Monday, June 5, 2017

The downsides of technological advancements

This week’s McKinsey & Company readings (“The four global forces breaking all the trends” and “Ten IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead”) highlight the scope and pace at which technological innovations are shaping businesses and our world. The authors highlight many of the benefits created by these advances, including better understanding of customer preferences, improved operations using sensors that allow for faster response times, and the ability to access remote customers and regions. However, as the authors boast about the speed at which technological developments are arising and thus, transforming our world, they fail to address the problems being created. Perhaps one can argue that the speedy innovations are resulting in hasty systems built on risk.
                In “Ten IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead,” the authors feature the internet of all things as an important development. The concept applies to physical objects that are connected to the internet via IP addresses.[1] Yet as the attack on the tech company Dyn last October shows, the association of objects to the internet-especially when a large number of IP addresses are housed in one location (Dyn’s servers)-means that a single attack can have massive implications, both by reaching a large number of individuals and preventing the appropriate functioning of the objects or sites. In Dyn’s case, their customers include Twitter, the Guardian, Netflix, Reddit, CNN, and these sites-as well as many others-were inaccessible for almost an entire day.1 Twenty years ago, having internet sites inaccessible for just one day would have been barely noticeable. But considering Bughin, Chui, and Manyika’s discussion of the importance of conducting business on social media or using the internet of all things as a way to deploy sensors in shipments, one can imagine the havoc this attack created. To further highlight how quickly information is spreading, one month after the attack, Oracle announced they are purchasing Dyn.[2]
                The authors of “Ten IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead” also focus on the benefits of technology to sectors such as education, noting massive online open courses, or MOOCs. Although MOOCs are often touted as making education accessible to all, data shows that there are many problems. The dropout rates for the courses tends to be very high, and usually the students that do well are ones who have already matriculated, are good students with high GPAs from previous institutions, and are taking courses to further their careers or fun-instead of individuals who lack access to education.[3] Interestingly, one of the top MOOCS, Udacity, is expanding to India and China because of the growing market, even though the company’s founder himself has acknowledged the company’s failings. [4] This raises the question whether companies are failing to employ appropriate strategy development in the face of the speed at which technology is advancing.



[1] Nicky Woolf, “DDoS attack that disrupted internet was largest of its kind in history, experts say,” The Guardian, Oct 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/26/ddos-attack-dyn-mirai-botnet.
[2] Curt Woodward, “Oracle buys Internet traffic specialist Dyn after hacking attack,” Boston Globe, Nov 2016, https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/11/21/oracle-buys-internet-traffic-specialist-dyn-after-hacking-attack/tEzJMe6dADgPerskimVKvL/story.html.
[3] Maria Konnikova, “Will MOOCS be flukes,” The New Yorker, Nov 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/moocs-failure-solutions.
[4] Kathleen Chaykowski, “Udacity Debuts In China, Launches In-Person Group Tutoring,” Forbes, Apr 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2016/04/21/udacity-debuts-in-china-launches-in-person-group-tutoring/#4d06751f2e59. 

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