How to overpower the OVERPOWERING TECHNOLOGY? | Dr. Syed Muntasir Mamun | TBCY

How to overpower the OVERPOWERING TECHNOLOGY? | Dr. Syed Muntasir Mamun | TBCY

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Welcome to another episode of The Brand Called  You. A vodcast and podcast show that brings   you leadership lessons, knowledge, experience and  wisdom from hundreds of successful individuals   from around the world. I am your host Ashutosh  Garg and today I am privileged to welcome   a very very accomplished individual  from Bangladesh, Dr. Syed Muntasir Mamun.

Dr. Mamun, welcome to the show. Thank you very  much, it's a pleasure. Thank you. He is the Director-General of the Ministry of  Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh. He has studied  

and taught at the Syed Business School, University  of Oxford and very interestingly, he's an author   of a book titled Blockchains: Gaming and Collusion- A Reading in Political Economy. So tell me first,   what is the scope of work you handle as the  Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   Well, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I do the  things which nobody would like to do which is take the blame but that's not really the case.  Especially, I look after the trade investment and   technology division and also the ICT because  in Bangladesh, our focus is very   specific. We are a trading nation and would like to  attract as much as trade as possible. It's not just   exports, we also encourage imports and import  substitution investments, so that's what I look   after with also the other ministries, Minisry  of Commerce and the investment development   organization and these expert pressing  zones. In fact, Bangladesh is a country   which I think needs a lot of commendation on the  incredible turnaround you have done in the last   20-30 years. I mean, as a powerful economy from  our region but today, let's talk about your book.  

You're the author of a book, tell me about  your book. In fact, I started with blockchains   late in 2016, when I was in Oxford and when I had started the postdocs in Oxford but much   more than that it's about gaming and  collusion as the name suggests because I started   writing about the scope, the periphery and also the  focus of the technology, what the technology can do,   what the technology could be allowed to do,  what the technology could be deployed for?   But as I started digging deeper, something came up.  If we just take a look at it, you'll see   that we have more than 678 references in that  book, in that small book and it's not really   that we have kept references just for the sake  of it because when we started digging deeper   and after three years of research or let's say  through three years of research what I found was   breathtaking. It's not only the technology of  it but also the political economy environment of   it, the ambience of it. So the ambient technology, we  started with the hypothesis that blockchains would   be the carrier technology which will take us from  here to 2021 or let's say, 2016 at that point in time   to 2030 when artificial intelligence is  deployed. But it showed something entirely   different. It showed that an entire universe  was getting birthed or let's say, rebirth.  

The full set of markets, the product fit and  the product-market fit and everything else   associated with it was changing. The political  actors, the nature, the way that they operated   everything was changing and it has something to do  with the way that the politicians make decisions   and in fact, in my understanding every human  individual has a bit different politics inside   his or her mind. So it is a handbook for the  human individual and this is a book about the   technology of politics with regards to blockchain  and how you put the human at the center of that political framework which ultimately leads us to  the artificial intelligence. We can discuss  

about it later. So tell me, when you  talk blockchains, we always talk about   bringing in much greater transparency into  transactions. Tell me, you think that blockchains   can reduce information asymmetry and at the  same time, ensure data, data security and privacy.   In fact, I'll answer it in two ways, in two  parts. First is about the information transparency.   Yes, that's precisely what blockchain does it. One  of the first hypothesis of the efficient market  

hypothesis, first part is each and every bits  and pieces of information is available to you   to everyone in the market free of cost.  Essentially, what blockchain does is it's   peer-to-peer networking. So once something  is authenticated inside the blockchain, blockchain   is just like a tree. Imagine a tree and that it's a tree, so you have different leaves.   So once that leaf is there in that tree, I'm just  giving you an analogy to it. So once that   tree has a leaf and that  the leaf is authenticated by the tree, you are more   or less sure that this leaf is an original leaf  and this has certain characteristics and this is   more or less given, that's where blockchain is  also known as stressless keyless system. So yes,   transparency is and also the information estimated  information asymmetries I don't know something   which you do and you don't know something which I do and in between the two of us,   there is a bit of an arbitrage possibility which is what happens in the market very often   because we don't know exactly how much certain  things costs are. If I have taken the loan to

