TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT : BOON OR BANE? FT. The 5th Global Youth Forum 2019 AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

Updated: Apr 22


Recently, I was invited by Youth Time International Movement to cover their signature event “5th Global Youth Forum” in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, so let me give you a recap of whole event.


Dear Reader, have you ever considered, how the fast-paced advancement in technology is going to affect us in the near-future? Where have we come from and where are we headed? How Artificial intelligence will gradually map out new socio-economic configurations? These and some other questions of a related nature were the subject of engagement and discussion at this year`s Global Youth Forum organized by the Youth Time International Movement. The ethical consideration under spot light of this year`s Global Youth Forum was titled “At a Crossroad: Industry 5.0 vs Inclusive Development—Where is the Future?”


Group picture of guest speakers with the Julia Kinash, President Youth Time International Movement.

Youth Time International Movement is an internationally oriented non-profit, non-political organization founded by Ms.Julia Kinash, which actively represents a platform of dialogue between cultures and generations. They inspire and engage young people from all over the world, by encouraging them to develop their social leadership skills as well as to take upon their civic responsibility. Youth Time provides opportunities to take part in various projects, to help youth acquire new knowledge and skills in social and public sphere as well as to build up relations with other young social leaders.


Want to Know more About Youth Time International Movement?


What follows is my account of the Youth Time`s 5th Global Youth Forum. For an ease of reading experience, I have divided my rumination on the experience in two sections; the first of which briefly highlights the winning projects at the forum and introduces you to some of the many amazing young leaders I met there and the second section is dedicated to my intellectual take-aways from the thematic engagements of this forum, which are hoped to provide food for thought for the readers and build healthy discussion and communal engagement around.

PART I

2-6 December-2019, I met 103 young leaders from 42 different nationalities in Amsterdam. These young leaders were brought together by Youth Time to attend its Youth Global Forum and sit together and discuss some pressing issues of our contemporary moment which concern us all but are not being highlighted to the extent of the gravity of the matter. These young participants from diverse cultural backgrounds were given the opportunity to speak and to be heard.


This forum was not only a place to discuss the social problems we are facing across the globe but also a platform for young participants to pitch their projects of social innovation and get a chance to win Youth Time Idea Grant of 10000 Euros, apart from the other awards which included amongst other things prestigious scholarships at leading business schools. The author of this blog post was invited to attend this event as a Journalist and what follows is my account of the conference. Although I was not a direct participant in this event but this 5 day global forum allowed me the opportunity of meeting youth representatives from all over the world and get to know challenges unique to their cultures and those which were common to us in our shared humanity and globality as well as their innovative solutions to these challenge.


As much as I would like, because of the page-limit constraints, I cannot here talk about all the amazing young leaders I met at the forum and their brilliant projects. But I would mention a few with whom I had some memorable conversations and interactions over the course of these five days. One of them being, Anza Tshipetane from South Africa; a social activist and Winner of this year`s Youth Time Idea Grant. Anza and her partner's Nnditsheni Netshimbupfe and Matodzi Malokisa are promptly working in African region especially in South Africa to address the inequalities in education and distribution of resources. They felt the difference between the quality of education in rural and urban areas which demoralize's the students.


So these superwomen came up with “Bright Young Leaders Initiative (BYLI)'', a social project which aims to bring about equality in education system. BYLI currently has three major offerings; a Free Innovation Camp for students so they can access advanced STEM education, a science fair competition that pushes student to become a problem solver and thirdly the a scholarship opportunity for extraordinary students from marginalized communities whereby they will be given full university scholarships. Indeed Anza, Nnditsheni and Matodzi eminent efforts in achieving the SDG 4 is highly commendable, and their project in fact was convincing enough to be given the Youth Time Idea Grant of 10000 Euros. More power to you girls!


Anza Tshipetane and Nnditsheni Netshimbupfe receiving the youth time idea grant from Julia Kinash, President Youth Time International Movement.


Allow me to introduce you to Ms. Zeenat Mahamad, another amazing young leader in attendance at the forum. Ms. Mohammad shared that she is half British and Thai and unfortunately both countries are reluctant to own her. She is an Engineer, Youtuber and social innovator BUT what is most amazing for me is also the fact that I had the privilege of having someone this competent as my teammate in the City-Hunt Competition (A side activity during the YT Global Forum), which we lost in a style.


In the loving memory of City Hunt.

Anyways, I will keep the rant of losing the competition for some other time and get back to discussing Ms. Mahamad's amazing work. She won the third prize which was “A full scholarship for a Prestigious Business School” in this year`s Youth Global Forum for her project “Smart Farming Hub”. Being from Thailand originally, Zeenat and her project partner realized that the farmers in their country who make 60% of Thailand`s population, are only contributing 10% to the GDP of Thailand.


They attribute the reason for this uneven ratio of effort and reward to the local farmers` lack of education and awareness which has them invest their time and energies in yielding corps which are not suitable as per the local environment. So, they came up with a solution which they term the “Smart Farming Hub”; the project aims to improve farmer’s productivity, income and quality of life.


It will collect the important data such on things such as as soil conditions from different farms and will analyze it to find out the crops suitable in these environmental condition and secondly it will also introduce the technology for farming which will decrease work load and increase productivity.

From Top: Zeenat Mahamad presenting her project 'The Farming Hub' and receiving her third prize.


