Dec 21, 2021

I’m a bit of a techno-geek, started my career at a technology start-up, and have two master’s degrees in technology-related subjects. So I’ve got some skin in the game and familiarity with what’s happening in the digital world today.

During the holidays yet again this year, COVID-19 continues to impact our work and personal lives, and many families and friends will be required to connect through their digital devices.

While I’m saddened by not being able to see family and loved ones in person, I am truly amazed by how technology has changed the world and our industry.

Keep Up … or Face Extinction

Asset managers often talk about the constant challenge to become digitally enabled. In a recent chat with an industry leader, I asked her why this topic comes up year after year. “Technology changes every year,” she said. “And if you don’t keep up, you risk becoming irrelevant.”

John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco, puts it more bluntly ─ at least 40% of all businesses will cease to exist in the next 10 years if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.

Bringing the World Within Reach

A popular TV documentary in the United Kingdom, What the Romans Did for Us, examines how modern life evolved because of the Romans. It got me thinking about how technology has changed our way of life, particularly in the past 20 years.

For example, I’ve discovered Starlink, the global satellite internet service that Elon Musk launched in 2015. While other satellite services are available, I feel that Starlink provides greater speeds at a more reasonable cost. The reception is still patchy, as the full program is not complete, but those who live in a covered area are able to get great internet speeds without fiber optic cables.

In time, this could be truly transformative, providing internet access to remote villages in developing nations (effectively allowing them to leapfrog over the current broadband infrastructure), as well as rural parts of the world where fast internet was previously only a dream.

Tech-Fueled Daydreams and Realities

My dream is being able to dispense with the big satellite dish. Maybe someday we’ll use our phones with a global roaming plan to connect with satellites, giving us the ability to take the internet along with us anywhere ─ without having to buy local SIM cards and data packages. If this does happen, how would our lives change?

Hypothetically, you could work anywhere you wanted in the world and truly have a nomadic lifestyle if that’s what you wanted. I’ll allow myself to daydream for a little bit (just a bit) about what this might look like for me … Sitting in a beach villa in my native country of Sri Lanka, savoring a beautiful lunch of crab curry, followed by some delicious watalappan and local tropical fruits (for the foodies, I have included links to recipes), and then enjoying a warming cup of Ceylon Broken Orange Pekoe.

For some friends, the dream of living in a minimalist style home has already arrived. They have decluttered the DVDs, music tapes, CDs, and books from their homes, and now stream and consume all content online. I also have friends who have moved to sunnier shores ─ exotic locales such as Koh Samui and the Philippines (cue my daydream of returning to my own tropical paradise island of Sri Lanka), and stay connected using technology. One of my friends moved to the Scottish Highlands (“horses for courses,” as they say). What would you do and where would you go?

My friends in the United Kingdom come from all corners of the globe, from Japan and Suriname to Sri Lanka and Palestine, and they all make use of technology to keep in touch with their family and friends, when they cannot physically be there during crucial moments such as birthdays or the holidays.

I know there is a great deal of virtual reality exhaustion at the moment, given that many of us have spent prolonged periods of time in front of a computer or mobile device, but I am happy that technology has given us options and different ways of connecting. I often have conversations with colleagues and friends on what the lockdown would have been like in the 1980s (perhaps fodder for a Hollywood thriller?).

I also greatly enjoy interacting with people in brick-and-mortar 3D earth and don’t want to go fully “meta.” I think a balance must be struck, and one of my favorite quotes about this is from George Westerman, of the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Initiative on the Digital Economy: “When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.”

Home (and Connecting on FaceTime and Zoom) for the Holidays

This holiday season, I will not be able to travel back to Sri Lanka to be with my family, and so I am grateful that I have access to various tools such as FaceTime to see and feel near to the people I love, even if I cannot be there physically.

During this holiday season, I wish you and your loved ones well, and if you are adventurous, I would urge you to try some of the delicious recipes from my home country of Sri Lanka.

Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year to you! I look forward to connecting with you in 2022!

Want to talk tech with Bran or another member of the Cutter team? Contact us at [email protected].