Are humans actually stopping the potential of technology?

Written by on November 23, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments
Sergey Nivens /

Sergey Nivens /

We live in the most frustrating of times. Technology is changing the way we live in almost every way. At least, potentially. The technology, in many cases, is proven but the service it enables is probably still years from public availability.

Take autonomous cars – actually any vehicle – where the technology has proven that computer sensors are better than human sensors. Where the computer really is safer than humans. Autonomous trains make complete sense. Autonomous ships almost as much. Autonomous transport is not a huge leap of faith.

And yet we are years, more years than we think, away from getting into a car, telling the ‘driver’ where you want to go and sitting back to get on with some work, or playing with a virtual, augmented games thing.

Instead, we take a ‘civil service’, iterative approach and instead of making things better at a stroke, we make things more complicated.

If the great Henry J. Ford had been forced by regulators and Health and Safety to go through these hoops, we would still be riding in horse-drawn carriages, but with cotton wool a metre thick around the outside. Just in case.

Take an ignition interlock device.

This is the gadget that Health and Safety wants to put in every car. If the driver gets into the car and he or she is over the alcohol limit, it won’t start.

By the end of May 2018, the NHTSA says that all cars should have rear view cameras. This law is being enacted because a father tragically backed over his toddler one morning.

Both of these are sensible. No-one could argue that they do not make sense. Lives, without doubt, will be saved.

But you could also argue that if everyone went straight for the fully autonomous vehicle, right now (or by 2020 which is still when most manufacturers insist they will be really ready) then there would be no need for the iterative approach and lives would, without doubt, be saved. Not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars.

The iterative approach is costly and drags out the process.

Take Parkinson’s Disease, and probably many other diseases. There is a cure for Parkinson’s right now. There are, according to a senior professor who is working on this, ‘no more technical barriers’. The only ‘barriers’ are the ‘clinical trials’. Actually the sadness with Parkinson’s is that a cure has been around since the 1980s. People were cured. Then someone pointed out that clinical trials hadn’t been done in the proper way, the ensuing trials were screwed up and we were back to square one.

The other problem with the cure for Parkinson’s is that it doesn’t involve a drug. Therefore there are no hyper rich drug companies lobbying and pushing for its release. Therefore there is very little funding for it. Therefore it will only be brought to market by people who actually care about it. Therefore it will be years before it is available.

We live, as noted, in the most frustrating of times.

The problem, of course, is that if we pushed forward with autonomous cars, cures for Parkinson’s and who knows what, we would have to let millions of civil servants go. And we would live to a very old age.

And then what would we do? And how could we afford to do what we decided to do?

As someone said the other day – be creative.

Whatever that means – wait, maybe we can find the answer in the ‘5G enabled, low latency, virtual reality, augmented, world thing’.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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