Technology – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

MIT Professor Andrew McAfee said once “History teaches us that nothing changes the world like technology – Great Wars and empires, despots and Democrats, the insights of science and the revelations of religion – none of them transformed lives and civilizations as much as few practical inventions.”

The First Industrial Revolution took place in the 1800s in Europe and North America. It was a period when mostly agrarian, rural societies became industrial and urban. The Second Industrial Revolution took place between 1870 and 1914, major technological advances during this period included the telephone, light bulb, phonograph, and the internal combustion engine. The Third Industrial Revolution, or the Digital Revolution, refers to the advancement of technology and major advancements include the personal computer, the internet, and information and communications technology.

The first industrial revolution was one of the major steps in human development and life expectancy, and the subsequent ones empowered the corporations, bought efficiency, scalability and doing things right. It started changing social, economic, environments and political systems over the years and it has been improving steadily and some cases rapidly until now. If we look back into the last two hundred years humanity has been in an upward trajectory and broadly speaking improving human flourishing.

We are now entering into Fourth Industrial Revolution and is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, primarily with the combination of four revolutionary fields in their own right – Infotech, Nanotech, Biotech, and Cognotech. This era will bring the technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres across all sectors. Its influence on society will be much bigger than the digital revolution because of the explosiveness of its development and the disruptiveness of its technologies. The impact of this will be across socio, economic, industry, government, and individual. Unlike the previous industrial revolution, this is more about adaptability, scalability, and sustainability to empower the people to do the right things.

Infotech – It is not about computing, it is about looking at the data and drawing conclusions about the data by using machine learning. Development of the systems which can think and behave like human beings by reading the data, recognize, interpret and respond accordingly. Some of the key areas of development in this field are – Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Affective Computing, Wearable Computers and Augmented Reality.

Nanotech – It is about the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular and supramolecular scale. The field is very broad spread across the surface, organic, bio, semiconductor physics, molecular engineering etc., development of computers that small that fit into bloodstreams and quantum computing. Emerging fields in this area of technology are – Molecular Manufacturing, 3D & 4D Printing, Nanobots & Nanosensors, Next Gen Green Energy and Quantum Computers.

Biotech – It is about reprogramming genetics in our own bodies, modifying DNA, modifying epigenetics, modifying biomes and also create new life. Some of the interesting developments to look for in this field are – Genetic editing, Stem cell therapies, Lab-grown meat, Enhanced Pets and The abolition of aging.

Cognotech – Among all the fields this is the area where scientist and technologists are yet to find more but the study in this field is improving and we are seeing some great results, this is all about understanding the mind, so far we have understanding about what’s going on in the mind when meditating, intuitive or when being creative apart from that not a lot. Some of the areas to keep an eye in this field are – Brain-Computer Interfaces, Next-Gen Virtual Reality, Nootropics (smart drugs), Mind suspensions (cryonics) and Consciousness Engineering.

The fascinating thing about this phase is the crossover between all the four technologies, they complement each other and depends on one another, can leverage developments in one area to another. Next couple of decades will be the story of new machines, very small machines, new algorithms and the algorithms not written by human software engineers but algorithms written by algorithms, it’s also the story of new kind of life, and its story of new kinds of minds, artificial intelligence, and hybrid minds.

The society and humanity can benefit from all the above only when it is prepared well and ready for it, more importantly, what human values and systems put in place. And also it will challenge all our old ethical and values framework and causes to rethink the new. If the societies are not prepared well and some sections of society use wrongly then it could lead to social collapse and environmental tragedy and humanitarian collapse because these technologies are harder than ever to control.

A good deal of social engineering is required and the society needs to prepare in all the ways – Finance, Legally, Markets, Education, Regulations, Privacy, Security and Politics. How to distribute financial resources, how do we provide the access to the information, what sort of regulations we put place, depending on the social circumstances which technologies to promote, preparing the necessary infrastructure to take advantage from advancements of technology, what services we put in place, and what legal and security protection we provide.

Education is at the center of all this and the world will be determined depends on how good our education is so it is important how well we prepare the society for this and provide necessary information, not only the education but what skills we build so that people can take advantage of the technological advancements than becoming victim of it.

Critically and important one what values we bring to this and which values we are going to use to decide which technologies to be promoted, subsidized, what technologies to be legislated for and against. The political systems place a major role in bringing its full advantages and it should be well informed, strategic, organized and timely reactive.

Can you tell me the story of your prior successes, challenges and major responsibilities?

