Hidden in part by the human and economic suffering of the pandemic, 2020 saw a remarkable plethora of technological breakthroughs – an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, advances in GPT-3, an Apple M1 chipped stuffed with an astonishing 16 billion transistors, the commercialisation of electric cars and cryptocurrencies and even a rocket launched for direct satellite-level internet across the world (Starlink).Whilst the road out of the global coronavirus pandemic may yet be long and winding, but if there is something that the pandemic has reinforced, it is this: Technology is set to drive the productivity leap for the coming decade.
The Productivity Factor
It was back in 1957 when economist Robert Solow first introduced the concept of a ‘technology’ factor while designing any supply-side production function. Initially just a function of labour and capital, the introduction of the technology factor was a novel addition in economics that not only helped balance equilibrium-economy conditions and analyse factor productivities better but was also intuitive and astute in its own right. Over six decades after the establishment of this simple, yet powerful tool, the truth has never been clearer.
Productivity has long been thought of as the driver of an economy. We, as a human race, have continuously attempted to increase the productivity levels of the individual factors of production for as long as we have lived. Whilst capital and labour both seem to hit their ceilings after a point, the chief driver forcing production along has been the technological productivity factor. In fact, Bryan Walsh, writing for news outlet Axios, even opines, “If long-gestating technologies like AI and automation really are ready to fulfil their potential, we’ll have the chance to escape the great stagnation that has choked our economy and poisoned our politics.”
The Trust Factor
It goes without saying that, technology, especially in communications, has proven to be an invaluable asset during the times of crisis. Yet, technology misuse has become rampant over the course of the last few years. Incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018 still have direct repercussions on our daily lives today – reflected in the increasing scepticism among the UK population in the adoption of their government’s contact-tracing app, based on the uncertainty surrounding the usage of private data.
Hence, a major challenge that we will see being addressed in the coming years will have to do with the re-establishment of trust in the social contract between government and society. According to Wired UK, “In 2021 we will see increasing demand for a new kind of social contract, one which recognises the challenges and benefits that technology of all kinds brings to our daily lives, and ensures that governments must act responsibly when it comes to dealing with technology.”
You can’t spell India without ‘AI’
While the above may not entirely be true, the Indian government’s massive ambitious surrounding Artificial Intelligence might just prove otherwise. Recognising the imperative need to train young students in AI-technology, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) is all set to roll out its five-year programme soon.
“With this programme, the government aims to provide a platform for students to attain AI skills and give access to relevant AI tools so that they can be future-ready for the digital revolution…These students will be selected on the basis of online training sessions and further, they will be taught to identify ideas which could have an impact on social issues and can be made using AI. The top participants will get the chance to attend boot camps or online sessions for deeper knowledge on AI principles. The AI programme is deeply tied to the National Education Policy.” (Inc42 Media)