The Futurists

Shake off your tech fears

If you search for fix-its only after nasty surprises arrive, it may be too late. Singapore has leapt into the world of trend-spotting with more centres dedicated to finding ways to reduce its vulnerability to future shocks in today's highly unpredictable world. This is the fourth of a five-part series on experts in Singapore tackling the future today.

Steve Leonard would love to have a tiny biosensor implanted in his body to give him advance notice of health problems he may have to deal with. He’s all for embracing the technological advances coming our way at breakneck speed.

The executive deputy chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) says technology will ring in ever more radical changes in the next 10 to 20 years and people should not fear change.

In the healthcare sector, robots could assist nurses to check patients’ blood pressure and temperature readings. And those biosensors coursing through your body to check on your state of health could well become reality too.

Mr Leonard thinks these developments are “cool’’ and does not see technology knocking people off the job ladder. In fact, he sees great potential in freeing human beings to provide valuable services machines cannot do. For example, if machines can clean drains more efficiently than humans, let them. Then, train the people who would have been drain cleaners to work in the service sector which is always so short-staffed.

People, he says, need to better understand the benefits of technology so as to embrace it with confidence.“So we just have to communicate, communicate, communicate the positive side of technology,’’ he says.

The IDA has programmes tailored to address the concerns of the young and old. For the elderly, tech-savvy older people run classes for newbies to learn how to send SMSes or use Skype to link up with their children and grandchildren. It has also set up IDA Labs at its Pasir Panjang headquarters for young people to tinker around, innovate and take risks with their ideas.

“Nobody is going to grade you and if your ideas don’t work, it’s okay,” says Mr Leonard. “Try something different the next time. Changing the mindset is a big deal because believing is the only way to make you want to keep going back.’’

mnirmala@sph.com.sg

Read the full interview with Mr Steve Leonard in The Straits Times today.