Society Techonomy Events

Techonomy’s Purpose–Nine Assertions

Josh Kampel, David Kirkpatrick, and Simone Ross onstage during Techonomy 2017. Photo Credit: Paul Sakuma

-Business has serious responsibilities to society that go beyond making a profit.

-It’s essential to take a global view of progress and challenges.

-Technology is a force for good, but only when good is your goal.

-Internet and tech companies need an active intersection with government, whether you call it regulation or not.

-The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence software requires a governmental and social policy response.

-Universal Basic Income is not how society should adapt to automation.

-Technology in education needs to be a priority both in the United States and globally.

-We will not make sufficient progress in healthcare without a robust embrace of tech.

-We all must rise together, or we will not rise at all.

At Techonomy, we are pragmatic optimists. We believe deeply in the power of tech-enabled progress to help the people in the world live a fuller and richer life. But our world and our country face massive challenges—often exacerbated by the very technologies that we think of as progressive. On the one hand, while economic growth is quickening and less-developed countries are developing quickly, it’s not fast enough. The deep inequality in the world is unsustainable. It is also unsustainable in the United States, where we live and operate. Wealth and opportunity must be shared more widely, or disorder and division will continue to spread.

We live in a world of hyper-awareness, thanks in large part to tech-facilitated communications. While “transparency” may be an overused word and too often an under-realized goal, it’s now undeniable that we all see each other. The poor know what the rich have. The marginalized know what life is like in the centers of power and privilege. And the social landscape is vastly changed now that anyone can use tech to amplify their voice.

Still, it is undeniable that a fuller, more awakened embrace of technology tools can help the world better address its problems. There is the potential to achieve far more inclusion and widespread progress on just about every dimension of human welfare if we set our minds to it, and if we understand tech as a lever for progress.

We at Techonomy have promoted this ethos over the past seven years. In that time, the role of tech has become much more powerful in society. Yet many of the consequences of that have been negative. Today, for example, we see a full-blown crisis of confidence in the American political system—and, indeed in democracies around the world—driven in part by justified worries about how Facebook, Twitter, and other online tools can be used to stoke division. This unaddressed concern is starting to leak out and threaten the entire enterprise of tech-led entrepreneurship and innovation. It stands as a cautionary tale as innovators develop tech that will transform almost every dimension of how we live.

The moment stood in stark relief as we prepared to open our Techonomy 2017 conference in early November. I wanted to underscore why our event is fundamentally different than others—why it’s not just another “tech conference.” And I wanted to explain why this was more important now than ever. I sat down and wrote a version of the above list. I included it in my remarks when I opened the conference, explaining that these are our values, our editorial mission. We are not a neutral journalistic organization. We are advocates for the responsible use of technology, which seems more urgent than ever as technology continues to race ahead of society. We see this as the best way to serve our community of business, tech, and social leaders.

For us, pragmatic optimism means being realistic about the challenges we face, even as we remain determined to grasp new tools to address them. But we all have to work more methodically to recognize there may be unintended consequences. How can we head them off when they arise? How does our proud culture of innovation need to change in order to live up to the values we hold? Techonomy is here to raise such difficult questions and help our community find answers.

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  • Josef617

    Fully agree that technology needs to be a priority in education. EdTech innovations offer us a real chance at closing the opportunity gap, and giving all students the support and promise that they deserve. Sadly, EdTech is largely concentrated in suburban, well-off communities that can afford devices, see the value in investing in education, and embrace change. The result is entrenched privilege, making it increasingly difficult for us all to “rise together.”

    • davidkirkpatrick

      It’s a good point. If you have thoughts on how if at all it would be possible to influence that in a positive direction, we’d be eager to hear them. Also, while your point is good for the U.S., we are also thinking globally when we say that, and wondering how to supercharge the introduction of digital education tools everywhere. The smartphone presents a wonderful tool for that and many innovations are already underway. But again, the affected communities remain way too small and often exclude those who most deserve and need progress.