Technology is a force for peace and prosperity. Don’t let its challenges obscure this

Technology UN News 2018

UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya Women learning to code at a technology centre in Herat, western Afghanistan.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Jean-Marc Frangos, Chief Innovation Officer, BT, United Kingdom

The American biologist E.O. Wilson observed of the modern world that we are “drowning in information, while starving for wisdom”.

As a technologist, this sentence sits uncomfortably with me. I believe in the power of technology to improve lives, bring people closer together, remove barriers, give everyone a voice and create possibilities.

Technology, especially the always-on communications sort that companies like my own have played an active role in developing over the last century, often means that information finds us, rather than the other way around.

And we’re not always equipped to cope with it – to filter it, make sense of it and use it in a way that’s helpful, not overwhelming. It sometimes feels that humans need to grow a new sixth digital sense to add to our original set.

There are, undoubtedly, reasons to be concerned about the impact of our information-driven society regarding the way that we, as humans, interact and relate to each other, exemplified by the growing awareness of “fake news” and the use of social media to manipulate elections.

They raise big questions about whose voices we should listen to. How do we differentiate between objective truths and subjective opinion? Has our obsession with easy-to-digest factoids reduced our ability to analyze and critically assess the information we receive?

These are all legitimate, sensible questions to be asking.

Research this year found that 95% of teens in the United States now have access to a smartphone, and almost half say they are nearly always online. Worryingly, 25% believe that the impact of these technologies is largely negative, reflecting many of the concerns that we, as adults, have about the world we’ve played a part in creating.

But here’s the thing. It’s not possible to uninvent mobile phones, or the internet, or optical fibres. And, really, would we want to? Because for every new issue that our connected world throws up, there are 10 reasons why our lives are enhanced, improved and enriched by technology, especially communications and IT.

We’re more connected to each other than ever before, and technology has given us more power as individuals than at any other time in recorded history. A single person’s perspective can be read by millions, winning hearts and changing minds worldwide. Over the last decade, social channels have played an active, even pivotal, role in popular uprisings against authoritarian or abusive regimes; they’ve helped provide recognition, publicity and growth to millions of small enterprises, lifting people out of poverty; and given oppressed or ignored minorities a chance to be heard by politicians and journalists across the globe.

For many of us today, that technology is commonplace. It helps us to be there for the things that matter – our friends, our family, our passions. It brings people together in ways that were inconceivable a few generations ago. Technology has shrunk the world, and I believe that while we mustn’t blinker ourselves to the challenges this brings, they are far outweighed by the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

We only have to look at the medical field. Using modern high-speed networks, doctors are now able to consult with patients in their own homes, taking information feeds from connected heart monitors, blood-pressure machines and oxygen sensors; there are emerging technologies that can measure your heartbeat by simply looking at you through a webcam.

BT recently conducted a trial with King’s College London and Ericsson on how doctors using “haptic” gloves can control a robotic arm via a high-speed 5G network to perform diagnosis, maybe even surgery, remotely. This may be some way from being robust enough to use outside the lab, but today’s science can become tomorrow’s reality.

Even in the home, technologies are playing an increasingly important role in making our lives easier. This may seem a trivial example, but a few weeks ago during a meeting, a colleague received a video call, not from a human being, but from his front-door bell. He was able to chat to a delivery driver face to face, remotely unlock his front door using a wifi-enabled lock and ask the driver to leave the package inside. Now imagine how important these technologies could be to you if you had vulnerable or elderly relatives living some distance away who might need vital supplies delivering.

A lot has been written about the so-called internet of things, artificial intelligence, and machine-to-machine communications; devices talking to each other and working together to improve our lives. I’d be the first to admit that we still have a long way to go to maximize the impact of these applications. But I believe that they have the potential to be transformational. For me, it’s less about connected fridges and remote-controlled toasters, and more about air sensors, traffic sensors, automated remote maintenance and instrumented parking spaces. Because when the world is connected, it can give us the insight to make informed choices.

