David Kirkpatrick. (All photos by Asa Mathat)
Founder and CEO, Techonomy
Director of Future Technology, Herman Miller, Inc.
A new society is coming into being. People around the world are building it using the rapidly-evolving tools of technology. Productivity is increasing and social progress is accelerating as business deploys the Internet and information technology to change the way we work and live.
Techonomy’s 2013 conference focuses on business—how it is changing and how it must change. Business, both technology’s engine and its proving ground, is revolutionizing the world. Here, Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick kicks off this year’s series of conversations.
Read full transcript below. (Transcript by Realtime Transcription.)
Kirkpatrick: So I want to start right away with something that I think more or less underscores why we’re here. So let’s put this on the monitor. There we go. For those of you here two years ago, I apologize. I did this before, but I think there’s certain things that we cannot have too far from our consciousness, and this is the main one in my opinion.
So this is this famous gapminder.org, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with, but this is on the vertical axis life expectancy, on the horizontal, income. So it’s wealth and health, by country, each one of these is a country and the size is determined by their population.
So you see the world has just been getting a lot better over time, very, very methodically, and especially since the ’50s. And look what happens to some of the countries since the ’60s. There’s a convergence going on, which is fairly substantial, and to me, it’s one of the key reasons why we are here.
I want to just show you one that I was playing around with last night. There’s one I found particularly interesting. If you go to just India and you go since 1930, look at this. Life span in India. In 1920, okay, it was 25. Life span in India. Just watch this.
Now, life expectancy, by the way, is calculated as how many years would a child born today live if mortality rates today remained the same in the future.
So, you know, here we have the second-largest country in the world, or maybe it’s the largest. I know they have pissing matches over that. Between 1920 and today, the average life span has gone from 25 to—you can actually click on it and see—66. That is epical, that is transformative to everything.
And I’ll just go back and play the whole thing again, while I continue to talk, because I don’t think you can see this too often. It has so many implications, not to mention it’s a tech visualization. So we’re Techonomy, we believe in tech, this is the kind of tool that helps us think differently about the world.
I want to just throw in another data point, because I think it’s pertinent in conjunction with this data. One of our partners is Ericsson, they just released something they call a mobility report, which they do periodically, that studies what’s happening with global technology for mobility.
One of the statistics in there is that today there are 1.9 billion smartphones on the planet. In 2019, they estimate there will be 5.6 billion smartphones on the planet. From 1.9 billion new to 5.6 billion in six years, that’s underscoring the transformation we see here, which is, in my opinion, not only a tech-based transformation, largely driven by the Green Revolution and the ability to feed more people, the quality—improving quality of health care globally, but I think technology plays into all of that in 1,000 ways.
And now that these people whose basic lifestyle is increasingly similar to ours, in longevity, Mexico’s at 77. The U.S. is at 79. These are very similar data points. A lot of these countries want to get further to the right on this scale, but China has been doing a pretty damn good job of that, as I’m sure you noticed, as we did the animation. Let me just play it again. We’ll go back just to watch China, since 1926, what I landed on. Just watch that red dot, but I’m not going to keep doing this all day.
But the point is that when we say the revolution business, which is the theme of Techonomy this year, it’s all about how business is changing in every dimension; and when we look at why is business changing in every dimension, this to me is the single biggest reason. We have entered an age of inclusion, driven by a lot of the things that we talk about here and we will be talking about here for the next two days, that it’s fundamentally altering the landscape in which we operate. It is changing the customers, the employees, the way products are developed, the—where they are developed, how you innovate. All these people in these countries are basically part of every company’s target market, employee population and competitive set.
So that is a big, big change. And we believe that a new society really is coming into being, as people around the world are building a new society, using the rapidly evolving tools of technology. Productivity is increasing, social progress is accelerating, particularly because of the Internet and information technology and the way it’s changing how we work and live. That’s no surprise to most of you.
But one of the other things we believe at Techonomy is that business is the real engine of technological progress in modern society, and we are a resolutely business-oriented conference. We don’t look down on any other part of society, but we think it’s business driving progress forward.
But in conjunction with that, we very much believe that leaders of all sorts have to be technologists. You saw our clever cover of our book, which we think is sort of a fun design. But it isn’t a joke. We really do believe that any leader that doesn’t think like a technologist is screwed.
One of our panelists in our opening session, James Manyika, was just in Moscow a week or two ago, and he was on a panel with Dmitry Medvedev. That’s the kind of panelists we have here. And he said leaders all have to be technologists. And Medvedev was so taken with that he repeated it in the press several times, quoting James Manyika.
