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Imagining our future

In the first part of this column, I discussed the possibilities for our future given how technology has changed our lives immensely. I am not sure if all these will happen in the future. Predicting the future correctly is essentially hit or miss. But regardless of what the future will be like, I am pretty certain about two facts.

First, these advances will happen fast, most of them we are already seeing in its developing stages today. It is amazing how technological advances quickly progresses. Remember that the pagers were the hit of the town just before the mobile phones made it obsolete. Obsolescence is a danger to those who are always caught flatfooted by changes.

Second, and more importantly, there is a need for humans to be empowered by these technological changes rather than becoming mere users or consumers of technology. The best way to become irrelevant in the face of automation taking over human activities is for us to sit idly by while the world around us is radically transforming.

In the first place, humans are the drivers of these technological changes not the other way around. The brilliant minds of innovators are the main engines for these transformations. We cannot be slaves to the changes we engineered ourselves.

A case in point is the prediction that businesses would soon be dominated by machines instead of humans. I could be wrong but I do not see that happening. I think some jobs will be replaced by machines, yes. But other jobs for humans will have to be created to support this new businesses.

In our case, Vista Land is ever mindful of how technology can make the conduct of our business more efficient. And we make sure that our people are equipped with the appropriate technology so that they may be empowered.

But I cannot see a substitute to the imagination and intelligence of my officers and staff when it comes to making informed and conscious decisions. Sure, a machine can perform some human tasks, even thinking, as is the case of artificial intelligence. But it will be some time (maybe I am wrong) before they can replace human imagination.

In my business, I continue to trust my management and staff to use their imagination as we navigate the future of the company.

Another example is education. Technology has transformed how our education system works. In many cases here and abroad, one can get an education degree without setting foot inside a classroom. But will that be the trend in the future? Will that make teachers obsolete?

No doubt teachers need to retool themselves to be able to employ technology in their work but there is still no substitute to human interactions. Our children and grandchildren need to interact with one another in order to have meaningful human development. The human experience of going to school and dealing with different personalities is an essential component of our growth as human persons. I cannot see machines replacing that.

What I imagine to be the ideal situation is for humans to work together with automation to make work better. Imagine the most brilliant minds in medicine having the most efficient technology to cure sickness. Or imagine the best teachers in our schools getting access to the best technology tools for their classrooms. A hologram demonstrating how volcanos erupt will be very useful together with an in-depth discussion of how humans and nature interact with one another.

These technological advances will certainly cause changes in all aspects of our lives. And change can be frightening.

It is for this reason that we need to retool our people now so that they can adapt to these changes. Better yet, let us train our people to be the catalysts of these changes.

I am glad I have the opportunity to write this column for the Manila Bulletin. After all, in the future people might just be reading newspapers through a chip implanted in their brains. (Senator Manny Villar)