Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan Friday said man and society have always found ways to adapt to changing times even when there have been fears of machines replacing humans.
“Two hundred years since the industrial revolution, jobs are still around. People and society adapt to do the things that machines cannot do…with technology, across every job there is going to be a restructuring, taking away the routine aspects and leaving the creative and customised aspects of that job,” said Rajan in a keynote session at #future, a global digital summit organised in Kochi by the Kerala government.
Rajan added that fears of job losses due to machines replacing humans have existed since the industrial revolution, but never materialised till date. He championed the cause of India embracing digital transformation and in the process, taking the help of technology to provide more services to the poor.
“What jobs will humans be able to do in 10-15 years that are immune from threat? Jobs that require high intelligence and creativity; jobs that require human empathy and jobs where human working for us bolster our status in some way,” he said to a packed audience at the Le Meridien hotel in the city.
Rajan, who served as RBI governor from 2013-16, stressed that the Indian government needs to do far more to ensure the growth of startups and businesses.
Speaking at length on the developments in artificial intelligence and robotics, he said, “One of the big lacunae in this country is risk financing and so our start-ups go elsewhere because they need risk financing which is not available in this country. We have to make sure Indian capital is available because often it is closest to the ground and understands the financing better. We have to make sure that the companies of our future are incorporated in India, get Indian financing and expand significantly. We cannot miss out on the AI and Robotics revolution.”
In a lighter vein, he said that even in the current digital age, the government works with physical files as organisations are conservative. “I was told that the thicker the files are, the less you have to read them because they have been around for a while,” he said.
Stressing that there has always been a ‘huge amount of hype’ associated with technology, the noted economist said the right conditions have to be created before they are brought in. He mentioned the death of a pedestrian in Arizona in the United States due to the involvement of a self-driving Uber car.
“We always think the future will come faster than it comes. We often undertake experiments in very controlled conditions early on and succeed, and immediately extrapolate it to the much more complicated real world. For example, driverless cars and quantum computing will eventually come, but people will have to be convinced, and the right conditions will have to be created before they do,” he said in the keynote session.
Later, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the summit, Rajan said technology must be utilised effectively by the government to do more for the poor and the marginalised.
“If medical services become much cheaper, can every poor person now see a doctor effectively because some of the early diagnosis is done remotely and then the exceptions are dealt by the doctors. So they get access to better medical facilities than they have today. Medical is one place, education is another. If we can get quality products cheaper for the poor, we are one step ahead of where we are today,” he said.
At a time when issues of data protection and privacy especially in connection to Aadhaar are spurring conversations in the country, Rajan said, “No technology is uniquely good or uniquely bad. It has certain aspects which need to be taken care of. I think the Supreme Court is currently looking at some of those aspects. Let’s wait and see what they do.”
The #future global digital summit was conducted to pave the way for the digital transformation of Kerala, where internet penetration is highest in the country. Hundreds of delegates, entrepreneurs, startup founders and CEOs took part in panel discussions and deliberations at the summit. The two-day event was inaugurated by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday where he also launched a unified mobile app for citizens to utilise government services effectively. He vowed to embrace digital technology as a means of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.