5 Times We Accurately Anticipated Technology Disruption and Prepared People for It!

Since our launch, January 2017, our live event think tanks, workshops and webinars, have highlighted how emerging technologies would disrupt our world in the future and how people can participate in innovation. We've got a pretty good track record.

A World in Dire Need of AI Ethics Guidance

All event photos are from Tech 2025 events.
MARCH 2017:  One of our first think tanks, Shining a Light on AI Consortiums and Big Tech Companies – Who Gets To Define Artificial Intelligence Ethics? , drew a large crowd of professionals who were very curious about Artificial Intelligence which, at that time, was not yet being covered extensively in mainstream media. We not only introduced our audience to potential of AI, we presented highlighted ethical problems that could potentially cripple businesses and governements. We presented attendees with several AI ethics problems to solve that, years later, companies and governments are only just beginning to grapple with by establishing guidelines, consortiums and executive positions dedicated specifically to ethics.

LATER THAT YEAR, JULY 2017,  we hosted a think tank,  23 Guidelines to Avoid an AI Apocalypse According to Experts , exploring one of the first AI ethics guidelines (the 23 Asilomar AI Principals ) co-authored by leading scientists and technologists in AI (including Elon Musk). We asked attendees to do a critical analysis of the guidelines and decide whether the document was sufficient to define and mitigate future problems with AI. How would unethical use of AI by companies and governments be policed? Surprisingly, over 95% of the audience was very displeased with the guidelines (expressing bemusement and distrust of the guidelines and highlighting glaring ommisions and biases). Since 2017, over 200 AI ethics guidelines have been published by companies, governments and think tanks and, as our members pointed out three years ago, critics question if AI ethics guidelines are not nearly enough.

We explore emerging technologies through a global lense. In 2018, we hosted this virtual event:  Dr. Michael Laakasuo on AI Ethics in Finland vs. the US and Moralities of Intelligent Machines . And because technology begins and ends with people, we often highlight people whose lives are impacted by technology (positively and negatively) like story of a man who lost his freedom due to an algorithmic error: How Biased Software Denied Me Parole: a Conversation with Glenn Rodríguez . Our founder and CEO, Charlie Oliver, has been featured in publications on the future of AI ethics ( AI & Communications and The Guide to Responsible Tech ) offering insights and her suggestions for how companies can navigate this new world.

FAST FORWARD to the year 2020:

  • AI Has Resulted In “Ethical Issues” For 90% Of Businesses ( read )
  • Google Offers to Help Others with the Tricky Ethics of AI ( read )
  • Responsible AI becomes critical in 2021 ( read )
  • Ethical concerns mount as AI takes bigger decision-making role in more industries ( read )
  • Pentagon Grappling With AI’s Ethical Challenges ( read )
  • Hundreds of the world's top minds debate ethics at Dstl's AI Fest ( read )
  • Artificial intelligence in a crisis needs ethics with urgency ( read )
  • Vatican, tech heads see COVID as chance for ‘ethical’ AI solutions ( read )
  • Ethical Frameworks for AI Aren’t Enough ( read )
  • Exploring the failings of AI ethics guidelines ( read )

Technology and the Future of Work: from Acquiring Skills to Universal Basic Income

JANUARY 2017: One of our biggest obsessions was the focus of our event, Silicon Valley, Universal Basic Income and the Future of Work , where we presented a vision of the technological future that was very different from anything our audience had known up to that point or could have possibly imagined. And, initially, it terrified them. Even back then, in the early days of launch, we knew the future of work, defined by accelerating, disruptive technologies, would demand the entire workforce (technical and non-technical) be upskilled for technical jobs that didn't exist yet and that providing an economic safety net of some kind for the millions of workers displaced by automation (according to researchers), would be necessary. Sitting squarely in the center of this tornado of change are big tech companies who would have no choice no choice but to support and lead the innovation charge.

