04 August 2021

As part of its various scholarly activities, TRENDS Research and Advisory organized yesterday noon a symposium entitled “Global Technological Developments: Future Prospects and Aspects of Influence”, with the participation of Professor Mootaz El-Nozahy, computer specialist and Vice President of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia; Dr. Evan F. Danlin, Head of the Department of Science and Innovation at the Russian Academy of Sciences; and Dr. Obaid Saleh Al-Mukhttin, researcher and academic in information technology and cybercrime in the United Arab Emirates.

In her presentation of the symposium, TRENDS researcher Mona Al-Jabri said that it would deal with several themes: “technological developments in the future of global energy”, the “effects of technology on the global balance of power”, the “effects of technology in facing epidemics”, and the “future of technological development: where is the world heading?”

At the outset of the symposium, Dr. Evan F. Danlin, Head of the Department of Science and Innovation at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that while most parts of the globe have been immune to geopolitical factors, the technology revolution has begun to change the world. He underlined that digital technology is currently affecting public policy and has begun to affect the new world order. He pointed to the rise of cloud computing technology, artificial intelligence and flexible smart energies.

He said that technological developments are a new focus in the war between China and the US as that they have started to restructure the new world order. He stated that China has become a pioneer in the field of digital technology and is seeking to create its own space, noting that the Silk Road Initiative is serving to spread fifth-generation technologies, and that the European Union is also seeking to control cyberspace.

Dr. Evan said that all those factors and trends show the extent of competition for advanced technology, as well as real threats and challenges in the field of electric power.

He then addressed digital challenges, pointing out that there is unprecedented global expansion and competition in the use of digital technologies, with the market value of technology companies having reached 8 trillion dollars. Investments in digital research and development have reached hundreds of billions of dollars around the world, and some wars have been caused by cybersecurity.

The Head of the Department of Science and Innovation at the Russian Academy of Sciences spoke about digital sovereignty. He said that there is a conflict between China, the US and major countries over digital sovereignty, and that the superpowers seek to create new platforms to compete with each other. He mentioned that a new generation has started to be affected by global policies. New values ​​and cultures have also emerged that rely on the digital world, and there is a kind of new contract between governments and peoples because of those rapid technological developments.

Dr. Evan called for new efforts to face the digital challenges with which decision-makers have to deal, most notably the evolving the rules of the game, namely political and economic competition between major powers, in addition to the competition and the rapid change in relations between China, the US and major Western countries.

He indicated that the leaders of major countries are not ready to face future technological challenges, and that they must deal with the problem and abandon the old traditional systems, focusing instead on data security and political and economic issues. He mentioned that the advanced technologies that are changing the global energy balance are the fifth- and sixth-generation technologies, quantum computing, drone wars, computing centers, and artificial intelligence, which are important to the development of military technologies of major countries.

The Head of the Department of Science and Innovation at the Russian Academy of Sciences concluded his paper by emphasizing the great importance of these developments to human capital, especially given that there are many peoples that are not ready to deal with advanced technology. In addition, there are developing countries that are not economically ready to keep pace with technological breakthroughs.

For his part, Professor Mootaz El-Nozahy, computer specialist and Vice President of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, presented a working paper entitled “The Impact of Information Technology on the Future of Energy Consumption”, in which he stated that humanity is exposed to what could transform into an existential threat because of the established practices that contribute to climate change. He said that there are different perspectives on the impact of technology in the future, stressing the importance of international collaboration to tackle invisible and future problems. He also pointed out that nearly 150 years ago, the world depended on an economy that was based on fossil fuels. This created global economic prosperity. However, climate and environmental changes have become a threat to human existence through threats including increasing droughts and fires, as well as an unprecedented rise in temperatures.

He said that while the use of fossil fuels continues to grow in the world, there is also an increasing growth in renewable energy. Yet it would take a hundred years before renewable energy replaces traditional energy. He explained that the use of fossil energy has been clearly increasing over the last 20 years which endangers the globe, even as artificial intelligence and cyberspace have become the focus of international wars.