Have I told you about Eddie? Eddie; a proud Muslim gay who immigrated from Jordan to Netherlands and is a reporter for the BBC Arabic. Energetic, friendly and knowledgeable, although he was a participant in the forum but being a resident of the host city, he was more a part of the organizing team, taking us around the city and very generously treating us to free drinks! I feel lucky to establish a brotherly relationship with him in a week time and well I wish to host him and Zeenat Mahamad in Pakistan soon. A feature story on him is also in works.


It's all about Eddie



PART II

Let me take you back to the main theme of the event and in easy and accessible language some intellectual gains with you, as together we can learn and combat the many issues besetting our shared global community.


TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT : BOON OR BANE?


We are living in an age where the modern world has been termed a global village. The distances which were once considered far have now been reduced by technology. Humans have always been eager to explore. This craving for searching something new has brought the world to a new dimension. All the technological advancements that we have today are a result of inventions of the past. Then with time, inventions took the shape of innovation. The definition of engineering bears the statement “betterment of humanity”. But the modern engineering marvels are bringing a serious harm as well.


Dr.Oulid Ali giving keynote lecture on Industry 5.0, where we’ve come from and where we are headed.


Human beings are increasingly relying more on technology for their day-to-day tasks. All of us are reaping the benefits of technology in our daily lives. From waking up in the morning till we sleep at night, we use a large number of gadgets and tools that have been brought to us by technology. Life has become easier than before. Isn’t it? No doubts there.


So, what’s the issue?


Where there are countless benefits that we are leveraging each day from technology, there are also some drawbacks that come with it. We have become more dependent on technology than human resource.Yes, it is agreeable that machines and efficient software are fast and more effective in doing a certain job. We don’t have accountability issues with machines at all. But why should we risk the jobs of people to bring efficiency to our daily work? Surely, this would create further problems. I witness various scenarios in my daily life where technology is slowly taking the place of human resource.


Robots and Artificial intelligence are one of the biggest breakthroughs in a technological world. Robots have been brought to take over the physical work done by us humans. Artificial Intelligence has been brought to mimic the mind of humans. In two to three decades from today, all the work would be handled by such technologies. Human resource would become a slight portion of workforce.


From Left: Florent Juven D’Souza, Suhas Gopinath,Rakesh Biswas during the Entrepreneurs Panel Discussion.


Let’s discuss a few examples:


It’s difficult to select only a few examples to prove my point. But let me begin with a more common one. Factories require workers to carry out the labor-work and other tasks which are involved in the production of goods and products. Robots have been introduced to perform all the tasks of labor-work now. China has stated to replace 90% of its factory workers with robots. What about the employment of those 90% workers who have lost their jobs just because of technological advancement?


In our firms, employees are expected to work efficiently. They are given deadlines to meet. Much is expected from them. The work that employees take hours in doing can be done in minutes by machines and software. We can take into account the example of accounting. Modern software’s offer more flexibility in handling accounting tasks better than humans. Good! What about the jobs of employees in the accounting department? It surely is a matter of serious concern.


Self-driving vehicles are not common at the moment, but surely in a few years, you would see a lot of such vehicles on the roads. The jobs of drivers are at stake without any doubt. Imagine those vehicles with no drivers in them to drive. An automatic driving system would operate using a GPS navigation system. And the drivers, well they would be unemployed.


Don’t be mistaken by the fact that this advancement in technology is only affecting workers or people doing menial jobs. The influence of AI will become more powerful once it will be well-trained to handle all the jobs that need human thinking. Work is under process to empower AI in the field of medical and surgery. In a few years, you would have AI assessing and reviewing your medical history to diagnose the disease. Even the surgeries would also be conducted by the robots. The experience and expertise of doctors and surgeons would be replaced with the advanced algorithms of AI. This culture of taking appointments and visiting the doctors would fade away to a major extent.


How to tackle these rising issues?

How to stop robots from taking our jobs? It’s a pretty common question. But the answer is not that simple. Where there is a problem, there are also solutions to it.

Let’s explore the ways to keep the human resource factor alive.


Ricardo Sanchez during the workshop on Cyber Security: Identifying threats and how to beat them.


It is fine to relegate some work to AI. Works that can be automated should be given to machines. The tasks that involve judgment and decision-making abilities must be done by humans. Humans can manage these machines according to their own will. Let the machines and software process your data. Performing operations to that huge volume of data must be under human control. Proper awareness must be spread among people about the effective use of technology for the betterment of humans. Excess of everything is always harmful. Robots cannot get ahead of us in terms of learning. We must adopt the mechanism to broaden our vision and up skill ourselves with more knowledge. The more knowledgeable we are, more will be the awareness of using the technology properly.


What’s the final take?

We cannot stop technology from advancing. The desire of advancement in humans is ever growing. New scientific ideas are brought each day. Human resource is being replaced by robots and AI. Where there were a lot of people working years ago, there are fewer people and more machines now. We shouldn’t look for the ways to stop this progress, rather focus on generating awareness among people about the ways to handle this matter well. Allowing machines to take over all the jobs is not agreeable. Clear ethics to be established on what can be relegated to the AI and what areas AI should never be allowed to encroach on. Knowledge and consciousness will play a pivotal role in making this happen. Start these important conversations, spread awareness- this is something that concerns us all and this is the least we can do in our shared humanity!

I will leave you with a verse from the great philosopher and Poet Laureate of the subcontinent Allama Muhammad Iqbal that eloquently speaks to these concerns:

~Ha dil k lye maut machinoon ki hakumat Ehsas-e- murrawat ko kuchal detau hain aalat (Death to the heart, machines stand sovereign Engines that crush all sense of human kindness)*

*Not my translation.

Photos Courtesy: Youth Time International Movement.