The very fact that a majority of world population is aware of the brutalities inflicted by ISIS, while not too many know about genocide in Rawanda 20 years back, which killed more than five lakh people, is an example of transformational impact of Science and Technology in connecting the world together and
creating a common consciousness.
like robotics, artificial intelligence,
biotechnology, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, internet of things etc. will soon enable vast
sections of population to experience what is available only to the richest today, and much more.
You will be surprised to know that today an ordinary farmer in Jharkhand with a basic smart phone has better mobile phone capabilities than President of United States twenty-five years back. Similarly, our basic smart phones have better computing capabilities than most of the PCs available 15 years back. Photography, which was once a costly affair, is today accessible to most through their camera phones.
You will also be surprised to know that during the last century, the infant mortality rates have declined by 90 per cent and the maternal mortality rates declined by almost 99 per cent. Within a span of 100 years, the life expectancy has also almost doubled. Most of the things which we take as normal, including transplanting of different organs, did not exist 50 to 60 years back. For instance, the kidney transplant was first done only in 1953.
On a lighter note, let me ask you a question. Do you have any idea about how Akbar died? Well most would say he died in a battle. A few would say that he died of old age. The fact, however, is that Akbar died of constipation! Don’t get
surprised. Today even a poor man, with reasonable access to medical
facilities, doesn’t die of
Developments in the field of Bioinformatics, Tissue Engineering, Gene Therapy and application of Nanotechnology are bringing in a
revolution in medical sciences. Bioinformatics, which involves use of computers to scan genomes of thousands of individuals, plants and animals, is unlocking mysteries of diseases and disorders and thereby helping in
development of more targeted medicines.
Tissue engineering is helping
scientists develop human organs from one’s own cells. Scientists can grow skin, blood, blood vessels, heart valves,
cartilage, bone, noses, and ears in the lab.
In the field of communication also things have vastly improved over the last two decades. As a college student in 90s, I remember reading about lack of communication infrastructure in India and how it was hampering development of the country. Lengthy articles were there about problems involved in laying telephone lines. But with coming of mobile phones the problem vanished by 2006. Now, there are no long waits for getting a telephone connection, no costly long distance calls and no worries about lines going dead. Within 20 years we have reached a situation where there is a mobile phone in almost every household, calls are cheap, and you can reach anybody in any corner of the earth at a fraction of cost we paid in 90s. Gradually, we have reached a situation where call facilities have been made almost free by some companies and we need to pay only for data. This is an indicator of things to come.
Energy remains a challenge but here too the things are moving in a positive direction. Sometimes back there was a news item that for the first time India is power surplus. No doubt there are
certain areas of the country where there are still shortages. But these shortages are not because of any inability to
produce electricity, but because of either transmission bottle-necks or financial reasons.
What is however most heartening is the development in two areas – first, production of more energy efficient devices and, second, rapid strides being made in the field of solar energy. Devices like LED Bulbs consume seventy – eighty percent less electricity than ordinary bulb to give same amount of light. The LED TVs, which are
slowly and steadily replacing CRT TVs, consume less than one-fourth of the energy consumed by CRT TVs. The inverter ACs consumes almost 40 per cent less electricity than regular ACs.
The developments in the field of solar energy are really phenomenal. The cost of solar photo-voltaic (PV) cells is continuously declining. Over the last three and half decades, the cost of PV Cells has declined by around 20 per cent every time the production of PV Cells doubled. The expensive crystalline silicon is the biggest cost in the Solar Panel. Over the last decade research has made it possible to make thinner and thinner Silicon wafers and the quantity of crystalline silicon required to produce a watt of electricity is less than half of what it was required a decade ago, and it is on a downward spiral. Engineers at MIT have made PV panels using carbon nanotubes. These panels are hundred times more efficient than
traditional panels. Trends indicate that in not so distant future solar power will be one of the most cost effective sources of energy and important constituent of India’s energy mix. The most important thing about solar power is that it is freely available and can exist independent of the grid.
Have you heard about PL-480? Well, this was an aid programme of US Government under which it provided aid to poor countries which were, for the reasons of political correctness, called the developing countries. India also received aid under this scheme in the 1960s. In India we had no option but to accept this aid and allow US to arm-twist us over this dole. However the situation changed from that of chronic shortages to adequacy because of Green Revolution, based on a high yielding variety of seeds, along with supporting resources.
Green revolution helped us meet our food grain requirements but it has created some problems like over-exploitation of water resources, pesticide overload, etc. Further, there are limitations up to which present methods of agriculture can increase productivity. The population is increasing and there is need to increase food production. There is a need to look at new alternatives, but there is no need to despair. The Genetic Engineering, Vertical Farming, Hydroponics— growing of food in nutrient rich solution, Aeroponics—suspending plants in mid-air and delivering food through nutrient rich mist, are some of the options which can help us meet future requirements. These new options are much more efficient than traditional methods of agriculture. The productivity in Vertical Farming in built-up areas is 10-20 times more than traditional agriculture. Further, since vertical farms are immune to weather, crops can be grown throughout the year under optimal conditions. This takes away the uncertainty associated with agriculture.
Rapid spread of data networks and development of digital educational software is providing an opportunity for growth in education. Falling prices of hardware like Tablets are also an enabling factor. It is now possible to
provide best quality education even in the remotest of areas if there is data connection available and there is a computer or other receiving equipments. Interactive classes can be held over audio-visual medium and the education available in best schools in metros can be made available in schools in far off areas. This also does not require much expenditure.
Why do we miss so much good
happening around us? Well, the answer lies in our long period of evolution. Human brain is wired in such a manner that it is more attentive to negative signals and news. No wonder we fail to realise that we are living in one of the best periods of human history, and it is only getting better every day. So, get happy and appreciate the blessings.
(The writer is HR Professional and columnist and writes on Science & Tech, Management and History)