pay you back or if I would ever pay you back or  not, that's one of the agency theory problems,   classical finance has always faced, so blockchain reduces that or let's eliminate that by definition.   However, in terms of the data security, yes. by  design, blockchain is very much secure. But my research suggests and again, I could  be entirely wrong in it because it's speculation   because it's still growing on  the upward slope of the innovation S-curve in   blockchain. It suggests that if you can have some  sort of a compromised arrangement with the nodes.   The nodes are basically the branches of the tree  which connects you to the main information network.   So if there could be some form of a collaboration,  collusion or something which is like the classical   game theory suggests that there is a payoff  matrix. If you could have something like that,  

information could be compromised but I'm not  saying that it would be, I said, it could be. But   yes, the cost of it would be enormous. So it would  be a foundational kind of gaming inclusion,   all the conspiracy theories together. I'm  not an expert on blockchain but I've read quite  

a bit about it and this is the first time I've  heard that and this is quite credible what you're   saying that if there's collaboration between the  nodes then, they could possibly be compromising of the blockchain of the tree as you  give. But I don't know, I mean,   I'm not an expert on that. One example for it  because once started with blockchain when I   first saw Bitcoins that was when the famous or  infamous paper by Satoshi Nakamoto came up in 2008,   it was a very new technology, so Bitcoin was  there. So Bitcoin started off with a few cents.  So in 2016, when I started working  on blockchain, bitcoin by 2017 had reached   $10,000 and then it reached  the almost the peak $40,000 or around $45,000 was reaching and someone was actually speculating   from Wall Street that it would reach up to $420,000 in no time   and I could assure you that the way that  the non-fungible tokens the NFTs are growing,   it could happen. Now yes, you could always say  that well I have a phone here some sort of a  

phone and I could value it for $500,000 and if  you are willing to buy it, it's your case, it's   your problem. But that is not the way that  financial evaluation ought to be done.   Financial violation has always been done  based on your speculation or let's say,   intelligent or augmented calculation about how  you see the future, the net present value of your   future earnings. But blockchain is acquiring so  much of attention or let's say, not on the   blockchain but the cryptocurrencies are gaining so  much of attention, that it could be   that some points are collaborating with each other.  It's not entirely a free market operation in place   and again, I think since data is very little,  public domain data is very little, so I could   be entirely wrong but there's no harm  in being little. Absolutely.   It's always good to be safe than sorry  later on, isn't it? But moving on,   while blockchain offers new open-source based  opportunity for developing digital platforms   and services and doing payments, how are the issues  of data protection handled? Well, data protection   there are two ways to handle this issue and  two broad ways to handle this issue, there are many   ways of handling this issue. One could be political  way of handling this issue that, there are  

certain data which are completely reserved which  has happened throughout the ages and if you look   at history, it has repeated. Technology is never  new, every era has a bit of technology in itself.   Sometimes it has gunpowder, sometimes it was  metal, sometimes it will silk, sometimes it was   paper and somehow around it has always been around  technologies that empires have formed, big empires.   Now you could call it ideational empires, you could  call it west valley and states, it doesn't matter.   Essentially influence layers, so I would  suggest that there could be the information,   transparency and also the data security could be  approached from two different angles. One is the   technology of it, you design things into the structure of blockchain so that the information   security and also the data protection is ensured  by default and there could also be something like   the European Union GDPR, particularly, the article 3  which ensures that each human individual has full   protection of his or her own sets of data that is  available in the public domain. Fascinating. So now  

let's talk about blockchains and it's used for  and it's used for E-governance or E-government.   How are you planning to overcome the issues  of security scalability and flexibility?   In fact, the way that I had  started working on it was to see I told you about   the technology how the different applications  of technology is but there is a great use case. The   use case is essentially you have Estonia which  already has deployed blockchain in a very big   scale but several small countries but what we have  done in Bangladesh is we have not done blockchain   yet, we have a blockchain strategy since 2020. The  honourable Prime Minister is interested about it,  