We asked our audience
to consider how UBI might be rolled out within several years from the perspective of a low income worker, a middle-income tech worker, a CEO of a big tech company and a politician. How, we wanted to know, would big tech and legislators work together on UBI and would it be to benefit of all Americans? Their solutions shocked us and our guest speaker!

Our conversations and events on the future of work continued to evolve over the years and quickly became a cornerstone of our content and engagement strategy.  December of 2018 , our workshop, Alternative Futures: How the Collision of Automation, Inequality and Demographics Will Transform the Workforce and Economy in the Next 10 Years , drew a large audience that was eager to learn more about the potential negative impact of emerging tech on jobs and how they could prepare for the future. We delved deeper into the ideas around big tech companies setting the trends for the future of work that other companies would follow at our events, The Impact of Amazon on Jobs & Small Businesses in NYC (January 2018), How Companies are Retraining Employees for Technology Jobs of the Future (a think tank on technology upskilling and reskilling, November 2019), and The Future of Work: a Review of Hiring Algorithms and How Companies Can Avoid Unintended Biases and Negative Outcomes (a think tank, January 2020).

FAST FORWARD to the year 2020:

  • Twitter CEO Leads Effort To Help 7 Million People With Universal Basic Income ( read )
  • Universal Basic Income: Elon Musk Responds to Pilot Programs in US Cities (2020)  ( read )
  • After the coronavirus, Universal Basic Income seems inevitable. What will the world look like when we all have enough? ( read )
  • COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of automation and the need for UBI ( read )
  • Momentum for Basic Income Builds as Pandemic Drags On ( read )
  • How upskilling could help cities rebuild after Coronavirus ( read )
  • Experts Say Pandemic Is Driving "Digital Upskilling" in Workers ( read )
  • The upskilling economy: 7 companies investing millions of dollars in retraining American workers so they can find better jobs ( read )
  • Support Grows for Guaranteed Income Among America’s Mayors ( read )

China's Rising Dominance in Technology Innovation and Hong Kong's Loss of Autonomy

APRIL 2017:  Since we first launched, we've emphasized the importance of understanding innovation on a global scale. Our think tank, Made In China 2025: China’s Technology Innovation Strategy and Its Impact on the West , explored China’s Made in China 2025  national strategic plan to aggressively innovate across all emerging technology sectors by the year 2025, with the ultimate goal of increasing their global influence. We asked attendees to consider the reasonable likelihood that China would not only succeed in becoming globally dominant in technology innovation before  2025, but to forecast how this might impact and challenge America’s global innovation dominance and what it would mean for American tech companies. Through presentations and problem-based exercises, attendees presented possible futures and solutions.

At this event, we also screened a movie called, Ten Years (an independent film, set in the year 2025, depicting Honk Kong being torn apart by violent protests against China for stripping them of their democratic freedoms - the film was banned by China). We asked participants to consider the role that emerging technologies would play in such a scenario (which the movie did not explore) and how China's geopolitical relations impacts their innovation strategy.

ONE YEAR LATER, IN MARCH  2018 , we hosted a special event, The China Tech Revolution and Why It Matters , in partnership with South China Morning Post , as part of the official launch of their new digital publication, Abacus News (which covers the development of AI in China for a Western audience), where we explored the following question: “ What does China's growing tech dominance mean for the rest of the world? ” Our events on China's innovation have proven to not only be forward-thinking, but popular with our diverse audience.

