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Reflections from Ross: Planning for Techonomy 17, and a Techonomy NYC Reading List

The Tech in an Age of Insecurity panel at Techonomy NYC. From left, moderator and Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick, The Financial Times‘s Gillian Tett, Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund, and Rodney Brooks from Rethink Robotics

It’s been just over a month since Techonomy NYC. Post-conference, I’ve been scanning through the session transcripts and thinking about ideas for our upcoming November conference in Half Moon Bay, California (Nov 5-7).

If you were not able to join us in NYC, you can view the conference video and (in some cases) read transcripts on our website. It started with a great interview with Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, who talked at length about the death of attention-based companies and the rise of token-based business models. He is, in general, optimistic that both the political system and economic system will work out for the best (despite Trump, et al.).

Jessi Hempel of Backchannel led a great conversation with The Filter Bubble author and Upworthy CEO Eli Pariser, the Institute of the Future’s Rachel Maguire and NYU AI expert Gary Marcus on the question of the shifting nature of authority in our networked world.  It yielded one of the more foreboding quotes of the conference (from Gary) “We’re moving to a more and more fragmented world, where each person can get an individual mirror of their own beliefs and feel reinforced that they’re correct. I think we’re moving away from the kinds of pressures that would make people do things in collective ways…” This is a conversation we’ll be continuing at Techonomy in November.

Another conversation I’m hoping to pick up on for the November program is the issue of how we can use tech in a meaningful way to engage in the political process in a way that has impact. Tweeting only can get us so far. Gillian Tett talked about this at length in the “Tech in An Age of Insecurity” session (with Rodney Brooks of Rethink Robotics and Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund). She said she believed that because we think tech connects us, we’re not realizing that it’s actually fragmenting more than it is connecting us, so yes, “…tech can be a force for good. Right now it’s as much as anything a force for bad in politics.” As Techonomy 2017 will be happening a year after the election, it will be a good time to reflect.

And last, but not least, as I worked my way through the transcripts, I was struck by the number of references speakers made to books they said we must read. So here’s our first reading list!

  1. Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil (by far the most referenced book at the conference)
  2. Against Elections by David Van Reybrouck
  3. The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett
  4. The Sharing Economy by Arun Sundararajan
  5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  6. Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen
  7. The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg
  8. The Road to Wellville by T. C. Boyle
  9. Sensemaking by Christian Madsbjerg
  10. Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz
  11. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  12. Casino Healthcare by Dan Munro
  13. The Digital Doctor by Robert Wachter
  14. Thrive by Arianna Huffington
  15. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
  16. The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna (Ibn Sina)
  17. The Incoherence of Philosophers by Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali
  18. Tahafut Al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence) by Averroës (Ibn Rushd)

And no, I haven’t read them all.

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