By Milena Harito
Minister for Innovation and Public Administration of Albania
One of the biggest moments for teenagers in the ‘80s in Tirana was the possibility to listen to music cassettes, which were banned at that time.
I still remember the emotion of discovering Pink Floyd in a tape which I had borrowed for one afternoon. Another miracle a little later were tape recorders with two tape readers, which allowed reproduction, with a very primitive quality, from one tape to the other, thus becoming owner of around an hour of music.
Modern literature circulated in the same way, in shortage, valuable and precious.
But even later in the ‘90s, in France, video cassettes were copied in the same way.
Suddenly, 20 years ago the MPEG digitalization standards marked a new area. Music and films were digitalized. Little by little, the entire music of the world was in our hands, with an unprecedented quality, in a volume never seen before. The same thing was seen with films.
This is of course a problem in terms of funding culture and artistic creation.
But, on the other hand, today we’re seeing prosperity of culture and knowledge, which was not only unknown before, but unimaginable a few years ago.
Before the 2000, books, cassettes, movies, art and culture had a relatively significant price. Many things which before had a cost, are now free, starting with the treasury of knowledge such as Wikipedia, mass communication-telephone, replaced by a number of social networks, entertainment, information through newspapers and online TV.
Suddenly, we found ourselves in the era of abundance and digital prosperity.
Everything that relates to knowledge, search of information, artistic production, was made very accessible and often free of charge. The same thing happened with education-a number of universities offer online quality graduation, possible for everyone in the world who has internet access.
Even English, which is a necessity nowadays, can be learned online. Knowledge now reaches everyone and this is a social change, which we are yet to experience in all of its impact on the world. This abundance of knowledge is perhaps the second revolution after the Industrial Revolution, as Eric Brynjolfson calls it.
In essence, industrial revolution replaced the strength of human muscles with the strength of steam machinery and then electric engine. One of the consequences was massive production with a low cost, thus bringing drastic improvement of living conditions, from food to housing, transport, etc.
Digital revolution has made its first step: it has offered abundance and accessibility of knowledge for everyone, with insignificant costs, which have never seen before.
But above all, there is a social revolution. Knowledge and culture, up until 200 years ago, belonged to the elites and up until 20 years ago, to middle classes, but today, they are accessible for everyone and everywhere.
The second step of the Digital Revolution is the gradual replacement of brain power with the computer power. For the moment, the computer cannot yet replace it, but it strengthens the power of human brain in an unimaginable way, even 20 years ago.
But we are still in the dawn of Digital Revolution, in two directions which have just been born, which are still Infants, but which are growing fast: BIG Data or Massive Data and Intelligent Machines.
We have all heard about SIRI-vocal assistant on e-phone. SIRI seems like a toy, but it’s a giant technological step. It’s the computer’s recognition of the human language, which has required around 30 years of work. SIRI marks for the public the moment when computer passes into the performance of routine works, into a chore which up until now was only done by the man. Of course, it’s not perfect, but further transformation is only an issue of time.
After SIRI, there was the driverless car and the most known one is the Google car.
But what has changed. So far, computers applied undefined and written rules… Driving a car was considered as something which could not be computerized-the driver must analyze a large number of visual and audio information and only human intelligence could take the necessary decisions.
Today, cars with no drivers are ready. They are being tested in the USA, they will soon be tested in England and in other EU countries.
For years, machines have been learning to play chess and given that they are able to process as soon as possible, they manage to exceed those who have programmed them in finding results.
Some may have heard of Watson-the robot who has defeated the best players in the world in a famous game called Jeopardy. But not only this. The diagnosis of the rarest illnesses is now done by Watson robot better than a specialized; simply because Watson is able to handle all the information published in the world, something which no doctor can do.
In several countries of Asia, Watson replaces clerks who deal with the citizens in public institutions. Intelligent machines are constantly and intensively replacing some of the most intelligent human labors thanks of the treatment of Big Data.
Today we have a large amount of information on many facts of life.
50 years ago, if we wanted to know where a public person or a criminal went, someone had to follow him: today we have the data of his phone, of the place where he has used his bank card or if he has used an electronic ticket.
What’s more, we have intelligent ways to link, compare these data and manage to define customs and human behaviors.
Tomorrow we will have more information.
In Information and Technology, we have only seen the T so far and not the I, we have only seen technology and not the power of information.
Digital assets and access for everyone
Digital abundance improves the quality of life for everyone. But everything which is offered free of charge, is not calculated as part of GDP. The value of digital world, not included in the GDP, is estimated to be around 300 billion Euros worth of free services on the internet. We can all benefit from this endless asset and it’s relatively simple if we meet three conditions:
-accessibility (abundant internet equipment and access-also known as broadband);
-digital literacy-knowledge on the use of digital internet
-knowledge in English, which can be learned free of charge on the internet today.
This is the world where today’s 20 year olds will live
In this new world, the labor market will change, because a number of new services will be computerized; there will be less routine work, but even a part of the intelligent works will be carried out by machines.
This world is not science fiction; this world is her today and very soon it will be expanded everywhere.
The only way is to embrace the pace of this new world, to work with new machines and use the knowledge.
Sometimes it may happen that we become nostalgic about the world when it was simpler. But the same question arises: How many people are ready to live without the facilities offered by mobile phones today? How much can people survive without it? The question is not if we will embrace it or not, but how fast and how much we will benefit from it. /ibna/