FAST FORWARD to the year 2020:

  • China's growing 5G dominance is a disaster for US security ( read )
  • How China Came to Dominate Clean Energy Technologies, and How the US Can Catch Up ( read )
  • China's Artificial Intelligence Surveillance State Goes Global ( read )
  • China rises as world’s data superpower as internet fractures ( read )
  • China's robot makers gobble up global rivals, with help from state ( read )
  • China's move on digital currency secures it an edge ( read )
  • What’s Pushing China’s Tech Sector So Far Ahead? ( read )
  • Legal Tech Patent Filings Soar in China Due to AI Dominance, Lawyer Shortage ( read )
  • China retreats from 50-year pledge of Hong Kong autonomy ( read )
  • The new battle in Hong Kong isn’t on the streets, it’s in the apps ( read )
  • Hong Kong Takes Stand Against China’s High-Tech Controls ( read )

Rise of the Robots: from Robotic Process Automation to Manufacturing Industrial Robots

APRIL 2019:  The robots aren't coming. They're here! And we've been waving them in since we launched. At our interactive workshop, Automation for Everyone: How Enterprise Companies & Startups are Using Robotic Process Automation to Save Time and Money , attendees learned why the adoption of RPA by companies wanting to implement automation solutions was forecasted to explode in the coming years (to $5 billion by 2020) and that “now” was the time to learn this valuable new skill. We taught them real-world use cases in different companies, how RPA interacts with AI and machine learning, the ethics of RPA, how employees (technical and non-technical) would interact with the software, and more. But this wasn’t our only journey to the future Robot Revolution with our community.

JANUARY 2017 , our very first event,  Battle of the Chatbots & Conversational Interfaces , outlined a vision of the future where automation software becomes an important part of customer engagement (attendees even created their first chatbot at the event, though many had not heard much about the technology before then). Later that year, we explored how humans and robots would interact in the near future and, in 2018, explored a future where industrial robots are vulnerable to hacking, Hacking Industrial Robots in the IoT Factories of the Future: Are Companies Prepared for the Risks? . Also, in 2018, in partnership with Knightscope (a company specializing in security robots), we introduced our audience to real life security robots and explored How to Build a Crime-fighting Robot Automation Company from Concept to IPO .

And, if you believe in timing, it's uncanny that our last event before COVID-19 gripped the world was a field trip to Amazon's fulfilment center in New Jersey to explore how they are automating their processes and innovating the supply chain,  Automating Amazon: a Private Tour of Amazon's Fulfillment Center and Presentation on the Impact of Automation on Supply Chain Management , The event, scheduled to happen April 28th, was canceled due to the pandemic.

FAST FORWARD to the year 2020:

  • COVID-19 spurs more enterprise awareness of robotic process automation’s value ( read )
  • Managements who implemented RPA solutions prior to this crisis are likely experiencing better times than others. ( read )
  • Millions of Americans Have Lost Jobs in the Pandemic—And Robots and AI Are Replacing Them Faster Than Ever ( read )
  • How Robots Became Essential Workers in the COVID-19 Response ( read )
  • Study Finds Nearly 50% of Businesses Around the World Will Increase Robotic Process Automation Adoption due to COVID-19 ( read )
  • How chatbots and automation will update outmoded customer support in 2021 ( read )
  • There’s No Cure for Covid-19 Loneliness, but Robots Can Help ( read )
  • A New Dawn for Automation ( read )
  • The rise of robots in surgical environments during COVID-19 ( read )

Using Emerging Technologies to Battle a Healthcare Crisis: America's Opioid Epidemic

DECEMBER 2017 : Learning about the power and potential of emerging technologies through social causes is, we believe, one of the most effective ways to engage audiences (while helping others!). We had the privilege of hosting a special think tank competition, Using AI and Other Technologies to Fight America’s Opioid Epidemic ,   in partnership with the Ohio Development Services Agency, at the height of the Opioid epidemic in America. We brought their Global Opioid Technology Challenge to the New York Tri-State area and challenged any-and-everyone) to come up with ideas for technology solutions that could significantly help stakeholders battling the epidemic.

The challenge included presentations by various experts who provided a framework for how technologies might be used in a health epidemic and emphasized that this was the future and that lives depended on it (something most people had never really considered before the event, especially regarding AI!). And while Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge was global, two of our very own members won in the first round of the challenge (one of the winners went on to launch her own wearables startup as a result). Since then, we have emphasized the revolution in healthcare as the space that will likely be most impacted by emerging technologies and have helped our audience participate in this healthcare innovation revolution.