I wholeheartedly agree with another of Wilson’s observations, that “the world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely”.

Yes, technology can create a haze of white noise and information. But it also has the potential to help us cut through and make sense of that haze, empowering us in ways that we never understood were possible. It might take us a couple of generations to grow our new sixth digital sense, but the positive power of this information will help us empower the powerless, inform the uninformed, and become a force for peace and prosperity.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU–Canada Summit: strengthening the rules-based international order

The scary EU elections result and the delayed Council’s repentance

MEPs propose measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment

Why Europe is more competitive than the US

Juncker Investment Plan for Europe welcomed by European Youth Forum

Companies that put employees first perform better

ECB: A revolutionary idea to revitalize the European economy with cheap loans to SMEs

Libya on verge of civil war, threatening ‘permanent division’, top UN official warns Security Council

World Migratory Bird Day highlights deadly risks of plastic pollution

Strawberries and child support; a Thai partnership

How can consumers be effectively protected from insurance sellers?

The Brits are not an exception and that’s why they voted to leave

Is ECB helping Germany to buy cheaply the rest of Europe?

Here are 10 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspirational quotes

Romanian Presidency priorities discussed in committees

Will Turkey abandon the refugee deal and risk losing a bonanza of money?

Cambodia’s schools are the new frontline in the battle against climate change

Do we really understand the value of independent journalism?

Neither side stands to benefit in US-China trade spat, UN says

Why cooperative and competitive federalism is the secret to India’s success

International co-operation vital to improve integration of refugees

The Social Committee may accept the new ‘contractual’ Eurozone

Continue ‘their mission’ urges UN chief, as the victims of the Baghdad bombing are remembered, 15 years on

Unlock the value proposition for Connected Insurance

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Bicycles for the environment, new leader for the UN General Assembly, UN values, Ebola, Syria and Libya

Two major EU projects falter; the Schengen Agreement now freezes and Eurozone fails to resolve the Greek enigma

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving Globalization 4.0

North Sea fisheries: MEPs back EU plan to sustain stocks of demersal species

Five cities short-listed to become the European Youth Capital 2017

COP21 Breaking News_07 December: “The world is expecting more from you than half-measures”, UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon cries out from Paris

Outgoing UN official praises Iraq’s ‘exemplary peaceful transfer of power’ at the top

MARKUP initiative to boost market access to Europe for East African SMEs

Conditions deteriorating alarmingly in Yemen, warns senior UN official

MEPs approve new CO2 emissions limits for trucks

To flourish in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to rethink these 3 things

UN political chief calls for dialogue to ease tensions in Venezuela; Security Council divided over path to end crisis

Asking for more restriction on intra EU immigration: Unproductive and politically dangerous

UN pushes for universal health care on International Day

New General Assembly President brings ‘valuable insights’ into key UN challenges

Inegalitarian taxation on labour haunts Europe’s social model

Indoor air pollution is deadly. Here’s an unconventional solution

Here are 5 security challenges Nigeria’s leader must tackle

Cyprus tragedy reveals Eurozone’s arbitrary functioning

This is our chance to completely redefine the meaning of work

EU fight against tax-evasion and money laundering blocked by Britain

Access to healthcare is not enough – high quality care has to be the target

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Palestine refugee agency chief resigns amidst mismanagement probe

EU Commission: Banking and energy conglomerates don’t threaten competition!

Nicaragua: MEPs condemn brutal repression and demand elections

Draghi’s ‘quasi’ announcement of a new era of more and cheaper money

A Sting Exclusive: Young people are right about climate change; it’s time to listen

UK must make clear what it wants, MEPs say in Brexit debate

EU countries invested €5 trillion abroad

BRICS’ New Development Bank turns four: what has it achieved?

A Europe that Protects: Commission calls for continued action to eradicate trafficking in human beings

What can stop the ‘too big to fail’ bankers from terrorising the world?

EU Budget 2019 to focus on young people

“What a Wonderful World”: the unsettled relationship between Climate Change and Human Health

Food system failures in our age of abundance

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s