Seven rings of technology that could do Tolkien proud

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo the Hobbit, in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings (LOTR). Frodo was reflecting what all of us have been undergoing for the past two years, as the pandemic sweeps over us in successive waves. Gandalf, the Wizard replies: “So do I,and so do all who live to see such times.All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” While some of us chose to feel helpless, many in the tech world decided that this really was the time to change the world. In the second full year of the pandemic, here are the seven big things that happened, the “seven Rings presented to the Dwarf Lords” of Tolkien’s Middle Earth:

2022 was the year that Crypto came into its own, not only as a trading instrument but as a real currency – if not of the real world, at least of this alternate reality called the Metaverse. Facebook changed its name to Meta, a16z and others introduced billion-dollar investments, Coinbase listed in the real world, and meme coins reigned. To me, the most profound revolution that this ignited is the rise of the creator economy, where ‘individuality is monetized’, and allows artists, writers, and other creators to carve out careers of their own. This will have profound impacts on jobs, organisations, and work in general. The metaverse is new and uncertain, and as Tolkien says, “it’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”. The Metaverse, crypto and the creator economy that it has unleashed promises to sweep us off to another world and a new reality.

2021 was also the year when AI, specifically Deep Learning, made great strides. The year before, DeepMind, an Alphabet company unveiled Alpha Fold, which predicted how proteins fold in our body, something that could revolutionise medical science. In 2022, DeepMind spun off a subsidiary called Isomorphic Labs, that will focus on using AI processes to develop new drugs. AI has been hailed for long as a ground-breaking technology, deep learning could make that happen, and become “the one Ring to rule them all.”

Closer home, a mythical creature galloped across techdom, more specifically the start-up world. Unarguably, the startup ecosystem in India has not seen aboom year like this one – as of Dec 29, India doubled its unicorn population 81 unicorns (valuation of $1bn or more), to become the third largest unicorn country. This unprecedented boom in tech entrepreneurshipreflects how the old order is changing, and the courage of our young people who believe in venturing out and changing the world.

If there was one company globally that changed the course of history, it is arguably Tesla. 2021 was the year Tesla, and its creator Elon Musk, singlehandedly reshaped the automobile, technology, and the energy industries, and thus the world. Its valuation crossed $1trn, more than the next nine car makers. Tesla drove Musk to become the richest man in the world, but its influence went beyond that: Every car maker, country and customer has now embraced electric to be the future, with most declaring that they will stop making conventional vehicles soon.

The other place where Musk’s outsize influence made a mark was outer space. His SpaceX has overtaken countries to become a dominant player – launching the biggest rockets, bringing them back to earth, and blanketing the sky with satellites to connect the planet. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are trying to catch up, and a billionaire’s space race has begun. “Not all those who wander are lost”, said Tolkien: perhaps he had them in mind.

While tech roared ahead, much of it got impacted by the Great Semiconductor Supply Chain Crisis, as the post-Delta recovery put massive strain on semiconductor supply. The lack of these chips, which are used beyond electronics and computing, in cars and consumer durables and everything else going smart, hit production and availability of almost everything. It also pushed semiconductors to the top of the list of strategic industries, eliciting massive investments by countries, and even the fear of war over this scarce commodity.

Finally, the future of work suddenly came closer. The creator economy, gig work, entrepreneurship boom combined with forced work from home or anywhere by the pandemic, showed workers that there could be other ways to make a living. This resulted in large swathes of white-collar workers quitting, not coming back to work, or contemplating leaving, resulting in The Great Resignation. And nowhere did this impact more than in tech, leading to nervous companies and skyrocketing salaries.

The past year has many more big tech events, but I had to choose seven. This year promises to be even bigger, as the pandemic shows signs of weakening. “All’s well that ends better.” says The Lord of the Rings, and my seven predictions for this year will follow in the next column, a fortnight from now.

The author publishes A fortnightly column on technology In The Mint which is a leading Indian publication 

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Of the top technology trends seen in 2021, Artificial Intelligence features first, followed by Data Science, Full Stack Development, Robotic Process Automation, Edge Computing, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Blockchain, 5G, Cyber Security, Quantum Computing and Internet of Things. And these are not limited to 2021, as they are only likely to grow in importance over the coming decades.

Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Full Stack Development, Robotic Process Automation, Edge Computing, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Blockchain, 5G, Cyber Security, Quantum Computing and Internet of Things are some of the top technology trends that are likely to continue growing in the future.

Artificial Intelligence helps find solutions to complex business problems. Many complex business processes can be automated using AI. Working hours can be reduced significantly and human expertise can be utilised in more creative aspects of the business. Enormous technology-driven change is already helping us address a number of challenges in achieving optimum growth, and the application of AI technology, has extremely strong developmental implications.

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