Evolutionary Computing Technology Shaping Human Behavior & Economics

TECHNOLOGY, 23 Oct 2017

Kedar Neupane – TRANSCEND Media Servivce

9 Oct 2017 – In search of fitting models of this century, development theories are revisited and debated at various levels by academic laurels, business leaders, entrepreneurs, economists and politicians. Such probing is only natural for no one foresaw fall outs from unprecedented growth that followed global economic liberalization. Uneven distribution of newly created wealth and concomitant development of information technology triggered effects on work ethos, values, social cohesion and choices. New modus operandi to individual freedom, sovereignty and human security also began to emerge. Conventional economic theories could not address convincingly the shifts occurring in consumer behavior, market events and skewed wealth impact. Development growth equation could not fix continuing stagnation in faulting economies. This is contributing to doubts about efficacy of laissez-fair approach to economy and leveraging new challenges. Both capitalism and state controlled sovereignty are under strain and increasingly appearing as thing of the past.

We are witnessing rapidly advancing digital technology, connectivity, and satellite telecommunications. New challenges were not obvious which came along with economic liberalization and technology advance.  Concomitant wealth creation convoluted understanding of economic equation and technology configuration. Interestingly, while economic liberalization was reshaping new global business environment there were concurrent changes occurring in digital world of information technology. Many of us missed noticing changes taking place with evolution in computing technology and subtle influence on human society, economic behavior and politics discourse. Impacts of innovative technology and economic liberalization on individual, household, society, environment, economic preferences and politics could not be comprehended fully.

Fall of Berlin Wall, opening of China to the western style market economy, dissolution of USSR and evolution in technology changed economic and political calculus. These events transformed business environment, supply chain and international trading creating new economic opportunities of global dimension. People to people real-time connectivity across all corners of continents became just a little affair of fingertips.

Shrouded in trade liberalization euphoria, information technology (IT) boomed largely outside developed and dominant western economies. Political and physical barriers fell apart gradually with invasion of mobile devices and wireless telecommunications. This shift transformed world around us with a different profile than known to us when we attended school years ago. Innovation, expanding research and advancing computing technology affected conducts in all areas of society, and relationships between communities and countries are gradually reshaping. Suddenly, hosts of opportunities popped up everywhere and new weighty economies emerged from Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas.

No one should be surprised for there will be more challenges resulting from innovation and evolution in technology development and applications. New businesses will emerge and new wealth will be recreated with new opportunities. We observe both innovation and wealth creation are growing faster than any time in history in emerging economies and spreading. New areas of knowledge base and technology know-how are also developing in many countries. It would be naïve to presume peoples’ work habits and lives, wherever we live, are not going to affect by changes occurring around us for we are connected globally with each other. This change is touching individuals, households and redefining nation state’s role to international affairs and impacting on people’s aspirations.

A tectonic shift is subtly staking place, on our daily routines, without clear understanding of what is changing in environment surroundings us. Versatile use and proliferation of portable mobile devices with multitude of options is an example. Expansion in application of computing technology is performing crucial role in reshaping new economic order. This is so profound it is metamorphosing human behavior and surroundings. This has impacted on economic decisions, social conduct and life-style choices we make while governance structures and business processes are reconfigured with induction of information technology.

This phenomenon will further redefine human relationship with technology, automation and artificial intelligence will reshape human’s future relationship with technology. Technology is enabling people’s access to knowledge treasure across all spectrum right from desktop at home and/or a smart device on palm. Never in history of humankind had experienced such thrilling experience of this phenomenon so quickly, so conveniently and so easily affordable.

We wake up in morning with smart phone, walk with it and sleep with it. It is an indispensable companion. In fact, this has become part of core family. It is so intimate that many cannot separate with it even for an hour or day. This behavioral transformation is irreversible and spreading all corners of world like a virtuous pandemic. It is not slowing down. Instead, mobile devices are becoming a powerful tool and a lovely piece of jewel. This is a revolution of this century for it has affected majority of population and changing the way we live, work, behave, make choices, form opinions, define and establish relationships with others. Is this a human ingenuity driven by curiosity or appetite for new challenges? This enigma is complex and intriguing for it is redefining concurrently all norms and breaking human barriers, economic preferences and political discourse.

What is coming next with automation and artificial intelligence is anybody’s guess. Applications of technology at work, home and industries are shaping new economic order, creating wealth and having effects on civilization, unprecedented after the industrial revolution of nineteenth century. Transformation will continue with computing technology. It is, however, early to conjecture what it would look like when both artificial intelligence (AI) and automation sets in full motion. Automation engineering (is about the use of automatic equipment in manufacturing or processes or facilities) will possibly change everything what we do routinely and repetitively while artificial intelligence (is about creation of intelligent machine that mimic humans) will mesmerize people with amazement and spare plenty of time for defining own future relationship with machine and humankind.

We must be prepared for future changes. Brace ourselves for learning for new knowledge (if we could figure out what it would be!) new sets of new skills. Just like helicopter being replaced by drone; human being replaced by auto-piloting; fossils fuel being replaced by new sources of renewable energy. It is inconceivable these developments will have less significant influence on human behavior, values, economic choices and development configuration.

Development in automation and artificial intelligence will be in strides and market dynamics will change with it. Now is the time to refresh our understanding of knowledge base and creeping technology. Change is not occurring only in the western world but happening everywhere with innovation and development in technology. Creating competitive environment for economic development, in future, will neither be feasible nor sustainable without innovation, research and values.

