Of Germ Pods and Personal Learning Clouds……… two trends of a post COVID future


It is fascinating to see how technologies originate in response to unmet needs and then go on to transform and impact the world in unfathomable ways.

In this post, I look at two such technology initiatives and then explore how they might evolve and impact us.

The first technology initiative is Germ Pods.

It was early April 2020 and the Covid had just started making initial inroads into India with recorded infections hovering around a couple of thousand.  The Government launched an innovative contact tracing and self-assessment mobile App called Aarogya Setu. It became the fastest growing App in the world with more than fifty million downloads in less than two weeks. The App gathered data from positive infection reports on a real time basis and was designed to identify infection hot spots and alert the user about the number of Covid infected people in the vicinity. Government ministries and Indian Airports made it mandatory for all people to register into the App to ensure low risk. Aarogya Setu was subsequently merged with the COWIN portal which was designed to register and update vaccination status at the individual level.

Countries around the world launched similar contact, movement and vaccination status tracing Apps during the pandemic.

As I muse, the import and the transformative potential of the tracing and status app becomes clear. The future would be about a real need to protect and secure the health of oneself and one’s own community. Increasingly, testing for various transmissible diseases, real time tracing and proximity alerts would form the basis of AI based algorithmic analysis to create hierarchies of health risk statuses. In spite of repeated assurances that individual privacy norms would be protected, geographic and digital clusters of such hierarchies would begin to emerge and, in more ways than one, would trample on individual’s privacy and behaviour. These clusters or “Germ pods” would over time become much more than mere health pods. They would morph as digital identifiers of micro-groups displaying differing economic, demographic and social behaviours.  Can you imagine what such identifiers would do in the hands of marketing organisations, Government policy makers and politicians?

What thus started off as mere health protecting ‘Germ Pods’ might become somewhat sinister gatekeeping tools allowing individual entry based on constantly tweaked algorithms; they would actually become functionally invisible to folks who do not qualify. Groups would get shielded from public view as well as from one another, as they get into exclusive symbiotic relationships with marketing organisations and the Government. Overall transparency and accountability in a society relating to spreading of resources would take a hit, further exacerbating the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ divide.

My sense is that in the future, the above transformative technology might usher in a societal problem.

The second technology initiative is Personal Learning Clouds.

 For some years, I have been engaged in training the next tier Leadership for a large business group in India. While the need for Leadership development programs is acutely felt in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment, the organisation also senses that traditional class room case study-based programs are no longer working to prepare tomorrow’s leaders for the challenges they would face. The training manager thus finds it hard to justify costs relating to such training programs. Last but not the least, the program does not really get ‘owned’ by the participants’ boss and other team members leading to the program learning not getting the needed support for effective application at the workplace.

The pandemic has fast paced the shift of training programs onto Zoom and other digital platforms. My client organisation has started seeing this as a great alternative, cutting down as it does requirements of logistics and physical infrastructure. The participants are able to virtually join in from their work desks or homes with a much shorter lead time.

As I think of the emerging trend, I visualize the birth of ‘Personal Learning Cloud (PLC)’ in today’s rapidly changing and constrained environment. The PLC would be flexible, allowing  24X7 accessibility to learning modules aligned to the need and behaviour of an individual and his team. Over time the PLC would emerge as a networked learning infrastructure. It would not only allow overall lowering of training costs but would facilitate the organisational leadership to offer ‘just in time’ targeted learning experiences for personnel according to his / her role and immediate organisational needs. Finally, the PLC ‘s real time accessibility, relevance and interactive capability would allow the learner’s immediate superior to become an active stakeholder in the process and provide support and accountability.

I sense that over time the PLC would make learning personalized as well as democratized (in terms of access) and would allow organisations a better gauge to measure return on investment and ensure work place application. Something essential to keep the ‘just in time’ PLC based learning relevant in a fast-changing world.

My hope is that in the future, the above is where significant growth and development opportunity would lie.

In learning……….                                                                               Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement:

  1. ‘After the Pandemic: What happens next?’ – Document prepared by Ayca Guralp, Instititue of the Future, CA, US.
  2. ‘The future of Leadership Development’ – HBR March-April 2019

The economic inequality fallout of the pandemic


While doing a course on, ‘Welcome to our post-pandemic future’, the aspect of economic inequality trend jumped out at me. A trend that seems to have accelerated since the onset of the pandemic.

Statistics show that the eight wealthiest people in the world now have as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion people combined! Incredible as it seems, that is correct. The combined wealth of this league of extraordinary gentlemen out weighs that of three and a half billion people! It set me thinking. What is that differentiating proposition that creates such a disparity? Is it the intelligence quotient, is it the emotional quotient, a combination of the two or something else?

