When I was little, I was fascinated by how quickly everything evolved thanks to technology and innovation: transportation, communications, information, knowledge. As a child, everything goes fast. The years go by quickly, and more and more new things appeared: videos, microwaves, cell phones, video games, fashion changes very quickly, music too. What came from the 70s in the 80s seemed from the Paleolithic.
One day I read about the concept of Technological Singularity, and I loved it. It basically means that if progress increases exponentially over time, there will come a time when progress will increase without time moving forward. Then the disturbing Technological Singularity will be reached. I imagined it as a kind of ‘poof’ or explosion where everything would collapse. Well, actually what I thought was that it would go to light. Some put a date on it, saying it would be 2045. Others now claim it will finally be 2029. Pretty close. I think that the day it arrives, I will go with my family to the countryside for a walk without a cell phone, and then nothing will happen to us.
We will all have read that Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, IoT, Metaverse, Blockchain and other technologies are going to change our lives. However, is it truly true that we are experiencing an exponential improvement in our lives?
Let me challenge the commonly held belief that humanity is moving ever faster. Or at least let’s think for a moment if it’s true or not. We are undoubtedly improving, but less and less. The opposite of the Singularity could happen: Technological ‘Vulgarity’, or when time passes, and progress does not increase.
Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of microprocessors in a transistor doubles every two years, is illustrative. Likewise, Foster’s technological ‘S’ curve theories explain that when the performance of a technology reaches its limit and stops increasing, alternative technologies arise that can extend those limits again.
These theories measure technical advances, but I don’t know if they reflect development. To understand it, we should look at the aspects that really impact, the really important ones: I am referring to health, quality of life, comfort or suffering, knowledge and what makes us have more enriching lives.
An indicator of the impact of technology and innovation is life expectancy. It is increasing more and more, but in Spain, according to the INE, from 1930 to 1960 it increased in 20 years, from 1960 to 1990 it increased in seven and in the following 30 years only in five. The same happens with infant mortality: it continues to decline, but at an increasingly slower pace in relative terms.
If we look at knowledge, illiteracy rates worldwide decreased significantly in the last century. However, in the 21st century this progress has lost speed according to data from the World Bank. And with a global literacy rate of 87%, there is still room for improvement. What is happening in a hyperconnected world where information constantly flows?
Another close example: when my grandparents were young, it took them from Badajoz to Madrid a day or more, my parents four and a half hours and us, today, four hours. We are making progress? Of course. But in many ways our parents prospered much more than we did.
It is worrying to note that many indicators have stagnated in recent decades. When was the last time we experienced a radical transformation in areas of daily life? Why doesn’t technology drive faster advancement?
The concept of Technological Singularity can lead us to complacency. These reflections, with all the subjectivity they entail, intend for nonconformity to guide us so that we continue to prosper.
And what can we do to ensure that technology, innovation and telecommunications truly advance humanity? How can we contribute?
Companies must identify and address critical problems that affect society. Instead of looking for the next trendy app, let’s focus on solutions that impact people. Otherwise, we run the risk of falling into incremental and non-disruptive evolutions, which would represent the phrase supposedly attributed to Henry Ford, of making faster horses instead of building cars.
And yes, of course everything has to be done with sustainability in mind, but working sustainably means not ruining what we have. And here it is not about not spoiling. It’s about improving. Hence the enormous need for critical thinking to drive disruptive innovations.
Let’s encourage collaboration between companies to ensure that technology is used ethically and responsibly. I like to note that in business meetings, or in the advisory councils of institutions like San Telmo, the debates often do not focus on increasing the profits or competitiveness of companies, but rather focus on how companies can improve society. And surely if society looked through a hole at us it would be surprised, but no one should be surprised since this collaboration is crucial to facilitate disruptive changes.
If we want to have better companies, we will only achieve it by having better people. Let’s work on the comprehensive training of everyone. In this, each of us can also do something. Trained people become relevant actors using technology, instead of simple passive subjects controlled by it. Let’s invest in training.
We have an obligation to believe that we can contribute to the real progress of humanity. Companies, assuming a critical role in solving the problems faced by society and individuals, demanding and supporting an ethical approach to technology.
The Technological Singularity is an intriguing concept, but we should not blindly accept it as the progress that will solve everything. The data shows that not all aspects of human life are advancing at an increasing speed. It’s time to question our assumptions and work to ensure that innovations truly improve people’s lives and continue to advance humanity.
Technology is about real life, about people, their health, their quality of life. That is the work of each and every one of the members of the technological ecosystem, especially in Extremadura where, without ceasing to be combative to fight to correct the shortcomings we have, we must take advantage of the opportunity that technology gives us to be developed from anywhere. .
Let us be inspired by our predecessor generations who, with much fewer comforts, made significant advances in humanity possible. That’s what our children expect from us. Let’s not get it out of our heads or our goals.