Professor Mootaz El-Nozahy then touched on the impact of information technology in this regard, noting estimates that data centers consume nearly 2 percent of the total electricity produced in the developed world. This consumption rate is expected to grow, reaching nearly 10 percent by the end of this decade, excluding consumption at endpoints or network infrastructure.

He said that this trend does not contribute positively to efforts aimed at a more sustainable future, stressing that there is a need for a fundamental qualitative shift in the way we develop, distribute and use information technology. He added that we must define how current trends in information technology develop, how they lead us in the wrong direction, and what can be done about them.

Regarding cloud computing, Dr. Mootaz El-Nozahy mentioned that data centers in the United States consume between 30 and 40 megawatts of energy, and produce a large amount of heat. For example, while the human brain can recognize the human face with 20 watts, a computer needs more energy to recognize the human face. He said that according to the science community, there is no real attention paid to those algorithms because people do not pay for the real value of the energy and fuel used in those algorithms. He also pointed out that digital currencies are doubling energy consumption globally. However, digital and technological progress must not stop because IT companies have to develop algorithms to be more energy-efficient.

Dr. El-Nozahy stated that the next war would be between hackers, robots, artificial intelligence agents, and some unknown technological entities because the increasing spread of technology has revealed many serious gaps that threaten the security of all countries. He said: "We are approaching a dangerous and extremely risky field, as we do not know when artificial intelligence technologies would fail and when they would perform the role assigned to them”. He also explained that the economy and the military field would witness more competition based on new technologies in the future. He emphasized the importance of having future initiatives that balance the energy consumed and the price paid for it to achieve an environmental balance. he also stressed the importance of having those initiatives focus on the economic systems and the educational processes of countries while refraining from overconsumption of energy at the global level.

For his part, Dr. Obaid Saleh Al-Mukhttin, a researcher and academic in information technology and cybercrime in the United Arab Emirates, spoke about “community security and how people view technological development in the modern era”. He said that many of those who have been harassed on social media platforms have a poor experience with regard to modern technology, explaining that the companies that lead modern technologies are major political companies and have become globally influential. Furthermore, those companies have begun to interfere in the policies of countries and change the course of global public opinion. As a result, they received many judicial sentences because of their violation of privacy.

Dr. Al-Mukhttin then touched upon the problems created by digital applications, including smart devices, given that they have started to frighten people and violate the privacy of individuals. He pointed out that whoever deploys this technology is responsible for privacy breach.

He stated that illegal groups have come to use digital networks to spread their extremist ideas, explaining that encrypted applications contribute to spreading these ideas and expanding the bases of terrorist groups, which places a huge burden on the global security services.

He added that robots have also become present in many areas of life, although there are reassurances that they would not replace humans. On the other hand, he noted that the capital of manufacturers of those robots is growing rapidly and that robots are now replacing humans in many jobs, including customer service. He warned that nearly one billion people would be unemployed by 2030 because of the rapid developments in robotic systems, their uses, and their domination over human jobs. He said that the systems of countries, companies and individuals are not ready to keep pace with the technological development that now characterises the sixth-generation networks.

Dr. Saleh Al-Mukhttin touched upon self-driving machinery, saying that the algorithms on which this machinery depends are not sufficient to provide security for people and ensure their safety. He demanded that those algorithms be subject to global approvals before making the machines that rely on them available for human use. He also referred to digital currencies, including Bitcoin, which was the forerunner of this trend. He added that there are many digital currencies throughout the world, all of which affect global energy consumption. He said that artificial intelligence systems must be subject to strict international control to protect humans from life-threatening errors. He added that there is a need for protecting the data that has become available and permitted, as it is not owned by the companies that maintain it and affects the privacy of individuals. He underlined the importance of subjecting that data to global regulation.

At the conclusion of the symposium, Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ali, CEO of TRENDS Research and Advisory, expressed his thanks to and appreciation of the participants’ insights in this symposium and the useful information they provided that is of interest to today’s world. He stressed that by choosing this type of seminar, TRENDS seeks to provide comprehensive knowledge to society and decision-makers.