Techonomy Events

Program Director Ross on Techonomy 2017–One Month Away!

Pages in our office from the upcoming Techonomy print magazine, with articles about ownership of AIs, the future of voice interfaces, de-extincting species, and the vast challenges facing net giants. The mag goes to attendees at our upcoming conference.

This week we put to bed the fall 2017 issue of the Techonomy print magazine. We’re still old school in many ways, and despite all the work it takes for our tiny team to put a magazine together, we love it. It’s going on press as you read this. (A huge thank you to Mary Kan for keeping this process on schedule!)

I am now putting the final touches to the program for our November conference. In some ways the weeks just before the conference are the best. The program is almost locked and loaded, months of thinking and planning culminating in three days in California this November. But this time is always a little dicey. We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it always does. Shit happens, schedules change, and even the most perfectly planned program has to accommodate these changes. Some times you can, some times you can’t.

But for now, here’s where we are!

When we open the conference on November 5, it will have been a year since Mark Zuckerberg uttered that most-quoted quote from the Techonomy stage: “The idea that fake news on Facebook, of which it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea.” What a difference a year makes!

In some ways we will pick up where we left off, questioning the role tech and the tech industry played in bringing us to this particular moment in time. We’ll have sessions that discuss not only the outsized role the tech giants play and the influence they have in our lives (Reckoning with the New Hegemonists), but also one on the changing idea of “authority” and how it is conferred (What Is Authority in a Networked, Artificially Intelligent World?). Speakers on these topics include Data and Society’s danah boyd, tech investor Roger McNamee, EPIC’s Marc Rotenberg, Simulmedia CEO Dave Morgan and RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney, among others.

But we are Techonomy, so we’ll also look at how tech can pull us out of this mess. Research psychologist J. Galen Buckwalter will talk about “How AI Can Save Democracy.” His thinking responds to the actual attitudes and views of Americans, which aren’t comfortable. This is no pie in the sky, naïve “tech can solve all issues” presentation. My conversations and emails with him for the most part inspire total fear and dread, with only a sprinkling of hope. But hope is important.  We will also have a roundtable on “Can Tech and Government Save Democracy?

We’ll interview Andrew Anagnost the new CEO of Autodesk (his first public interview since being named CEO!), Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Beth Comstock of GE, IBM’s top technologist and Rometty number two John Kelly, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, and Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company. And I’ll be talking to the brilliant author and Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell onstage about his new book, The Water Will Come. It addresses the inevitability of rising sea levels and sinking cities, and what we should do about it. Jeff has previously written about the coal industry and geo-engineering (a favorite topic of ours).

Dr. Justin Sanchez, the director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office will talk to us about how neuro-technology, synthetic biology and gene editing will enable more powerful neuro-tech capabilities in the future.  And Cold Spring Harbor’s Anne Churchland (she’s my go-to neuroscientist) will also be presenting. As an aside, the Churchland family is the neuro equivalent of the Dysons (Freeman, George, Esther). Her parents are well-known neurophilosophers (here’s a New Yorker profile on them), and her brother is also a neuroscientist.

Others we’ll hear from include sociologist and design theorist Benjamin H. Bratton from UCSD, the amazing interface designer Mary Lou Jepsen (now working on brain reading), the head scientist for Amazon’s Alexa Rohit Prasad, Softbank Robotics Chief Strategy Officer Steve Carlin, digital health advocate and author Dr. Eric Topol, Robot Whisperer Tessa Lau of Savioke, Michael Marks, founder of construction tech startup Katerra (and formerly CEO of Flextronics for many years) and VR pioneer Tony Parisi.

So…what else can you expect at Techonomy next month? The full program is here. And if you missed our little “Techonomy Experience” video, please view it here (it starts with a different quote from Mark Z.)

We cover a lot of ground over the course of the conference. If you’re joining us there, I look forward to seeing you soon! I hope you will come.