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Blog: Why Should We be Looking at the East?

Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

Based on the assumption that we should always be curious and eager to have different perspectives, this article is aimed at looking at the rise of the East, the rise of new technologies and what we could learn from the impact they have on the fast-changing world we are in.

From 2010 to 2018: a dizzying pace of innovation fomenting a new paradigm and a new world order.

If you read the press on a daily basis, there is one thing you cannot miss out: “The world is changing at an incredible pace”. Today, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook are amongst the biggest companies in the world. The conclusion is clear enough: the future is digital and is lying in technological innovations, borderless networks & complete transformation of established, traditional models.

From sacred oil companies of the past decades, we are now almost exclusively talking about tech companies in the media. If we recount what Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, said in 2003: “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”, we fully understand the potential that companies can harness. As of today, and according to Forbes, “over the last two years alone, 90% of the data in the world was generated”. Last but not least, you can have a look into the beautifully-shaped, easy-to-understand, colorful graphs which highlight what’s happening every single minute on the Internet in 2019 in one of articles the Visual Capitalist website!

Much has changed over the last century (we could use the word “decade” intermittently), making us enter a whole new era:

  1. A new paradigm: With the mass availability of the Internet and its widespread use across the globe, our expectations as consumers and citizens have literally changed in everything we do, buy and believe in. You may recall Pine & Gilmore’s piece of writing called “The experience economy” in which they discuss the power of (social) experience over physical products, Jeremy Rifkin’s 1999 book “The Age of Access” in which today’s value is behold in accessing services and experiences more than in owning mere products and other physical assets & Gilles Lipovetsky’s book on how people are in search of simple, minimalist daily experiences in the hyper-connected, digital age. The challenge for businesses is to be able to provide people with seamless experiences delivered quickly and ready to be shared easily.
  2. A new world order: there is a global shift of power operating. It has been a couple of years now since we have been talking about the East. Or, shall we say, the rise of the East. Partly because it is home to the second biggest economy in the world: China (and the next third biggest economy on the way: India). By the way, did you know China’s GDP is forecast to surpass the $12.8bn of the total Eurozone? The East is definitely worth having a look at.

So a lot has radically changed and a duopoly is already on the making in the AI race (The US & China) and new technologies paved the way for an entirely new era, fastest-changing society than ever before. And there are a few things we could learn from Asia (home to 3 of the world’s biggest economies) when it comes to artificial intelligence, blockchain & machine learning, all of which changed the business landscape and will reshape the workforce.

So, the main questions are: Why should we be looking at the East? And if so, what should we be looking at in the East?

Below is a focus on 3 major Asian countries embracing massive changes:

Japan: a glimpse into the socio-cultural approach of robots

In an article from The Economist, we can highlight a study from Oxford University in which we learn that new technologies will be held accountable for automating an estimated, alleged huge proportion of jobs over the next decade.

There is a striking, thought-provoking symbolic in the first sentence of the article:

“A WAVE of automation anxiety has hit the West.” (The Economist)

“A WAVE” is written in capital letters but we could easily have done so with “the West” to emphasize it. Westerners are so frequently associated with the fear of automation and big data that some experts have recently started looking for explanations on why our part of the world is more likely to feel inevitable fear rather than positive change when it comes to talking about the future (and the future of jobs).

It might be explained by the deep influence of a country’s culture, history and beliefs towards technology & automation in the wonderfully written, fascinating article published by Joichi Ito in the column of Wired. In this article, the author discusses the role these elements have in shaping a nation and its way(s) of perceiving the world, facing change and conceiving the future.

The most striking sentence is surely the following: “(…). But compared to the Japanese, the Western world is warier of robots.” In this sentence, the author is recalling the tales, series and other entertainment programs that we all watch(ed), from childhood to adulthood. And it’s true that in our Western countries, we are used to fighting and fearing robots, not taking them as partners or role models. Starting from this socio-cultural statement, we better understand the implications there might be having on our Western perceptions on the future of work & automation.

China: an AI empire on the making

Over the last decade, China has emerged as a fierce, global rival to the US by seizing the growth opportunities of its country (the world’s biggest digital market) and is now home to 87 unicorns and a fierce competitor to the US in artificial intelligence. According to South China Morning Post, every 3.8 days of 2018, China created a new unicorn and has, as a result, now 186 unicorns start-ups. If you still doubt the power of China, I suggest you have a look into an interesting article from Kai-Fu Lee who is bringing light on how China has moved from “Imitation to Innovation”.

China is investing 3 times more than Europe in artificial intelligence and is the world’s biggest rival of the US. According to the World Economic Forum, the AI industry grew by 67% last year and “2/3 of global investment in artificial intelligence is poring in to China”. With 14 AI unicorns worth 40.5Bn$ all together, China is quickly becoming a superpower. Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google put it a simpler way:

By 2020, they will have caught up.

By 2025, they will be better than us.

By 2030, they will dominate the industries of AI

Need another striking example of how much China is rising in AI? Well, on the 15.7 TRILLION dollars added to the global GDP by 2030 thanks to AI, China will be responsible for 7 of them if we look at an article from Bloomberg citing a consulting firm’s predictions.

Automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain & other technological innovations are already changing our personal and professional lives. And it will radically change the way we do almost everything, from shipping to shopping, from working to breathing. If we think of the future as being fulfilled with automated jobs, smart cities and connected health, we realize the importance of machine learning & AI in our lives.

India: the radical economic shift, dizzyingly growing digital market

According to an article from the Independent, India is expected to surpass the UK and reach the top 5 in the global OECD ranking by 2018. And it’s no surprise, its population is young and the country has long been putting effort in promoting engineering and STEM in education. The richness of the country mainly lies in the number of young people (600 million people). According to the Guardian, there is no other country in the world with more young people. If we believe that demography is key to assert a nation’s competitiveness (as explained in an article published in Asia Times), there is no doubt the proportion of young people aged 25 can be a crucial advantage for the country’s future.

The country has grown at an incredibly fast pace over the last decade. Business opportunities are flourishing at a very fast pace and the number of potential digital consumers is increasing accordingly as well, which makes a huge digital market to tap into for business opportunities.

Why does it matter to write this article regarding the rise of the East?

Digital transformation is reshaping our entire economies, our ways of working, living and shopping. Traditional business models are being challenged if not disrupted and have to cope faster than ever with the use of technologies. AI is said to be adding 15$ trillion to the world economy by 2030, according to Forbes. To prepare for the future, we need to have a new perspective on digital and what it implies, embrace the concept of “lifelong learning” to be skilled in an all-digital world and reconsider our perception on robots & automation.


Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium

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