Just a few years ago, the place on this photo was nothing but a barren desert. Today, this sprawling network of canals, winding walkways and residential communities is one of the largest marina areas in the world.
The Dubai Marina is in fact entirety man-made. After the developers excavated 3km of waterways from the sand, the water was carried all the way from the Persian Gulf to fill them. Top design consultancies from all over the world helped to leverage virtually every innovation in foundational technology and shield tunneling known today, for construction works. This mega-engineering marvel is adorned with several supertall structures that embrace a wide range of architectural influences.
Connected to the greater Dubai with a metro line and bus services, the area has become a favorite spot for both the locals as well as visitors. Despite many commercial centers and private residencies, the Marina is very walkable. There are over 8km of pedestrian promenades, dotted with cozy cafes, bars and restaurants that make for a pleasant leisurely stroll. On a hot day though, some might prefer a more refreshing commute by water and enjoy the spectacular views from the comfort of a boat.
I arrived in Singapore in what seems like ages ago, imagining myself to be an adventurer exploring far lands of the east. The chatter of strange languages, intense smells of food markets and bright lights from towering skyscrapers were all incredibly exotic for a teenager from a quaint part of old Europe. Fast-forward to several years later, among family and close friends in Singapore, there is no place like home than this tiny red dot.
Tracing back, my first encounter with Singapore was a short break I took to escape from freezing winter winds. When my holiday in Singapore ended, I never really left. Enchanted by the Lion City, I wanted to come back and managed to secure a transfer to Singapore with my employer shortly after.
A WELCOMING HOME FOR BUSINESSES Singapore works hard on attracting high-quality enterprises, and many have decided to set up their regional headquarters, data centres and engineering hubs here. The presence of these multinational companies coupled with a bustling local startup scene, which continues to get more innovative by the year, provide a firm foundation for a vibrant tech industry. One of the key reasons why Singapore is a magnet for startups despite its small size is its incredible diversity. The multicultural society gives the market a depth that many larger cities simply don’t have. Win Singapore, and you would have created a base and built expertise required to expand across the entire region – or even globally.
AN INCLUSIVE HOME FOR TECH PROFESSIONALS Prominent global companies, disruptive startups and rich cultural diversity have put Singapore in the same family of global hubs such as San Francisco, New York and London. For tech professionals like me, this presents a wealth of opportunities for career growth as well as exciting challenges to work on. But Singapore’s appeal to tech professionals from around the world is not all work. While career opportunities matter, it is the hard to quantify the charm that wins hearts and minds of many professionals in data, artificial intelligence and health over other tech hubs. Despite being at the centre of the most complex continent in the world, the city is able to welcome and absorb every culture. My personal experience is one good example. Even though I came from a very different part of the world, I have found great friends, wise mentors and my life partner among the locals. My personal ties have made this city more than just a place to stay for me.
Truly, what can be better than being able to live, work and play in a place where some of the most exciting actions are unfolding?
The high gothic Albert memorial was built to commemorate the British prince by his wife, queen Victoria. The monument is designed with incredible detail and is one of the favorite places in London for tourists and as well as locals. The marble figures at its four corners represent Europe, Asia, Africa and America. While the structure is now covered in gold leaf, it remained covered in black paint for almost 80 years. Some believe, the sculpture was blackened on purpose to hide it from bombardments during world wars.
Right behind the memorial stands the Royal Albert Hall. For many years, it has remained an iconic venue where some of the most notable cultural events took place. Music concerts, award ceremonies, exhibitions and sport events never fail to attract large crowds. The architectural style of the building was inspired by Roman amphitheatres, and its enormous dome had to be built in facilities 200km outside of London and then transported to the city. Its size not only ensures that the hall can accommodate over 5000 people but also gives it a unique sounds that musicians love so much. Eric Clapton for instance, performed here over 200 times and said it now almost feels like playing in his backyard.
People were drawn to Mars since ancient times. The red dot stood out among the pale stars in the dark sky and evoked images of fiery deities, vengeful gods and passionate heroes.
