December 16, 2021

Talk on the power of storytelling


The students found this session as an engaging confluence of anthropology, technology, and philosophy made possible by powerful storytelling. The talk featured Atul Jalan an entrepreneur, technologist, science storyteller and founder of Manthan and Algonomy, creating pioneering AI solutions for the world’s leading retailers and consumer connect businesses.

Atul is a sought-after speaker to understand how technology is transforming man and the institutions he has created, changing how we do things and reshaping humans. And this is the perspective on technology that he usually speaks and  writes about - not as an application of science but rather in a simple and philosophical way for managing and leading a better life. He is also the author of “Where Will Man Take Us?”. The speaker started his talk by calling himself  lucky to be alive despite problems such as new diseases and nuclear annihilation. The speaker asked the students not to lament about anything and enjoy the privileges one has. He dreams of living in different times like during  Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and also the French Revolution. He tells that technology has made this era more transformative. Based on evolution we stand a new phase. We have examples of artificial intelligence, Gen-tech, Quantum computing.

The extensive reach beyond muscle power and technology is merging with biology. He calls evolution artificially engineered and is based on many factors. He mentioned that the people of this age have the responsibility of rewriting, redefining, and reimagining. And the process should be ethically flawless. Very little change of 1.26 % happened in humans, years ago from the nearest cousin chimpanzee and now we are at a very different phase and this tells us how change can bring wonders. He tells that he's eagerly waiting for the magic of 2032 where the social problems will be at a lower level. Answering a question from a student, the speaker compared the genetic structure to a word processor, and concerning ethics in technology, he exclaimed knife is a knife.

India requires changes and has many challenges such as economic inequality and social unrest. He quoted the example of the internet and told how India has responded well in adopting the change. Change is good but it comes with disruption. There is innate inertia to change and the main agents that can influence this inertia are education and policymaking and unfortunately, both of these are habitual laggards.

The speaker spoke about his inspiration for writing a book. Stories are first followed by other things. Answering a question from a student, Mr. Jalan said that there is confusion between mythology and history and also how imagination is turned into reality. Earlier the change was seen through the lenses of religion and philosophy and for the first time change is seen through the lens of science and technology. He advised students not to follow a narrower approach and asked them to get lost even more and considers that as the best way to find out about oneself. Mr. Jalan refers to technology as a continuum where the stories are imagined and technology brings stories to life. All streams are necessary to contribute to the tech revolution and everything is tech-enabled where one can leverage or contribute. AI and technology can replace humans and it is not a bad thing. Our current lifestyle is just about 300 years old and has been ours since the industrial revolution. Technology is not a zero-sum game. It gives opportunity and creates value. Ford was making horse carriages earlier when their industry got disrupted they moved to motorized carriages and this later became the wheel of the economy. He mentioned Luddites, used as a metaphor for the one who opposes technology. Luddism started by opposing the use of machinery in the textile industry which later employed a million people. There will be  displacements and disruptions, society has to manage them. If one job is destroyed a million are created. Shortly, technology can bring drastic changes in the healthcare and education sector and there will be some of its repercussions 

also. Technology is building new dimensions and it will change everything. We have examples of web 3.0, NFT and Blockchain. Pandemic has proven it. Technology is always seen as in progression and confluence is the point where the magic  happens. Being philosophical he calls happiness is subjective and is not the mind's job. He requested the audience not to be prejudiced and to always stay vigilant. The guest speaker, Atul Jalan delivered the talk on Power of  Storytelling at RR campus on December 14, 2021.