The Digital Era: The new era of human-machine relationships

Who would have imagined that remote working would be a reality from one day to another, only a few months after we entered the new decade? When I start thinking about writing this article, I had in mind that we are getting closer to an entirely new chapter in human history, one that will see humans and machines closer than ever in every aspect of modern living. It seems that we stepped into this new chapter. Change is unavoidable for every organization that wants to keep up with the pace of the new reality. Digital transformation is not to be postponed anymore. On the contrary, we should embrace it to build a better future.

It seems that every organization is now embracing the “Remote” aspect of technology. From Remote Working to Distant Learning, Virtual Conferences and a great shift of the budget to digital tools, we now have to rely on technology more than ever. The significant growth of digital technology and the rise of new emerging technologies multiply the capabilities of systems and increase the dependency of humans on machines. We tend to consider it inevitable, as a statement from our Human-Machine Partnerships blog: “As technology’s power multiples 10x every five years, so will our reliance on technology”.

Let’s examine this argument from the standpoint of a new generation of people – younger than me- that have grown up immersed in digital technology, young men, and women that are just coming out from lower education, ready to enter higher education and the workforce. People with so much vitality, dreams, and aspirations, but also “plugged-in” 24/7, never have known a world without the Internet and having real trouble living without their smartphone. These digital natives are the future citizens of the world, but also the “netizens”, the individuals that will leave their digital footprint all over, what is traditionally called the “cyberspace”.

This generation, and the ones to come after them, will be the real heirs of the world we’re preparing for them today. This future is a little difficult to see because we don’t know to what extent the technology will be capable of achieving, even 10 years from now. We are just scratching the surface of the vast possibilities of a truly seamless system of data management, and we haven’t yet seen their applications in our everyday lives. We can predict powerful AI assistants that will anticipate our needs from our behavioral patterns and enhance our entertainment, our shopping, our traveling, our work, our transportation. They will help our home management, promote healthier lifestyles, and help us prevent health issues. Intelligent systems will also help us make more informed business decisions, derive useful insights from vast amounts of user-driven data to help us understand our customers’ needs while serving them better content (if fed with bias-free data); Thus, with the help of AI we will be better prepared to serve them.

The help of the new technology in our lives will reshape the reality as we know it. Ubiquitous computational devices hidden in plain sight with the form of micro-sensors and smart networks will run “intelligent” cities and grow “intelligent” crops. At the same time, a new breed of supercomputers will bring us closer to tackling big issues like climate change and combating large scale epidemics and dangerous diseases. At the same time, new materials and advanced manufacturing and fabricating methods will spawn brilliant new applications in artificial organs and enhancements of human bodies, helping the impaired people enjoy the simple things in life, restoring their physical abilities.

During all these exciting prospects, we shouldn’t forget that technology must be governed and guided to serve humans. That’s why human guidance will always be imperative to all human-machine relationships, and along with purely technical terms, we should also consider the ethical and societal impact of our innovations.

During the last decades, it seems that countless predictions failed to be materialized. However, it is also evident that this is the first decade in our history, we are closer to an interconnected world with more and more people having access to the same fundamental technologies and information. It is now on us to work together to use this for our common benefit and progress, taking into consideration the risks and advantages of each innovation.

About the Author: Georgina Makri