Since we’ve discovered that Mars was our neighbouring planet, we’ve never stopped wondering if there was life there or if we, perhaps, one day could make it our second home in the Solar System.
Mars became an important part of the popular culture, filling the imagination of songwriters, novelists and movie makers. “Is there life on Mars?” asks David Bowie. “Most definitely yes, and we are getting it terraformed”, answer the citizen of MCR in The Expanse.
In fact, some people not only dream about the red planed but take practical steps to making it their backyard. One of the most iconic companies of our times, SpaceX, is built around the mission of eventually colonizing Mars. Its founder, Elon Musk, is planning to retire there. Knowing Elon, we doubt the “retire” part but not the “colonize” one.
From the ancient myths to space exploration, Mars has been at the center of human aspirations. After so many years, our story with the closest neighbor in space is just starting to get written. I can’t wait to step on the Martian dust and see its reddish glow with my own eyes.
The post originally appreared on 2footsteps.world, part of The Koshelyev Company
Technology and learning go hand in hand throughout history. Better tools enable individuals to challenge large enterprises and level the playing field for small nations; on the other, quality education provides the backbone for technological innovations and empowers the harnessing of possibilities that technology brings. My recent reunion with two old friends, whom I haven’t seen in ages, may very well lend some answers to this question.
My friends and I had studied together. After graduation, we moved to different corners of the planet but kept in touch. The recent career moves these two gentlemen made, say a lot about the promises and perils of automation at work.
Different Jobs, Same Work One of my friends recently left his job at an established company where he led a small team to join a tech startup where he works alone. To my surprise, he mentioned that the nature of his work hasn’t changed much. He explained that the same tasks he used to ask his subordinates to help with are now handled by a suite of tools that his more technologically enabled startup has developed.
My other friend has just opened a small retail business that sells quality culinary supplies. Unlike his parents who employed several people, my friend does his business alone. I asked him how he manages to juggle the operations, to which he replied – his bookkeeping app keeps his books for him, his email and customer relationship management (CRM) tool push sales, and all marketing activities are supported by user-friendly digital platforms. According to him, his small operation generates more revenue than his parents could ever imagine.
Education > Automation In both examples, emerging technologies have enabled them to do more and better work faster. However, even as automation enables them to express their ideas in new ways, education appears to be the common factor that drives future success.
In fact, my first friend told me that he would gladly hire and train his former team when his company grows bigger. Similarly, my other friend doesn’t think he will work alone forever. As the business grows, he envisions that he will require people with deep domain expertise in technology, sales, and marketing. My entrepreneurial friends are optimistic about the future of work. And it is apparent that they are basing their positive outlook on training programmes they are building, in anticipation of their business growth.
Education First and Last, but Not Least Actually, these same circumstances are also playing out at a macro level. Education has been one of the driving forces which establishes Singapore as a hub for entrepreneurship and deep tech disciplines such as artificial intelligence, smart urban infrastructure and healthtech.
Building on the momentum, Singapore has recently enlisted SCS’ help – with the launch of the Digital Proficiency Programme (DigiPro) – to enhance its national effort of upskilling digital competencies. The programme, which features cybersecurity, data analytics, digital content creation and personal branding courses, will equip professionals with the skills to leverage digital tools to grow their careers.
And the conversation with my old friends has definitely put the interplay of technology and education in perspective. Their stories are not only inspiring, but also evidence new opportunities technology creates and the role of education in transforming technology into a powerful creative force.
The growth of affordable airlines and global businesses in recent years has made jet-setting lifestyle a thing of the now. Traveling with several digital devices is also commonplace. At the same time, situations on the road can sometimes get unpredictable, and it’s always worth adopting healthy paranoia to ensure that both the gadgets as well as the traveler can return home safe and sound.
For me, I make sure to observe a few simple rules every time I travel.
Use Discreet Bags Instead of choosing bags for aesthetic reasons, opt for a plain model to avoid unwanted attention. Also, make sure the material is sturdy enough to weather the journey and any attempts to pry it open. In my case, while my ultra-strong composite fabric carrier never wins any compliments from hipsters, it is not just water and cut proof, but also very functional. Similarly, I keep my mobile gadgets in old and beaten cases to make them look like they are way overdue for an upgrade, as new devices are highly targeted for their resale value.
