is that which the World Bank Group (WBG) created, now present in more than 80 countries through partnerships with governments and organizations. The main goal is to support innovative projects and create more “edtechs” to strengthen learning. The WBG understood that digital content can be distributed across multiple delivery channels and that education systems must prepare multi-faced responses leveraging all available technologies. The WBG encourage teachers to be empowered to use technologies to engage students in learning. Parents too should be involved in the initiative. But, this is just one step. We need more.
Universities should also encourage their people to learn more about technology. Coursera is a good example of an EdTech. lt offers a variety of online courses, certifications in different subjects, making knowledge more affordable and accessible for students. Nowadays, Coursera is present in more than 29 countries and have more than 200 partners. And there are a lot of other platforms arising, like EdX. Because of the advantage of technology, the most famous Computer Science course is now available for free on the EdX platform. CSS0, the Harvard course that teaches the basics of Computer Science can open doors to technology. There should be more and more initiatives to prepare the workforce to enter this segment. And, of course, we hope for more and more people to get interested in the field, so they can help to integrate the interaction between man and the machine even more.
Companies should also make an effort to bring technology to their goals. There are some examples of companies that were left behind because of the neglect of the importance of technology. Blockbuster was once a huge company that rented movies. They could had bought Netflix, but they didn’t think it was worth it. Created in 1985, it went bankrupt in 2010, the same year that Netflix – a streaming platform to watch series and movies, more adapted to the man-machine interaction – went public on Nasdaq.
There are also some examples of good adaptations, as we can see with the Disney Company. They started 97 years ago as a Cartoon Studio. Nowadays, they consider themselves in the Mass Media and Entertainment industry. What was once a cartoon is now on television, in films, music, video games, amusement parks, broadcasting, radio, web portals and streaming. And we know they’ll keep creating new ways to interact with us, other humans, through the advance of technology.
The State as a primer for technology
Nevertheless, governments should create mechanisms to encourage firms to use increasing amounts of technology. According to the WEF, only 21% of businesses use public funds to support their employees through reskilling and upskilling.
But we do have some good examples such as the initiative that the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) created in 2009. They set aside $27billion for an incentive program that encourages hospitals and providers to adopt electronic health record systems (EHR}. Moreover, 1,000 physicians committed to adopting an her and billions were spent training the physicians and get them engaged. The use of the EHR improved quality of care.
Research carried out by PwC regarding innovation in 2010 has demonstrated that European Commission channels incentivised a total budget of €50.5 billion between 2007 and 2013 – another good example of government helping through the technology. These grants and incentives were available to entities that invest in research & development, training & employment, sustainability and international cooperation.
To conclude, we, as humans, have always been trying to find ways to survive better and technology has always been with us on this journey. The proximity between technology and man is inevitable. Organizations, individuals and institutions should be working together so that we can create a better way of living. There’s no way back.
- Link up with Livia Kuga on LinkedIn
- Read a related article: Firms and technology: Achieving good in business and society
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