On Technology Readiness for the future:

On Technology readiness for the future:

In the year 1859 Charles Dickens began his famous novel ‘ A Tale of Two Cities’ with the immortal lines ” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . .”

This contrast between those who are future-ready and those who are not is very stark today. Compare the 2.3 million graduates some with Engineering and PhD degrees applying for a few hundred jobs as peons ( which also none got) and the large number who have been successful in the world of IT and entrepreneurship. The success that we see of IIT graduates today was the result of their future readiness in the 1960’s for the last decades of the Twentieth Century and the first decade of the Twenty first Century.
If we want to succeed in the 2030s and beyond we have to anticipate a future being shaped by emerging technologies of IT, energy, medicine and their intersections and convergences.
Some part of this future can be anticipated and projected, but there will be disruptions along the way. We therefore have to prepare for a VUCA ( volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.
This quest for what is worth learning for an uncertain changing world, leads us to suggest that ‘lifeworthy knowledge’ and ‘timeless Lifeskills’ are the twin pillars on which the preparation for the future is founded.
There is a very appropriate quotation from Eric Hoffer: In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

We can be complacent with what we have achieved in the last 2 decades with the opportunity provided by the Y2K situation, the emergence of the web and the proliferation of IT. As the pace of technological development accelerates we have on the future horizon a whole new set of opportunities and challenges.
Some of the clear global mega-trends are:
* The importance of Big Data and its analysis and insights with implications for business, Governance, Healthcare and education
* The acceleration in the creation of the infrastructure supporting the Internet of things
* The realisation of digital additive manufacturing across almost all sectors of manufacturing possibly resulting in the destruction of low cost and large scale manufacturing as a competitive advantage
* The general purpose robot transforming labour as evidenced in the mining operations of companies like Rio Tinto and in the service sector by the Tokyo Hotel run entirely by robots
* Drones as ‘robots that fly’ replacing foot folders and not demanding ‘one rank one pension’ greatly undermining the importance of human armies.
* Machine intelligence as demonstrated by the IBM technology of Watson and their availability in a large number of human endeavours

If we look at the implications of the above mega-trends we can foresee a very different world from what we have today. Where old roles and tasks disappear and completely new opportunities to create new economic, social and political worlds are abundant.

Closer home, there are 2 interesting recent developments worthy of note. One is the Nasscom report projecting that the IT industry will create significant value during the coming decades. But will create the same value with lesser people as the productivity per overdone us greatly enhanced with the emerging technologies.
The other which is being vehemently opposed and resisted by the software industry is the possibility of software and business methods bring patented. The industry which has got do used to ‘harvesting what it dud not sow’ is up in arms against acknowledging Intellectual Property in software, much like counterfeiters opposed efforts to control manufacturing of pirated and counterfeit goods.
But together these trends will have a very salutary and sobering effect on our youth.
It is an old adage that ‘ necessity is the mother if invention’.
And creativity, imagination, invention and innovation will be the only way forward to flourish, prosper and thrive in the future. The seekers of protection, reservation, subsidies etc. will perish. That has been the story of evolution and Darwin has enunciated its twin principles rather elegantly.
So the goal of learning changes from today’s ability ” to be able to repeat what is given in the book without looking at it” to being able to apply and build in what one has learnt to create new solutions and newer technologies.
So the answer to the question of ‘ what is worth learning?’ is not ‘what is in demand today’ but rather ‘ what computers, software, robots and drones cannot do tomorrow’.
And the answer to the question of ‘what is worth doing with your learning ?’ is not ‘ getting an AICTE approved qualification’ but being able to create new Intellectual Property that is possibly patentable and solves erstwhile unsolvable problems.
This is the path to follow.

About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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