October 2019
Issue 2019.2
October 2019, Volume 1910,

A Monthly News Letter From CIOs Of India


Dear Digital Leader,

A warm welcome from CIOs Of India (Powered by ISMF). As communicated to you last
month that every month you will get a letter from the President’s desk on
various issues that are related to technology. Sometimes newsletter will be on
issues which are beyond technologies too but essential for our day to day life. I
encourage you to share this with your colleagues and friends and let's create a
debate, dialogue on various issues so that we can learn from each other.
I got a lot of suggestions, kudos, and feedback from some of you on last
newsletter. Thanks for the same, keep sending.
As we see today there are two technology trends that are clearly visible to all of
us. One is increasing use of data science, machine learning and other related
technologies to create intelligent machines also termed Artificially Intelligent
machines. The focus is on intelligently automating tasks so that those can be
performed by machines instead of humans, hopefully with better speed and
zero errors. Other is cyber-security and threat of hacking. We all are familiar with
the concept of hacking. That’s is the reason we all strive to protect our digital
assets from nefarious outside sources trying to break in. There is another
interesting trend which is happening but we do not seem to care about and
that is advancement in biology and brain science.
All three trends if combined together with intelligent use can have lot of
dangerous outcomes. This dangerous outcome can be “Hacking of
Humans”. Yuval Noah Harari writes in his book - 21 Lessons for the 21st
Century, “we now have the tools at our disposal to hack humans.”
What actually translates to the hacking of human? Hacking of human is knowing
the mind of a person better.... and if you know it better you can manipulate it
too. With the right amount of technology and data, machines know us better
than we know ourselves. There are only two necessary ingredients to hacking
humanity and these are a lot of computing power and biometric data.
The data part is very important, whoever is having that data become very
powerful as those who control these data are the potential hackers.Biometric
sensors have launched us into age where we can monitor every aspect of
biological life to the point that the machines know more about us than we do
ourselves. Our very own personal device, our mobile phone is also a data
guzzler. Data is the most important asset in this connected and
hackable world.
There are companies collecting our data – most of the time without our
permissions or tacit user agreements- to sell us more junk we don’t need and
want. There are manipulative advertising machinery making us believe to buy
things at the best price in the name of some “billion-dollar sale”. Not only
companies but governments are collecting lot of data and doing surveillance on
us constantly. One interesting book to read on this topic is Permanent Record
by Edward Snowden. This is a personal record of author about the pervasive
surveillance of all Americans and other countries' citizens by the NSA (National
Security Agency).
As a common man, our usual refrain is that “I have nothing to hide, so why
should I worry”. Yes, It seems harmless at first but if that data is combined with
other data and churned into the technology tools it has the potential of
manipulating our emotions. The data owner-companies or government- will
know everything that makes us vulnerable. They will know how to control us.
This may lead to a digital dictatorship.
Digital dictatorship is the concept where information and decision making is
concentrated with just one entity, the machine, for the benefits of few. If this
happens, what would happen to the concept of free-will and what about
Please feel free to write back at kamal.karnatak@ciosofindia.com