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May 4, 2016

At The Confluence Of Possibilities, Leading Technologies, Beautiful Minds

Posted by Ravi Kumar S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:28 AM

It was about zeroing the distance between what clients desire and the experience that our technology is poised to deliver. Between the promise of our expertise and expectations of clients. Between imagination, possibilities and ways and means to materialize them. Between us, across different walks of life, and the new digital reality.

Zero Distance was this year's theme of the annual Infosys thought leadership summit for clients, Infosys Confluence. With more than 1,500 Infosys clients, partners and employees in attendance, it was an exuberant take on our inevitable digital future. With all the technological eruption around us, said one speaker at the event, the co-founder and chief creative officer of Applied Minds LLC, Bran Ferren, it might be difficult to wrap your head around the fact we're all still at the very beginning of an exciting technological journey. Bring it on then!

Let your guard down

As you might expect, at the confluence of some of the world's top minds, there were many enriching viewpoints and perspectives. However, the underlying theme of all the speakers' views was to let your guard down and be more receptive to the many different kinds of technologies coming our way. Take Hugh Herr, Ph.D., who leads the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab and is creating bionic limbs that mimic natural limbs. When Professor Herr was in high school, a mountaineering accident caused his lower legs to be frostbitten, leading to amputation below the knees. From that moment on, Prof. Herr turned a tragedy into an opportunity. He developed a technology that combines human physiology with electromechanics.

Prof. Herr's philosophy was that from the knees down, he was a blank slate, and technology could help him extend human capabilities. What fortitude! That's why at MIT, his team is working on no less than four areas in the field of bionics: brain, body, biometrics body parts, and regenerative body parts. Prof. Herr said that 50 years from now, we will be able to eliminate disabilities, and even go one step further. People, for whatever reason, will be able to sculpt their own bodies. Maybe they'll do so in order to augment their capacity to learn. Whatever the case, they'll be carving out entirely new identities for themselves.

And it's not just through bionics that humans will be carving out new identities for themselves. Confluence attendees were treated to a panel discussion on the future of education in which the president and co-founder of Coursera, Daphne Koller, said that with society evolving evermore rapidly, the entire idea of education must be re-thought. No longer will a young person go to college, graduate, and then be educated for life. Far from it. Education will be a lifelong undertaking. In the near future, we'll look at education as another path to consumer content that's presented in modules that make it intuitive and fun to continue learning. Part of that new paradigm will include a type of educational crowd-sourcing that's much different than today's professor-to-student transfer of information.

Artists as early warning systems of the future

True, there was plenty of talk about the importance of a robust computer science curriculum being a part of every school in the near future. But another member of the MIT Media Lab, Hiroshi Ishii, amazed the crowd with his emphasis on the arts and design in the highly digital world that we are coming to know. Artists, he said, are the "early warning systems" of the future because they have the courage to see what is and to dream what should be. Likewise, said Prof. Ishii, a designer is a person who deeply feels for what people need and even more deeply about what is to be brought into existence. He urged the attendees to consider the notion that technology on its own is only a tool to reach a greater vision of how the world will be.

Another panelist, Bran Ferren, who was once the president of R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering, also spoke optimistically about a future in which science and art will depend on each other. The notion that great ideas are rare is fiction, Ferren said. It's the execution of the great idea that is tough.

Opening the door to A.I.

The highlights of the event were speeches by luminaries such as the former American vice president, Al Gore, who discussed a favorite topic: the need to be vigilant about combatting the causes of climate change. The keynote address by the CEO of Infosys, Dr. Vishal Sikka, was another highlight. Those of you who are familiar with his management style know all about his Renew-New vision as well as his Zero Distance mandate that uses digital technology to form a seamless, digital path from factory floor to end-consumer. Dr. Sikka also spent some time announcing the new Infosys Mana platform, a knowledge-based Artificial Intelligence platform that brings together machine learning with the deep knowledge of an organization to drive automation and innovation. According to Dr. Sikka, Infosys Mana is about amplifying people.

Dr. Sikka's presentation on Infosys Mana couldn't demonstrate any better just how Infosys is leveraging open source data analytics and re-thinking the global enterprise. And his speech was in keeping with the unbridled optimism of the other experts at Confluence. This platform, for instance, leverages A.I. with its Infosys Information Platform to uncover opportunities in a company that can give it a roadmap for rapid innovation and growth. Then its Infosys Automatic Platform is where the rubber hits the road - it continuously learns in order to build a knowledge base that grows and adapts to changes in the company's underlying systems. The third leg of Infosys Mana is the Infosys Knowledge Platform in which all that data has finally been transformed unto useful knowledge that the company has captured and can use to disrupt its market.

Perhaps the panelist Bran Ferren best captured the mood of the event when he said to a rousing applause that you should interpret inventions not by the technology being used but the impact on people's lives. The digital world, as expressed by Confluence 2016, is full of energy, ideas, and great possibilities.

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