It is a very special honour and privilege for me to deliver the 112th Convocation Address of the Savitribai Phule Pune University. This is a university, which had a glorious past and will have even a more glorious future, a university that I consider as `my’ university, so intimately have I been associated with it for the past four decades.
I want to congratulate all the proud graduands of the day, and especially their equally proud teachers and parents. And my dear parents, education is the best life time gift that you could have given to your children. After all, education is future.
As they say, all good things have to be repeated. So are convocation addresses, it seems! This is my second convocation address.
I remember delivering the 97th Convocation address of Pune University on 26 December, 2003.
The title of my address then was `From Brain Drain to Brain Gain: Beginning of a New Indian Journey’.
I remember ending my convocation address by saying:
“Finally, my friends, let me assure you that it is a great time to be an Indian. Even more, it is a great time to be in India. Enjoy being a part of the action in this land of great past and even greater future.”
I had also made some remarks about India@2025. I had said:
“Let me conclude by reminding you about the Goldman and Sachs predictions for 2050. It is predicted that India, along with China and USA, will be the three top economies of the world. Going further, I can confidently predict that if India plays its cards right, by 2025, it can become the number one knowledge production center of the world.”
Has this happened? Yes indeed, India is well on its way to achieve this.
India as a global knowledge production hub
As per the last data at hand, there are 1,165 R&D centers in India established by 928 multinational companies (MNCs) with a total workforce of 323,000 scientists and engineers.
In June 2016, media carried the news ‘Bengaluru fifth most preferred destination by MNCs for technology and innovation Centre.’ This was based on a study by Capgemini, which reported that Bengaluru has now displaced Tokyo from the fifth spot on the list of most preferred destinations for innovation centres for global multinational companies.
Another headline read: ‘India top destination for R&D investments; beats US, China’. A study conducted by US-based HfS Research reported that India leads with 30% of the new global R&D centre announcements. As per this study, from April to December 2015, out of the 190 new R&D centre announcements, 57 of them chose India as a destination.
So the dream of India becoming a global R&D platform, which was articulated by me almost 15 years ago is indeed coming true!
What is behind this phenomenon though? Let me explain.
Our ex-Prime Minister Atal Bhai Vajpayee used to say, “India’s future in in IT and IT as in Information Technology”.
I also used to say, yes, India’s future is in IT. But not IT as in Information Technology, but IT as in ‘Indian Talent’, that means my young friends, all of you!
Indian talent is going to be India’s competitive advantage. But this Indian talent has to be built on the ever changing paradigm shifts in the areas of education, innovation and industry. My convocation address, therefore, is all about preparing for this future.
Education in our future
First and foremost, my friends, education itself is undergoing shifts from education 1.0 to education 2.0 to education 3.0.
What was education 1.0? It comprised Gurukuls of India, academies of Greece, etc.
Gurukuls meant one to one transfer of knowledge, between Guru and Shishya.
There was knowledge held by the Gurus and there was restricted access to this closely held knowledge for a privileged few from the society.
Then came education 2.0.
It had to do with broadcast and an assembly line model. There was mass enrolment. We are all products of this model.
There was ‘one to many’ information dissemination. Knowledge was limited to books that were stored in the library.
Now comes education 3.0 with dramatic paradigm shifts. Why are these shifts?
First, thanks to digital disruption, it will not be knowledge for privileged few as in education 1.0, it will not be knowledge in books stocked in libraries as in education 2.0, but it will be knowledge for all in the hands of all. Why? Because humanity’s accumulated knowledge will now be freely available on the internet on your mobile. It will be indexed and queryable.
Second, `brain as storage’ to `brain as an intelligent processor’ will become the norm. Collecting the dots will be less important than connecting the dots.
Third, Information memorisation and brute force recall will be made irrelevant.
Fourth, rich formatted content, flipped classrooms, and research material from the best faculty on a subject will be available for free.
Fifth, on demand tutoring, P2P learning, personalised and generative course structure and sequencing to meet the individual needs will be the order of the day.
There is a consensus on the top skills that will be needed in future. First, dealing with complexity. Second, critical thinking. Third, creativity. Fourth, emotional intelligence. Fifth, cognitive flexibility. And finally there will have be the ability of co-working, co-creation, and that too with both men and machine together, as will become evident later.
Industry in our future
And there is a new challenge for education 3.0 vis a vis the emergence of Industry 4.0.
Industry 1.0, the first industrial revolution, was mechanization of production using steam.
Industry 2.0, the second industrial revolution, was mass production using electricity.
Industry3.0, the third industrial revolution used ‘simple’ digitization.