Encrypt Your Devices and Avoid Open WiFi It is estimated that less than half of the phones, and even fewer laptops, are encrypted globally. But there is really no excuse for not doing it since most modern operating systems have intuitive one-click encryption options, which doesn’t take a tech geek to turn on. That said, it’s possible to get hacked even with a strong encryption. WiFi Pineapple is one such platform. Cheap, easy to set up and allow anyone to execute a “man in the middle” attack to collect information passing through, WiFi Pineapple is like a regular hotspot that has been modified to execute network attacks. Therefore, get a local sim card the next time you travel. Most countries today have decent 3G or 4G networks.
Exercise Caution when Making Card Payments The “man in the middle” attacks are also prevalent in credit card transactions. Although wireless payments are very convenient, they also allow thieves to perform undetected Near-field communication (NFC) micro-charges. It is also not uncommon for hackers to attach fake microchips on top of real ones to fake terminal transactions.
Actually, attacks are not always too technically sophisticated. I recall a time when I made a payment to a shop attendant in one of the less secured airports. He claimed that the closest terminal was in another store and disappeared with my card for a good 10 minutes. I only realised much later that he had charged extra expenses to my account. Luckily, the loss was not too high and could be written down as a “life experience lesson”.
Long story short – use cash or services like Uber, which can automatically charge to your preferred payment method.
Watch out when Entering Passwords Surprisingly, even the most adept tech professional may be susceptible to simple tricks such as video recordings of one typing passwords on phones and laptops. All it takes is a password to a service such as email, and a door will be created for hackers to access other resources. Hence, if you have to work on the go, find a private corner and always use protective screens. Password aggregators can also make logins more convenient and secure.
Feel free to try out some of these rules the next time you hit the road. Combine them with some common sense, and your journey might become safer as well as more pleasant and productive.
This conversation took place between the Singapore Computer Society and me in the winter of 2017. I’ve been volunteering with SCS for some time and love what this organization does to promote technological literacy and empower people with tech. It was very fun to talk about AI and how it is transforming many industries, including the most creative ones, such as marketing.
Earliest Tech Experience: Playing games on a Pentium 386 (bought in Singapore, by the way) Role Model: His father Always Enjoy: A good book (mostly in audio these days); a good conversation; first person shooter, strategy and role playing games Currently Reading: The Light of Other Days by Stephen Baxter Current Pet Topic: AI in Marketing and Creative Industries
Q: Question VK: Vladyslav Koshelyev
THOUGHTS ON AI Q: What has inspired your interest in AI? VK: As a teenager, I was an avid reader of Ray Kurzweil’s books and was deeply intrigued by his theories about the future of humankind and technology. In the book, “The Age of Intelligent Machines”, Kurzweil predicts how the intellectual capacity of AI would become comparable and eventually surpass that of humans. His belief that AI will one day enjoy a collaborative and symbiotic relationship with humans was awe-inspiring. That was when my interest in AI was first seeded. At the time, Kurzweil’s books seemed to be science fiction, however today we see that most of his predictions has come true. My smartphone today is more powerful than a mainframe computer in my childhood days. And it’s just a start.
Q: Can you share some AI developments that you are excited about? VK: Sure. I am very excited about AI starting to help creative professionals. In a recent experiment, the advertising agency McCann Japan used its AI software to analyse a brief and successfully create a new campaign. While the project didn’t win any award, we should remember that digital technologies develop exponentially and will progress ever faster. More recently, a pop artist, Taryn Southern released a human/AI collaborative album. While the AI did the music composition, Taryn took care of the vocal melodies and lyrics. The result has all the ingredients of a good pop song – a catchy tune, a smooth progression, etc.
Both developments are very different. Yet, they not only hint at the potential of AI to do amazing work in time to come, but also showcase that it is indeed possible for AI and humans to work together hand in hand, side by side.
