One coinage, which I often hear amidst the din of cataclysmic developments that have been taking place in the Covid-19 pandemic is “reimagining”. The usage can be contextual; such as reimagining ideas, technologies, behavior and politics. What does it mean? The phrase, I believe, is esoteric; only people with higher understanding of the subject can understand fully the nuances of the word.
I may not have fully absorbed the semantics of that word; yet I would like to narrate what I have understood. To me, it connects with a generational shift in thinking to move in the value chain and at the same time snapping the bonds from the past and the present to become more relevant to the future. The change that can be envisioned can be all encompassing. It will not leave out anything that comes in your way. For instance, you can re-imagine your work places, you can have a similar view on education, technology, healthcare, diplomacy, economic policies involving both micro and macro elements. It is analogous to “Think Different” coined by Steve Jobs.
Let me start with re-imagining work places. I read somewhere recently that CISCO has moved 16,000 employees it had in its sprawling campus in Bengaluru to 109 towns spread across the country just before the lockdown had started. The US IT giant has provided tools to its employees to work from home, to attend meetings in secured ambience, discuss with colleagues and bosses, to attend training sessions and a lot more.
Amidst welcoming reviews by the peers about the advantages of the system, there are nagging doubts cast by the psychologists and social scientists about the flip side of the emerging situation. Foremost is the psychological pressure on the employee by sitting all the while alone without any creative diversion. Should we not therefore, evolve a hybrid model that can provide opportunities for occasional group meetings in person to provide for an escape route to the employees? It is instructive how that model can be developed since some of the companies may not have the financial muscle power to implement such schemes that may prove to be costly.
The next in importance is cyber security: Cloud and cyber security go hand in hand. Cloud makes remote work easier. At the same time, it increases security vulnerabilities. The employers will be comfortable to switch over the distance working only when the data and content are not compromised. How can that be ensured? Do we require any fine tuning in the cyber security laws and if so what are those crucial changes needed? A case in point is if the employee is in India and the employer is in the US or Europe, for any breach in security happens, where will be the jurisdiction to adjudicate-the US or India? A lot more clarity has to be evolved on working hours, accountability, contractual obligations from either side etc. Hopefully, their imagining process will emerge through consultations and deliberations at various levels.
Reimagining healthcare has become a hotly debated issue. Healthcare segment is undergoing a silent revolution both in the predictive and preventive realms. Physicians are now creating matrices based on individuals’ physical, genomic, behavioral risk factors, to map the likely diseases the person is vulnerable to. Many companies are working on software that can predict the possibility of a heart attack well in time and to help the patient to take preventive care. The intelligent systems that are in the making are based on the creation of a digital twin, an electronic replica of a person. Using remote sensors, analytics including artificial intelligence, bio digital twins can be used to predict diseases. The good news is that some of the Indian laboratories are gearing up to create digital twins. They claim that digital twins are only a few years from now. Coupled with the developments in big data analytics, scientists will be able to analyze root causes of many diseases including Parkinson’s, diabetes and amnesia, among other things. Will there be a time when organs can be harvested outside the human body to replace the existing ones, which get damaged due to one reason or the other? Personalized human organ harvesting using the DNA of a person, scientists say may not be too distant going by the progress in research. Of course, that will be an improvement over transplant, which depends on the magnanimity of a deceased person or his relatives to avail of the organs.
I feel that the revolutionary changes are going to take place in the education sector. That is already happening in a limited way through distance education limited to certain classes and groups. Now that is going to be universal.
We have to re-imagine manufacturing and agriculture with the type of technologies that are in the pipeline. I feel in the course of one year or slightly more than that there would be massive shifts in manufacturing electric vehicles, batteries, particularly for enhancing its storage capacities, agriculture to induce greater precision to increase productivity and quality, spacecraft and the list goes on.
I feel the interplay of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, machine language and what have you can expand the vistas of innovation, disruption and discovery. I can visualize mines and hazardous works being done by robots supervised by drones. I can also visualize people doing other types of hazardous works such as fire fighters being replaced by robots. That work will be re-imagined and one may need in future people, who are tech savvy and tackle the situation using their brains and skills rather than their physical strength.
In the same way, there will be shakeup in police and defense forces with the increased use of technologies. Cyber crimes have become a major menace. In cyber parlance what constitutes a crime and what not is a difficult task since the line between the two is blurred. One may have to have more intelligent evidence to prove guilt or disprove that. The future crimes are going to be more complex and most often cyber linked. Investigation and proving the crime may not be through questioning and other conventional methods being used by the police. Complex software will have to be used to prove them and nab the culprit. Does it mean that the police personnel should be recruited and trained more on the attributes of their mental agility and technical knowledge? Yes, we need to re-imagine a new protocol and norms for police personnel also.
During the Covid-19 days, empirical evidence proved that lockdowns forced people to buy things digitally, make the payments through the virtual medium, so much so that almost all e-commerce companies world-wide made enormous profits.
These days, I understand, political people are using gadgets more often to make their points clear. When a minister is making the presentation, he or she does through power points or by displaying visuals. Most of the politicians across the world use twitter handles and Facebook, WhatsApp etc. to communicate with the people on a real time basis. Some of the more tech savvy guys use Instagram to reach out to their target group. Such communication strategies are going to be the buzzword hereafter-a sort of reimagining political demagogue.
The last one that I would like to explain is the likely impact on the judiciary. Can a robot be a good judge? Many say it could be possible. A powerful robot endowed with high configurations can browse through thousands of cases, examine the affidavits of witnesses, petitioners, respondents, case laws and arrive at an accurate judgment in record time. Should that happen it would be the ultimate re-imagination.
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