Imagine waking up to the personalized alarm on your voice based virtual assistant, Alexa. Her voice replacing your partner’s, while getting ready for work. But guess what? You may not even have to ‘get ready’ on most days, as all your work can now be done from home, thanks to the virtual working environment provided by your technologically-forward office operating in the Industry 4.0 economy.
Never mind the pressure on energy, caused by technology because now we don’t have to worry about our future generations! Thanks to the CRISPR gene editing technology, we can now create super human babies who will not require water, clean air, energy and most of all humanity! And then of course, we have AI which will give us bots of the future (who will be even better than the babies). Not to forget, the immense capabilities of Blockchain and IoT which will be the perfect finishing touch to a future run by disruptive tech.
This life from the future sounds perfect in more ways than one! Less effort at work, less thinking in life and less idiots in general-with everything everyone getting smart. Who cares about the massive amounts of energy required to operate all this technology (especially, with oil reserves predicted to last only till 2052)? Whatever happens to humanity-never mind the disruption in the lives and livelihoods of majority of the world’s population! And then of course the big question hanging over the health of a generation, already grappling with the side effects of a sedentary, tech driven lifestyle.
Disruptive may be the present, but restorative is the future of innovation. Restorative Innovation is a framework & a model of new strategies and concepts that are designed to restore health, humanity & environment in addition to creating & capturing value for the innovator.
To understand the need of restorative innovation, here are the three disruptive innovations of modern age, which may change the way our lives permanently, but unfortunately not necessarily for the better!
What is ‘Blockchain’?
It is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way”. By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.
The Uses of Blockchain
Blockchain’s uses today are varied and can be used in different industries. Owing to the transparent infrastructure, facilitation of smart contracts and elimination of middlemen, it finds its uses in retail, supply chains, government, non-government, health, finance and practically every industry.
Its impact on environment
Today, Blockchain technology is notorious for using enormous amounts of energy. It is estimated that bitcoin, a cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology is said to consume annually enough power as all of Ireland.
Proof-of-work, also known as “mining,” is the culprit behind bitcoin’s energy waste. It’s the process by which computers solve complex mathematical riddles to perpetuate the blockchain. The energy implications of blockchain suggest an increased pressure on the already declining energy sources in the world.
The ‘restorative’ solution
Innovators today are trying to create a green blockchain solution. This could be done by shifting to cleaner energy sources or innovating the mining process so as to consume less energy. From IBM, Intel to Cornell, MIT, institutes over the world recognise the need for this and are in a race to develop this solution. It is not just an environmental need at this point but is also imperative for blockchains to scale and thrive in the long run and accommodating an increasing user base.
What is ‘AI’?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include speech recognition, learning, planning and problem solving.
The future of AI
The applications of AI range from automated transportation, like self-driving cars to cyborg technology. Moreover, the much talked about controversial role of AI in industry and defence can also be noted. Don’t be surprised if bots in the future also become your friends and become old age companions!
Its impact on humanity
The ethical concerns behind AI have been known for long. How will it impact the livelihoods of people? Will the information, goals and understanding of AI be misaligned with that of humans? What happens when you use AI in transportation or defence, where the risk to life and property is much higher? These are concerns troubling some of the smartest minds in the world. What is worse is that most of the algorithms and the ethics codes behind AI is not known to the general public.
The ‘restorative’ solution
We need to look beyond the science of AI and work on the philosophy of it. We need to understand the impact of it on humanity before moving to the applications. The first step might be a more transparent approach in the working behind it. Bots as friends may be a cool idea, but ‘Planet of the Bots’ may not be appreciated by many!
Internet of Things (IoT)
What is ‘IoT’?
Simply put, IoT is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from mobile phones, household gadgets, wearables to even parts of machines, heavy equipment, automobiles, jets. Needless to say, IoT will permeate both personal life and industry alike.
The future of IoT
There are many examples for what IoT might look like in a few years from today. Say for example you are on your way to a meeting and your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take. Your gadgets sync themselves to each other and your schedule to provide you timely reminders, updates and make your day better organised and smooth. The concept of “smart cities” will become more pervasive, which can help us improve efficiency, cleanliness and overall quality of life.
Its impact on health
Unfortunately, with great efficiency come great health problems. Look at what all the technology we have developed has done to our lifestyle so far! I, for example, look at my phone when I wake up in the morning. Not surprisingly, the last thing I look at is my laptop screen. They are both synced to my tablet phone, which I use when I’m travelling. Apparently, I’m not alone in this.
According to the 2011 “Sleep in America” poll, conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 95 percent of Americans ages 13 to 64 use some type of electronic device — television, computer, video game or cell phone — in the hour before going to bed. The near-constant presence of screens, doctors say, may account for two thirds (63 percent) of respondents admitting that they don’t get enough sleep throughout the week. I am no different.
What causes more concern is the large-scale effects on social isolation and emotional distress among humans due to this network between devices could be the largest manmade health catastrophe in the long run!
The ‘restorative’ solution
Tests to run the emotional and physical health repercussions of such technology is a necessity. It would be quite ironical to have health wearables leading to the deterioration of the same. R&D in this field may be required to concentrate more on the health and environmental effects of the technology than the next best disruption in the field. It is essential to balance the needs of efficient modern life with latent emotional and health needs, to ensure a wholesome, well rounded future.
This article is not an attempt to undermine the importance or contributions of disruptive technology but an attempt to educate about the importance of restorative innovation. There is a great opportunity hidden in the gaps which have not been covered by disruptive yet, which restorative intends to fulfill. You can be a restorative innovator too, by understanding and attempting to solve the health, humanity and environmental problems of these technological advancements.