What tech innovation trends are currently exciting you?
Anything relating to smart cities. That means the internet of things, smart homes, plus innovations around mobility such as driverless cars and buses, and connected cars. Another exciting trend relates to artificial intelligence and the use of big data by large companies – and its application in education, too: Bill Gates, for example, has plans to change education with an artificial intelligence-driven “personalized learning” program. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested more than $240million in the initiative so far.
What about robotics?
Robotics will have a big impact on everything from supply chains to last-mile logistics to care homes. There’s no doubt we will see the growth of robot technology in policing, rescue and crisis operations, and security. Robots are also becoming more affordable so increasing numbers of small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to employ them. And with the aid of robotic exo-skeletons, people who are paralyzed or elderly will be able to lead better lives.
You mentioned your interest in Smart Cities. What are their benefits? And what would it be like to live in one?
I do live in one. Singapore is one of the world’s leading smart cities. At a very basic level, public services are very efficient People tend to think of smart cities in terms of infrastructure technology, with sensors everywhere exchanging information. A criticism of smart cities is that in all the excitement of the technology, ‘the individual’ tends to be forgotten. However, Singapore has moved things to the next level with an initiative called Smart Nation. This aims to use tech-enabled solutions to harness the innovative spirit needed to grow the next-generation economy, and help its citizens, businesses and government co-create a better future. I really like its inclusivity and creativity and think more countries will adopt it.
Is there a danger that smart city technology – with its collected and connected data – could be used in an intrusive, ‘dystopian’ way?
It’s a danger to be aware of, certainly. A society should know about the ethical dilemmas associated with the use of such technology and a regulatory framework needs to be in place for the protection of citizens. But such problems can be overcome if we can figure out a way to meet these challenges together as a society.
Where could tech and innovation take us in the future?
Way, way ahead? Who knows? We could be living on other planets or space stations. And with genetic enhancement people could edit embryos to design the intelligence of their babies, which I think is exciting and terrifying at the same time. It would mean that people who don’t have access to those kinds of technologies would be at a disadvantage, and that’s what bothers me, because rich people would be thousands of times smarter than poor people. But I’m a cautious optimist. I believe that there are enough people out there who are thinking about what’s right for humanity – and that, whatever tech advancements come along, controls will be in place for our protection. — Tony Greenway