We’ve been fine-tuning the Techonomy program for our conference starting next week in California. We try to assemble people and ideas that help our community grasp the big tech-infused issues facing them as businesspeople and citizens. As we’ve been doing prep calls, I found myself amazed by the minds that will be there, and by their diversity.
We’ll need all the help we can get. It’s a peculiarly challenging time to make the right decisions. Sometimes the situation seems very grim. Meanwhile, digital change continues to roll over every industry. The pace continues to accelerate. The tools keep changing and growing in complexity, notably with artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the new models and business ecosystems of cloud computing, and an increasingly dense internet of things. All of that we’ll discuss, by the way.
But since around the 2016 presidential election an entirely new layer has been added to the challenges of insuring tech is a tool for human progress. For the first time in my 30 years as a tech journalist, it’s impossible to say with a straight face that tech is unequivocally making the world better.
We now see inordinate societal harms emerging that can be traced directly to the nature of a digital society. And many of them are specifically due to digitally-interconnected communications and media. Now ordinary individuals have power that can equal that of the traditional power brokers–leaders, government officials, and celebrities. But we haven’t yet built checks and balances that accord with the power shifts of a digitally-interconnected age. If there is one thing that has fundamentally altered the landscape, it’s that.
This theme will arise repeatedly at Techonomy. Speakers who will talk about it include Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Tech, Konstantinos Karachalios of the IEEE, Fadi Chehade (who recently ran the web management group ICANN), LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner (His company banned all political ads nine months ago.), UC Berkeley Bioethics Professor Jodi Halpern, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and journalists Casey Newton of The Verge, Sarah Frier of Bloomberg, and Andrew Keen, whose books include The Internet is Not the Answer. We’re also thrilled to welcome David Plouffe, who built Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.
But we’ll also get inklings about a new architecture for computing. We’ll hear from two hugely-ambitious hardware startups with plans to create a new decentralized architecture for data.
Soni Jiandani of Pensando Systems will help open the conference with company Chairman John Chambers, the Cisco veteran. Pensando has a new hardware/software system it believes will enable any company to do what Amazon does with its Web Services business, but more efficiently. It may be needed as 5G and the internet of things vastly increases the amount of data being produced, processed, measured, and acted upon across the global economy. Pensando’s leadership team are all longtime networking industry veterans, who spent years together at Cisco and elsewhere.
Renee James, who speaks Monday, is CEO of Ampere Computing. She was once president of Intel, and has assembled an impressive corps of veterans from that chip colossus to build a new processor specially designed for modern cloud-based data centers. So this company aims to go head to head with the biggest chip company, and Pensando with the biggest corporate web services company, Amazon. And both are led not by 20-somethings but by people with decades of industry experience. It’s a refreshing change from app-based tools created in dorm rooms.
Here are two other startup CEOs who will join us onstage:
-Ryan Popple leads Proterra, the country’s leading manufacturer of electric buses. It aims to remake our urban transportation landscape and vastly improve cities all over the world. He’ll join Lila Preston, an investor at Generation, the investment firm co-founded by Vice President Al Gore, which focuses heavily on sustainable technologies.
-Matt Barnard is CEO of Plenty, another next-generation company aiming for a cleaner, more sustainable future. Plenty creates indoor agriculture facilities, where leafy greens and other crops grow with extreme efficiency close to urban customers. He, too, will be joined onstage by a company investor–Dror Berman, who co-founded Innovation Endeavors with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. We published an article about Plenty and Innovation Endeavors last week.
Bhushan Joshi of Ericsson will talk about how 5G computing enables action to combat global warming and create a more sustainable economy. Cameron Clayton, who heads Watson and the Weather Company at IBM, will explain how better weather analysis and reporting can help us both deal with and combat climate change. Scientist Jane Long will describe how, despite all the other progress, we may have to resort to geo-engineering to deliberately alter the climate if we cannot reduce climatic change by other means.
We’ll go deep into numerous other topics, always seeking to understand what themes connect them
- What it takes to keep a company at the cutting edge of tech adoption (Adam Berman of Accenture)
- How to create community inside a company (Jim McCann of 1-800-FLOWERS with Lakshmi Rengarajan)
- Why we need to rethink the notion of “elders” as structures in the workplace and society get turned upside down (Chip Conley, author of Wisdom @ Work)
- How to more efficiently distribute food (Jasmine Crowe of Goodr)
- The extreme and growing importance of cultivating diversity inside organizations (Sharawn Connors of Micron Technology)
- Self-driving cars (Dan Chu, who heads product at Alphabet’s Waymo subsidiary)
- The Chinese car industry and why it’s moving so fast (Michael Dunne of ZoZoGo)
- The new science of proteomics and how it may keep us all healthier (Roy Smythe of SomaLogic)
- How neurotechnology may enable us to improve our brains (Amy Kruse of Playtpus Institute).
We range from policy and politics to new forms of healthcare to the insides of our brains. That’s Techonomy. There isn’t another conference like it. If you are intrigued, let us know.