We’ve had the opportunity to interview Kevin Parikh, CEO and Senior Partner at Avasant, a leading management consulting firm. Through this interview, he gives a short preview to his upcoming book on Digital Singularity and a case for humanity.
- What is your opinion on some of the more exciting trends on the Digital frontier?
The most exciting upcoming trend we are seeing is the emergence of Digital Singularity. Digital Singularity is the point where the human experience and technological omnipresence converge. At this point, technology is part of everything we do and can enhance our experience. What that means is that technology is becoming part of how we live, work, and play. Up until recently, technology was simply a physical tool, like a phone or typewriter, that was used to supplement our lives. Today, our relationship with technology has become much more cohesive. In fact, technology is becoming an extension of us, which you can see in augmented reality and virtual reality today.
Digital Singularity is introducing humankind to a new world that is ultimately powered by a hyper convergence of technologies. Take the Nest Thermostat as a simple example. The traditional thermostat can be set to turn on and off at a set temperature, and that’s about as smart as it gets. The Nest Thermostat, in comparison, is a wi-fi enabled device. It gives you advice on how to best reduce or increase your temperature for energy efficiency. It learns about your house and your preferences. With this technological advancement, we’ve transformed the thermostat into a device that actually helps us regulate and manage our lifestyles. That’s what Digital Singularity is all about, and that’s what makes it the most exciting and interesting trend in technology today.
- You are in the process of writing a book that talks to the societal impact of the emerging technologies. What prompted you to start this project?
The focus of the book is on Digital Singularity and a case for humanity. If you take the concept of Digital Singularity to its logical conclusion, there is a question about whether there will be a need for human workforce at all. Will we ultimately be eliminated from the workforce because of automation and artificial intelligence? My argument is no. If you think about the last 40 years of development, we’ve worked at a higher level of productivity than we ever have in the history of humankind. As technological innovation continues and manual tasks are taken over by digital solutions, there may soon be a time for us to focus on other priorities. How many of us maintain relationships with our parents or children? How many of us invest time in our hobbies and passions? Technology adoption will result in fewer manual and process-oriented jobs, but it will also open the door for a higher level of thinking, innovation, and dreaming.
Corporate America especially has an opportunity to utilize digital trends to drive unprecedented levels of innovation within the organization. My book gives an understanding of what’s happening in technology now, so organizations can adapt to changing business models.
- How do you see this all playing out for society? Are you hopeful or fearful?
I am certainly hopeful. There is a clear case for humanity in all this. I don’t believe what others are saying about AI diminishing the need for human labor. Yes, technology adoption will result in fewer manual and process-oriented jobs, but I believe that humanity will adapt accordingly. Even today, jobs are changing as a result of technology. We are now becoming both the employer and the employee. Today’s workforce is dynamic, changing, and not necessarily managed through a traditional employment model. For example, a young person today might be going to college, working a day job, and simultaneously running an eBay, YouTube, or other online business. In some cases, these young people may not be able to earn as much as their predecessors, but they’ll certainly have more flexibility in when and how they work and they’ll have more control over their schedules. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. It’s just different from what we’ve known. We’ll find new ways to economically create value from the work that we do, so the underlying question is who do we want to be and how can we use technology to improve our human experience?