At Davos, Henry Blodget leads a panel on how technology will shape the next decade
The past decade saw technological advancements that transformed how we work, live, and learn. The next one will bring even greater change as quantum computing, cloud computing, 5G, and artificial intelligence mature and proliferate. These changes will happen rapidly, and the work to manage their impact will need to keep pace.
This session at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, brought together industry experts to discuss how these technologies will shape the next decade, followed by a panel discussion about the challenges and benefits this era will bring and if the world can control the technology it creates.
- Brad Smith, president, Microsoft
- Julie Love, senior director of quantum business development, Microsoft
- Rajeev Suri, president and CEO, Nokia
- Justine Cassell, founding member, Paris AI Research Institute (on leave from Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science)
Henry Blodget, CEO, cofounder, and editorial director, Insider Inc.
This interview is part of a partnership between Business Insider and Microsoft at the 2020 World Economic Forum. Business Insider editors independently decided on the topics broached and questions asked.
Below, find each of the panelists' most memorable contributions:
Microsoft's director of quantum business development Julie Love said quantum computing can solve the world's most urgent problems.
Julie Love believes global problems such as climate change can potentially be solved far more quickly and easily through developments in quantum computing.
She said: "We [Microsoft] think about problems that we're facing: problems that are caused by the destruction of the environment; by climate change, and [that require] optimization of our natural resources, [such as] global food production."
"It's quantum computing that really a lot of us scientists and technologists are looking for to solve these problems. We can have the promise of solving them exponentially faster, which is incredibly profound. And that the reason is this: [quantum] technology speaks the language of nature.
"By computing the way that nature computes, there's so much information contained in these atoms and molecules. Nature doesn't think about a chemical reaction; nature doesn't have to do some complex computation. It's inherent in the material itself.
Love claimed that, if harnessed in this way, quantum computing could allow scientists to design a compound that could remove carbon from the air. She added that researchers will need to be "really pragmatic and practical about how we take this from, from science fiction into the here-and-now."
Justine Cassell, a professor working in AI and linguistics, argued AI and people will become interdependent.
"I believe the future of AI is actually interdependence, collaboration, and cooperation between people and systems, both at the macro [and micro] levels," said Cassell, who is also a faculty member of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.
"At the macro-level, [look], for example, at robots on the factory floor," she said. "Today, there's been a lot of fear about how autonomous they actually are. First of all, they're often dangerous. They're so autonomous, you have to get out of their way. And it would be nice if they were more interdependent if we could be there at the same time as they are. But also, there is no factory floor where any person is autonomous.
In Cassell's view, AI systems could also end up being built collaboratively with experts from non-tech domains, such as psychologists.
"Today, tools [for building AI systems] are mostly machine learning tools," she noted. "And they are, as you've heard a million times, black boxes. You give [the AI system] lots of examples. You say: 'This is somebody being polite. That is somebody being impolite. Learn about that.' But when they build a system that's polite, you don't know why they did that.
"What I'd like to see is systems that allow us to have these bottom-up, black-box approaches from machine learning, but also have, for example, psychologists in there, saying 'that's not actually really polite,' or 'it's polite in the way that you don't ever want to hear.'"
Microsoft president Brad Smith called for a standardized way of measuring how employers help workers cope with technological change
"One thing I constantly wish is that there was a more standardized measurement for everybody to report how much they're spending per employee on employee training - because that really doesn't exist, when you think about it," said Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer since 2015.
"I think, anecdotally, one can get a pretty strong sense that - if you go back to the 1980s and 1990s - employers invested a huge amount in employee training around technology. It was teaching you how to use MS-DOS, or Windows, or how to use Word or Excel - interestingly, things that employers don't really feel obliged to teach employees today.
"Learning doesn't stop when you leave school. We're going to have to work a little bit harder. And that's true for everyone.
He added that this creates a further requirement: to make sure the skills people do pick up as they navigate life are easily recognizable by other employers.
"Ultimately, there's a wide variety of post-secondary credentials. The key is to have credentials that employers recognize as being valuable. It's why LinkedIn and others are so focused on new credentialing systems. Now, the good news is that should make things cheaper. It all should be more accessible.
"But I do think that - to go back to where I started - employers are going to have to invest more [in employee training]. And we're going to have to find some ways to do it in a manner that perhaps is a little more standardized."
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri predicted that 5G will help digitize manual industries and bring about major productivity gains.
Suri said 5G will be able to help develop industries that go far beyond entertainment and telecoms, and will impact physical or manual industries such as manufacturing.
"The thing about 5G is that it's built for machine-type communications. When we received the whole idea of 5G, it was 'how do we get not just human beings to interact with each other, but also large machines," he said.
"So we think that there is a large economic boost possible from 5G and 5G-enabled technologies because it would underpin many of these other technologies, especially in the physical industries."
Suri cited manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture as just some of the industries 5G could help become far more productive within a decade.
He added: "Yes, we'll get movies and entertainment faster, but it is about a lot of physical industries that didn't quite digitize yet. Especially in the physical industries, we [Nokia] think that the [productivity] gains could be as much as 35% starting in the year 2028 - starting with the US first, and then going out into other geographies, like India, China, the European Union, and so on.