On the other hand, look what’s happening to our president right now. Look at why his popularity is plummeting and senators are flocking to the Oval Office saying, “Do something.” It’s because he’s such a policy wonk, he didn’t think about the fact you have to implement the policy using technology.
So the first time the U.S. Government has ever deployed a mass product on the Internet ever for new law, it completely failed, because the leaders at the top level, Obama and the people around him, didn’t think hard enough about that.
That is why leaders need to be technologists, they need to think like technologists. And that’s why we have the Techonomy conference, is to keep people from becoming like Obama is right now. That’s not—that’s funny, but it is not a joke. He’s in deep shit and it’s because he underestimated the technology side of what he was trying to accomplish. Pretty obvious, I suppose.
So I just want to tell you a few other things that aren’t quite as earth-shaking. But this is important to us, in September we had our second annual Techonomy Detroit conference, which unlike this one, is open to the public. We had 650 people in Detroit, in downtown Detroit—they call it Midtown Detroit, where Wayne State University is located, in a beautiful auditorium. We had Jack Dorsey and Governor Snyder of Michigan. And a lot of the same kind of themes but focused very much on the United States and how technology is changing the competitive and the economic equation for our country and specifically for our cities.
And the one issue that we really hark on a lot is jobs, because we are very worried about jobs, and Detroit conference is very much founded on that concern and our belief that if the country, again, regardless of who its leaders are—but I don’t think our current leaders fully understand this, as much as I did vote for Obama myself, both times—but I don’t think our leaders recognize the degree to which technology is transforming the economy by day at the moment, and we don’t know what our people are going to do in five years.
That’s why we have the Techonomy Detroit conference. It was a huge success, and we’re going to do it again next September 16th, probably even bigger.
So I want to just tell you about a couple things I’m super-excited that we’re going be doing in the next day or so. We go to noon on Wednesday.
Here’s one session I’m really excited about. Tomorrow morning, first thing, on this stage, the CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, will be talking. And this is a guy, who, really, when you talk to him, you think, how the hell did you become CEO? Because he basically is talking about completely cutting the legs out of that company’s history as a health insurer and turning it into a technology platform. It all came from a set of personal experiences he had in the healthcare system that changed the way we thought of everything, and the board was nervy enough to make him the CEO. You will find him amazing.
I’m also really excited about the very big-picture session we have tonight after dinner, with Stewart Brand, Walter de Brouwer and Ina Fried, where we’re going to be talking about the ethos that underlies technological progress and how it’s changed over time and where it’s going. We’ll talk about a lot of other stuff that’s related to that, like who are the real technological revolutionaries today, how do they differ from in the past?
Stewart Brand, the person who identified and first named the personal computer, he is excited about a lot of other things now, but the reason he is on the panel is because he did that and because he’s a good friend of ours and because we think he’s really a big-picture thinker of the type that we like to put in front of you here.
Because what we are really doing here is trying to put the people and ideas in front of leaders that they need to understand in order to continue being effective.
And so a couple other things I wanted to say, we are very excited about our labs. We have labs on journalism, the risks of the ‘Net, sharing and cities, the future of American elections, creativity, mapping as a platform. Tomorrow morning we’ll have a session on the future of business, big picture, with a bunch of really smart people; another session on how we can better respond to humanitarian disasters, like this awful thing that just happened in the Philippines. That session is extremely pertinent, given the week we’ve had. And unfortunately we have weeks like that more and more often these days.
Not to mention on Wednesday morning, the World Economic Forum’s special breakfast session on the evolving hyper-connected world and how that’s changing everything. This is a super-Techonomic topic. It’s kind of like a compressed version of the whole conference, in my opinion.
Tomorrow afternoon, we have kind of a whole afternoon devoted to cities with Tony Hsieh and an amazing panel on cities. There’s a bunch of other stuff I’m not mentioning.
Tomorrow night, the powerful singer ZZ Ward is going to perform on this stage and answer questions from me and you, but you will be really sad if you miss her. Because she’s 22, 23, not like our last two years, where we had Lyle Lovett and Richard Thompson, wonderful old white guys, she is a young woman who is unbelievably energetic and sort of a hybrid of blues and hip-hop. I think—I’m really excited that we have yet another year with incredible music here at Techonomy.
So one of our sponsors is Herman Miller, and you are sitting on their great work, the Sayl chairs. Ryan Anderson is here to give us a quick demo on the chairs, so Ryan.
