Issue 20: Taking Stock

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. With a break for Eid Al Adha, we decided to highlight our favourite stories from the past year – Mary Ames, Director of Strategy


Taking Stock


It’s that time of year. We find ourselves in the depths of summer with some time to reflect on the occasion of Eid Al Adha. What better time to take stock of the ideas we have been wrestling with for the past year. Through Backstory and in Xische Reports, we’ve focused on the key challenges in technology and wellness. There are clear concerns but the fact is that the present moment is full of hope and excitement for the future.

Data regulation: From scandals embroiling the top technology companies to the incredible amount of data we produce daily, concerns about data regulation are defining issues for our time. We’ve chronicled the latest developments with an eye on the delicate intersection between regulations that protect consumers but don’t stifle innovation. Today’s debate will shape tomorrow's breakthrough.

Positive outlook: Given the endless challenges of data regulation, it can be easy to approach developments in technology with an overly critical eye. The reality is much the opposite. Never before have so many been able to live fuller and more fulfilling lives. Never before have small countries been able to embrace positions of such influence. Innovations in the technology space are making the world a better place and we believe this theme is pushed to the background far too often.


“There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination."

Denis Diderot, Enlightenment philosopher



A diversity of ideas: Over the past year, we’ve documented everything from how to embrace the serendipity of libraries to the latest smart city developments in artificial intelligence (AI). Below are some of our favourite stories to carry you through this holiday week. We’ll be back next week with our normal programming.

No more teachers, no more books? For years, Silicon Valley has been pushing into classrooms around the world. The promise is better learning, faster communication, and smarter students. But now there’s pushback in the United States and it’s starting a fresh conversation about the role of educational technology. The digital classroom is not a given. Educators need to find the right balance between emotional, intellectual, and technological education. We investigated the status of the classroom of the future.

Promise and peril of AI in the arts: Will AI change the way we create and engage with art? The short answer is yes. In the first of two pieces on the subject, we explored the effect AI will have on the very human endeavour of wrestling with ideas to create art. Ultimately, we concluded, AI’s relationship with art is positive insofar as it advances society’s artistic production.

Women in the 4IR: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s here and it’s transforming the future of work. The coming transformation of labour could improve the position of women in the workplace. If we start a conversation about the role of gender in 4IR today, we can lay the groundwork for a more equitable future tomorrow. Our Director of Strategy Mary Ames explored the issues at play. She argued that we must realise the invaluable perspectives women can bring to designing and regulating the future to explore the full potential of 4IR.

5G and the challenges of the present: We’ve all heard how 5G will benefit our daily lives, but we don’t hear as much about how it stands to exacerbate present challenges. Instead of gushing over the promise of faster speeds (which is brilliant), we argued that the focusshould be on how we’ll prepare for the radical changes 5G will facilitate. Easier said than done.


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