ON THE first working day of January 1979, I was called by the chief accountant of the company where I worked and was told that she had received an RCPI telegram from my office mate who was my girlfriend of less than a month. It read: “Cannot report for work. Boat stranded. Got married.”
I was shocked, then retreated back to my work station at the Internal Audit Department. It was only later that I learned that I was tricked. My office mates had inserted the words, “Got married.” They had the biggest laugh at my expense.
I am sharing this funny incident to highlight the difference between today’s communication mode and that of more than 30 years ago. For sure, people below 25 years old have never encountered a telegram because RCPI and PT&T have long folded up with the advent of computers, smart phones and other gizmos.
Things have changed rapidly for the past quarter of a century, primarily in the field of computing and communications. Just this week, there was this news about “Eugene Goostman,” who convinced 33 percent of the judges at the Royal Society in Central London that “he” was a human communicating with them through text-based conversation.
“Eugene Goostman” turned out to be a computer program that simulated a 13-year old boy.
As artificial intelligence becomes more powerful, advvances in robotics have also gone further since the introduction by Honda of the humanoid robot Asimo in 2001. Asimo demonstrated its dancing skills, conducted an orchestra and could answer questions either by nodding or giving verbal responses. Underway is the development of applications in iPhone and Android for Asimo.
Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple are leading in the high speed development of products that will further change the way people live. Think self-driving cars, Google Glass, face recognition, Apple Television and iWatch.
Google has bought the artificial intelligence firm Deepmind, while Facebook bought Oculus VR, a virtual reality company. And the competition has gone sky high with Google acquiring Titan Aerospace that makes high-altitude drones, while Facebook snatched Ascenta that manufactures solar-powered drones.
Which brings me to the question, where do all these lead humanity? While we may see a more technologically advanced world where robots and computers do most of the work and thinking, what will be the role of human beings?
While connectivity and efficiency are admirable, the more urgent problems that need to be solved are poverty and inequality. Are we doing enough to combat these rather than pouring billions into technology? Or can the technological advancements be the solution to alleviating those who are marginalized?
I do not have the answers. Maybe people like Bill Gates, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook can tell us. Definitely not through telegram.