Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain tend to get a lot of buzz, and sometimes the noise can obscure their potential. In this Q&A, Faisal Siddiqi, chief technologist, Innovation and Ecosystems, Insurance, at DXC Technology, offers his unique perspective — grounded in reality — on top-of-mind technologies.
Q: What are some of the most promising emerging technologies and their impact?
A: AI, internet of things (IoT) and blockchain continue to be placed in the emerging technology category, but the focus should be on how they are applied. There’s a unifying theme among them: They are all enablers that must have tangible applications that improve our lives.
We shouldn’t accept poor implementations of technology that expect people to adapt to them. Emerging technologies must serve what users need in context. They must become pragmatic tools that adapt to the changing ways in which we work and play.
Q: What will that human-centered evolution look like?
A: Take AI. Clever AI chatbots we can talk to may rapidly get to a point where they are little more than a curiosity.
Let’s consider more substantially what AI can do for us. Today, we still expect humans to do a lot of repetitive and therefore unnecessary data entry. We’re seeing that AI applications can observe and learn to do such repetitive work on our behalf. This frees us up to do more high-value creative work. For example, as a provider of services, providing a better customer experience substantially differentiates you from less forward-looking companies.
Or IoT. Sensor-equipped devices can become your assistant, acting as your eyes and ears. A sensor-equipped smart shipping container can inform participants in a complex supply chain about its location, condition and well-being.
Q: What will be a personalized experience with blockchain?
A: Self-sovereign or self-owned identity is very well-suited for distributed technologies like blockchain. Today, my ability to prove that I really am who I say I am usually comes from a third-party — a corporation or a governmental organization. I may present a driver’s license and a health insurance card to a medical provider to prove two things — who I am and that I can pay my bill. But all the information that’s on my driver’s license isn’t necessary to establish medical services. And the same means I use for identity verification can easily be misappropriated for identity theft.
We’re often unnecessarily oversharing our personal information, and this is where blockchain can help. Blockchain-enabled self-sovereign identity technologies serve as alternatives to traditional identity cards. Zero knowledge proofs (ZKP) that extend self-sovereign identity let you make provably verifiable assertions to an entity, without that entity learning anything else about you. Instead of carrying physical proofs of identity or insurance, I can use a blockchain-based alternative to make the same proof accessible in a much more secure way.
I can also make very fine-grained assertions. My driver’s license might have six distinct pieces of information, and I can separate them into six independent assertions, so I only provide the verifiable information as needed. For example, my dentist’s office can receive reliable information on my identity, insurance provider and coverage, without including information that isn’t relevant for the purpose, like my height or when my driver’s license expires.
Q: How should we judge the success of an emerging technology?
A: What’s most exciting to me is when emerging technology stops becoming exciting. When a really cool technology becomes a commodity, it means that it has matured and that we’ve succeeded. Today, for instance, we don’t think twice about smartphones or fitness trackers. They have receded into the background of our lives. They became a standard part of the application set.
That goes back to the unifying principle behind emerging technologies. The ultimate goal is to improve the practical human experience of using the technology in our everyday lives.