Notes from the field: the more things change the more they stay the same

the more things change

Glorious fall weather in Taipei to mark the double tenth holiday! It was absolutely beautiful when I took a leisurely hike along the trails skirting Tiger Mountain.

Along the way, I came across a hillside temple readying itself for what looks set to be a huge celebration. Tables inside the main structure and courtyard were festooned with offerings of bottles of booze, packages of food, and even toy cars to make the ancestors more comfortable.

the more things change

I’ve spent most of the afternoon poring through my copious notes from the STS Forum in Kyoto earlier this week. One of the great pleasures of attending this event is that unlike so many others it’s a PowerPoint-free zone.

Rather than being subject to canned presentations, you listen to succinct six-minute speeches from leading experts in their field and have the opportunity to contribute to the subsequent discussions with some of the sharpest minds on the planet. I can’t help wishing that more conferences were organized based on this format. It certainly encourages much more open sharing of knowledge and opinions than anodyne on-stage keynotes.

One of the main themes discussed during the conference was whether the accelerating pace of change caused by rapid advances in AI, IoT, and 5G technologies will impact society and the individuals comprising it. The question was even raised as to whether humanity will be altered by AI.

Although no concrete conclusions were reached, the discussions were fascinating. For what it’s worth, my feeling is that while AI will have a huge impact on our daily lives humans will successfully adapt to the changes it brings just as they have to previous social, political, and technological transformations.

the more things change

The toy cars I saw at the temple this morning provided a graphic illustration of our innate capacity to continue injecting new life into age-old customs and traditions – not to mention further proof to support the old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same.

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