Technology Disruption: Policy Implications for Stakeholders
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By Tai Wei Lim

Technology Disruption: Policy Implications for Stakeholders

Jun. 27, 2017  |     |  0 comments

Technologies have developed so quickly that it is now difficult to understand these complex systems and their implications for human society and development. Many of them have the potential to disrupt the way we live. Policy makers and ordinary individuals both must prepare to manage the disruptions that come with technological development. The trick or the strategy is to harness the benefits while minimizing the detriments. This is especially the case since individuals, especially in their roles as consumers, are keen to snap up new technologies to improve their living conditions, work more effectively, or increase productivity.


Some East Asian states that are used to instituting state developmentalism, state identification of priority sectors, strategic economic policies, and providing assistance to industries and the private sector, are already planning ahead, putting funding into the industrial sectors or research units and organizations that they feel will be crucial for economic competition in the near future.


Some examples of these technologies include robotics, especially the use of robots for assisting or coping with human weaknesses; the use of lasers in lidar for the navigation of driverless cars on the road; the navigation of buses and other vehicles in the future from computer panels and consoles; exoskeletons that can help enhance human strength; androids that can perform effective robotic procedures without frightening humans as they are made to resemble humans; new sources of energy as well as bioenergy sources like palm fruits, corn, etc.


There are also technologies that are invisible or not easily visible to our naked eyes. Small nanorobots can help repair damaged cells and tissues. Nanotech can create some of the strongest or/and lightest materials on earth. Currently, research costs for developing nanotech are high and state budgets are needed to subsidize or bring down these costs.


In the digital realm, AI (Artificial Intelligence) can learn and pick up on new skills, replicate human behavior, and eventually advise users on how to make decisions. Virtual reality (VR) can create new platforms of existence atop the physical real world, creating new experiences. Augmented Reality (AR) builds digital information onto physical reality and the real world. Digital experiences like these technologies may change the way we sense reality and broaden our understanding as well as non-tangible experiences.


Increasingly, the social aspects of technological change need to be studied so that stakeholders and policymakers can pinpoint the areas that need to be addressed to prepare society for the inevitable changes that will take place. People will be upset and jobs will be lost. The trend of unemployability will also increase as skills eventually lose touch with the demands of the marketplace. Therefore, to cope with these changes, productivity needs to be enhanced, new ways of public education need to be devised, and governments must prepare their citizens for new paradigms of thinking. Because the process of disruption is evolutionary, governments must run hard to keep up with changes, alongside private sector entities and individuals. For many individuals, this catchup process will be lifelong in nature.

Not all technologies bring about doomsday scenarios. In an optimistic scenario, change can be incremental and not disruptive to individual lives.

Disruption to jobs happens when machines, software, and digital technologies take over tasks that were formerly performed only by specialists. It is quite likely this disruption will occur in all industrial and service sectors, sparing none. Those firms that are slow in implementing new technologies run the risk of being left behind or eliminated by the competition, and that those that implement the technologies quickly will contribute to greater unemployment. States, private sector entities, and entrepreneurs do not usually have much options when it comes to adopting new technologies if they wish to remain competitive. Speed will be a crucial determinant of success, especially in how fast governments can adopt policies that encourage the readiness to utilize advanced technologies.


The World Economic Forum (WEF) has been discussing such topics and strategies for some time. There is currently no fail-safe solution. The conversation between policymakers and business leaders will have to carry on as they continue to observe how technological disruptions impact their societies, companies, economies, and states. Because much of the technologically-disrupted landscapes are uncharted, business leaders and statesmen are expected to have changed mindsets, creative paradigms, and bold visions to reengineer their societies and companies to fit the brave new world.


Not all technologies bring about doomsday scenarios. In an optimistic scenario, change can be incremental and not disruptive to individual lives. The flip side of the argument is that our homes can become smarter. They can also provide readings to residents for optimal living conditions and can help conserve energy. Temperature, sunlight entry, security access, wind access, intensity of lighting, can be adjustable for optimality in smart homes. Solar power panels can also help households save energy. Saving time and energy costs also facilitates individuals to pursue more entertainment options, including on-demand programming that allows consumers the visual, emotive, aesthetic, and auditory experiences they desire.


In terms of traffic infrastructure, data can help to regulate traffic flows, manage airports, air spaces, and sea ports. Individuals can also process information and become producers of digital information by curating them, managing them and adding value to information through the creative production of content. 3D printers can one day help to print prosthetic limbs to help the handicapped, reduce costs for building and construction, and make it cheaper to produce manufactured items.


Automation can help raise productivity. Industrial robots may help to mitigate the labor shortage brought about by an aging population, releasing humans to work on higher value-added productive activities. Many advanced and advanced developing economies are facing the challenge of aging populations. Releasing humans for value-added activities may include items like research, design, and other knowledge-based activities. Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) can benefit from the availability of industrial robots that can work longer and with greater precision, especially when the prices of these robotic technologies become cheaper. When many of the technologies mentioned above become mainstream, their costs will go down, facilitating their proliferation and implementation. Very often, these technologies may enjoy cross-applications, for example the 3-D printing of strong and light prosthetics using nanotech with built in robotic parts for movement.

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