“Changes can only be affected by alterations in the original. The only thing not prerecorded in a prerecorded universe are the prerecordings themselves. A virus is a copy. You can pretty it up, scramble it up or cut it; it will always reassemble in the exact same form.” – William S. Burroughs

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Jim Whitehurst on the Past, Present, and Future of IBM


 

The modern consumer has taken a much more active role in corporate policy development and direction than in decades past. “Vote with your dollar” campaigns and boycott movements have gone from mosquitoes to hurricanes, forcing dramatic shifts in how investors and corporate executives navigate change and interact with their customers. While social and environmental issues were once considered both opaque and risky, they are now front and center in every conversation about our new digital economy’s future. Though many activist discussions used to be reserved for the camps of Occupy Wall Street, it is clear that a monumental shift has occurred. Impact investing has manifested itself as the logical market response to a rapidly growing cohort of consumers that expect higher ethical standards from the businesses and institutions they support.

After almost two decades of innovation, seemingly for innovation’s sake, the digitally transformed economy so many yearned for seems to be within reach. Activated like a bolt of lightning by the global pandemic, this transformation reaches further into citizens’ daily lives than anyone, save maybe Orwell, could have ever imagined. Whether or not this new digital economy will serve the best interests of humanity will be a question answered by the actions of citizens and corporations alike. It is no longer a debate; we are living through an era of enlightenment many futurists and forward-looking evangelists have spent decades preparing us for. It is essential to take a moment to recognize this prescience, take a step back, and examine how we got here.

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Over the course of the last half century, the Silico-Industrial Complex has systematically stolen our privacy, trust, sovereignty and dignity.

We invite you to join us as we reclaim our shared humanity.

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We have all read the stories about automated soap dispensers in hotels not working for Black guests, facial recognition software not recognizing dark-skinned people, and image recognition algorithms mislabeling two Black men as gorillas. From our position of relative privilege, with lives far removed from the struggles of our fellow humans, especially people of color, it is easy to dismiss these as funny quirks of technology and urge people to “calm down” and not “blow things out of proportion.”

This attitude minimizes the severe risk that artificial intelligence, or AI, applied without concern for its human impacts, poses for minorities and marginalized communities—by exposing them to technologies that reflect bias in much the same way as humans do.

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Well, that escalated quickly! We are still reeling from the sights and sounds of thousands of Americans storming their own Capitol with the intent of overturning the results of democratic elections and harming democratically elected legislators. Beyond the common thread of anger and violence, beyond cartoonish outfits and slogans, we may have missed something more foundational that connects most of these people—an almost complete alienation from mainstream patterns of social and economic participation.

If socioeconomic alienation is acknowledged as one of the root causes of violence and insurgency in other countries, could the attempted insurrection of January 6 be the logical culmination of similar forces in the United States? More importantly, what can we as business and technology leaders do to address this alienation and restore America’s promise to all Americans, so that everyone feels invested in its future—and not inclined to tear it apart.

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Innovation, when pursued without a moral compass or an ethical core, predictably led to a dystopia of one ruling class replacing another, with incumbency and inequality further entrenched by the ever-increasing dominion of technology. At the same time, technology has given a voice to so many who have previously not been part of our dialogue.

The challenge we face is to make technology-driven innovation more inclusive. So how can we finally re-purpose innovation to realize the utopia of democratized technologies that drive greater equality?

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Recent history is replete with positive and negative examples of what can happen to a democratic society when the advancement of technology outpaces regulatory momentum.

Not since the advent of the printing press have democracies seen such a foundational shift in the way citizens and state actors engage with the electoral process. Combine that with the hyper-polarized nature of our modern body politic and you have a recipe for disaster, or is it a recipe for hope? Depends on who you ask.

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Peeling back the curtian with Tim McCreight, Managing Director of Enterprise Security at CP Rail


War is never easy; but, historically speaking, it used to be at least reasonably predictable. Sovereign forces arrayed against each other played out foreseeable scenarios and when nations squared off against unorganized opponents, force almost always prevailed. However, when sovereign nations play by the rules of insurgency, or when insurgents amass power and force equivalent to sovereign nations, the world becomes more dangerous and more unpredictable; as we have seen play out in the American and Irish Wars of Independence, the War of 1967, the Vietnam War, the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the wars against Al Qaeda and ISIS.

With the new frontier of warfare moving to the realm of technology, we are faced with a hyper-accelerated variant of these same dynamics, where large state agents act with anarchist zeal to achieve sovereign objectives, and small bands of insurgents have the power to cripple companies and economies with no consideration for size or scale.

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Conversations in the afterlife with Danny Lange, senior vice president of AI at Unity Technologies


Artificial Intelligence is leading to the fundamental reengineering of all aspects of our human experience and how we as a species interact with our universe. The inequalities, incumbencies, and biases of the innovators designing AI have a direct impact on how the technology guides human information, perception, and action.

As AI leads society towards the next phase of human evolution, it is becoming increasingly more evident that we are at risk of creating a future in the flawed image of her maker; and, perhaps a societal blueprint constructed from Silicon Valley encoded digital eugenics. Can we create an intelligence that is unconstrained by the limitations and prejudices of its creators to have AI serve all of humanity, or will it become the latest and most powerful tool for perpetuating and magnifying racism and inequality?

