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Techonomy NYC Is a Lens on a New Kind of Society

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Techonomy NYC was Thursday May 26 at NYU, in a building overlooking Washington Square Park. (Image Shutterstock)

The conference was a big success and you can see the video here. The below article was written beforehand. -DK

 

As I sit here in Techonomy’s office on 22nd Street glancing through the completed program for this coming Thursday’s debut one-day Techonomy New York conference on Washington Square, how can I best convey why we are so confident this event will be meaningful and valuable? I’ve been doing prep calls with speakers for the last week or so, and with each one I become more personally excited. So that’s one thing. (The program is here. Now that the event is over, you can view the lifestream here.)

We want attendees to walk away with a deepened perspective about the scope and depth of tech-driven change, particularly the increasing web of connectivity known as the Internet of Things. The IoT isn’t just about self-driving cars, improving the efficiency of agriculture, and extending lives by more thoroughly monitoring human health, though it is all of those things. Along with related developments like artificial intelligence, improving networks, and redesigned business models in company after company, it’s about a new sort of society. That’s what we want you to walk away thinking about. It’s a daunting set of issues; it’s not being discussed in the political debate; and it’s very, very real. The world is changing because of tech and we’ve all got to engage with that.

This new connected society should mean vastly better lives for many billions of people. It can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of just about every system we know, from education to healthcare, from transportation to logistics, from entertainment to you-name-it. But the reason I italicized “should” is because with change, nothing is certain. We increasingly know what tech can do, but today’s technologies are so potentially powerful that we are increasingly in a position of not fully understanding how to employ them. We put on these conferences because we recognize it’s a weird and challenging world we’re heading into, and we want to help business leaders and citizens see the opportunities and challenges more clearly.

When Jessica Federer, who heads digital transformation at German pharma and health care giant Bayer, says the company is moving from a strategy of “volume” to one of “value,” she is making a profound statement about what the IoT and other new tools make possible. On our opening panel she will further explain how it is becoming possible to charge customers only when their health improves, or only when their crop yields jump, instead of charging them for stuff that they otherwise would use to try to achieve those results.

The way Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, will explain it in our opening session is that the big challenge before any company is “How do you take an asset and make it more productive?” That’s what Tesla and SpaceX have done, he explains. He believes the way to do that for any business will be by taking a “software-first mentality.” For GE’s part, it is rapidly developing the capability of creating “digital twins,” to use its terminology, that enables the world to be modeled and optimized.

But a world of data has enormous pitfalls, as our final session will underscore. In that one, danah boyd of Data & Society will explain how many values are built into the data we collect and use. “What are the biases and cultural assumptions we bake into our tech that we don’t necessarily account for?” she asked when I sat down with her to discuss this session. boyd will be joined by Financial Times North American Editor Gillian Tett. In her own recent book Silos, she argues that data can be an amazing connecting tool and break down boundaries. But if you don’t “engage your brain,” Tett says, data can deepen silos and make people “more tribal rather than less.”

In between these two provocative sessions we will hear Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, talk about the future of cities and transportation. Carolyn Everson of Facebook will join Dave Morgan of Simulmedia on the careening software-driven shifts underway in marketing and advertising. Time’s Rana Foroohar will talk about her provocative new book Makers and Takers: The Financialization of America, and be joined onstage by legendary New York venture capitalist Alan Patricof. We’ll hear NYU’s Arun Sundararajan discuss what the sharing economy really means. Jon Stein, CEO of Betterment, explains how investing is transformed by automation. A panel tackles the opportunity posed by the amazing new technology blockchain. Dr. David Agus – a professor of medicine and engineering at USC – discusses his books The End of Illness and The Lucky Years. An FCC commissioner will talk about the future of networks. Nina Tandon of Epibone will talk about growing bones. Another session will look at how urban data can help small businesses.

It may seem a disparate group of topics, but you can’t understand any of them without seeing better how tech is changing everything. The idea is that if you understand what’s possible in one realm, you’ll get a better feeling for what’s happening in another. We hope you will come away astonished and excited. If you want to be there, there are still a few seats. Get more information from Tracy Loughlin at Tracy@techonomy.com.

Kirkpatrick is Techonomy’s CEO and will host Techonomy NYC.

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