India As A Coding Language Superpower In A Robotic World

Dr. Satinder Bhatia, Professor, Indian Institute of Foreign TradeDr. Satinder is an eminent person with interests in Managerial Accounting, Project Appraisal & Finance, Financial Management, International Financial Management, Equity Market Analysis, Bond Market Analysis, Cost Management Strategies and many other areas.

Evolution is integral to nature, and human beings have adopted this principle of evolution in all their activities. This evolution may be called by different names ­ change, transformation or innovation. That is why, we have heard of Industry 2.0 or Manufacturing 4.0. Similarly, languages also evolve with time, with new words or phrases becoming part of the language in tune with cultural, social and environmental dynamics. Some languages also become extinct as their use declines over time due to lack of evolution or innovation in their applications.

In earlier times, annexation by the British Empire made English language popular all over the world. Today, it is commerce that is spreading Mandarin everywhere. Suddenly, Chinese studies, including its philosophy, history and culture are becoming integral to course curriculums in universities all over the world. The adaptation of languages takes place at local levels as locals strive to maximize the benefits of using the language through wide-scale adoption. These adaptations may be in the form of songs composed in a mix of languages as also common dialect such as the Hinglish in India. Perhaps, the same is required of Sanskrit, Urdu and many other Indian languages that are not commonly spoken nowadays.

Every government likes to pre-serve its culture, and languages and artefacts depicting the same are kept in museums for future generations. But future generations don't want just to know the culture and languages of yesteryears; they would like to know what was done to ensure the evolution of these languages over-time ­ what was the role played by governments and other organizations, and how citizens are better-off with such evolution than without it. Museums often complain of low footfalls, but the low footfalls may be because the innovative aspect that the new generation wants to hear, feel and contribute to is missing. That is why nowadays, language learning/teaching alone is not sufficient. Students need to be given a chance to experiment with the language and contribute to its evolution for solving complex
problems. Can popular Hindi songs not just be translated in Urdu or another language but composed in a mix of Hindi, Urdu, Kashmiri, Arabic and English/French, which will not just appeal to wider audience, but also lead to changes in the lyrics of the song itself as it embodies different cultures? These are not untested techniques for singers as they try to increase their popularity across geographies; but they acquire a new meaning when focussed on solving intractable problems facing a region or country.

Information Technology is one field which is characterized by the evolution of languages focused on problem solving. Coding or the language by which machines understand the human beings and vice versa, as well as how machines talk to machines (IoT), has come to the fore and is becoming an everyday and every person's asset. Technology, including Artificial Intelligence has pervaded every profession ­ medicine, law, education and others. Increasingly, we are going to see more & more robots in hospitals, court rooms, schools and colleges. So, don't all of us have to learn how to communicate with robots with whom we have to work? Today, robots are not just doing our repetitive or heavy-lifting tasks; they are now making predictions for human beings many years ahead based on a scan of all structured and unstructured data and advising on business strategies and the changes that can be made to avoid or accelerate what is predicted.

This is India's time to seize this moment and become a superpower in the supply of computer services

Machines/drones are now inevitable to lend a superpower status to human beings. Mandarin may be becoming popular only in countries that trade with China, but because robots have pervaded every field and every country, coding is making inroads everywhere at an unbelievable pace, aided of course by the simplification or the innovation in the language. Today, R and Python have become household words and one sees bootcamps organized everywhere to teach these languages as both these languages help us make sense of large unstructured data. Then, there are other languages like SQL to get insights into strategy, marketing and others, PHP for web development, HTML5 for designing game development framework, C++ for video games, mobile phone apps, virtual reality and one of the earliest of all ­ the Java language that is used for software development and large systems development. Thus, there are specific languages for specific purposes.

The purpose drives which language must be used and also the innovations in that language. School kids as young as five or six years old are learning coding by doing in schools in Singapore, UK, U.S. and Europe. India has been the biggest exporter of computer services to the world since the beginning of the 21st century. But to retain that position, we must make coding and programming as a main-stream activity in all our schools and colleges. As experienced programmers tell us, coding is just not a technical exercise ­ it teaches us to be purpose-focussed and in that process be ethical and collaborative, while the problem is dissected and different elements of the problem handled to different teams. Reading, writing and arithmetic have been the constituents of literacy for long. Coding is making an inroad into the definition of literacy, as well and attracting much more weight than the earlier elements. India should have lofty aims to be a supplier of coding skills to the entire world, as country after country experiences the shortage of the same. This is India's time to seize this moment and become a superpower in the supply of computer services. There are many countries ahead of us in the manufacture of drones and artificial intelligence, but computer services can be our steadfast terrain, as we learn and evolve fast driven by the problem at hand.