honorable Prime Minister's information and communication technology advisor Mr. Sajeeb Wazed Joy is also very interested about it.  So there is a political commitment behind   the development of the technology, we have not yet  purchased it, we are trying to develop it ourselves.   We just concluded the blockchain olympiad three  days before. So the way that we see it is  

that we look at governance by looking at the human  individual, the inclusivity of the last man last   mile, man inclusive woman as well. The last human  individual on the last mile. If you could reach   him or her with all your services and if that  him or her is very much well aware of what   you have in offer and what he or she can get,  so the autonomy, the franchise and the political   agency of the human individual is insured and  that's the core of the e-governance.   How do you support it? You support it by  connecting the markets with it, the free   market and the enterprise solutions connecting  the factor markets with the consumer markets in a   seamless feedback group of finance and information  and what you do you? Essentially fill in the voids,   the institutional voids for which fester a very big portion of the world. If   you look at the map behind you, it says that almost  80% of the world is essentially bottom of   pyramid markets. Now some of the countries may  not wish to call themselves bottom of pyramid  

but others do and this involves both of us  and we cannot avoid being called bottom of pyramid   markets. But would you like to be there? I don't  believe, we should be there because our people   have talent, our people have energy and that needs  to be connected to the markets where it is needed,   wherever that is needed and these are  the two different approaches that we combine   and that blockchain helps us to combine these  two in a seamless manner. So that each human   individual is connected to each other system  that he or she refers to or is referent with.   Most impressive. So now moving on, how are  you planning to combine artificial intelligence,  

blockchain and IoT to construct a smart city for  Dhaka? Well, Dhaka is a city which is quite   intense, it's almost 10-12 million people living  in one city and it's growing. The metropolis   is growing and slowly encapsulating all  other cities around it. If you look at Dhaka, you'll see that   it is slightly bigger than Delhi now, in terms  of its coverage and in terms of its intensity,   it's unimaginable. In every square kilometer,  we have more than 1,800 people.  

So technically speaking although the house  that I'm living in has no people around but   if I connect, if I calculate, there should  be 856 people within a 10-meter radius, 856 people   around me, that is the urban intensity that I'm facing  in Bangladesh. Essentially, what is happening is   we'd like to see that each human individual  and his or her devices or the system's devices   are connected to each other in a seamless manner.  So that information and also the authentication   is done simultaneously in sync and at real-time,  so that the cost of getting that information is   minimal and the cost is not really only financial  cost, the cost is also time cost, the human cost, the   hassles that you face, if it could be reduced  and the second part is, if it could give rise   to innovation and entrepreneurship, we believe that  innovation happens at the boundary of knowledge,   the subject specialization. Like, if I cross the  boundary between me and you across the zoom   platform, I believe that I can get a certain bit of  information from you which might give me ideas and   ideas are very precious. So we want to give or  incubate those ideas into enterprise solutions   and one of the hypotheses that we're  testing with is if we could connect the   IoT devices with the blockchain and also  the human innovation stream, three things   together which would ultimately lead us to  an area where we have artificial intelligence   irretrievably deployed. Because AI is something  once you deploy it, you cannot really roll it back.  

So it will keep on growing and that will  require huge amounts of data modeling but also   understanding what the data means. You as a  human, the amount of calculations, the number of   calculations that you produce in each millisecond  is unimaginable. A few hundred computers cannot   match that as a human individual. So AI is  coming but blockchain, IoT these three things could   ultimately lead us to that level. This creates the  platform, the skeleton. Fantastic. So I'm going to  

ask you one more question relating to blockchains  in your book, before I move to e-governance. I want   to understand, how are you going to use artificial  intelligence and blockchain for agribusinesses?   Well, as you might be knowing that  particularly this part of the world   across the Indian subcontinent, across  Bangladesh agriculture is a life-sustaining area.   So no matter how much industrialized we become,  no matter how much of service that we've been   bringing, always going to be agriculture and  agriculture is not really that let's say, not   that low in terms of its intensity in the  human development and also economic development   index. Although, it doesn't look that big but if  you look at it, if you look at the importance  

