Whenever a societal crisis occurs, technology seems to be everyone's favorite scapegoat. From tech's contribution to the obesity epidemic, AI predicting when we'll die and concerns regarding cybertheft of personal financial information, tech incurs plenty of finger-pointing. Technology's impact stretches across the subjective landscape of good and bad. Yet the former seems to be minimized far too often.

Truly, tech is addressing some of the world's problems and inconveniences in far-reaching ways. Consequently, it deserves a fair trial where it can defend itself against knee-jerk, blanket "tech will be the death of us all" reactions to admitted problems like cybercrime. After all, technology has already come up with solutions to some serious concerns facing people around the world.

Consider power outages. They're pervasive, and more than a little problematic for individuals, families, and businesses. In an effort to minimize their impact, as well as avoid them altogether, companies like VIA are leaning on artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to make power distribution more reliable.

VIA isn't alone in the quest to implement AI for the betterment of human life. As K.R. Sanjiv, chief technology officer for Wipro Limited, which has more than 160,000 employees working with clients across the globe, observes, many companies are starting to integrate AI into their repetitive responsibilities to boost productivity and innovation.

To those who are hesitant to bring AI into the fold, Sanjiv offers this assurance, "AI is not a form of consciousness. While it can learn on a basic level, AI doesn't rise to the level of human intelligence or pose a meaningful threat to human workers. Once you understand what you can't solve with AI, you'll see just what you can."

In other words, technologies like AI needn't be seen as hazards, but as powerful tools to improve a bevy of industries for the good of humankind. Want proof? Think about how technology is already benefiting stakeholders in several industries.

1. It's improving healthcare and treatment access.

A smart way to see which fields are being affected most by technology is to follow the money spent on digital and tech-related solutions. In 2017, venture capitalists invested nearly $6 billion in digitized healthcare companies, products, projects, and services. By 2021, Frost & Sullivan predicts AI will break the $6 billion barrier in the medical field, and none too soon. We're on target to experience a physician shortage of between 34,600 and 88,000 doctors by 2025. AI can help the healthcare industry lower costs and improve efficiency. Already, tech has made strides in the world of mental health, an indication that AI and other technologies could alter the face of all healthcare.

2. It's enhancing manufacturing safety and efficiency.

Augmented reality may be the stuff of gaming, but it's also useful in real life. Factory workers and machinists are exploring how wearable AR tech can help them more securely and quickly fix items by overlaying data onto objects.

Not only does this eliminate the guesswork involved in repairing expensive machinery and equipment, but it does so within seconds. So-called "smart" machines with integrated IoT, AI, and AR are popping up in plants in numerous industries --saving time and lives. Even drones have a place in the field, going to locations that might be perilous for humans and relaying information back to workers.

3. It's saving the planet.

From dumps full of e-waste to energy-sucking server farms, technology has long been blamed for harming the environment. Today, though, industries of all kinds are looking to tech to help alleviate our environmental woes.

Farmers facing the effects of climate change are utilizing a sensor-driven system to improve their crop yields despite significant temperature fluctuations. Google is using AI to slash its energy consumption. Even routine tech upgrades can make an impact. Peter Seligmann, who founded Conservation International in 1987, an organization which brought in $158 million in revenue last year, notes that companies can save up to $1 billion by replacing outdated technology and upgrading to energy-efficient light bulbs. He added, "Some of the world's biggest brands found that sustainable investments give them an edge in both product innovation and brand image." He says sustainable practices can not only help people and the planet, but also enable the companies using those practices to thrive.

True, it may take time for technology to shed its bad reputation. However, with each passing year, innovators are turning to tech to make strides against some of humanity's biggest problems. Eventually, we may all learn that technology isn't the dragon at the gate, but our greatest champion in the fight against the ailments of society.

Published on: Jun 20, 2018