As I reviewed the behaviour patterns and articulations of these extraordinarily wealthy gentlemen. I could discern a pattern. A common underlying theme behind such incredible wealth creation seemed to be a knack of envisaging a future that seemed impossible, in fact laughable to most folks around. However, these individuals held the belief to hunker down and live into that future, having the doggedness to hang on till they could make it true.

 I discovered something else. As the world shifted in terms of technology and mindset, there came a moment when the window of opportunity aligned with the envisaged future and competence set of the individual. Because of the ability to hunker down and hang on, the individual could recognize that ‘clunk’ of the future as it arrived and take appropriate action. This seemed to be true for Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg as well as the others on the list.

In the next three to five years, how could we expect to see the growing economic inequality pan out and its impact on the world? One might envisage depressed ‘across the board’ consumer demand and a drag on the global economy. Most of us can recognize the negative potential of a severe long-term drag.

In one of my earlier posts some years back (https://esgeemusings.com/2017/01/22/a-brave-new-world/), I had mused:

“…….Our Brave New World too seems to be a story of the blue and red pills allowing us a choice of the path we could take.

One road leads us to a virtual utopia. Inhabited by people fully able to realise their creative and innovative potentials. A world where people are uniquely free to follow their passions and creative urges. Where innovations are exploding every other day and unimaginable wealth is getting created. Where products and services are plentiful and available to all. Where being wealthy or not no longer matters. A world that has finally come to realise the socialistic dreams of Karl Marx and Lenin, but in a warped way.

The other way is to the land of dystopia. Of people lacking meaningful work and condemned to exist on the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy. With not a hope in hell of achieving the higher rungs of potential. Of folks condemned to live on a Universal basic income provided by the Governments of the day. Of large sections of society feeling increasingly dispossessed and spiralling down into drugs, gambling, terrorism and similar madness……….”

 As I think of the growing inequality of today, I do spot some of the above-mentioned patterns of change. But I remain unsure of a pre-determined outcome. Would the economic disparity continue to grow? If so, what could each one of us do to support folks to more effectively handle the situation?

I sense that over the next few years, the world would need to go through a period of healing, not only emotional healing from the damage and trauma of the pandemic but a movement to restore overall consensus and a more equitable share for all towards livelihood. All of us would need to get involved and ensure that groups who have been disproportionately affected are at the table for coming up with plans and solutions, including young people, and that they have a chance to really have a say in what happens next to ensure a better and safer future in the coming years.

In Learning…………..                                                                                                      Shakti Ghosal

The Fault in our times


Do the following look familiar to you? Do they apply to you?

  • Are you living an E- Life, is your life made up of bits and bytes, black and white?
  • Are you perennially rushed, shortchanging your grasp of a situation as you celebrate breadth instead of depth?
  • As you face a situation, do you see yourself reactively ‘firing from the hip’ rather than standing aside and reflecting deeply?
  • In a fast-changing world, are you racing through your days without the clarity of who you really want to be and where you really want to go?
  • With relentless demands at work and home, are you becoming short tempered and easily distracted?
  • Are you so wired up that you are melting down?

Equipped with day planners, to-do lists, smartphones and laptops, we pride ourselves as efficient time managers as we hold the intention to multi-task and optimize our productivity on a 24 X 7 basis. What is that which stops us from bringing sufficient energy into all that we are doing, why is it that we fail in so many of our well-intentioned endeavours?

Have you wished you had more time and the wherewithal to do things better? But is it the paucity of time………. or is it something else?

There is a significantly different element, not time, which is the fundamental currency of performance and effectiveness.

http://www.empathinko.in

The story of the Blue and Red Pill


The Pandemic has been with us now for more than one and a half years. A virulent new strain, the Delta variant, is the new weapon unleashed by the wily COVID 19 virus to negate all that the vaccines have been doing. Conspiracy theories abound. We look on helplessly through a tunnel with no apparent light visible at the other end yet.

The West and its much vaunted ideal of human freedom is on the backfoot. As US retreats, Afghanistan has once again proved to be the graveyard of Empires- earlier the British, then the USSR and now Pax Americana. The swiftness of the Taliban takeover has been shocking as they begin the task of taking the country back into the medieval ages.

More than 600 people inside a C 17 aircraft fleeing Kabul on the Indian Independence Day 15th Aug. 2021

Almost two decades back, US President Bush had declared, “Engendering democracy across the Middle East ‘must be a focus of American policy’ for decades to come”. Today democracy is sputtering like a flame about to go out, with the failure of the much-vaunted Arab Spring and the Middle East in a far worse situation than previously.