that agriculture holds in your own human life,  is humongous, it's more than 60% for sure.   So what we would like to do with blockchain  and agriculture is just one simple thing, we would   like to connect the individual farmholds to  the market seamlessly. Almost like that each   farmer can get his or her or the firm fair price  from the market where it is consumed without   going through the trouble of the traditional middlemen and I believe that countries like   Bangladesh, India, possibly even Pakistan, we have  all suffered this menace of disconnected farmers   because ultimately, we as individuals consumers,  we do pay but does that pay translate to   a real income for the human farmer at the end?  Often it doesn't, You pay, we pay, everyone pays but   the human farmer ultimately commits suicide and  that has happened in across the world, it's not a   country-specific issue, everywhere it has happened.  Even in our country, the farmers  

have done worse things than imaginable  and the honourable Prime Minister's director   is very clear that no farmer must suffer the  fates that they used to suffer before her coming   to power. Amazing. I'm so so impressed with that stuff   you are doing. I mean in India our Prime Minister  did direct benefit transfer to farmers   when he opened bank accounts for every single  individual and that has significantly   changed income in the hands of farmers and cut  out middlemen and I'm sure that's exactly what you   are wanting to do as well. But moving on, let's  talk about e-governance now. How will e-governance  

help to reduce time and cost of governance?  In fact, this is something that we call the TV sandbox in Bangladesh, time, cost and visit. We  are experimenting with it. India is an   old country and an old civilization but Bangladesh  is part of the old civilization but a new country,   there is no experimenting with it. So you have not  suffered this courage of war and devastation that   we have suffered, thank god and we don't want  you to suffer right there. We have suffered,   the country was broken down in pieces and into  we died and then we resurfaced, as   phoenix does. Well, I must tell you my father was an  army brigadier and he was part of the 71 the whole thing that happened. In which case  you're part of us because 71 is very dear to us, it  

defines us. The language Bengali and also the 1971  war defines Bangladesh as easy as that.   My grandfather's commission in the Indian army in  1941 and the 71 war took away part of, in   fact, a greater part of the family that we have.  So now, well it made us rich but   we will probably discard that from another  time. Absolutely but coming back to e-governance.   Yes, in the BCB sandbox that if we could minimize  the time and the cost and the number of visits   to a service provider significantly or at any  rate, then you are approaching a certain level   of optimized governance. Governance is never  foolproof, we keep on inventing, we keep   on innovating and we keep on sometimes,  we keep on going back to the older mistakes and   follies because you'll see that if you look at  history some of the mistakes that we committed   as a group, a few hundred years before we're  still committing it again. Absolutely. In spite  

of knowing what they would result in. So  one of the things that is just one example   that a few million people would go hungry in spite  of having one-third food surplus somewhere. It's a   distribution problem, it's an agency problem,  it's also an access problem. Amartya Sen has  

written fabulously about it although I have  my differences of opinion with him but yes, the   situation did happen. The Great Bengal Famine did not happen because of a shortage of   food, it happened because of the flawed policies  of a foreign ruler, foreign occupational rural. Colonial  rulers ruined the entire subcontinent   and I agree with some of the things that Shashi Tharoor has said that yes, it was an era of darkness but   yes, the darkness keeps on repeating. it's not  only the British that we're going to, we also become part, the  heart is not open. So e-governance is all about keeping  

your heart open to the system so that there  is a transparency, so that light passes through.   How do you think e-governance will bring  in greater accountability and remove corruption?   See, we believe in a fundamental equation,  accountability should be equal to authority,   should be equal to responsibility, these three  things need to be in sync and that is where   technology comes in place because sometimes what  happens is that although, in spite of the great intent that the top leadership might have,  it might not transcend to the human individual   on the fringes, on the periphery. So we'd  like to bring these three things together   in a trustless keyless system where the  system takes care of things, the system   should not be a negative word. The system ought to  be something very positive where you could belong.   Like in the military, since you also come  from that family that the regiment is where your   home is. You often forget that you come  from a certain place, you come from a certain   family. No, the regiment becomes your home and you  live with it, you die with it. So the system ought  