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John Goldstein, Head of Sustainable Finance at Goldman Sachs on the the Mercurial Rise of ESG on Wall Street


Over the last four decades, real wages of the bottom half of American income earners have grown by 0.2% a year – essentially, remaining flat. Years of economic stagnation have led to an even sharper disparity in wealth; where the top 1% by measure of net-wealth hold 15 times more wealth than the bottom 50% (in other words, they are on average 750 times wealthier). Frequent economic shocks, such as in 1979, 1990, 2000, 2008 and 2020 have served to exacerbate these inequalities by driving economic instability, food and shelter insecurity, and deep desperation among American workers.

The staggering job losses and economic shut downs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have merely brought the logical outcome of a 40-year trend into sharper focus. Overlay record-high stock markets on the dire economic reality of the highest level of sustained unemployment since the Great Depression, and the divide between the two tribes of America – the highly-educated entrepreneurs of the new economy, incumbent executives of the old economy – and professionals living primarily in a few select large cities – and the working class spread across the country, struggling with unemployment or perilous employment, suffocating debt and a day to day battle for survival are brought into sharp relief.  We live in a time where economic inequality has never been greater, and opportunities for progress for anyone outside of the established elite have never been smaller.

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An Examination of the Confluence Between Incumbency and Innovation with Maryam Ayati, CEO of NEO Holdings


Over the last 20 years, society has entered into a self-propagating feedback loop of innovation and implosion; brought on by waves of confluence between entrenched power structures and technological advancements. Some waves are slow moving like greenhouse gas emissions; slowly but surely worsening our storms and lengthening our droughts. Some waves are faster; like the tsuanamic wave of economic volatility brought on by the novel Coronavirus; a mercurial state not seen since the great depression, catalyzing a decade of technological and social advancement in mere months. What both surges have in common are untold riches for companies and institutions well-positioned to react to change – and paralyzed potential or even extinction for those who didn’t.  

Increasingly, digital and decentralized business practices have led to an era of record-high productivity and reduced costs for those willing to embrace them. Even still, one of the most foundational pillars of the modern economy, the open exchange of commodities, functions nearly the same as it did upon inception, nearly 200 years ago; seemingly immune to the increasingly acute waves of innovation. Some in the world of commodities are ready to embrace foundational change for the betterment of society, while others are either pushing back with the full weight of their multi-billion dollar institutions or greenwashing sustainable finance as a rather insincere public relations initiative. Enter Maryam Ayati.

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Watching the detectives with Vasu Jakkal, Corporate Vice President of Security, Compliance and Identity at Microsoft


As western economies continue on a slow-growth trajectory that exacerbates inequalities, increasing numbers of people will recognize that patterns of consumption and sources of value based on current socioeconomic models are no longer sustainable.

This will directly impact trust in the financial system and institutions, leading to an increasing embrace of the principles of the shared economy, disrupting current models of banking and finance, and restoring to people greater control over the design and evolution of social and economic structures.

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A dialogue about the future of democracy with Robert Herjavec, Founder and CEO of Herjavec Group, Jason Hermitage, Vice President of Public Sector at Microsoft Canada and Bryan Rutledge, Canadian Country Manager at McAfee


To date, Canadians have seemed relatively powerless against technological assaults to our democracy. Public education of the ongoing threat is moving orders of magnitude slower than those actors perpetrating it.

Those who seek to destabilize our elections deal with politically polarizing topics that have a natural constituency. Attempting to separate fact from fiction in this realm is a very tricky grey area — for social media, the government and the citizen alike.

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An exploration of the human-centric digital city of the future with David Goodis, Assistant Privacy Commissioner of the Government of Ontario; Michael Krygier, Former Deputy CISO and Head of Urban Technology at the City of New York and Shawn Slack, CIO of the City of Mississauga


Our emerging generations; the vast majority of who will build their lives in increasingly crowded, chaotic and competitive cities, are hungering for a clear and common sense of purpose, but can we offer them one? From ecological exigency to ongoing and intolerable community inequality; to questions of privacy in an ever-connected world, we have reached a critical point in human history; a state of emergency that requires immediate and collective action.

In the private sector, every successful company has matured into a technology-centric organization; and inevitably, every propitious city will be compelled to embark upon a similar evolutionary trajectory. Several of the world’s greatest municipalities are already leveraging urban innovation to build more open, equitable and prosperous communities and technology is rapidly becoming one of the best tools municipal leaders have to inherently improve the quality of life for all of its citizens.

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As we slowly rise out of the fallen ashes of 2020s Great Pandemic, digital innovation has now become a ubiquitous and essential component of corporate strategy. From simplistic approaches to social, mobile, analytics and cloud which first propagated in 2012, digital innovation now extends to disruptive technologies that are prevalent in the majority of business functions in most large enterprises.

This evolution over the last eight years has seen not only a proliferation in the technologies that can be applied to transform business, but also an exponential growth in the impact of these innovations in driving deep and fundamental changes to business operations and business models. Digital innovation is now a top enterprise priority, with an ever-growing critical mass of executives believing that digital innovation is key not just to competitive advantage, but also to survival.

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