CTO Conclave: Disruptive Technologies

“We wont gather in an auditorium like this in an engineering college in 10 years time”, challenged one of the panelists! The full video of CTO Conclave, conducted in conjunction with ICACC 2017 (www.acc-rajagiri.org/). The present and future effects of disruptive technologies were discussed by an eminent panel of CTOs like Dr.K.R.Suresh Nair (CTO, NeST Group), Mr.Arun Kumar.A.S, (Additional General Manager Finance & IT, Kochi Metro Rail Ltd), Mr. Ullas Ponnadi (Director and CTO, CREATNLRN), Mr. Vijay Nair (CTO, Assyst International Pvt. Ltd, USA), Mr. Jayakrishnan.T, CEO, ASIMOV Robotics Pvt.Ltd) and Mr.Mohan Prasad (Technical Support Head, Siemens). I had the privilege to moderate this panel discussion. A must watch, if you like to have a peep into future of technological landscape and the nature of job that we all will have in the very near future. 

A nicely put web report is available at: http://www.newsexperts.in/2017/08/cto-conclave-at-rajagiri/

As the the 7th International Conference on advances in Computing and Communications rolled onto its second day, about a hundred or so people gathered at the multimedia hall in Rajagiri School for Engineering and Technology (RSET). The highlight of the conference, the panel discussion, was about to begin. The murmurs died down as several videos discussed about Disruptive Innovation and its importance in modern society. This was just the tip of the iceberg and an appetiser for things to come.
The Conclave began with the Principal of RSET, Dr. Unnikrishnan welcoming all the panelists to the event and handing over the responsibilities of the discussion over to Fr. Dr. Jaison Paul Mulerikkal. Fr. Jaison began the discussion about the way technology has become disruptive, as in the case of Uber and Bitcoin which is bringing about the fourth Industrial Revolution. What was intriguing about those two examples is that they are the largest cab service and bank, without owning a single taxi or any currency, respectively. Fr. Jaison went on to describe the current scenario as not the first instance of technology being disruptive but just that the rate of change is now at a much more noticeable and alarming rate.
The discussion opened with Vijay Nair, CTO of Assyst, mentioning that most examples of disruptive technology we take are not proper examples as they have more to do with the disruptive nature of business, as in the case of Uber. Business models are disruptive with technology enabling them.
Suresh Nair, CTO with Nest, further added to that by giving an anecdote of the inconveniences of using a STD pay phone as opposed to using a touch phone nowadays. He added to Fr. Jaison’s mention of Industrial Revolution 4.0 as not just about having a newer spectrum of technology but one where the machines make decisions for us.
This lead the discussion to the inevitable debate of how technology will take over humanity in more ways than one. The primary concern is that machines will eventually take away most jobs away from humans, especially the white collar desk jobs. Fr. Jaison addressed the tectonic change that will create tremors that ripple across the globe and asked the panel if this will lead to the downfall of the middle class.
Ullas Ponnadi, Director and CTO of CREATNLRN, agreed and predicted that all physical manifestations of educational institutions will cease to exist. As morose as the statement sounded, he went on to say that the future is not so bleak. While education will change, educators will always be in demand. He suggested that people should use their free time to fuel their more artistic hobbies. Since quality and cheap education will be available worldwide,
anyone can hone in their creative skills and prescribe to the gig economy.
Jayakrishnan, the only CEO amidst CTOs, affectionately dubbed The Robot Man, had a much more harsh reality to reveal to us. While he stated that disruptive sounds very similar to destructive. The reason, he said, is that technology can either adapt or be destroyed in this change.
He agreed with Ponnadi about people being more creative and supports the idea that people should start using the right hemisphere of their brains, that is, the creative side of their brains to adapt to Industrial Revolution 4.0. He believes that an artistic person is incapable of committing a crime and hence welcomes the change and eventual extinction of those who are too rigid to adapt or lack the creativity to do so.
Mohit Mutha, CTO of Siemens, both agreed and disagreed with Jayakrishnan. He said that adaptability is the key and that we live in exciting times. Fr. Jaison confirmed that the future he intends to be a part of is exciting and not frightening.
Mutha agreed that it is indeed frightening to live in times when automation can lead to harm to human beings on a small or large scale, but they are exciting nonetheless. Until now, software was a thin layer atop technology but now it is the other way around. This lead to his point where he disagreed with Jayakrishnan.

Mutha stated that economics will readjust itself such that the dying middle class will manage to adapt. An audience member added to this point by saying that the middle class adjusted to the economics created by Uber.
Last but not the least, Fr. Jaison turned the focus towards Arun Kumar, Additional General Manager Finance of IT is Kochi Metro Rail Ltd.
Kumar addressed all his fellow panelists and stated that instead of using the aggressive term ‘disruptive innovation’, we should all adopt the more comforting phrase ‘Innovations for better living.’ He briefed the panel and the audience in short about how the metro rail project has in the past worked with society to enable members who were disadvantaged by the metro. One such case is the example of the private bus services. After discussions with KMRL, the private bus operators decided to come together to work along with the much more advanced technology of the KMRL rather than protest against progress for the sake of keeping their jobs.
As Fr. Jaison took inputs from the audience members, one member, Prof. Madhava Panicker had a positive message which was the perfect way to conclude the discussion. Prof. Panicker said that change has always been a part of society and technology. People have always taken up the challenge and always will. It is just a matter of attitude. With thunderous applause, the Conclave came to a conclusion and everyone dispersed, laden with their new knowledge and perspectives on Disruptive Innovation.

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