Q: So are you looking forward to working alongside AI? VK: I very much do. Although I should note, this doesn’t mean my work will become easier. It’s actually the opposite. When I first started working in the digital media industry, my job was much simpler. Every week, as part of my routine, I had to do the same three/four tasks. They were technically complex and time consuming, but repetitive. Once I figured them out, I was all set.
Today, there is an algorithm that takes care of these tasks. The good news is I don’t have to do them anymore. The not so good news is that my work has become more complex. Instead of doing these same tasks week after week, now my time is spent working with partners to understand their organisations, strategising how I can help them do better and finding solutions that provide greater value.
Work has become less predictable, more challenging – but also more interesting. I am not afraid of losing my job to an AI but I know for sure that I will have to work harder and learn faster than ever to adapt.
Q: Since AI can bring so much good, why do you think people are apprehensive about its rise? VK: It is good to be apprehensive. Technology is always a double-edged sword. When used well, it can help us to do more and better. However, if used for the wrong intent, it can be dangerous. It is therefore important that we are aware of both good and bad possibilities – so that we can take proactive actions to prevent negative impact even as we enjoy the benefits AI brings.
It is understandable that people are concerned that AI may displace them. Although my own experience is that AI did change the focus of my work, but it did not replace me. In fact, it has given me the opportunity to dedicate my energy to more value-added work and hone my ability in aspects that truly matter. Similarly, in the example I shared earlier about Taryn Southern and her new album – she could focus on the composition and stories her songs tell while letting AI handle the more minute details.
Q: What is an area that you hope to see more AI developments in? VK: I look forward to the use of AI in healthcare. Traditionally, we rely a lot on the expertise of individual doctors. This expertise is usually lost when the doctor leaves. By integrating AI with healthcare systems, this problem will be mitigated because the system can objectively analyse a huge library of different cases and identify best practices; it can possibly even suggest preventive measures.
ABOUT THE MAN Q: What do you love about working in the technology industry? VK: History is defined by technology, influencing the rise and fall of great states. They rose because they developed advanced technology, and they fell because they were unable to keep up. As part of the industry, you get to be involved in the process and change the way people live, in the present, and for generations to come.
Q: What drew you to Singapore? VK: I love the culture, architecture, landscapes and the climate among many other things. The weather makes me forsake my computer for the great outdoors, be it for a get-together with friends or a walk. The eclectic mix of towering skyscrapers and colourful shophouses combines with the many smart city technologies and ethnically rich population to make for a very vibrant place to live, work and play in.
Simple and Complex
Advertising became so prevalent that we often barely give it any thought at all. Everyone knows what advertising is – an endless stream of images, words and sounds on our screens, walls, road signs and, when it’s really catchy, in our heads. The essence of advertising is simple – it is about attracting people’s attention to products, services, ideas and concepts. It is at the same time a very complex industry that absorbs the latest advances in media, computing and psychology. Such nascent technologies as artificial intelligence and virtual reality were almost immediately adopted by marketers, way ahead of most other industries. Because of such rapid innovation, the infrastructure behind a simple ad is often so elaborate that only few professionals really understand it.
Advertising is perhaps one of the oldest professions that have ever existed. We can trace its beginnings to the ancient markets of Babylon, Greece and Rome where merchants from every corner of the Earth engaged in the activity that makes the world move – commerce. People always had to advertise – to barter meat for milk with neighbours, to sell new exotic spices from overseas or to rally people to settle in new continents.
First traces of advertising were found in the ruins of ancient Babylonia. These were simple road signs promoting the nearest tavern or market. The invention of the printing press in the 1440s revolutionized publishing. The print not only enabled a much broader distribution of books, but it also became a platform for new types of media such as newspapers. Because printing wasn’t cheap, publishers sold some of the pages to sponsors. Suddenly advertising could reach homes of every newspaper and magazine reader.
First newspaper ads were printed in France and quickly spread to England, the United States and then the whole world. As money poured in, marketing became a big business. First advertising agencies started as sales houses for newspaper ad space. With time, they expanded into copywriting, design and planning services, becoming the media giants of today.
