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Hi-tech innovations prompting future life style with pros and cons

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-12-29 13:45
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JERUSALEM - Autonomous cars will drive people to work. Clothes will send signals to doctors about impending diseases. Groceries will arrive at doorstep according to the list refrigerator sends to supermarkets.

This sounds like a science fiction, but it's coming true.

The pace of technological change the world is currently experiencing is dizzying. What seems beyond imagination might turn into reality in near future.

Meanwhile, disagreement emerged among scientists and scholars on whether a fourth round of industrial revolution is approaching.

Alon Peled, a professor studying technology and politics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, believes the scope of current development is endless, confined only by the people, not the technologies available to them.

"The question becomes: what are the limits of the human imagination?" asks Peled. "We can do so much more and we are so limited in what we imagine and where it can take us."

As artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more prevalent, developments in this technology will make it omnipresent in daily lives.

"AI has all the DNA needed in order to create revolution. Like the internet, it seeps into every area of life: car, refrigerator at home and software the bank uses to manage our accounts," said David Mendlovic, a professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering-Physical Electronics at the Tel Aviv University.

Changes in transportation, medicine and other fields are expected. Our experience today in an airport is nothing similar to what it was in the past. Who remembers issuing a paper ticket at the travel agent's office?

According to the MIT Technology Review, 2017 has seen the development of several technologies with staying power to impact people's lives greatly in the decades to come.

Payment by facial recognition, solar power conversion that will lower prices of energy, and human cell mapping are just a few mini-revolutions under way.

However, a coin has two sides.

The automation of daily functions is expected to cut out most professions. Governments will have to address the issue before facing millions of unemployed citizens.

"How do you find employment for those who are going to be out of the industrial working force because of robots and machines that took their place? This is something that we have to think about now," Peretz Lavie, president of Technion Israel Institute of Technology, said in an interview by Xinhua.

Moreover, as daily lives become increasingly online, exposure to invasion of privacy grows. Medical data between patients and physicians is shared through the internet. Banking and fiscal transactions are frequently done online.

"If your imagination is only limited to bad things, then probably the next things that will come out of big data will be bad things," proposed Peled.

The information revolution is another astonishing achievement with remarkable innovations changing people's social behavior in digital era.

US psychologist Jean Twenge has named the current generation the iGen. in her research. She has found both positive and negative impact of what she calls the "twin rise of the smartphone and social media" on youths nowadays.

Twenge says they are "on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades," with a sharp increase in depression and suicide levels amongst teens. In short, phones are making them a "grouchy" crowd.

"We need to make sure that the heavy reliance on technology is not going to change our social behavior," Lavie said. "I believe we are still not aware of the impact."

Also with speedy changes spread all over the world, whether the gap between developing and developed countries would narrow triggered different opinions.

Lavie believes the gap will narrow even disappear with respect to applying new technologies, not generating them.

But Peled says "I always see the gap increasing, not decreasing," focusing on the people's capability to use open data in different countries with different level of development.

Recent figures show that Africa's rate of internet connectivity is similar to that of the US 20 years ago.

In the end, the fate of this current round of industrial development boils down to education, in both the developing and developed world. Making classrooms "smart" is not enough, the content needs to change and broaden.

"You cannot advance humanity only through internet ... we need to progress everything in the same line," Mendlovic told Xinhua. "We need education for innovation, for initiative, for searching for the unknown."

Lavie thinks the currently education system is too conservative. Universities will have to adapt quicker than they are now. Sciences and arts must be given the equal attention.

"Our tools of the trade are developing very fast, our information is exploding ... and the one thing that is not evolving equally is the concept of our education, the way we teach people, the way we fix things, how we teach to solve problems," Peled lamented.

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