‘Complex’ digitization gave birth to the terminology Industry 4.0. Here cyber-physical systems are bringing in dramatic shifts. Internet of things, advanced automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and big data analytics are going to be the major drivers.
Jobs in our future
Dramatic paradigm shifts will define the future of jobs.
In fact there is a saying that data is new oil. Information is new currency. And artificial intelligence is new electricity.
To the last point, it is said that industrial revolution freed humanity from much repetitive physical drudgery. Artificial intelligence will free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery.
You hear all the time about AI, machine learning, deep learning. Things are indeed dramatically changing. Let me give you an example.
Go, an ancient board game, has been always viewed as one of the greatest challenges for artificial intelligence (AI).
In late March 2016, AlphaGo, a machine, took on and defeated legendary Go player, Lee Sedol, who has won 18 world titles.
And my friends, this happened ten years before it was predicted to happen!
What is really remarkable is that AlphaGo played many unprecedented and creative moves.
According to experts, AlphaGo’s move 37 in Game 2 had a one in 10,000 chance being played by a human!
In summary machines will increasingly take away jobs that require both brain and brawn.
Technology led job creation and destruction
There is an interesting cycle in technology led destruction and creation of jobs. For instance, automation destroys jobs but it increases productivity. This leads to economic growt, which leads to creation of new jobs.
New technology also creates new jobs. Technology obsoletes itself at an increasingly accelerated pace. Therefore, we need more people, who will create new technology. Further, people are required to maintain any new emerging technology, be it internet of things or 3-D printing. New technology requires new labour forms. There will always be a great demand for experts to design, test, implement systems.
The advances in natural language processing have led to the creation of intelligent interactive voice response systems. These are replacing traditional call centers and manual agents. Google Translate is displacing translators and investment advice algorithms are displacing investment advisors.
Computers are increasingly performing tasks that are typically considered “human”— such as complex analyses, subtle judgments, and creative problem solving. We will be able to interact with a machine in the way that one would with a co-worker
How should India prepare itself?
The Martin School Report in 2016 titled “Technology At Work v2.0” sounds some alarm bells. It concludes that 69 percent of jobs in India and 77 percent in China are at “high risk” of automation in comparison 47 percent figure for the U.S. and 57 percent across the OECD.
The recent Report titled ‘Future of Jobs in India: a 2022 Perspective’ by NASSCOM, FICCI & EY is somewhat less alarming, but still worrying.
Our new education systems will have to recognise the new phenomenon of technology led job destruction as well as job creation. Let’s take some examples as illustration.
In the banking, financial services and insurance sector, the threatened jobs will be data entry operator, teller, cashier, underwriter & data verification personnel. The new job roles will be cyber security specialist, credit analyst, robot programmer, block chain architect and process modular expert.
In the retail sector, the jobs that will be threatened will be cashier, inventory assistants, sales representatives and stock boy. The new job roles in this sector will be retail data analyst, digital imaging leader, digital marketing specialist & customer experience leader.
New technology will create new jobs. 55 new job roles are going to be on the anvil in exponential technologies such as virtual reality, internet of things, big data analytics, 3-D printing, cloud computing, social and mobile, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation. The challenge for India will to create human resource that will have these skills and competencies.
In summary, two points stand out. First, India will have to move from ‘right to education’ to ‘right education’ as also `right way of education’ in view of the great disruption that exponential technology is going create.
Second, machines will influence both blue collar and white colour jobs. India cannot afford to have technology led jobless growth. India will have to work on innovative strategies to deal with this massive challenge.
And my young friends, you will enter this exciting new word that is called a VUCA word. Here VUCA means volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
But don’t worry. Here are ten Mashelkar mantras that might be useful for you. At least they have been for me in my 75 years of journey.
And here they are
1. Your aspirations are your possibilities, so keep them always high.
2. Like instant coffee, there is no instant success. Work hard and success will follow.
3. But work hard in silence. Let success make the noise.
4. Persistence pays. It is always too soon to quit.
5. Don’t wait for opportunities to knock on your door, create opportunities, build your own doors.
6. You can do anything but not everything. So choose and focus.
7. Be curious forever. Creativity follows curiosity. New creation follows creativity.
8. When someone tells you it can’t be done, take it more as a reflection of his limitation, not yours.
9. `I’ in every individual must stand for innovation, not for inhibition or imitation. It is better to fail in originality, than succeed in imitation.
10. There is a no limit to human imagination and achievement, excepting the limits you yourself put on your mind. So go limitless. Outperform yourself.
My friends, let me give you my choicest blessings as you set out of the portals of this great university to create new India of our dreams.
I wish you all an exciting journey up the limitless ladder of excellence and achievement.