BENGALURU: A student of science and a fan of science-fiction, Atul Jalan’s day job involves artificial intelligence (AI), big data and analytics. “You actually get to have a surreal experience of seeing science fiction coming alive right in front of your eyes,” says Jalan, whose novel, Where Will Man Take Us?, assesses how man-made technology is controlling humans. The theme revolves around how AI, nanotechnology and genetics play a pivotal role as the drivers of change – impacting the ways in which society should function. Jalan, founder-CEO of an AI venture, Manthan, paints a sad picture of how these factors are weaving the future of mankind, to an extent that the dynamics of human relationship, morality and ethics are changing.
“If we look around us, the pace of change is accelerating and it is difficult for someone who grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, Robert Heinlein and Douglas Adams to not notice that some of what they imagined is taking life,” says Jalan, whose childhood fascination for science has kept him interested in life-technology intersections. “All I can do is look at the data I have with me, predict a degree of acceleration and then make an assumption on where that acceleration will get us to. The challenge was to keep reminding myself that I’m are not a sci-fi writer but a commentator,” says Jalan, who has debated sci-fi topics ad nauseam with friends. “So while I might not have shared the manuscript, I have shared my thoughts. And have had my ideas validated and different points of view and opinions incorporated before I sit down and frame my arguments for the reader,” he says.
For the city-based author, technology is not an application of science but a way of life. “It is part of us and will only become more ingrained. We and the technologies we have created, have made this the most transformative era in our history. At no other time in human history has the rational mind been so optimistic. In spite of having so much to worry about – nuclear annihilation, melting polar caps, rise of bigotry and such – there is so much to look forward to. We have two options open before us – we can opt to be disgusted with what man is capable of or we can marvel at what man’s many accomplishments. I always chose the latter. And that is my inspiration,” he says.