When I was young, we used to listen to music in record players and spools. Then after a few years in the mid-1970s, came the cassette player—which was very exciting for us, because we could record our voices in the cassettes.
A few years were gone and then came another excitement for music lovers. It was early 80s when the first compact disc came with crystal clear sound. These records, cassettes and CDs ruled our audio entertainment till the mid-nineties, until the MP3 technology arrived.
When the new technology arrived, we started storing our favourite music in the hard discs of our computers in large volumes. By then, long-play records had already become an almost forgotten past. Soon after in the early 2000s, the MP3 players hit the market. Then as time passed by, Youtube arrived as an essential to everyone along with increasing internet bandwidth.
Millenials do not know what a cassette looks like; a long play record is a matter of audiophiles to them (because strangely, analogous LP audio has more depth than other formats), and these youngsters do not play a CD anymore. They go to Youtube for music as it is easy to find the type of song that one is looking for at a particular time.
I usually cite this example to demonstrate how fast technology has changed the way we do things and given us a better and convenient lifestyle. Technology has also increased our longevity and mobility and ensured food security and consumptions. It has also opened new horizons for entertainment, adventure and knowledge extraction.
But every action has an equal and opposite reaction—how we use technology has also destroyed the natural equilibrium of the earth and one of its biggest results is global warming.
Global warming is a result of carbon emissions from those machines that we use to make our lives productive and comfortable. It has lowered the quality of our living space and put our future in threat.
Because of this threat, many of the upcoming technology will be shaped by the concern: how to minimize, stop or reverse global warming while keeping life technologically-convenient.
We are already living with artificial intelligence (AI) to some a certain extent—if not like the Skynet way of the Terminator film series. If we look closely, we will see that AI is gradually taking control of works that need repetition, precision and risk from medical science to manufacturing, or from communication to construction.
A study of the International Labour Organisation said that Bangladesh is at risk of losing 5.4 million jobs to AI in the next two decades. Of them—the garments sector is most vulnerable as the industry is estimated to terminate 2.8 million jobs.
While this is a scary picture, one must not forget that as new technologies pop up and wipe out human jobs in certain sectors, the same technologies have created new jobs. More new jobs will be created with advancement of technology —but we will need skills for those jobs. Therefore, the government has targeted to train 5 million migrant workers by 2024.
The government has also set a target to facilitate 5 lakh entrepreneurs, including 1 lakh digital rural entrepreneurs by 2024, because entrepreneurs can create ample employment opportunities.
In the coming years AI will be beyond job cuts and new job creations – it would be a key aspect that will dominate how we live and work. Our homes and offices would use AI based utilities regulator (refrigerator to electricity consumption control), our transport system would also incorporate it and most importantly our communication and productivity tools like phone or computers would become more powerful with this new technology.
Bangladesh may be late in using plastic money, but so far mobile transactions and financing has been performing well in the country. The once popular "money order", a means of sending money from one place to another, has become a past after mobile financial services such as Bkash, Rocket and other mobile based apps were introduced over the years.
Some experts have also said that the services have become so popular and convenient that it can totally replace the use of cash in the coming decade. It has already happened in China- it would happen in Bangladesh too.
RMG owners are now using digital means for paying wages to the workers. Experts say that this is just the begging and it will expand in the coming years.
Just imagine if more people get paid digitally and they begin spending digitally using their phones — what effect will it have on the way we consume or spend. With ATM machines available in every alley, we are already comfortable in travelling, eating out and shopping around – anywhere, anytime without much worries about not carrying enough cash. A day would come when roadside vendors will accept digital payment for jhalmuri (hot puffed rice) – this will definitely make us all more dynamic as consumer.
In the coming days businessmen will also benefit from AI – thanks to a greater use of the technology in the banking sector and introduction of blockchain based financial platform. In Bangladesh when running businesses became difficult due to layers of bureaucracy, corruption and malpractices, a blockchain based supply chain financial platform called "Orjon" came into play.
Spearheaded by IPDC Finance Limited in collaboration with IBM, Orjon enables lender to process supply chain applications within half an hour. This eliminates the need for verification of hardcopy documentation. If technology makes banking and transection as easy as Orjon— we can say the possibilities are endless.
The more we rely on AI for banking, communication and transaction, the more vulnerable we become to hackers. Hackers are gaining power simultaneously with technological advancements. Thus, we will focus in higher cybersecurity equipped with AI based analytics powered by machine learning. The future cybersecurity system will be equipped to predict and stop insider threats and fraud before it happens.
Advanced medical science
As new medicines and technologies emerge, lifelong diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, renal failures or heart disease will be easier to control or they may even become curable.
In the next decade universal communication system will facilitate availability of medical advice and diagnosis may become a routine matter for people living in remote areas.
Medical science would not just help us live longer, but also better—unless environmental pollution and food adulteration catches up our health in the same speed.
Our houses have undergone major changes in the last five decades. These changes did not come from the shift in family composition but also from the ways we cook, preserve food, wash clothes, clean the house and avail services of domestic helps. It is evident that the situation will continue to change and evolve as Bangladeshis continuously engage themselves in more economic activities.
In cities and towns, houses have two perennial issues: cooking fuel and power bills. It has been almost 10 years that the government has stopped giving gas connections in houses and the power tariff has more than doubled.
While Bangladesh may not see much popularity of smart houses in the next decade (because majority of our population is unlikely to have that kind of purchase power), some of its aspects would surely enter the urban houses. These include smart entertainment system, electricity control, cooking and washing systems. House electronics and cooking appliances would certainly keep on growing in Bangladesh in the next decade.
Dhaka's commuting system is undergoing major changes and speculations say that manual transport system like rickshaw may not see sunlight in the next decade. The metro rail system and bus rapid transport system is expected to become the mainstream commuting system in Dhaka—replacing the unruly private bus system. In the coming days, we will see an increasing number of hybrid and electric cars in Dhaka -- especially after 2025. Electric cars may cost the same as fuel based cars by that time. Along with this, the arrival of driverless cars is expected to change the way we rent transports anytime and anywhere.
Big brothers will continue to watch you
It's already here. But instead of an Orwellian Communist society, the big brothers are capitalistic corporations like Google, Facebook or Amazon giving us free social media, internet or trading services while stalking us everywhere. We are their commodity.
They cleverly feed us advertisements and news by people who want to control our behaviour. These corporations bypass the traditional tax system and would siphon off money from countries where they are not physically present. They have been operating in a world where the legal system had not make them accountable.
These issues are currently being debated around the world. Laws are being framed; taxes are being imposed on their operations. But these technological companies are already too big to control and they have too much of our information.
Along with them other big brothers will emerge—smart cars, smart homes and anything smart will extract our information and will continue to influence our behavior.
As I said earlier, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.