Techonomy Events

Reflections from Ross: Memorable Quotes from Techonomy 2015

Adam Mosseri, who oversees the Facebook news feed, on stage at Techonomy 2015 with David Kirkpatrick. (Photo Rebecca Greenfield)

Adam Mosseri, who oversees the Facebook news feed, on stage at Techonomy 2015 with David Kirkpatrick. (Photo Rebecca Greenfield)

What makes a Techonomy program different? As one of the attendees at our recent Techonomy 2015 conference noted, we’re “not afraid to go deep.” At that event we dove deep into the question of human values in an age of tech-enabled almost everything.

So, in alphabetical order…here’s a selection of topics, issues and conversations that emerged at the conference: Afghan social networks, algorithms, ants, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, biofabrication, blockchain, digital economy, empathy, equality/inequality, fair access, fashion, Internet of Things, ISIS, justice, libraries, new model business accelerators for women and minorities, neuroscience, neurotech, pay parity, privacy, robots for mining, values (of people, computers and networks), voting machines that are too old, Qatari social networks, Taliban’s use of bluetooth marketing, virtual reality and much more.

An underlying theme and tone of the conference–that we need to be intentional and responsible with tech, was prominent during our closing session, with CEO Marc Benioff and senior engineer Adam Bosworth of Salesforce.  You can watch the video or read the transcript.

Benioff: “We have modern human resource systems. We know what everybody gets paid. It doesn’t take that long to actually say, ‘Are men paid the same as women at Salesforce?’ It’s, like, one query. We could write it in about a minute. So why hasn’t every CEO committed to making sure that women and men are paid the same?”

You can access the full program and videos here. But here are short cuts to some of the other sessions, via favourite quotes.

From Adam Mosseri, who oversees the Facebook News Feed: “We have a huge responsibility. Because a billion people use Facebook every given day, they load newsfeed a bunch of times per person. And so we have a responsibility to, as best we can, connect them with the stories that they find meaningful. And we need to get better at it.”

From the “Gods in Boxes” session on hidden values, algorithms and the ecosystem in which they operate:

Vivienne Ming, entrepreneur, technologist and neuroscientist: “Computers are just like people, it depends on how you raise them.”

Ron Brachman head of Yahoo Labs: “If big data isn’t representative of the overall population it will make biases worse.”

Oren Boiman, CEO of Magisto: “Will we use the algorithm that is more moral, or the one that will win?”

A few other great quotes:

“I’ll discourage my kids from using the products I built and tried to convince others to use.” – Sean Parker

“The hot job of the future might be robot psychologist.” George John, Rocket Fuel

From “How Much is Your Vote Really Worth?” a short talk by Lawrence Norden of NYU Brennan Center for Justice on America’s antiquated voting machine infrastructure: “In 2016 candidates and their superPACs will probably spend about $10 billion on the election. We’ll be lucky if Congress spends $10 million on our voting machine infrastructure. That’s about five cents a voter.”

From a conversation between inventor and author Jaron Lanier, neuroscientist and philosopher Sir Colin Blakemore and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson that ranged over avatar research, brain plasticity, the economy, employment and virtual reality:

Blakemore: “We are augmenting ourselves through the whole of our lives. We call it education.”

Lanier: “You can’t have some kind of automated perfect society. That’s like a fools game.”

Brian Gerkey on Robot Operating Systems: “We are about to see a lot more robotics in our lives…A lot of those robots will be built on open source software, and that doesn’t seem subversive, it just seems right.”

Our opening session was entitled “Human Values for a Technologized Age.” Some thoughts that emerged:

“Talent is universal, but opportunity isn’t.” Julie Hanna, executive chair of the board, Kiva.org, and special ambassador for global entrepreneurship for President Obama.

“Tech is not developed for those who need it most.” UNICEF’s Erica Kochi

“Ultimately, tech is human.” Rev. Michael McFarland, USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus

Oh…and one last key learning…avoid apples from the grocery store. They’ve been knocking around somewhere in the supply chain for an average of about 14 months. That was probably the most tweeted fact of the conference, which emerged during an awesome session on future food with Caleb Harper of MIT Media Labs’ Open Agriculture Initiative, Christina Agapakis of Ginko Bioworks and Drew Purves of Google DeepMind.

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