Anderson: Thanks, David. Well, hello. Good afternoon. Yeah, I’m Ryan Anderson. I’m the director of future technology at Herman Miller. So my job is to research and help envision what the workplace might look like in an era of emerging technologies. But today I’m here to teach you how to adjust your chair.
Most of you are sitting in this chair, which we call our Sayl chair. It was designed for Herman Miller by Yves Behar. For those of you in the Bay area that might occasionally get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, this suspended engineering was inspired by the bridge, which is one reason we called it Sayl.
So the chair has got a lot of adjustments, particularly for people that sit for long periods of time. I will tell you what you need to know, just to be comfortable and healthy throughout Techonomy.
So first, if you want to go along with me, you can. On the right side of your chair, there’s a couple levers. One of them is round and just behind it is a little lever that goes up and down. That adjusts the height of your chair. If you’re sitting in it and you pull it up, you will go down. If you pull it up and you raise up a little bit, it will go up. So find a height that’s comfortable for you.
Likewise the chair goes back. The round knob in front of adjusts how much tension it requires to push it back. So if you rotate it forward, it will be harder to push back. If you rotate it backwards, it will be a little bit easier.
Now, if you are someone that doesn’t like to lean back at all, there’s actually a lock. So on the left-hand side, there’s a different lever. If you adjust that up while sitting forward, it will actually lock the back. If you want to stay upright, you can do that, or there’s one setting that locks it at half point. Then if you do it all the way back, you can lean all the way back. There’s a few other things, but they are a little more advanced for long-term sitting.
The arms ratchet up individually into different heights. If you want to reset them, bring them all the way to the top and push them down. Yes. And if you don’t like the speaker, you can just do that over and over again. So they operate independently. So remember, if you bring them to the top, that’s the reset and it will take them back down.
One final thing, if you are a very tall person, which I am not, on your left-hand side, there’s a little lever that can actually move the seat pan out so you don’t feel like you are falling off the chair. All right.
That’s the Sayl chair. If you have any questions or if you just want to say hi, please come and say hello. And enjoy Techonomy.
Kirkpatrick: Thank you, Ryan. Honestly, it really makes a difference to have such incredible furniture. So we love Herman Miller.
Now, collaboration, one of the things we really think is different about Techonomy, we really—we are not a broadcast model. We love Ted, but that’s a broadcast model. We are not producing television. Although we have a ton of people watching on Livestream and we do try to produce television, but we also really try to interact as much as we can in with every direction. So we think of ourselves as collaborative as the world is becoming, and we believe not only in Q&A, but you can just as much make a comment at any time as ask a question. You are always entitled.
Mic handlers are going to be very active, but please, if you are going to speak out, make sure you wait for the mic and say your name and what you do, just what your affiliation is.
And like I said, we’re webcasting all the general sessions live on Livestream, and also at Yahoo. We have a Twitter hashtag of Techonomy 13. Please use it liberally. We are on Instagram. We have a fantastic app, which is up to the minute with everything that’s happened on the program. Developed by Mobile Roadie. We are really happy with their work. All the bios, session descriptions, room assignments, et cetera, are there. And there have been some changes in the program, so everything, like I said, is up-to-date there.
Meanwhile, we’ll have some printouts of the program available on the registration desk, if you want to have a printed-out thing that’s absolutely up to the minute. There’s not that many changes, but there’s a few. And also the thing at the registration has the descriptions right on it for the sessions.
We also have in the program book articles by some of our speakers. We are very happy about that. We’re kind of publishers of physical media as well. We don’t think print is dead, even though it’s different than it used to be. We have a lot of articles on Techonomy.com, by participants in the editorial section.
Another thing you might want to know is there’s a bunch of power strips on the round tables in the back of the room. I believe—are there also power strips over there? Okay, there are power strips there as well. So if you run out of gas, electronically, you can move to the back of the room and use a round table.
So silence your cell phones. And we really, really are grateful to our partners who I’m going to list. Cisco, EMC, Ericsson, Ford, McKinsey, Kaplan University, Dell, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, GE, Herman Miller. We think it’s an incredible list of very, very impressive companies. I’m very happy to have the support of all of them.
So now we are going to go right into the program. And we initially—I was initially going to moderate this, but then we decided we had another idea, because one of our panelists got sick and wasn’t able to come. I have a lot of opinions on this and other matters, as you may have noticed, so I asked one of my smartest friends, Zachary Karabell, to join us as the moderator. He’s a columnist at Reuters. He was just named today head of global strategy for a company called Envestnet, which is a 1,000-person investing firm.
And I think we ought to get the panelists up here. Come on up, Zachary, et al. Where am I supposed to sit?