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Keeping ahead of technology


Welcome to the exponential age! But first, perhaps, what is the exponential age?

“When I say a technology is an exponential technology, I mean that it improves, on a price-performance basis, by at least 10% every year,” said Azeem Azhar, founder of the tech analysis platform Exponential View and author of The Exponential Age. For example, the amount of computing power that you can buy for a dollar, roughly speaking, increases by 50 to 60%, on average, every single year. And it’s been doing that for decades.

Developments like AI are changing the way we live and work and produce so quickly that a lot of people and businesses don’t quite know how to process it. And that poses a tough question: how can companies make sure progress is both beneficial and minimizes the risk of leaving people behind?

In Episode 9 of our Take on Tomorrow podcast, Azhar and Annie Veillet, national data and advanced analytics lead partner with PwC Canada, unpack the fundamental dichotomy at work in our world: though technologies can improve at an exponential rate, humans don’t evolve nearly as fast. “We are ultimately…living beings who’ve lived in a world that hasn’t moved at exponential rates,” Ashar said. “And so, we get caught out by the speed with which these technologies improve.”

Veillet added that as technology scales and expands its remit, we have to understand the potential harm as well as the benefits that AI can create. It’s important “to understand what can go wrong [with AI],” she said. Doing so will take a lot more than upskilling and “up-knowledging” of leaders and teams. Rather, it will mean having a greater appreciation for the impact that rampant technology has on the lived experience of humans.

That appreciation includes the need for diversity in technology—to assure that a wider range of perspectives are taken into account as AI is designed and deployed. How do we start moving the needle there? “The sooner we start influencing early in the educational process, the more that diversity will get out in the marketplace,” said Veillet.

We are ultimately…living beings who’ve lived in a world that hasn’t moved at exponential rates.”

Though humanity can’t move as quickly as technology, there are human characteristics that can help us stay ahead. Among them, Azhar said, are resilience, flexibility, and commonality—that is, thinking about what benefits and tangible outcomes can be shared. “[This] really helps in getting a societal focus,” Azhar added.

Listen to the podcast in its entirety here.


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