By HARSHAL BHOSALE, Student Life Editor
The College of Engineering and Computer Science and Institutional Advancement, on Wednesday, April 5, invited students and faculty members to attend a talk on “The Exponential Future of Technology and Innovation.” The talk was given by Mark Sunday, chief information officer and senior vice president at technology corporation Oracle, and UM-Dearborn alumnus (B.S.E., 1976)
In the hour-long technology extravaganza covering timelines as diverse as the early 1800’s to the 21st century, from the ancient maritime industry to the future of computer programming, artificial intelligence and beyond, Mark mesmerized the audience with striking examples of human ingenuity at its best.
Starting with “America’s Cup,” the sailing yacht speed competition, which is the oldest sporting trophy in the world, and the technological innovation it represents in today’s modern world with the help of cloud computing and Internet of Things backed by Oracle software, he introduced to the audience the idea of exponential disruption that is a hallmark of technological innovation in recent times.
He then talked through the biggest innovations coming through in the field of healthcare, citing a microchip drug administration and mobile-phone-microphone based diagnosis technology for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, before moving on to advancements in brain augmentation, autonomous mobility and governmental/legislative challenges to keep up with the pace of ever growing technologies, before concluding the talk with some bold predictions by renown scientist and futurist Ray Kurzweil.
“By continuing to train our minds to think exponentially, we will find ourselves open to new opportunities to innovate, disrupt, and more importantly, improve the world in which we live,” said Sunday, as he opened the floor to questions from the audience.
Among the many compelling questions asked by the audience members, Dr. Sridhar Lakshmanan, Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, asked, “From the perspective of an educator, can innovation be taught? Can we groom innovators?” to which Sunday suggested the provision of ideal environments for learning, which encourage students to learn through real-life challenges.
Elaborating on the measures to tackle education in a modern setting, CECS Dean Tony England, who was instrumental in organizing this talk, spoke about the new Engineering Lab Building being built. He discussed how the building will have facilities that are not in the current building, such as student gathering spaces.
There was also a recent approval to hire “faculty with extensive background in researching engineering education,” England said.
“Such measures are important because engineering students learn a lot of what they know from each other, and in the industry too, working in the team is highly valued. In engineering, the technology is moving way too fast, and so is the way we teach it. A talk like this reminds us that the world is changing and we have to be sensitive about it,” England added.
After England’s remarks, Sunday concluded the event.
“It’s been an incredible pleasure coming after 40 years, and I must admit that I’m incredibly envious of what the students now are working on (versus my early days when I was just beginning to learn the basics of things like programming); just the opportunities that today’s students have to create our future!” he said.
Chancellor Daniel Little had some words to offer in appreciation of the event and how proud he is of Sunday and his career.
“The lecture was inspiring because it captured the pace of change and made us all aware of the things that we’re going to have to cope with as we move into the next two decades,” Little said. “He maintained an optimistic view of the future, and he basically affirmed what we all believe – that university education, innovative education and being as imaginative and rigorous as you can be – that’s the best way of performing well in an exponential universe.”