Channelwise talks to Rakesh Parbhoo, CEO of Westcon-Comstor Southern Africa, about his views on the intelligent world; where he sees technology playing a role in the future and why we should still tread with caution


What do you think the role of big data, analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning will have on our day to day lives?

I don’t believe we truly realise how all of this is already in play in our lives. We use apps on our phones and use services like Siri and Alexa but most people don’t understand how much technology is behind all of this. It’s not the future, its already here and it will only grow and have a further impact on our day to day activities both personally and in the work environment.


Should we be worried about “machines” and if so why?

Well if you are into old school movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey (from 1968) or even features like the Terminator or The Matrix, or some of the latest blockbusters, it’s a common theme of machines taking over.

While our phone app is unlikely to kill us, the dangers of true artificial intelligence in machines should be something we need to be concerned about, and has already been raised by a number of people on the frontlines of technology development.

Without the right safety and security mechanisms, there can be issues ranging from Siri sending the wrong thing to someone to a self-driving car causing a crash.

This doesn’t have to be world domination and automated nuclear war for there to be things to be conscious and concerned about.


Do you see an application for these technologies already and if so where?

These technologies can provide personal convenience to aspects such as preventative health care, fraud management in banking through to a change in the world of transportation. The applications are limitless.


How much power do you think we should give the machine?

It’s a really difficult answer. Without exploring limits you don’t know where they are. But there have to be some fundamental rules in place. If I have to ask “HAL, please open the pod bay doors”, I’d like the machine to comply.


Where in your mind would the likes of AI and intelligent systems have the most impact into the future?

The common concern is that machines will do the work of workers and result in unemployment. But that is largely unfounded on a broad scale.

We have more machines now than we did a decade ago, and 50 years before that, and in the last centuries. The industrial revolution was the start of this. Yet at the same time all of us have developed new skills and the world’s population has continued to grow.

No doubt technology will make some skills redundant but as the human race we always adapt. These technologies will fundamentally change how we interact, communicate and live.

We already talk about having phones and devices glued to us, but in the future they may be embedded. There are views that the next evolutionary step of our species is a margin with technology.

I’m not saying whether this is good or bad, but it seems inevitable that the future will have even more technology being a part of how we live and work, than we have today


What is the biggest threat all of this holds and what do you think is the biggest benefit?

The biggest threat ultimately is that technology takes over too much of our interaction as humans and that we create another divide in societies – between the digital have’s and the digital have nots.

The biggest benefit could come in if we are able to use the technology to the advantage of everyone, and ultimately improve our lives and limit threats to health and security