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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Technology and Beyond: Our Lives Under Constant Progress and Development

Technology is a common term used by the majority of people today, referring to functions, devices and processes which catalyze operations to create comfort and ease for users and the respective environment alike. In many ways, modern day human societies are practically living to produce new technologies while battling one another to access them, which has labelled the term “21st Century Life” for the routine we are all subjected to in varying amounts on differing levels. In such competitive and demanding times, if one wishes to seek possibilities in finding appropriate technologies in the field of machinery, one is welcome to dive into new electronic systems, multi-functional gearsets or military grade protection, while others interested in information technologies can surely find new communication platforms, technical hubs or perfect search engine optimization for numerous digital functions. With such vast possibilities and options present, it becomes a critical capability to seek into the right type of information regarding technological development and also a great sub-space of modern day journalism to investigate into constructive and frutiful subject matter.

One of the key and most integral components of any type of modern day technology is energy, as it is the driving factor for all such inventions and processes. Bill Joy, a private investor and a reporter for The Washington Post, focuses on new developments in the field of energy production and storage, stating that he spent over a decade in this pursuit to realize how battery technologies are “already vital as we transition away from an economy based on fossil fuels” while “cheaper and safer batteries, and ones made from more abundant materials, are needed to decarbonize the grid and transportation.” Making it his ultimate goal of searching for a rechargable room-temperature battery, Joy focused on technologies which utilized safe and cheap solid materials as opposed to the dangerous and expensive liquid electrolyte materials batteries make use of today. His search fortunately yielded results in the form of an electrolyte cyrstalline polymer, while political developments in advanced capitalist societies such as France and United Kingdom have so far supported his business strategy as well. In such countries, bans and prohibitions on the new sales of diesel and petrol cars have been implemented which helped research carried out by his investment firm Ionic Materials on lithium-ion battery cars to “reach cost parity with combustion vehicles much sooner than many people expect[ed].” Joy concludes that very soon, the world will see significant developments in the field of automobiles with hybrid or solely electrical units being produced and sold to the public, in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and targeting other related environmental problems.  

Artificial Intelligence, the rather popularized and equally dominant subject matter in this field, also is of significant concern in the new age of technological progress. John Hanc for The New York Times takes a personalized journey through the lives of several individuals to reveal the impacts that they observed after AI was introduced into their lives through various means. Geri Lafferty is one of such people who started a new career as a Virtual Assistant in San Francisco to “help small, typically one-person businesses — solo-preneurs, as she calls them — with their administrative and marketing operations.” After learning numerous new technologies for sales and marketing, Lafferty began to service the needs and demands of several clients to master a sophisticated customer relationship management platform to increase marketing efficiency and yield. By utilizing webinars and tutorials, Lafferty became a master of her craft in a short period of time to become a serious fan and follower of artificial intelligence as the new frontier of global business. These new technologies have not only helped her initiate a brand new career in the field of business consultancy but also opened her eyes to brand new possibilities of the digital communications age within which Artificial Intelligence has already become a centralized component. AI in this chronology sets up the technical and information-based schematics, while its users receive training and education regarding the technical details of such systems to utilize the produced capabilities to help striving businesses succeed in carrying out their managerial processes professionally.

As capitalism proceeds as the dominant global system of governance and operation, the field of finance also has become a hot spot of technological activity and progress, shining light on new possibilities for the future. Jay Samit for Fortune Magazine reports on what he has labelled as “The Fintech Renaissance” by focusing on the global trend of online finance and currency systems, which have so far managed to reach over $300 billion in value and still counting. These systems are utilizing the state-of-the-art technologies to make it easier to shop online, such as facial recognition, voice ID and fingerprint scanning, with hopes of totally and centrally integrating into the digital age of things. As crypto-currencies become more popular, new competition emerges in this market to justify such technological progress while also a significant element of financial incentive also has surfaced for quantum computing to meet such demand. As data-mining and similar procedures gain relevance and significance in modern day capitalism, sub-atomic energy is utilized to process the computing functions required for the physical operations to operate such crypto-currencies. With more electricity required than the annual consumption of 159 countries of the world, quantum computing has become a necessity to meet the 28TWhs of electricity demand by the computers processing Bitcoin as of today. Therefore, in order for Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies to continue expanding into the financial markets to gain relevance and positioning, further technological investments will be necessary to supplement such financial schemes and to create a digital global system of financial operations and governance.          

With so much Artificial Intelligence involvement in virtually every aspect of human lives, philosophical paradoxes also frequently emerge which lead the intellectuals of modernity to question such developments to their core. Marianne Lehnis for the BBC Business News focuses on the connections between Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and public services to state that the data-driven AI approach operates in a black-box fashion to create nearly impossible complexity of parameters and processes. The author states that such a reality creates significant problems for engineers and researches in the field of neuro-sciences, which has been at large integrated already into the majority of public services in today’s developed world. Machine learning in this sense refers to “deep reinforcement learning” which is a process where a “designer simply specifies the behavioural goals of the system and it automatically learns by interacting directly with the environment.” However, consequently, the complexity of the system drastically increases, making it virtually impossible for human beings to understand the underlying dynamics of such operations and creates security risks to say the least. Considering how the modern day financial system also utilizes such AI applications and how critical finance is to the lives of billions of modern day global citizens, it is seen that such a disconnection between the human mind and its creations of regulation and governance systems might lead to catastrophic outcomes if proper care is not given to the issue by the proper authorities.    

Naturally, many important figures in the field of business and finance have taken notice of such developments. Among them is the world-renowned money-master George Soros: an influential individual in world events and politics through his hedge fund management style and strategies. Emily Stewart for The Independent reports on Soros’ favorite five companies for technology related investments and provides an overview of the holding’s perception of technological progress and its relevance to the finance and investment industries. Polycom, the collaborative solutions provider for voice, video and content sharing is Soros’ favorite tech investment as his holding owns “7.9 million shares valued at $89.2 million” while Rovi corporation which is “engaged in the discovery, delivery, display and monetization of digital entertainment by providing a broad set of integrated solutions” also holds a significant place in Soros’ investment scheme with 4.1 million shares worth $63.6 million. George Soros also has significant interest in Ebay Inc., the global technology company which has “created an open source platform that provides software developers and merchants access to its applications programming interfaces to develop software and solutions for commerce” with Soros Holdings possessing 1.7 million shares worth $40.8 million in the company. PayPal, yet another digital age phenomenon or to be more technical, a “technology platform company that enables digital and mobile payments on behalf of consumers and merchants around the world” has attracted Soros investments of $29.8 million in the form of 817,413 shares so far. And finally, George Soros has invested into ChipMOS, “the provider of semiconductor testing and assembly services”, in the form of 1.4 million shares valued at $24.9 million to show his interest in the physical domains of Artificial Intelligence developments as well. Considering all these numbers and details through the perspective of a modern day investor, it is seen that Soros interests have shaped around financial gains earned through time, speed and resource efficiency but more importantly through platforms and systems that directly impact consumer lives. Thanks to this approach in finance and investment, Soros Foundation has managed to become one of the most dominant powerhouses of global politics and business while Soros’ intentions to continue his legacy have created a significant impact on his investment strategies to lead him to focus on the digital potentials and possibilities.  

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