Last month, Cathy Fink and I were fortunate enough to attend the 9th annual Techonomy conference for a second time – an event that convenes the brightest minds in tech and business – to discuss how technological advances are transforming industries and addressing global challenges.
Located on the shores of Half Moon Bay in California, the three-day retreat explored what the business and tech industries must do to reset and restore themselves in the year ahead.
There was general consensus among the majority of participants that businesses have a responsibility to work for the benefit of society in a transparent manner, not simply to pursue profit. Greater and more meaningful cross-sector collaboration was also discussed in-depth, along with the need for new rules, traditions and definitions of business operations in today’s highly diffused landscape. Another key theme that re-appeared in a number of key sessions was the indispensability of diversity and why it is a key driver of internal innovation and business growth in fast-changing environments.
Highlights of the conference included a conversation with LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner on the need for compassionate, ethical leadership and why the company isn’t accepting political ads, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s preview of her new AI venture Lumi Labs, and Center for Humane Tech’s Tristan Harris on fighting back against ad-driven internet platforms that are contributing to social decay. Ad industry veteran Sir Martin Sorrell said there is no question that internet platforms which generate revenue from advertising are true media companies, and therefore must take responsibility for the content that flows through their systems. Social entrepreneur Jasmine Crowe delivered a fascinating talk on her new venture Goodr, a blockchain-based company that’s tackling food waste.
The event concluded with talks from Johnson & Johnson’s vice-chairman Joaquin Duato on the company’s bold ambitions to leverage innovation to alter the landscape of global healthcare, and political veteran David Plouffe’s reflections on the impact of the impeachment hearings why he feels that there is a 50-50 chance that Donald Trump will get re-elected.
While there was a lot to unpack from the various sessions over the three days, if we had one take-home message, it would be that in an environment of tech dysfunction, social discord, political polarization, and climate catastrophe, the world needs responsible leadership to ethically leverage the power of tech to tackle the world’s biggest problems.