Digital experiments to tackle curious challenges

On Tuesday 10th November 2020, I was very fortunate to have Mr. Andrew Quinn, a Global Digital Advisor for the multi-national technological corporation Microsoft, give my school’s Computing Society a talk on “Digital experiments to tackle curious challenges”. Mr. Quinn’s talk certainly developed my curiosity in the intriguing field of Computer Science, through the fundamental idea of ubiquitous computing.

Whether desired or not, technology is no longer a want, but a need.

As we look around ourselves, we can unquestionably appreciate the paramount importance of intelligence-led computing in all that we encounter – most of which has enhanced human advancement. There are a plethora of examples, some of which we can simply see in our routine life – be it the AI-powered predictions on our favourite social networking sites, or smart email categorisation or even fraud protection in online credit card transactions. All of these transformative technologies have been democratised, and accessible to all, hopefully resulting in a world where everyone is connected, and is empowered to use these technological services, whether or not they are part of the technological industry. Mr. Quinn accentuated the idea that people are indispensable to growth of technology because of the fact that without the customer obsession for progressing ideas, it would be increasingly demanding for corporations such as Microsoft to evolve their ideas. Similarly, there are various examples which may not be familiar to all – yet are essential for humans to progress: from Industrial Robots to Solar energy technology to DNA sequencing!

Personally, Mr. Quinn’s explanation of Microsoft’s response to recent technological trends, was very fascinating, because I gained an insight into how Microsoft has made philanthropy a corporate mission. Microsoft has a growing interest in the Earth’s ecosystem where it hopes to invest in the long-term viability of ecosystems in the communities where humans operate. For instance, Microsoft’s Project Premonition aims to use scalable monitoring of the environment, using robotics and genomics, to detect potential pathogens early – before they cause large disease outbreaks. Microsoft has developed robotic smart traps which have sensors that monitor the environment for important species of insects, such as mosquitoes, because they transmit pathogens to other insects, and they collect blood samples from other animals. Concurrently, Microsoft’s cloud-scale genomic analyses have been detecting several different species of viruses in our environment in order to recognise transmission patterns that have not been encountered before. Likewise, Microsoft’s AI empowered iNaturalist platform is one of the world’s most popular apps which helps identify all the plants and animals around you. iNaturalist engages a community of over a million scientists and naturalists to collect data that increasingly advances our understanding of wildlife species, their unique behaviour and locations, and protecting them by analysing the risks posed for their futures. This initiative helps generate research data for many scientists who work together to make strides in protecting our planet.

On behalf of all the students who attended the talk, I would like to thank Mr. Quinn for his thought-provoking talk, which definitely captivated my attention and has made me intrigued into the boundless fields where technology can impact.

Photo credit: Mr. Quinn’s Slideshow & Microsoft. No copyright infringement intended.

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