Decades ago China was a copy-cat economy but it is now investing on research and innovation and shifting economic gears carefully from export-led growth to domestically-driven consumer-economy in measured strides. Noticeably, China has registered international patent applications with World Intellectual Property no less than by USA in recent years. Change is already occurring around us and around the corner. Spirit of innovative change is in the air. That is our new future.

Economics is a behavioral social science and largely based on human habits, preferences and surrounding environment. Priorities are changing need of and demand for new goods and services in market place. Smart devices have already changed many things that we do every day. Sustained supply of energy, however, will be crucial and remain unchanged for it drives innovation, technology and growth. Energy may come through new discoveries and innovation, and may be entirely from space or ocean or nuclear fission.

Economic liberalization of market economies induced several countries into alliances and regional groupings. Countries in regional groupings reaped maximum benefits accruing from economic liberalization and free market. This made sense to smart leaders for ‘time and tide wait for none’. Well managed economies grew with new opportunities created by liberalization. New wealth was created by innovative entrepreneurs. Globalization became smoother due partly to connectivity and mobility, and with exacting standards of information technology.

New challenges emerged from new economies and wealth distribution skewed towards innovative entrepreneurs. Good news is that global poverty fell sharply and China is leading the way forward. Nearly 800 million people are lifted out of abject poverty in China because of economic liberalization and open market strategy. Subsequently fault lines started emerging in world economies, with widening wealth gaps disproportionally. No one foresaw upcoming rift from this trend. Rift widened further and cracks appeared in large and small capitalists and state controlled economies alike. Most analysts attribute surge in nationalism and political populism that followed trade liberalization phenomenon. Industrialized countries are facing surge in populism as economic growth faltered, income dropped and consumer spending frozen while new wealth was concurrently created in neighborhoods.

Nonetheless, knowledge-based enterprise like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Ali Baba emerged, continued to dominate market place and generated immense wealth. These knowledge-based enterprises provide services on technology platform and produced no tangible goods or assets in the likes of conventional manufacturing industry generally churn out. New wealth was thus created by innovative enterprises and expanded along with open market economy.

Soon, IT-based companies became bigger and larger with seamless supply chain. They went global. Countries like India, China, Israel, Ireland, the Philippines, Rwanda and Ethiopia, to name a few, promoted knowledge economy and shared piece of pie in new wealth. Countries grew with flourishing IT sector and lives of many citizens changed for the better. Strikingly, knowledge-based enterprises had a modest start-up capital but had abundant talents and drive for innovation.

Countries must, thus, figure out what development equation is appropriate for a country and remain relevant to likely phenomena in open market economy. New economy opens new opportunities and create new wealth. New wealth creates innovation and recreates opportunities and challenges, and the wheel keep on turning so long as market environment is open and free. New economic development mantra will be driven by innovative technology. Future model must be flexible enabling economy moving along right track, on un-chaotically, on right socio-political climate and supported by market induced investment environment.

There are, nonetheless, few pointers for China is experimenting with, carefully and successfully, market economy drive with state creating supportive growth environment and seemingly balancing across socio-economic sectors. In developing countries, where leaders are confined to compartmentalized thinking, fear of doing something new and inability to adapt technologies are likely to remain below the growth curve. New growth environment will, however, require building meritocratic human resources across institutions and bureaucracy. One should not shy away from new opportunities and close doors for fear of challenges as we say, “no pain no gain”.

New market economy is a combined phenomenon of consumer behavior, technology, innovative entrepreneurship and self-regulating demand-supply elasticity conundrum. This equation has no direct role of state for open market economy is driven by consumer choices, innovative entrepreneurs and technology advance. Economic policy strategy could be reconfigured with guiding principles ensuring reasonable wealth creation and fair distribution in conducive environment. Market-led economy is a cut-throat environment. As such, state role must not be exaggerated but serve only as facilitator. Not as deterrent or master controller. State should promote innovation, talent and entrepreneurship. If this fails to occur innovative entrepreneurship will shift to another more attracting location with sans frontiers.

Finance is essential grease to growing economy and this sector is also not immune to changes. Increasingly, many countries in the West are replacing cash and paper transactions with chips and e-banking. We are not far from the day when we will carry no cash in pocket. One plastic card or a portable smart mobile device or embedded chip would be adequate for stress free mobility and daily errands. Such development was unthinkable decade ago. It is obvious, innovation and evolutionary application of logarithms on technology platform will be driving force of future.

Automation will do routine and repetitive works while artificial intelligence will do thinking by mimicking humans. How could one think this will have no impact on peoples’ lives and society beyond what we want to believe? It is like riding on a magnetically elevated rail where high-speed train runs sans traffic light.

We are living in a new economic world order of shifting patterns in human behavior, innovation and the surroundings increasingly impacted by information technology and growing artificial intelligence trend; an ineluctable future to be reckoned with. This is a new journey most of us did not expect to happen so soon. But, we are heading towards horizon in infinity, not knowing exactly where and when the next stop will be. This is an exciting moment of our lifetime, and to be able to witness transformation. Cheers to young tech-savvy geeks. Surely, next generation would surely see through it all.

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Kedar Neupane is a retired senior United Nations official and president of ‘We for Nepal’ association based in Geneva, Switzerland. He has worked in several countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe in his 38 years of service with the UN system and was Senior Change Management Advisor to UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Email: Neupanek1950@gmail.com

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Oct 2017.

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