Is India preparing for a vastly different future

The pace of change of technology is horrendous and unstoppable. It is, simultaneously, exciting because of the way in which it will impact our daily lives, and, also, unnerving, primarily because of the lack of jobs new technology brings in its wake.

Changes in the auto industry: Readers would do well to read a brilliant blog by Benedict Evans ‘Cars and Second Level Consequences’. He talks of two primary changes in the auto industry, viz electrification and autonomy, and the consequences each will bring in so many different ways. Electrification is happening now, and automation is 5-10 years away. So, all countries, including India, need to prepare for it. Electrification will lead to a change in auto design, as, without the internal combustion engine, a car will need fewer moving parts. The second-level consequences would, be in how petrol fuelling stations operate. These will have a tough time because they make more money selling stuff bought on impulse, than in thin retail margins on fuel.

Autonomy (driverless cars) will be more disruptive, and have huge impact on lifestyles. Autonomous cars kill far fewer people (globally one million people die of car accidents), hence, insurance rates will drop. If autonomous cars can avert accidents, then car designs will change (no need for airbags). Cars can be made of lighter material than steel (basically used for safety), which will lower the demand for steel and increase it for, say, plastic or aluminium.

Sale of vehicles for private ownership will drop (no need for your own car if one is available on demand) and space for parking will also reduce, freeing it up for parks, schools or homes. Reduced demand for private ownership will also mean a change in building design, as fewer parking slots would need to be provided for.

Or take shale oil/gas. Peter Ziehan, a geopolitical strategist, predicts that by 2019 the cost of production of a barrel of shale oil will drop to $25. This will have tremendous geopolitical implications, as the clout of OPEC (and others like Russia) will be reduced.

Besides the above, there are many other changes coming in other industries, which will require huge changes in lifestyles.

Jobs are set to become increasingly scarcer, thanks to automation in industries with repetitive jobs. This would result in the need for greater re-skilling. A person would rarely have a job for a lifetime.

More likely, it would be a series of short assignments requiring different skill-sets (hence the need for re-skilling). Is India preparing for this?

Our polity is not: The abysmal waste of Parliamentary time to assuage ruffled feathers of an MP who misbehaved on a flight and ought to have been hauled up for it, is an indication. Instead, the flight ban was removed because of a ‘political compromise’. How can we be prepared for a fast-changing future if everything becomes the subject of a compromise?

Our judiciary is not: Our judiciary moves like the proverbial tortoise whilst technology dashes like the hare but in this case it’s the hare that wins.

Our people are not: The education system is antiquated and not preparing the youth to a fast-changing world.

We are stuck in the old ways of job reservations, and not in demanding more, and better schools and skilling institutions. Net on net, our country is unprepared for a fast-changing future. It needs a course correction. Fast.