A Digital Frontier
Personal computers disrupted the media landscape as fundamentally as the printing press. Mobile connectivity combined with rapid adoption of cheap smartphones enabled anyone to access virtually any information on the Internet. Marketers who have always been on the cutting edge of technology quickly realized that they could now reach their consumers anywhere in the world.
First digital banner ads on the world wide web appeared in 1994. While visually basic, their novelty attracted users who eagerly clicked through. Soon web pages were filled with an endless stream of colorful images. Ironically, the format that made digital advertising mainstream were simple text lines in search engines. Lacking any graphics but featuring the exact products people searched for, these ads could drive sales with much higher efficiency. During the early of the web nothing else could beat their simplicity and cost.
Soon enough, however, increasing processing power and higher cellular bandwidth enabled more sophisticated graphics. Rather than annoy people with endless popups, ads started to blend with native content and target people who showed specific interests and affinities.
Smartphones present the most abundant advertising platform that has ever existed. The latest generation of mobile devices has the processing and productivity capacity comparable with desktop PCs. Today, such pocket supercomputer has enough computational capacity to support immersive cinematic experiences. Whether as simple as a line of text or as complex as interactive as a game, the mobile media can tell a story and take people on a journey wherever they are. As of today, mobile digital advertising is the field where the most exciting innovations in marketing happen.
Media Is The Message
Most of us think of advertising as a way to sell us more stuff. This, however, is just a small part of the picture. As a form of media, it has always played a significant role in shaping opinions and promoting ideas. From pharaohs of ancient Egypt to today’s presidents of the United States, politicians use advertising to extend their power and influence. In fact, many attribute Barack Obama’s as well as Donald Trump’s presidency victories in 2008 and 2016 to their skillful use of social media and the Internet.
Below: The Egyptian pharaoh and Barack Obama both use advertising to promote their leadership
Art can stir emotions and influence hearts and minds through great masterpieces. Any marketer knows that the “Creative” is the most critical part of the media. While over the years power has shifted between religious institutions, royalty, bankers and corporations, people in power have always supported artists and shaped their work. Just like the Church paid for Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, today banks and corporations sponsor art exhibitions. This delicate balance between the artist’s creative expression and the needs of their patrons has culminated in Advertising – the greatest art form of our century.
We can argue that the modern advertising is so strongly associated with consumerism for the sole reason that the modern society itself is driven by it. Marketers always follow people’s attention, not the other way around. In a way, advertising is no different from a hammer; it is but a tool that works equally well for selling junk food, helping someone get elected as a president as well as making people aware of important causes such as education, healthcare and environment. People should use advertising as a mirror of what their societies pay attention to while marketers should never forget what powerful tools they work with and apply them mindfully.
I started my career in digital marketing as a junior campaign manager. My job mainly involved analysing online advertisement placement reports, and then adjusting the system to deliver the best outcome. Even though work was tough and sometimes monotonous, I loved every minute and lived my dream of an Internet guru.
TECHNOLOGY AS A COMPETITOR Yet in just a few years my first job has all but disappeared. Or rather, in technical terms, it has been automated. Today, the new generation of marketing platforms use clever algorithms to doa day’s worth of my work in a millisecond and, I have to admit, with a much higher quality.
Concerns over automation are timely. In the past, many were sceptical of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which didn’t seem to deliver on its many promises. Yet, we often overestimate what technology can do over a short period of time and underestimate its impact in the long run. The new generation of AI, modelled after how human brain learns, is now becoming more capable of performing creative tasks that previously only highly trained professionals could do – writers, designers and even programmers. I can certainly feel how competition with machines is heating up in the marketing and advertising field. AI has completely taken over my fairly recent job. And I should be totally terrified, if… I actually had time to worry.
TECHNOLOGY AS A PACER Despite automation, I seem to have more work now than ever before. Hours got longer, plans more ambitious, conversations more passionate. It could be that, so far, I just managed to outrun the AI. Since my first job, I have used every opportunity to build my knowledge of commerce, technology and people, and thus developed a broader and deeper understanding of my craft. Correspondingly, I also took on projects which are more complex, creative and rewarding. I am even grateful that automation took over my routine tasks and gave me time to focus on more meaningful work.
