Fri. Jan 27th, 2023

By Shubhangi Shah

Technology is both changing and evolving rapidly. Just last year, we were trying to make sense of the Metaverse, and today we read articles on how companies across fields are embracing it. Taking this into account, the idea behind A Siddharth Pai’s book Techproof Me: The Art of Mastering Ever-changing Technology seems to be an important one. In this, he writes about ways to keep up with technology and incorporate the same into your business or enterprise you work for without learning how to code.

“This book is to help you manage, work alongside, or direct technology without becoming a technologist,” he writes.

To make a point, he elaborates upon his journey. Hailing from a business education background, Pai went on to work for companies like IBM and KPMG before co-founding Siana Capital, a Bengaluru-based firm that invests in deep science and deep technology start-ups. “I have spent more than 90% of my career in technology,” Pai writes.

Reading the premise, you might hope for hacks that can help you become ‘techproof’ without delving deep into any specific technology. Also, you might expect these hacks to apply across technologies and remain relevant for at least a few years. In the writer’s own words, “We only need to understand the broad working and application of a technology to truly become techproof.”

However, what comes next is a mishmash of basic explanations of countless technologies as varied as blockchain, meant for decentralising finance, to CRISPR, a gene-editing tool intended to cure debilitating genetic diseases. Yes, being well-informed is important. But for a person interested in cryptocurrency, wouldn’t a deeper insight into blockchain be more beneficial than a cursory understanding of both blockchain and CRISPR?

Here’s where the book falters. It’s about so many things to be about anything. For example, Pai explains the difference between artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. But, he doesn’t stop there and explains how both of these will harm jobs, what can be done about it, that a universal basic income (UBI) can be an option, and how UBI is a bad idea. From data privacy to how social media platforms work, and from the supposed harsh work environment of algorithm-run platforms like Uber to telemedicine, he has delved into a wide arena of topics that can make it a painstaking task for the reader to sieve information useful to her. It’s not that the book is devoid of applicable hacks. But these are in sentences here and there that can make it difficult for the reader to keep up and spot these.

Initially in the book, Pai writes of four “roles you need to play in order to make the most of technological change within your business, or within the organisation you work for”, and he assigns them the acronym SOLE, short for a soldier, originator, leader, and empath. And later, he has dedicated the last four chapters to each of them. However, while going through them, one can’t tell the difference between these and the other ones. Also, there is one chapter dedicated to ‘voices in our head’ in which the writer seems to write about mental health, which is an important bit but makes one wonder if it fits in a book about becoming ‘techproof’.

The good thing is that the book explores technology beyond computers and the internet. It is divided into 15 short chapters, each divided into smaller sections that make for an easy read. However, if you cut a section from one chapter and place it in another, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Also, a significant portion of it seems to have been written in 2018. There is a reference to a 2018 Medium article by British economist Umair Haque, the 2018 large-scale data breach at Google and Facebook, the earlier plan of Google to launch a censored search engine for China, a project it terminated in 2019, etc. The writer has taken into account the COVID pandemic and data protection laws, but such wide-ranging time frames can make it difficult for the reader to keep up.

Upon reading the last page of this 187-pages long book, you’ll surely learn a thing or two about technology across fields. However, it’ll still leave you confused if you’ve really been techprooved.

Techproof Me: The Art of Mastering Ever-changing Technology
A Siddharth Pai
Penguin Random House
Pp 187, Rs 399

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