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Inventing the future
Vinaya Patil | Thursday, 20 April 2017 AT 10:00 PM IST
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Zaki Ansari, speaking to students of Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts, explains the future vis-a-vis the current digital revolution.

Digital and future - don’t they sound like synonyms now? With technology taking over every activity, digital is the word. ‘Inventing the future’, the trend is described by Zaki Ansari, MD and CEO of Cinestaan Digital at the Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts as part of the Global Festival of Learning. With the last World Consumer Day themed around building a digital world consumers can trust, Indian government pressing for cashless transactions, and a number of such initiatives introduced across the world, there is no way of escaping the ‘digital’ anymore. From clocks to computers and robots, Ansari goes back in time to explain the future.

‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it’, he quotes Alan Kay before beginning to delve into the technical aspects of the digital growth that we are witnessing every minute. ‘Don’t make things you can’t control’, he quotes from another reading, adding, “This is human mentality. We are afraid of creating things that we cannot control. But that is precisely what is going digital is leading to.”

Ansari jumps back centuries to remind us of the evolution of life. “It all began with the atmosphere and water and a simple cell. It took billions of years from there for the multicellular organism to evolve,” he explains, stressing on the speed of evolution after that. “We then got the plants, animals, and the rate at which more complex animals evolved after that was at a much faster frequency as compared to the initial speed of evolution.”

Before this biological explanation sounds out of context, Ansari quickly jumps to the 19th and 20th century, telling us how we began using technology, tracing our journey from the gramophone to the age-old printers, to telephone, computer, internet, mobile phones and smart phones. “Can you draw parallels?” he asks. “From the initial inventions which see huge gaps, to the latest ones, which come at you at a much faster frequency, technology is growing exactly in the same trajectory as the invention of life,” he points out. And indeed! One may apply this formula to the evolution of anything, and it will fit perfectly well.

A mobile phone, for instance. The rate at which newer variants of mobile phones are hitting the markets, is immense. “Things accelerate,” he asserts.

“This is the bit where fear comes in. Fear of the unknown. Fear of technology. Fear of the digital,” Ansari says, while adding that despite the speed of technological innovations that we now see, “let me tell you that we have just gone multicellular with it. The faster and more complex is yet to come.” And, he stresses, “we cannot control the future of the internet.”

The future, he elaborates, has no mentor, but has a backbone of complex networks that have already been built and this networked future “is arriving faster than ever”. So what the world is moving towards is “creating behaviour for techonology”, he says, citing the example of an FMCG company which wanted to penetrate into the hinterlands of India. “They wanted to advertise their products in remote and inaccessible places of India which hardly use any mode of entertainment like the television, radio, forget the internet. What they did use was mobile phones which received just enough network for making calls.

This company thus came up with technology that enabled people to dial a particular number which would then broadcast a radio channel once connected. People were already used to making calls on the mobile phone, so this didn’t seem like an alien thing to them. They thus tapped into a behaviour to create another one for technology,” Ansari elaborates.

Having begun as a print journalist from Mumbai in the 1990s, and eventually moved to the web, now stretching the horizons by providing internet services in a number of fields. “Companies across the spectra are now building on the digital by creating and moulding behaviours for technology,” concludes the ‘internet man’.

The author can be followed on Twitter @vinaya_patil


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