In advance of Techonomy 2018, we asked our speakers crucial questions that frame our upcoming flagship event.
Q: How big of a responsibility does business have to make the world more equitable?
Fairness matters to me a great deal. We live in a rich society and we must agree on what constitutes fair treatment and compensation. In the U.S., in particular, most low-income individuals are working, many full time, and still struggling to make ends meet. Whatever the solution — whether it is an earned income tax credit or a higher minimum wage, for example — isn’t as important as the principle that in a nation as well-off as ours, working full time should be enough to support a family.
Q: What emerging technology can have the greatest positive impact on society?
It’s been around 250 years since the Industrial Revolution started. That series of revolutions moved people from farms to cities and from manual labor to machine systems and service economies. It never changed the nature of work away from a focus on the routine, until now.
Machine learning has the most dramatic opportunity to improve our well-being and productivity. Machine learning systems have the power to automate complex routine tasks. In combination with blockchains, [this] will become the main means for executing contracts, and work will become truly highly automated.
The automation of highly routine jobs will transform our society; it will make the pursuit of truly satisfying and challenging work possible. The biggest challenge will be in supporting the transition for workers whose positions are eliminated through automation.
Q: What is the biggest business issue that you worry is not getting enough attention?
In the world of blockchain, the most important issue that people are not focusing on is the gap between enterprise users and public networks. Most enterprise users are building their business applications on private blockchain technology, a choice that is useful now but may have significant long-term consequences.
Private networks offer control and centralization, something that’s comfortably familiar to CIOs, but they can never deliver upon the idea of decentralized, trustworthy digital commerce. Only public, open networks can do that.
The choice we face is between a future where digital commerce is run on a toll road, controlled by a few big companies, or one where thousands of companies compete in a dynamic and open ecosystem. If we want the power of the internet to extend to the blockchain, then public networks must triumph.
The internet was meant to be a decentralized tool that would empower companies and individuals. It’s become a highly centralized network dominated by a few large corporations. Do we want the blockchain to go the same way?