We are into an irreversible global warming era, possibly the most serious climate crisis faced by Mankind. July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded on the planet. An extreme heat wave in Canada at a searing high of 49.6 deg. C. was a one-thousand-year weather event. Floods ripped through geographically distant countries like Germany and China. Drought stalked others. It is now being widely claimed in scientific circles that the Arctic would soon be devoid of ice with the resultant rise of sea water levels and low-lying areas going under.

The above are glimpses of a frightening and dystopian future we are headed into.

Now here is the other story.

In the last month alone, one billion people have been vaccinated against COVID 19. By the end of this year more than half the people on the planet would have received the vaccine. Truly a stupendous achievement in terms of swiftness of response and effectiveness.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to a veritable explosion of scientific progress in the tinkering of genetic information flow and the formulation of proteins, the ultimate nano machines. Trials are currently being done for protein-based vaccines for diseases ranging from Cancer to HIV.

As we speak, electricity generation from the clean sources of solar, wind, hydro and nuclear has outstripped that from ‘dirty’ coal.  Closer home in India, the wind and solar generating capacity has exceeded the milestone of 100GW output. In more and more countries, low carbon economy valuations are rising rapidly. The reason is economic. The average cost of power generation from clean sources is now half that from fossil fuels.

As investors spot a rising opportunity, more money is getting committed to climate investment funds in a day than used to be raised in years a short time back. Three weeks ago, two global asset managers, TPG and Brookfield, closed a combined $12.4 billion in climate investment funds.

Reforestation and conservation funding is taking place in countries as disparate as Indonesia and Bolivia who are supporting equatorial rain forests to United states and Canada who are focusing on wetlands, grasslands and coastal areas and the regeneration of flora and fauna therein.

These are but a few stories of a Utopian future we seem to be headed into.

So which future, whether the Dystopian or the Utopian, would come true?

As Morpheus says to Neo in the Matrix:

 “……This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you…. believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill……. and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more….”

Is our future really like the story of the blue and red pills and the need for us to make a choice of the path?

Or could it be that there is no choice after all? The two futures, dystopian and utopian, would always exist together, like the two sides of a coin. It would all come down to our world view and the context lens we choose to use. If our context was one of dystopia, we would see signals of collapse in every situation we look at. Similarly, if we were to deploy our utopian context, we would notice the signals of renewal and hope all around.

Our story, the shared and evolving narrative that it is, would always contain both dystopia and utopia, both collapse and renewal. It would depend on us which context lens we choose to deploy, which future we would wish to live into.

“What we do makes a difference, and we have to decide what kind of a difference we want to make.” Jane Goodall, English Primatologist & Anthropologist

Acknowledgement: The above piece is inspired by ‘Collapse, Renewal and Rope of History’ written by Angus Hervey, Future Crunch Journal, Aug. 24th 2021

In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

Elokeshi


“Dipen crossed the road to move towards his home in the Bhukailash estate. The narrow winding lane had a few single storied houses on the right. As he moved past the third house, his head turned as if on its own volition to the small verandah on the ground floor. His heart skipped a beat. There she was, the young woman in her twenties. Today in the failing light of dusk she stood, her head bent slightly to one side as she appeared to be combing her long lustrous black hair. Their eyes locked for a moment and then Dipen looked away quickly as he hastened his faltering steps. This had been happening almost every day over the last few months.”

The above is an excerpt from the story Pandemic, part of ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories.

Adjudged ‘Book of the Month’ for March 2021 by Booknerds, Professor Gracy Samjetsabam column author in Sunday Guardian Live and copy editor, in her review in Borderless Journal (May 14, 2021), writes:

“….. Ghosal sprinkles confetti of his coaching in life skills into the storytelling to create a set of modern-day tales that are easily relatable and palatable. The style and the settings are like fresh air that enlightens as it entertains. The stories are vibrant and close to current realities, making them a worthy read.”

The full review is available here. https://borderlessjournal.com/…/the-chronicler-of-the…/

On 30th July 2021, the book has received the Nazm-e- Sahitya award 2021 from Nazmehayat, a platform of worthy writers. www.nazmehayat.com

www.shaktighosal.com

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Reimagining Leadership in the Digital Era


“Clearly, the thing that’s transforming is not the technology — the technology is transforming you.” Jeanne W. Ross, MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research

Moolya Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to transform public affairs through digital leadership. The mission of Moolya Foundation is to expand the conversation surrounding public affairs and empower every citizen in the digital age.

Moolya Summer School 2021`— 6 weeks internship cum training program — aims to engage with budding policy enthusiasts and familiarise them with the principles of policy research and practical approaches to policymaking and analysis.

