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The Second Renaissance – Seize the Moment

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By Manoj Chugh, President – Group Public Affairs and Member, Group Executive Board, Mahindra & Mahindra

A little over a year ago, my travels took me to St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Amongst my most vivid memories was the impact that Michelangelo’s brilliant work – Pieta had on me. I stood for many minutes, unable to take my eyes off Jesus, in Mother Mary’s lap, after his crucifixion. It was classical beauty intertwined with naturalism. A truly moving experience that will remain etched in my memory forever.It is a classical representation of the Renaissance period, which traces it’s origins to the 14th Century.The era marked the beginning of dramatic change, from the Middle Ages to Modernity. Every aspect of human endeavour from art, architecture, literature, science to politics underwent metamorphosis.From educational reform to diplomacy, everything mutated.

Importantly, in science, the reliance on observation and inductive reasoning gained primacy. The arts perhaps stimulated the First Renaissance, like no other phenomenon, touching the very core of human consciousness, imbibing the spirit of “man as the measure of all things.”In short, through this era, nothing remained the same and it’s impact was pervasive.

Fast Forward, seven hundred years, to the 21st Century. Technology is changing the way human beings live and love. Whilst early endeavours were focused on improving rote processes, the last few years have reshaped the impact of technology, bringing with it, new ways of doing things, pretty much like what happened during the Renaissance period. This time, though, it is not just large swathes in Europe, but indeed, the whole World that has got caught in the vortex.

Just as artists of the Renaissance period used brushes kit to paint brilliant strokes of expression, high tech gadgets of today, allow humanity to interact in new and animated ways. People share their urges, just not through writings or paintings, but also by using newer graphical expressions enhanced by the use of vivid imagery, sound and video, thereby enhancing the experience of engagement. With almost every adult on the planet having access to new age devices, the collective impact, multiplicated by the diversity of medium has resulted in transformation at unprecedented scale. As businesses and society grapple to make sense of the yottabytes of data getting generated, the wheels continue to spin. The core of this transformation, very much akin to the Renaissance period is around experience and culture.The re-imagination of how citizens and societies engage with themselves, the Government and Business is core to this dramatic shift .With the fundamental goal of enabling an open dialogue- whether it is between people to people or people to Government or people to business, Digital transformation is improving the quality of lives like the analog world could never before.

For organizations, keen to jump on to the ship of Digital Transformation, life has never been easy. Unfortunately for many, it is not just about technology. How I wish it were just a bunch of tools one could master!The hard lesson is that success can only come, by keeping the customer at the heart of the Universe and then by serving him in a superior fashion through delightful experiences.The journey begins by analysing the customers’ digital footsteps.

That is where the magic potion. Artificial Intelligence or Machine Intelligence can sieve troves of data to unearth meaning and share actionable insights. It is possible to feed machines with tagged data and then train them to read, compare and predict. Technologies like Deep Learning enable intelligent machines to do better than human beings in some dimensions.

Artificial Intelligence is fuelling every aspect of our lives. From education and health to predicting what shoppers want to buy, listen, watch and play. Nothing is being left to chance. Digital Transformation is helping businesses run better, engage meaningfully with customers and enable new revenue streams.

For a host of entities, Digital Transformation is an enigma. Many executives almost seem to be frozen stiff, like deer in headlights. They do not know where to begin? Choosing the right use case is an important and critical step in the journey. The area chosen has to have high impact and must be meaningful to business success. Usually expert help is needed to identify the right use cases. Someone who has a deep understanding of the business itself and technology needs to be brought in.

Once the initial use case is identified, choice of the right algorithm that willpower the intelligent machine, followed by training of the algorithm are the next crucial steps. The right data sets need to be acquired and tagged so as to train the algorithm. The data could be sourced internally and externally. Whilst expert engineers can help identify the algorithms or write the appropriate one, specialists help train the algorithm. Access to talent is a “make or break” in this journey. Last, but no least of all, the overall program management of an AI project is not an easy task either. As more use cases are identified, the process gets nastier.

Organizations are using innovative platforms to help them in this brave new journey. Those that choose not to tread the path, will be left behind and will be lost in the wilderness. I will share more in my future posts!

Every aspect of human endeavour is transforming, yet one more time. The Second Renaissance is here and it is for us to seize the moment!

Other articles by Manoj Chugh

New Year Wish: CIOs, May Your Tribe Increase!

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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