to be that and that regimentation with the  system is not like you incarcerate someone but you   bring that regimentation, the sense of belonging,  the sense of longing to be part of something into   the system so that the human individual doesn't  feel threatened rather feel encouraged to be part   of the system by our philosophy  governances. Fascinating. So my next question   to you is that a little while ago, we  spoke about the potential risks in some nodes   of blockchains. I'd like to ask you what are some  of the risks that could be there for e-governance?   In fact, if you cannot manage technology, it could  go out of control and it doesn't really, I'm   not saying that artificial intelligence will take  over the world, robots will take over the world.   They might someday, if it happens so and  that's evolution, that's okay but   sometimes what happens is there's  an old saying in the greater part of Punjab   zan zar zameen, that these three things determine the human course  of action. Can you really get rid of greed   and lust from the way that if you have power, does  absolute power corrupt absolutely? That's a   fundamental question because you cannot avoid that  there is law but would you apply that law, there is   intent but would I translate, as a bureaucrat would  I translate that intent into tangible actions.   If there is a break, how do you manage that? That is where we bring in artificial intelligence, that   is where we bring in technology but still there  are flaws and those flaws are the vulnerabilities.  

A technical flaw that all blockchain people  might be knowing is the Byzantine fault. It's a classic case, it's a gaming case that I know  something which my hand doesn't know. I mean, you as   a decision-maker and someone with you working  as an implementer might have differences of   information because of the time that it takes for  the information to travel. So that fault creates   opportunities for infiltration at a mass level  so that there could be DDOS attack or something   like that but it is not really something that  we would focus on but we need to be aware of.   So that the system can rebuild itself if there is  an attack but what is more worrisome is, if there   is human collusion with the nodal providers.  Nodes are at an equity level held by humans.  

What if those humans collude amongst themselves? So  the nodes should operate in a certain way. All this   is very hypothetical and you cannot really  prove anything at this moment but there is   a possibility. So you have to do a DNN, Deep Neural  Network testing to see how it shapes up and we   have some data, I cannot really say that we  have a full proof complete proof of work or proof of the concept but we have some data   to suggest that it is possible. Let's say, I am  a blockchain node and you are my operator and   if you have certain obligations somewhere,  now you might choose not to allow   this node to be functional at certain point in  time. It depends on the way that you configure,   so it's a whole set of characters almost like  if you look at it, a whole sort of cross-cutting   spider webs, cobwebs coming together at the same  time. Amazing. So I've got time for only   one more question now and my next question to you  is that why is e-governance required for a large   data producing country like Bangladesh? It is  required for a large data producing country like   Bangladesh, it is required for India because of  knowing the pattern, the market is always efficient.  

The market knows what the price is but does the  human individual, the human actor in that market   know exactly what is needed, what the pattern is,  what the trend is? If those patterns, those trends   and the prices for it is known to the individual  actor, then the actions could be optimized   and there's no way that one human individual could  know everything. So e-governance essentially gives   you a library like Google which you connect  to but it's not Google, it's governance.    So governance is also you, we always say that  it's by the people, for the people, of the people.   I've reordered the statement but  if it is so, that can only be determined if you have a situation where the human individual  can decide for himself or herself and I'll give   you the use case again, come down to Bangladesh,  have a look at what we're doing since this Prime   Minister came to power in 2009 and the vision 2021,  we have already reached the middle-income level   and we're aiming to become a fully developed  country by 2041 and if possible, before that   and what does that mean? That means that our  human individual survives, thrives, prospers   and becomes a responsible member of the  greater human community across the globe   and the country also becomes a responsible member  of the global community of nations. Phenomenal.   Dr. Syed, thank you so much. It's been such a privilege  speaking to you. Thank you for taking me through  

so much of your deep knowledge on blockchains  and key governance and, of course, I'm a great   fan of Bangladesh, I've seen the country grows  since the first time I visited in the early 90s   and what a transition this Prime Minister has  made and all of you working along with her. More   power to you, good luck and thank you. Thank you  very much and good luck to you as well. Thank you.   Thank you for listening to The Brand Called You,  videocast and podcast. A platform that brings you  

knowledge, experience and wisdom of hundreds of  successful individuals from around the world.   Do visit our website to watch and listen to the stories  of many more individuals. You can also  

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2021-10-31 21:04

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