I was recently invited to deliver an online address on ‘Reimagining Leadership in the Digital era.’.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines ‘Reimagining as ‘to form a new conception of, to recreate.  What is Leadership? A great definition is ‘visualization of and moving towards a future that was not going to happen otherwise.

In the digital era, our world is increasingly granular- more number of players are entering every day & increasingly interdependent- more unknowable connections between them. Information availability & sharing is 24 X 7 binding us all together and creating a global awakening of expectations.

http://www.empathinko.in, http://www.shaktigosal.com

#shaktighosal #moolyafoundation #reimaginefuture #leadershiptransformation #coachingmentoring

The Chronicler of our times


Dr. Avik Basu , MBBS, MD (Cal), humbly calls himself a General Physician. But he is also an Intensivist, Psychologist, Academician, Medical Researcher, Author……the list goes on.

But above all, he is today a frontline COVID warrior having treated more than a hundred COVID patients in the last few weeks alone.

In a recent Social Media post, Dr. Avik Basu writes,

“FEAR…SUFFER…DEATH…these are the 3 words, the only 3 words, that should bombard the minds of every single person of this city. Of this country. There are experts who are asking people not to panic. But I will speak the contrary. YES, YOU NEED TO PANIC. YES, YOU SHOULD PANIC. YES, YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID OF DEATH. YES, YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR LOVED ONES. Probably it’s only this fear that can drive out the madness of enjoying blatantly from the minds of this lunatic species which has long forsaken the realm of logical reasoning. I am no COVID expert; not a COVID-ologist. I am not invited on national television to give a speech on COVID awareness. I don’t sit and explain the principles of ‘Hit and Dance’ hypothesis in news channels. I am a general physician, just a general physician, who are habitually regarded as the ‘doctors of cough and diarrhoea’. But I do take the privilege to state that I have seen almost 100 COVID positive patients in the last couple of weeks. And I’ve treated them……

I visited the Flemming Hospital yesterday to see one of my patients admitted. I witnessed the most dreadful scene of my life till date. Almost all moribund patients. Some gasping, some gone into cardiac arrest, some staring at the ICU staff with apprehensive look fearing an imminent death……

These days even I have started to fear death. Not for myself, but for the family I provide for. When a doctor loses a patient, he weeps in silence. But when a doctor passes away, does anyone shed a drop of tear???”

As Dr. Avik Basu engages with the Chronicler, I remain uncertain who will learn from whom? Who is the true Chronicler of our times?

Book of the month, more than a hundred international ratings on Amazon.

www.shaktighosal.com

#chroniclerofthehooghly#shaktighosal#bookofthemonth#rediscovergoodread#bookcommunity#bookaholic#bibliophile  #shelfie#bookshelf#readers#bookoftheday#ilovereading#bookblog#bookgeek#bookalicious#readingforfun#ilovebooks#bookstagramfeature#booklife#bookaddiction#beautifulbooks#unitedbookstagram#bookishfeatures#bookgeek

A Virtual Convocation @ IIM Udaipur


As a visiting Professor, I was invited to the Ninth Convocation ceremony of IIM Udaipur yesterday.

While I have attended convocations earlier, this was the first time I was attending one on a virtual platform.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well and seamlessly the ceremony took place with more than 250 participants.

Mrs. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Ltd, as the chief guest, delivered an excellent convocation address on the huge business and start-up opportunities that the current pandemic continues to throw up.

The event reminded be of those immortal lines penned and sung by Bob Dylan, so many years back!

The Times They Are A Changing

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

In Learning…….

Shakti Ghosal

Spanning a century between the pandemics of 1919 and 2020


The Chronicler tales……..

The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories is now available worldwide on Amazon, Flipkart and select bookstores.

www.shaktighosal.com

#chroniclerofthehooghly#encourageauthorshakti#bookofthemonth#shaktighosal #bookcommunity #bookaholic #bibliophile  #shelfie #bookshelf #readers  #bookoftheday #ilovereading #bookblog #bookgeek #bookalicious #readingforfun #ilovebooks #bookstagramfeature #booklife #bookaddiction #beautifulbooks #unitedbookstagram #bookishfeatures #bookgeek #bookprojects #readingforfun #addictedtobooks #readabook #becauseofreading

The Chronicler Tales…….


The Chronicler of the Hooghly, and other stories, adjudged Book of the Month (March 2021) is available worldwide on Amazon, Flipkart and select bookstores.

#chroniclerofthehooghly#encourageauthorshakti#shaktighosal#bookofthemonth

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