Embrace change, Cisco exec tells GTEC audience

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Leaders in Canadian government and industry must do a better job of embracing new technology or risk being left behind in a global “revolution,” a senior high-tech executive told an Ottawa technology conference on Tuesday.

Carlos Dominguez is the senior vice president of Cisco.

By David Sali

“What we’re really dealing with is this yin-yang effect of technology,” said Carlos Dominguez, a senior vice-president of Cisco.

“On one hand, we have these incredible things that are occurring that are all technologically driven. The other side of this is major change and disruption and the issue with humanity in being able to adapt to it. We need to become much more adaptable.”

Mr. Dominguez was speaking as part of the Government Technology Exhibition Conference, an annual networking and learning event happening at the Ottawa Convention Centre this week.

Organizers expect more than 7,000 people to participate in the four-day event.

Noting that all the computing power in the lunar module and Johnson Space Center during the moon landing in 1969 would have fit into a Nintendo Game Boy by the year 2000, Mr. Dominguez said the pace of change in a world heading toward “the Internet of everything” can be dizzying.

“That’s exponential what we’ve done in computing power,” he told the crowd at the Ottawa Convention Centre. “It puts into context how quickly things are changing. By 2025, we’re going to have a chip that may be more powerful than all the brain power in the human race.”

But he said it’s essential for companies, governments and individuals to understand and embrace the Internet, social media and other technology that are making knowledge more accessible than ever.

“A single tweet can change everything, as we have seen,” he said, pointing to the Arab Spring as an example of how quickly people can unite around causes and effect change using social media.

“We can collaborate, we can come together with these nuclear-powered tools that never existed before. Knowledge is democratized. We’re just at the very beginning of harnessing the intelligence capability of mankind.”

Saying, “I wish everyone had an opportunity to live at this moment in time,” Mr. Dominguez told the audience technology can be a powerful force for good. But he said older, less tech-savvy workers and citizens must continue to keep up with the times to help ensure that happens.

“The company and the government may not force you to change, but you should change because it’s the right thing for you to remain relevant,” he urged the crowd.

“I’m asking you as a human being, as a citizen of our earth, to get engaged … you have to do it, because this (new) generation is growing up with these tools and it’s the first time that the wisdom, the old people like me, are not using that. We can’t guide and lead them (to) right from wrong. Together, if we are part of it, I think we can make a world where the best is really yet to come.”

Using the music industry as an example of how digital devices and the Internet completely transformed a business, Mr. Dominguez said corporations that fall behind will quickly become the video rental stores of tomorrow.

“We’re going through a revolution,” he said. “By 2020, more than 75 per cent of the S&P 500 are going to be companies we haven’t even heard of yet. No one is immune to this thing and we’ve got to really understand it.”

Mr. Dominguez said innovations such as 3D printers that are creating synthetic bones and organs will dramatically improve our quality of life and increase workers’ productivity. But he also warned advancements in biotechnology raise tough questions about how far we should go to “create” life.

“I think we’re going to be faced with a lot of ethical issues,” he said. “Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.”GTEC continues Wednesday before wrapping up on Thursday.

Organizations: Cisco, Ottawa Convention Centre, Johnson Space Center

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