We had no way of knowing then, that we would be faced with a health pandemic just three years later! And unfortunately, while COVID-19 has taken up much of the media attention, researchers are alarmed at the fact that deaths due to Opioid overdose have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Emerging tech solutions are being launched regularly to battle this epidemic and the pandemic!

FAST FORWARD to the year 2020:

  • How Technology Can Help Us Navigate The Opioid Epidemic During The Pandemic ( read )
  • AT&T’s AccendoWave Headband Technology is an Opioid Alternative That Measures Patient’s Brain Waves ( read )
  • New Research: Artificial intelligence can predict patients at highest risk for severe pain increased opioid use after surgery ( read )
  • Can technology fix the silent opioid crisis gripping US hospitals? ( read )
  • 'Cyborg' tech to reduce the opioid epidemic one chip at a time ( read )
  • How Rhode Island is using tech to tackle the opioid epidemic ( read )
  • Technology Companies Come Together to Support Addiction Recovery During COVID-19 ( read )
  • A wearable biosensor device that aims to help tackle the global opioid crisis has been given Breakthrough Device designation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ( read )

Okay, just one more thing: We Saw Driverless Cars Coming a Mile Away!

MARCH 2017:  At our first think tank on driverless cars,  What Will the Driverless Car Experience Be for Consumers? , we explained to our audience that driverless cars would be on the road within three years (albeit, not Level 5 fully autonomous cars) and that this technology was going to develop so quickly that we should all start asking ourselves what type of experience we wanted to have in driverless cars. Many people in the audience were stunned at the realization that driverless cars real and not scifi. We gave attendees several problems to solve including designing the interior of driverless cars and detailing what they, as consumers, want to seen inside of Level 5 autonomous vehicles. Finally, we asked them to all become advertisers and marketers and to develop a marketing strategy and advertising campaign that would sell a potentially wary consumer on the new driverless car experience.

A FEW MONTHS LATER, APRIL 2017, we brought in the big dogs for  Driverless Trucks – Here’s How They Will Disrupt Everything  If you think driverless cars are going to be a hugely disruptive to society, we told the audience, just wait until you hear about the driverless trucks that will soon barrell down our highways with ease, transporting tons of goods across America. We presented the audience with several role-playing problems including exploring how recruiters at trucking companies might find ways to appeal to a new generation of technically skilled employees and the role of software developers in the landscape. One year later, furthering our discussion on driverless trucks, we hosted another think tank,  Ask the Experts: Will the Trucker Job Shortage Crisis Speed Up the Adoption of Driverless Trucks? , that explored the impact of driverless trucks on a shrinking trucker workforce.

The problems we face rolling out autonomous vehicles across America is hardly limited to hardware, labor upskilling and logistics. In 2018, at our special presentation,  Self-Driving Cars and Consumer Data – Protecting Consumers Before It’s Too Late , we brought in the lead policy advisor for Cruise Automation (the driverless car division of General Motors ) and asked him to present to us the plan for acquiring, using and protecting consumer data in their driverless cars. In turn, our audience gave him specific suggestions for how data might be managed and asked targeted questions that the Cruise team should consider on on managing consumer data. It was an informative and inpsiring experience and demonstrated how savvy our audience had become on this topic and their ability to have a substantive and enlightening conversation with experts about it. Woot-woot!

FAST FORWARD to the year 2020:

  • Self-Driving Cars Take A Significant Step Towards Reality ( read )
  • Walmart and GM's Cruise partner for self-driving deliveries in AZ ( read )
  • Waymo seeks to calm doubts about driverless cars with data trove ( read )
  • Driverless Trucks Are Already on Texas Roads With More to Come ( read )
  • Honda to mass-produce Level 3 autonomous cars by March 2021 ( read )
  • Fully Autonomous Cars Are Moving Forward Fast, So Are Efforts To Secure Them ( read )
SINCE 2017

Figuring out the future together.

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