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LIVE 24-SEVEN


DIGBY LORD JONES THOUGHTS FOR APRIL


If you’re having trouble getting those eyes to glaze over as your head hits the pillow Dear Reader, you can throw away the pills and potions, stop counting the baa-lambs and just, instead, consider Four Words:


• Digitalisation • Robotics • Artificial Intelligence


See! You’re feeling drowsy already! Yet those Four Words will change the world over the next 10 to 20 years; indeed they are already changing what we do and how we do it and often we don’t even know!


From the universal use of Mr Jobs’ invention (on which, incidentally, I am writing this) to the self-drive cars of Silicon Valley, from the increasing use of robots in the skilled space to the “Computer Says No” of credit rating decisions, those Four Words are bringing disruption, insecurity and a fundamental shift of societal norms to every human being on planet earth with a speed and a power that is terrifying.


Yet so many of us find it boring and of little interest (probably because we don’t understand it all) and so into the sand go our collective heads...and we all know what happened to the ostrich!


The instant gratification (and subsequent shift in consumerism from material goods and services to politics) that the i-World has brought the snowflake environment of the Millennials, the sacrifice of the need for bilateral, face-to-face social intercourse on the altar of the bullying of the vulnerable, the disgusting unilateral communication of the troll and the psychologically-damaging addiction to the iPhone and Facebook and Twitter by hundreds of millions of youngsters (and those not so young) around the world affects us all; that is the most obvious effect of digitalisation.


Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) will take on so many of the tasks in the hitherto untouchable sectors of the law, accountancy and insurance. “Robots can make cars, but accountants and insurers will always need human beings,” was the Custer-like cry of the last hurrah of the professional classes. The reality is that a suitably programmed robot can indeed perform so much of the stuff of the aspiring clerk…and the consumer from the next generation (whom Singapore call “Strawberries”, because they bruise easily!) will actually understand it and expect no less.


And we’d better get prepared, pretty damn quick, for the self-drive car to respond to our i-device-originated, credit-card debiting order and rock up at our door to take us wherever and whenever while we make that important call or read or write stuff... or do our make-up or even finish off getting dressed (let alone open a bottle of fizz and start the revelry earlier than was formerly possible).


Far-fetched? Think back just 15 years. Smartphones? Kids hanging themselves because they’re being bullied on Facebook; grooming victims on the Internet; recruiting and training suicide bombers; Presidents and would-be Prime Ministers ignoring traditional media channels and plopping a daily personal message or news bite onto a voter’s lap… all this 15 years ago would have been written off as fanciful.


Far-fetched? Whether a young couple who are saving and sacrificing to buy their first home (not going on the stag weekend in Las Vegas and not saving that dosh to help buy a flat and then blaming my generation for robbing them of their future!) can actually borrow the money is so often now down to a computer for God’s sake!


Yet, Dear Reader, there is still hope!


One of, if not the, biggest reasons man and woman have made it through the obstacle course of evolution to reign supreme over nature is our adaptability. More quickly, more effectively and more ruthlessly than any other animal, mankind has adapted to a changing environment; we will do so again as we measure up to the Four Words.


/ 76


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