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WTF - Why the Future Is Up to Us - pptx version


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This is the talk I gave January 12, 2017 at the G20/OECD Conference on the Digital Future in Berlin. I talk about fitness landscapes as applied to technology and business, the role of unchecked financialization in the state of our politics and economy, and why technology really wants to create jobs, not destroy them. (There is a separate PDF version, but some readers said the notes were too fuzzy to read.)

Published in: Technology
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WTF - Why the Future Is Up to Us - pptx version

  1. “…47 percent of jobs are “at risk” of being automated in the next 20 years.” Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, Oxford University “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?”
  2. Will there really be nothing left for people to do? Is there really nothing left for humans to do?
  3. Our global economy has the mistaken idea that the goal of technology is to maximize productivity, even if that means treating people as a cost to be eliminated.
  4. That’s a problem “The people will rise up before the robots do.” Andy Macafee Co-author, The Second Machine Age Erik Brynjolfsson and Andy Macafee
  5. We’ve seen this happen before
  6. The weavers of Ned Ludd’s rebellion couldn’t imagine…
  7. They couldn’t imagine…
  8. What is our failure of imagination?
  9. It isn’t technology that wants to eliminate jobs “Technology is the solution to human problems. We won’t run out of work till we run out of problems.” Nick Hanauer
  10. Some global grand challenges technology can help us to solve • Climate change. • Rebuilding and rethinking the infrastructure by which we deliver water, power, goods, and services like healthcare. • Dealing with the “demographic inversion” — the lengthening lifespans of the old and the smaller number of young workers to pay into the social systems that support them. • Income inequality. • Displaced people. How could we use technology to create the infrastructure for whole new cities, factories, and farms, so people could be settlers, not refugees?
  11. The use of automation by business to reduce labor costs and increase profits is a social and political choice, not an economic law!
  12. The March of Progress
  13. But not everyone is equally happy
  14. Fitness Landscapes The way in which genes contribute to the survival of an organism can be viewed as a landscape of peaks and valleys. Through a series of experiments, organisms evolve towards fitness peaks, adapted to a particular environment, or they die out. Image source:
  15. Fitness landscapes are dynamic When conditions are stable, a population chooses one fitness peak and stays there. But when conditions change rapidly, populations must migrate to a new fitness peak.
  16. Local Maxima Once you are on a peak, it’s hard to get to another one, even if it’s higher. You have to go back down. It may be easier to get to the top if you are already starting from a valley floor.
  17. Technology also has a fitness landscape In my career, I’ve watched a number of migrations to new peaks, and I’d like to share with you some observations about what happened, and why. And then we’ll talk about some lessons for digitalization of the overall economy. Personal Computer Big Data and AI Smartphones Apple
  18. Big Data and AI Tim Berners-Lee, 1990 The World Wide Web Linus Torvalds, 1991 Linux
  19. What is the result? Voters are moving away from the fitness peak of the neoliberal consensus. We don’t know yet where that new fitness peak will be, but the migration is telling us loud and clear that the economy needs some fresh thinking.
  20. Yes, things are changing. But one thing doesn’t change. A successful ecosystem creates opportunity for everyone, not just a few.
  21. We will create the economy of the future when we remember that the function of technology is to empower people to do things that were previously impossible!
  22. Government statistics, economic modeling, and regulations are too slow for the pace and scale of the modern world “Would you cross the street with information that was five seconds old?” - Jeff Jonas, IBM Fellow
  23. Users post 7 billion pieces of content to Facebook a day. Expecting human fact checkers to catch fake news is like asking workers to build a modern city with only picks and shovels. At internet scale, we now rely increasingly on algorithms to manage what we see and believe.
  24. This is why Mark Zuckerberg tells his team “Move fast and break things.” - Mark Zuckerberg
  25. “Build, Measure, Learn.” Eric Ries, The Lean Startup
  26. Every day, they are inspecting the performance of their workers and giving them instruction (in the form of code) about how to do a better job In digital systems, the workers are programs, and software engineers are their managers
  27. “This isn’t just how we should be developing software. It’s how we should be developing policy.” Cecilia Muñoz, Director, White House Domestic Policy Council
  28. “Doing digital is not the same as being digital.” Josh Bersin Deloitte
  29. “We have to go from apps to ops.” Jennifer Pahlka Code for America & USDS
  30. “The smartphone is becoming a remote control for real life.” Matt Cohler, Benchmark Partners
  31. “Uber is a lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.” Aaron Levie,