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Book Discussion of “Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies: Maritime and Naval Operations” by Dr. Vijay Sakhuja

Date & Time: July 8, 2021 at 05:00 PM

Webinar: Book Discussion of “Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies: Maritime and Naval

Operations” by Dr. Vijay Sakhuja

Report of the Proceedings

About the Event: The Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) organized a webinar on Book Discussion of “Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies: Maritime and Naval Operations” by Dr. Vijay Sakhuja. 

Key Speakers: Dr. Vijay Sakhuja a former Director, of the National Maritime foundation and a former Indian Navy officer, received MPhil and PhD degrees from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He has published over 40 books, edited volumes and monographs, and specializes in issues of national security and public policy, particularly in the context of ocean affairs, geopolitics, Climate Change, the Arctic Ocean, the Blue Economy and the 4th Industrial Revolution Technologies.

Dr. Monika Shukan: Senior Fellow at CPPR introduced, moderated  and concluded the session with a vote of thanks. Dr Monika Shukan‘s background includes a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. 

Book Discussion Summary 

Dr. Vijay Sakhuja began the discussion with the Blue Economy and the advancement in maritime technology that have attracted him to write a book on the evolution and revolution of naval and maritime activities which not only encompasses the commerce but the defence complexity in maritime technology. The book broadly consists of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies, Maritime Commercial Operations, Navies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Western Navies, Asian Navies and in the Indian Navy, and the 4IR and the Blue Economy, and Ethics and International Law as its centrality. 

He begins with answering questions of the technologies with that of market trends and the digital footprint and from where they start, by classifying the evolution of maritime advancement parallel to that of societies and industries. They meet at every point yet go parallel to each other. He develops a kind of connection between the society- industry- ships and lastly the sail power where fuels become the end product like that of oil, coal, wind power and solar power. He says we’re in a gradual shift and that the transformation will yield demand for better structures yet going back to the same fuel. 

Further, Dr. Sakhuja focused on the importance of the way we conduct ourselves and the entire way the maritime industry is going to function because we’ll have smarter people, smarter service providers and these technologies will come up one after the other and change the dynamics of ships, maritime transformation, bringing in different levels of autonomy. He presented interesting and important examples of connecting the supply chain to move ahead with the industry 4.0 for ports and aim for hyperloops in the commercial world. At the same time, there has been a transformation of ships from platform centric warfare to network centric warfare, and now we are at the stage of Autonomous warfare. And that we are shifting from the 4.0 system to the Ship 5.0 where it is manifested in full automation, monitoring with intelligence lookouts. He cites several examples and one of them is that Colombo is getting a 5G enabled port for more seamless connection as now people are talking about smart QR codes on containers, drone induced ships, robots in the next few years to monitor units inside  ship and smarter ports to work in today’s time.

Next he shifts the discussion to the need of the regulatory body; he points out that the Blue Economy encompases anything and everything which is highly driven by just ‘data’ and placed an emphasis on the 5Vs: Volume, Velocity, Varsity and more, all based on data. The political leadership must endorse it and deliver sutainance as data will be the backbone and the 4IR will have a major role to play where he believes that it’s a phenomenal area with lots of investments coming in. As of now the US Navy is far ahead, the Russian Navy is on its way, and the Israeli Navy is doing really well for its size. He emphasises that we need to watch what the Indian Navy can do. Their convenience has to fit into the narrative now as the western navies have taken the lead while making sure that the Chinese Navy’s rapid and similar transformation to that of the United States  is very important for us.

Coming towards the end of the discussion, he talks about the way forward for machine intelligence, which according to him will surpass that of humans if not regulated properly. And that we will see less support from humans, as a creepy feeling, that AI will monitor us and the course of warfare frightens us. Hence, now AI will determine cyber warfare and prepare us for naval singularities that will slowly shift from conventional warfare to data and intelligence based warfare.

He then ends the discussion with the power of ‘ethics’ in the Blue Economy. The promotion of unconventional thinking, moving out of the box and just wandering away to unwire, retool and re skill will help India to move up their advancement of maritime tools with those of the other nations keeping in mind that it has to be managed for sustainability, not just of the technology but of the ocean too. 

On answering some questions related to AI, the true power of understanding ‘self regulation’ and the scope for it stop itself from being too disastrous, he placed an emphasis on the ‘human touch’ , how if the AI doesn’t get controlled , it will go berserk. There are already numerous investments in seabed mining, much commercialisation of the underwater including many state activities. And that as of now, everyone has invested in AI. 

One of the participants raised the concern of jobs being lost to technology. He answered  by citing that India began the hackathons, the army set up for hackathons.  The army has got  school children to transform the STEM part in terms of ideas and concepts that can help them get ready for new prototypes from the public domain. There’s almost a spill over both civilian and the military. There’s no line – all blurred. It’s exciting actually and not problematic. 

Dr. Akhuja mentioned the problem of depleting available resources on the land and asked him whether getting into the Ocean would give us a chance to understand how to handle the resources with maturity He responded by saying that resources are of two levels: goods and services. There is a whole ecosystem, the food system, a  whole life under water and as of now we don’t know the value of the services, that’s why we call it the sustainable use of the ocean. He warns us to be more careful and not let AI take away the ethics, otherwise it will pose a danger. 

Dr. Akhuja also added to the importance of regulation that ethical humans bring ethical AIs and that the civilian side of tech can be managed  for high sustainability, especially that of India.

This Event Report is prepared by Aastha Hazarika, Research Intern at CPPR

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