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Alexander Moskalenko’s blog on Business FM: three flies in the ointment in digitalization of Russia

Alexander Moskalenko, President of GCE Group:

— I dare say that digital machines are a dead-end direction of technical development. In most cases, we take an analog signal (e.g. an aircraft steering angle), convert it to digital form, then process the result and turn it back to an analog value. That is, digital technologies came to stand in a row with analog conversions. At the dawn of computer age, analog machines were developing even more successfully than digital ones. The same is true of the automobile. The first car was steam-powered. That was invented by a Frenchman Cugnot. But the the French Revolution broke out and sent him into exile. After that, two types of the engine started to develop: the internal combustion engine and electric cars. Suddenly, there is an explosive growth of ICE cars with electric cars fallen into oblivion. One hundred and fifty years later, in the last 15-20 years, petrol cars have been declared a dead-end for environmental, economic and other reasons. At the same time, electric cars have leapt forward — think of Tesla and its founder. So, I have a strong impression that this rapid development of digital technologies may be leading us to nowhere.

Secondly, a trend becoming more and more popular today is big data — processing of huge amounts of data. An interesting point is that the principal mechanisms there are statistical and mathematical models which are used to process information in each and every area of our life. Let’s take a personal example. We in our company organized a competition for the best photo from a business trip. We had a big jury of 9 people who shortlisted several pictures. In the end, the winning photo turned out to be the one which did not appeal to any of the jury but received the most votes in aggregate. This is where we go with this «big data» — to averaging and unification. What will happen to those who fall out of the proven range? Is it death to individuality, a threat to creativity?

— At school we all learned about the so called bourgeois revolution that was especially distinctive for Britain, the Netherlands and even our country in February 1917. It was a turning point in the society with the feudal-peasant system replaced for the capitalist — worker pattern. This process was accelerated with appearance of new machines that revolutionized the industry.

Imagine Britain of the 18th century, an empire based largely on bayonets of the red jackets. That huge British army needed to be dressed. That meant that a spinster spun a thread, then a weaver manually wove the fabric and gave to a tailor who saw the uniform. And suddenly, this whole world collapsed and a couple of machines replaced hundreds of people. The response came in the form of the luddites who destroyed machinery considering it the root of all evil. A similar age is coming today. Look at the major pulp mills in our neighboring region — Karelia. Not long ago each of those mills employed 6 to 8 thousand people. Now their workforces do not exceed 2 thousand employees. Why? Automation. What’s next? Cars without drivers? And where will those numerous drivers go? We already have trains without operators, so far only in airports and sometimes in the subway. What shall we expect? New luddites? In general, there is a huge area for speculation among philosophers, sociologists and for the whole society.

Source: Business FM

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