TECHNOLOGY AS A PARTNER Many people are struggling to find out how they can stay relevant as AI gets better. I believe the answer could simply be to rediscover our humanity and become even more “human” – to feel, to empathise, to imagine, to excite and to connect. These things come naturally to us, but at the same time, they are most difficult to reproduce with technology. And our instinct to collaborate may very well be the key that will ultimately lead us to victory – working with instead of competing against AI. Together, with technology on our side, we can run faster than ever before.
First appeared in The IT Society magazine and Infopier: https://www.infopier.sg/blog/-/blogs/are-you-ready-to-race-against-technology-
As mobile supercomputers, intelligent cities, global networks and other wonders of our age become part of the daily routine and office furniture, it is easy to forget how things were once upon a time and the almost magical nature of this everyday tech that we have come to take for granted.
Well, this might very well be for the better – since it is only when these “gadgets” become mundane that we’ll aim for even more incredible breakthroughs. For someone who has lived through these exciting times, every time I pause and look around, I cannot help but marvel at how my yesteryear fantasies have become everyday realities today.
The Impossible is Already Here
As a kid, I liked to read science fiction. I could spend hours sitting under a tree, immersed in the distant worlds of the far future where people carried in their hands tiny but powerful supercomputers that could instantly deliver any information. They would go about their business on fast trains that navigated by themselves without drivers, and in cities with buildings as high as the sky. They could talk to anyone in the world through their video screens and get live news from any country and in any language. I thought: “If I could just go to such a place – I’d be the happiest kid in the world.”
When I read science fiction as a kid, I imagined buildings of the future to look like this.
Now I have grown up. I was scrolling through the live newsfeed from Asia, USA, and Europe with my smartphone in hand when I sipped my cup of coffee this morning. I hopped on the fully automated Downtown MRT Line train to ride to the Singapore downtown where the sight of towering skyscrapers never ceases to take my breath away. Because my phone is always connected to the Internet, along the way, I researched on the latest marketing trends for my client meeting. After work, I had two video chats – one with my mom in Europe, and another with a good friend in South America – as if we were in the same space and time zone.
The Power is in Your Hands
As it stands, the cheapest modern smartphone today is more powerful than the famous Deep Blue, the gigantic supercomputer that won a chess game against the world champion for the first time – big story during my childhood. It is as capable of controlling a spacecraft as the entire room of transistors that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. But if you’d rather stay in your couch, the phone can generate virtual reality experiences that would make the Neuromancer graphics pale in comparison.
An OEM supercomputer, $50 per piece
That is barely the full story of what technology can do too. These days, we can have video calls virtually anytime, anywhere and on any screen. The 4G wireless connection enables video streaming with remarkable quality on our sleek tablets as compared to clunky tethered devices protagonists of futuristic movies from the 90s used. Thanks to technology, people today can even build careers and manage organisations using nothing more than a few online collaboration tools. It is foreseeable that as fast connectivity continues to spread, meeting, working and playing with people even as we move around the globe will become even more seamless.
Tech is in Play Everyday, Everywhere
It may not be immediately apparent, but advanced cities such as Singapore have already implemented fully automated rail systems capable of controlling and coordinating vast train fleets over many kilometers. Not only does the system continually optimise schedule times, braking points, accelerating speeds and other parameters, the trains are also connected to an even wider transport network of thousands of vehicles through sensors that add real-time data and make the city smarter with every passing minute.
Everyone is a Change Agent
Truth is, the modern Metropolis is a living and breathing information system, buzzing with intelligence, always connected, always learning and improving. And each of us contributes to enriching the data – simply by going about our everyday life. I am humbled by the opportunity to build a reality that people of the past couldn’t even dream of.
These days, I no longer need to read science fiction to fuel my imagination – I just grab the latest issue of a science magazine, such as the one you are holding now. And I become again that little kid, staring in awe at the world right in front of my eyes.
First appeared in The IT Society magazine and Infopier: https://www.infopier.sg/blog/-/blogs/how-everyday-tech-has-changed-without-you-realising