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Inside view: Is Advanced Technology a Sign of Progress?

Quality of Life Observer

- Global

- May 6 2015

Four leaders considering myriad impacts of technology from neurons to nursing via education and inclusion reminded us of the pace and breadth of technological change.


After her earlier QoL talk on how brain functioning can change as a result of our use of screen technologies, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield moderated a Quality of Life panel on advanced technology as a sign of progress on Tuesday afternoon. She spoke with Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind (a leader in low-cost internet connectivity); Matthew Holt, co-chairman of Health 2.0; and Michel Combes, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent.




The panel started by looking at positive impacts of technology on people and Quality of Life. Holt, based in Silicon Valley, described how e-health technologies are bringing patients in the Western world greater transparency and better real-time information about their health. He also warned, however, that society has to be ready to grapple with tough questions, for example around privacy and surveillance.


The advances Holt described nevertheless remain inconceivable for the majority of the world’s population. As Singh Tuli pointed out, two-thirds of the global population is still not connected to the internet - though that is set to change in just a few years according to Combes who reminded the audience that 3.9 billion people should be connected to the internet by 2017. In Singh Tuli’s experience, closing this digital inclusion gap is not a matter of literacy or access to energy but one of affordability that highlights the need to address inequality.


Greenfield steered the discussion to consider potential friction between sectors, generations, and cultures with regard to technology. Her panelists agreed that there will necessarily be winners and losers within groups, questions of affordability and energy resources to be overcome. However, the biggest challenges evoked concern the human factor. Front of mind were questions of governance and the preparedness of our political leaders to deal with the short term consequences of significant change, for example in the labour market.


Based on their knowledge and experience, Greenfield’s panelists were optimistic about a digital transition that is already underway and bringing progress across healthcare, education and employment, but recognized the need for a call to action for much greater preparedness.

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