Metamorphoses is a modest effort to try and bridge the gap between digital technologies, which are transforming our lives, and our understanding of their multiple dimensions. It will unfold in a series of nine interactions covering different aspects of the digital revolution. While the keynote on May 2, 2018, will look at the big picture – the nature of technological change and its interplay with individual and social attitudes – following sessions will attempt to demystify the unique jargon through which new technology is projected on to our lives. Further sessions will delve into issues relating to data privacy and cyber security as well as the emerging legal regime to regulate this critical domain.

This series will examine the impacts of digital technologies on the human psyche and on societies – exploring ways in which some of the negative elements may be mitigated. There will be a peep into the future – of what machine learning and artificial intelligence may bring to human experience – and the moral and ethical dilemma associated with these.

The objective of Metamorphoses, which seeks to assemble acknowledged thought leaders from India and abroad, is to inform and educate society about both the power of new technologies to change our lives for the better but also to alert ourselves to the risks that are attached to them. Risks that must be confronted and overcome as the future continues to unfold before our eyes relentlessly.

The idea behind Metamorphoses – unpacking the paradox of digital transformation

Our world is in the midst of rapid and unprecedented transformation driven by the accelerating advance of scientific thought and technological innovation in multiple domains, which are increasingly interlinked through digital processes. In no other era of history has mankind acquired the power, as it has today, to order life with a sense of deliberate agency.

The scale and speed of technological change is bringing immense benefits to humankind, generating instruments that can help eliminate poverty, disease and hunger. For example, the internet is making it possible, as never before, for cultures to interact, engage as well as share information, experiences and solutions across national boundaries, making this truly an era of knowledge. Similarly, greater understanding of the biology of the human brain and organising patterns among neural networks are leading to advances in artificial intelligence.

Yet, it is also true that technological advance is running ahead of the capacity of the human mind to comprehend and adapt to it. The adaptive capacity of societies as a whole is even less. More critically, the platforms used for communication and engagement have also become the purveyors of hate and exclusion. They are diminishing both privacy and human dignity. While digital technologies can empower the individual by expanding democratic freedoms, in the hands of a predatory state, these may become an instrument of subjugation.

We are, therefore, living a paradox.

The growing disconnect between technological advance and its impact on individuals and society at large is the defining challenge of the digital age. Individuals and societies, therefore, need to comprehend both the positive and negative aspects of the digital revolution and be in an informed position to manage this paradox.

Join us in this journey of metamorphosing

We hope that Metamorphoses will impart useful knowledge about our digital inheritance. But more importantly, we hope that this knowledge will lead to wisdom without which we may end up with mechanisms without meaning.

We look forward to you joining us on this journey of multiple explorations and interacting with us through our social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and our blog.

The Metamorphoses team of NITI Aayog, India International Centre (IIC) and Centre for Policy Research (CPR).