(Article written exclusively for India Today.)
The early nineties was a golden era indeed. It was a time when you could be a well-read person and could genuinely sound smart in front of others. School projects meant you had to sift through multiple Tell Me Why books & Britannia encyclopedias to get the information you were seeking. Knowledge was not readily available, nor were videos of cats playing the piano. Not anymore thanks to the progress in technology.
Recently I was having a chat with one of my friends who happens to work at an MNC financial technology solutions company. These softwares are quite sophisticated and besides performing all operational matters they even roll out readymade PowerPoint presentations with the relevant data in a few minutes. So as a chartered accountant it is a rather uncomfortable feeling to live with that you are always just a few lines of code before being rendered unemployed for life.
Machine learning algorithms are all set to lead the next wave of technology. This is a setback for people like me who have had a not so pleasant experience with Maths. For I am simply the living embodiment of my Maths sir's disappointments.
HR experts have coined a new term for this emerging trend by calling it the ‘gig economy', where people hop doing temporary assignments from one organization to another. Which is not a bad idea when you come to think of it. Who needs the boring salary credited SMS at month end when you can get the adrenaline rush of not knowing where your next meal is coming from or when your landlord will throw you out.
Now my biggest worry is that will global warming decimate mankind first or will it be artificial intelligence. It won't be global warming for sure because as a species we have saved way too many tissue papers from food home deliveries for posterity. That's pretty much our only contribution to save the earth besides sending toddlers dressed as trees to school plays after lavishly tearing green craft paper for their costume.
In case it's the robots that take over us, will they be kind slave masters to us? You know like the ones that pay you to sip coffee and use jargons for a living.
The good news is that some professions which need human interaction are still secure from automation like teaching. As my former school supervisor would attest. He would have kids swarming in his office during the recess, many of which would intentionally cough on him to get their sick leave notes signed to leave home early from school. You can design algorithms to deal with normal humans, not brats.
With the emergence of new age professions like data scientists, organizations are competing and gloating over their collection of ‘big data'. It's the algorithms that track you – what website you visit, which places do you hang out in etc.
No wonder I get emails with subject lines like "You should be ashamed of yourself". You can't help but see your life flashback in your mind as you wonder what does big data know about your life that others don't.
Is it referring to the time I broke my sister's mobile screen without telling her or is referring to the time I didn't share the answers during the exam with my classmate even though he was pulling my leg to coax me.
But no, when I click the email it is of some pointless shopping website festival coaxing me to feel ashamed of myself for not buying on their website.
Till we meet again, I am off to do my good deed of the year by setting up a retirement home for robots so they can mingle with fellow robots of their era while bitching about what an aimless species we humans are.