Even 30 years ago, in order to obtain new information, we used books, the media or communicated with people. Now a second and a palm-sized smartphone are enough. Understanding how digital technology has turned our lives upside down
What is digital technology and how did it come about?
The foundations of the modern binary number system were laid by the mathematician Karl Leibniz in the 17th century. In the twentieth century, it began to be used for software calculations: in 1941, the first computer appeared, and in 1948, the first computer program.
Then, in the middle of the 20th century, digital technologies were understood as those where information is converted into a discontinuous (discrete) data set, consisting of 0 (no signal) and 1 (there is a signal). They were contrasted with analog ones, where data is a continuous stream of electrical rhythms of different amplitudes with an unlimited number of values.
But later this was replaced by another definition: digital technologies are those where information is “digitized”, that is, it is presented in a universal digital form. Another option is all the technologies that make it possible to create, store and distribute data. In turn, analog now are those where information is not unified, but stored and transmitted in different formats, for each type of carrier. For example, a landline phone is analog technology, while a smartphone with internet is digital.
In the simplest language, digital technologies include everything related to electronic computing and data conversion: gadgets, electronic devices, technologies, programs. Compared to analog, digital technologies are better suited for storing and transferring large amounts of data, and provide high-speed computing. In this case, information is transmitted as accurately as possible, without distortion. Among the main disadvantages are high energy intensity and negative impact on the climate.
Data centers now account for about 0.3% of the world’s carbon emissions. They consume about 200 Tw per year, which is more than the annual energy consumption in developing countries. However, by 2030, this figure could rise to 20% of total global demand, which will lead to a significant increase in emissions.
Digital technologies are often confused with information technologies, but in fact one is part of the other. Information technology includes all technologies associated with the exchange of information, even with the help of analog devices. For example, a traffic light that tells us when we can go is an informational analog device, and the service where we track traffic jams is also informational, but already digital.
In what areas is digital technology used?
Almost any business uses CRM, online services for remote work, storage and work with a client base, accounting management and commodity accounting. More and more companies are using big data and analytics based on it to grow their business and grow their customer base.
Education uses gadgets and programs for distance learning, preparing and completing homework, making presentations, programming, and creative tasks. Virtual and augmented reality help to better perceive the material and make learning more interactive. AI algorithms help with career guidance and learning.
In medicine, digital technologies help find new drugs and vaccines faster, make diagnoses more accurately even at early stages, collect analytics for predicting diseases, conduct online consultations, and even operations using AR and robots.
In retail, digital simplifies the process of finding and ordering goods, warehouse management and delivery. Analysis of customer behavior and data on movement across the sales floor helps to optimize store space. Voice assistants and chat bots process requests at maximum speed, and offline stores are already starting to work without cash registers and sellers – using cameras and face recognition algorithms.
In the field of arts and entertainment, digital technologies open up unlimited opportunities for games, buying and reading books, listening to music and watching Full HD video online, on streaming services. Neural networks are involved in the creation of music, painting and books, and virtual actors and musicians replace the real ones.
In production, using technology, individual lines and entire factories are automated, new models and materials are developed, safety and environmental concerns are monitored, equipment failures are predicted, rejects and injuries are prevented, and working time and resources are optimized.
In public catering, digital technologies are involved in the collection and distribution of orders, preparation of dishes, control over the quantity and shelf life of products, and even help to find new points with the maximum traffic.
In the process of preparation, the experts used the for a big data mining system, which contains more than 500 million documents: scientific publications, market analytics, reports of international organizations, legal documents, etc.
Top 15 most significant technologies:
Convolutional neural networks.
Natural language processing.
Recurrent neural networks.
Generative adversarial networks.
Decision support systems.
As can be seen from the ranking, the vast majority of technologies are related to artificial intelligence, neural networks and machine learning. But this is far from the only area that determines the development of technology today.