I’m into IT for over fifteen years now and I worked in many different roles, right from a 3rd level support engineer, developer, professional services, R&D to heading a domain with a large team. I started my career with software Development Company then moved to The Corporation, and now managing an IT department. So I am very familiar with both the sides and how different mindsets are when looking at the things. Led many different programs and projects over the years in my domain from small to very big. I enjoy what I do and my current role is not only about looking after end-to-end, i.e., from design development to service, but also looking at the future medium to long term and put the strategy together. I won a number of awards for personal contribution at different levels and also for the solutions which I put together.

Like any other technology leader who is managing, the challenges are always from two fronts, one is ever demanding business requirements and making sure the technology the landscape is up to date to serve the business needs in time. The other would be people. I work with some great people and they are always on top of things. I deliver a large number of projects while requirements are constantly changing, above all making sure that the teams are trained and prepared for the new challenges.

Rajashekar Reddy Asireddy, Startup advisor and investor

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

It might sound philosophical or spiritual, but we are here in this beautiful world and it is all our responsibility to make sure this place is better to live for us and for our future generations. I’m driven by responsibilities and accountability, all it requires for me is to remind myself what my responsibilities are and then just go out there and try my best to fulfill them. Apart from work, I’m involved in some social projects which are committed to helping and supporting the communities on the ground. I am trying to do my part and I enjoy quite a lot working with them. I participated in many charity fundraising events and collected funds for needed charities.

I like to be adventurous so I try to push myself all the time taking some challenges into hiking, climbing, running and skiing, etc. Climbed Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc (Couldn’t finish it due to weather), Gran Paradiso and also participated few running competitions like 10Ks, Half Marathon and Marathon

Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that and what you did instead of giving up?

Usually, I don’t give up as I am not one as such and I like to see the ends. Over time with the experience, I guess we become more pragmatic and we learn to respond to the situations more wisely.

I would like to share a recent story that happened in one of my projects and it was very dramatic. We were building a solution using cutting edge technologies and were also pushing some boundaries with the help of vendor companies and everyone was on-board. It looked 100% perfect on the paper and when coming to the performance & volume testing, we were not seeing the results as we expected and could achieve only up to 60% and it was not good enough.

We tried to fix it for a couple of months, our vendors were fully engaged, and they were trying hard with a new patch or a new plan almost daily. It was like a step forward and two backward. Finally, a day has come when I had to go to the steering board and take a final call. This has never happened to me before in all my years wherein I had to pull a solution. It was a very strange feeling and in a way devastating. I still remember the day and it was Friday morning and the meeting was at 9 am, I attended it and said will come back with a new plan in a weeks’ time.

That previous night, our vendor had released one last patch and when I got back to the desk my team was like should we try? Without any attention, I said yes and in next one hour everything changed, it worked as expected and we continued with the solution.

Over time, what I learned is not to worry much about the end results, just try your best and don’t leave any rock unturned.

What was your breakthrough moment?

I come from a humble background, so I had to work very hard to establish myself initially. After a couple of years in my career, I moved into professional services and started traveling quite a bit and it was a good learning experience for me. I like traveling and so far visited around 40 countries. I tried to understand different cultures, how they are evolved and the influencing factors. I am still exploring and I’m sure my entire life wouldn’t be enough. During the first year of my assignment itself, I got to travel around 4 countries across the continents and that changed a lot of my perspectives.

What do you see as your exit opportunities?

It is quite difficult to say as there is no one rule that fits for all and it is case by case depending on the circumstances. When it comes to the investments and ventures, after my initial study, I will set myself a number and I try to exit there, unless if something drastically changes or will then decide if it is a good opportunity to continue.

What are your biggest challenges today?

When it comes to my investments, I must say my portfolio is all over the place into multiple ventures and different areas so I need to consolidate them.

With regards to work, our organization is not yet adopted into the agile and DevOps model and we are actively looking into it. In our recent reorg, I have already made some changes in my team to align for the future. I think it will be a big change in mindset and work culture for teams to adopt but I’m very positive about it.

Looking ahead, what are your goals for in the near future?

I’m already involved with social enterprises & social work but want to spend more time. I want to find and work with startups, technology companies and social enterprises who could bring some real change especially in four areas – Education, Agriculture, Healthcare and Local Governance. Personally, maybe climb a couple of more mountains in the Himalayas and also another marathon, and a triathlon.

Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on?

It is an interesting question, not sure to be honest. And also if people spend enough time with you then eventually they will see what you are, right!!

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