As a Mum who works full time in an Industry which is at the brink of evolution and transformation I often look at my kids and wonder what the future for them will be like. “Little Miss Prima Donna in football boots” age 11 and “Captain Whirlwind” aged 7, are growing up in an age where devices, connectivity and data is just the norm. So much so my Son, at the age of 3, was interacting with Artificial Intelligence before he could even read or write. We live in an age where our children just expect technology to be, not just at their fingertips, but reacting to their voice. They find it funny to “wind up” Cortana, Siri and Alexa, often trying to get them to interact with each other and often disappointed when they don’t! Teeth brushing is no longer measured with the egg timer on the window sill but by barking orders at Alexa to set a 2-minute timer, often with the toothbrush already in their mouth. Music can be streamed across the entire house with the “Play Everywhere” function, much to our detriment at 7am on a Sunday morning.
In Year 4 my Daughter had a term time project to create an Anglo-Saxon Round House. Her first reaction was to go to Minecraft and build an Anglo-Saxon Village which she promptly then recorded a 5-minute tour, with commentary of what she had created. I was just grateful that my creative skills in homecraft were not called upon yet again and I was able to put away the lolly pop sticks, glue and straw (or maybe she had just got fed up of my previous efforts and took it upon herself to do something she knows best. By the way, my Daughter is an amazing artist for her age, mainly self-taught through watching You Tube tutorials, but she has an unique and creative talent that has been helped by technology.) The school were somewhat bemused when we handed over a USB stick with her homework on whilst other children were standing in line with home made models. We felt like a fraud, BUT she got a special award for her ingenuity, I was quietly pleased she was able to think a bit differently about the project at a tender age but thinking back now it is outstanding that she grew up with the technology that enabled her to think this wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Now I love technology and the possibilities of how it can improve my life. I’m not a techy per se but have worked in IT Services for the last 20 years and have seen opportunities for both business and personal use become increasingly more intelligent. My kettle knows when I’m coming back from the school run and, as I’m usually due on a conference call if working from home, those extra minutes saved waiting for my morning cuppa means that I’m no longer apologising for being the last one to the Skype call. Food shopping online is made easier with the algorithms embedded from my previous shops and the intelligence of “you may have missed this item” often results in me remembering to order bin bags. Instead of being scared that the organisations I interact with are “following” me, I appreciate and actually welcome the intrusion in my lifestyle and habits, whilst always being mindful of security and trust with what those organisations actually do with my data.
We are custodians of the future of technology both for ourselves and our children. I’ve recently finished listening to Satya Nadella’s audio book and found it absolutely compelling. His views on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are so thought provoking. We hear scare stories about “The machines will take over the world” and think back to the days when first watching The Terminator. What if those machines did bad things to human kind, what if we created monsters. I think Satya says it all that when we create AI and Machine Learning we need to follow the AI Design Principles, that the creators of machine learning and AI need to hold themselves to account. In addition as citizens of this world we need to make sure that we hold those creators to account and provide those that Police the digital world with the power and laws to protect us and allow us to make best use of technology.
As I engage with organisations in my working day I get genuinely excited when discussing the new digital age. The opportunities for organisations, both Public and Private sector are only just being realised. How brilliant would it be if my car could communicate back to the dealership to update mileage and diagnostics, the service dept was automatically notified and was given access to my free/busy time through calendar apps and then the appointment automatically booked into my diary without me even having to lift a finger. A simplified view with loads of security and data protection issues but not in the realms of Science Fiction. Even this simple process would personally save me another job on my to do list. The possibilities are endless……..
In this new digital age, Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Super Computers are changing the world at a faster pace than anyone could ever have predicted 20 years ago. The jobs our children will have in 10/15 years’ time haven’t even been created yet. Who knows how “Little Miss Prima Donna” and “Captain Whirlwind” will be using technology as they enter their world of work. I am certain that they will look back at the way we work now with mild giggles, as they do now when faced with old technology (yes, to them Music CD’s are ancient!) Instead of fearing technology we need to embrace it, like our children, and be the bold custodians we need to be.