Tech Summit Keynote: Changing the World Through Technology with Michael Slaby '01

Tech Summit Keynote: Changing the World Through Technology with Michael Slaby '01

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Hello. Everyone I normally. Don't need to use a mic as you know and nevertheless. Because, we're recording this I'm. Going to try. To stay attached to a mic for a little bit I'm just gonna make a few opening remarks I'm Danny, war che I'm the executive, director of the nelson center, for entrepreneurship, we. Are really excited that you're all here today I, have, a normal, way of introducing, every, event and some of you are laughing because you know that standard, pattern and I promise I won't deprive you of that but, I want to thank CIS, for. Reaching, out to us at the Nelson Center to, collaborate, with them on this. Opening. Keynote, for, the CIS, tech summit we're, really excited to be doing that and those of you who, see, our activity, on campus know, that it's a hallmark, of what we're doing which is to collaborate with, other people who have expertise, that, complements. Our so thank, you to Robbie thank you to the other leadership and, those, involved at CIS, generally, and also in this tech summit we're really happy to be collaborating. So, now I won't, deprive. You for how many of you is this, your first Jonathan, M Nelson Center event, raise. Your hand I love that and we see lots, of new people today I always, love that because it means we are reaching new corners, of the university, as I, say we are collaborating with just about everybody, on campus and, we're really happy to be doing it and it, also means that we're reaching new, pockets. Of interest. People. Maybe some of you who don't know how, you relate, to the word entrepreneurship. At, Brown we define, entrepreneurship. As a methodology, for solving problems and, those, problems extend. Across. Every, discipline, you can imagine and then you're involved, in I see. Faces from the medical school from public health from engineering. From. The, Pembroke Center from. Philosophy we're, doing things on the ethics of entrepreneurship, and so, if. You're not already involved with us we encourage you to become even more involved and that extends, way beyond Brown we're working out into the community, throughout Rhode Island and even, around the world through our brown alumni. Network so I encourage. You if you're not already on our email update list to, go to our website, which is entrepreneurship. Brown, dot edu couldn't. Be easier entrepreneurship, brown dot edu and sign. Up because, then you'll be invited to the continual. Flow of these kinds of events and we, welcome you I, want. To clarify that, we are not also not depriving, your stomachs of food there is food but, we also wanted to make sure we did this event, in a organized, way so this. Will also motivate you to stay to the end because, we will have pizza, and and food, right. Around one o'clock and if you're heading out to spring, weekend events or to class or somewhere else you, can take it to go but we wanted to do this in a way that wouldn't disrupt, Michaels. Presentation. And discussion so thank. You again for being here thank. You again to CIS I'm. Not going to take a long time to introduce Michael Michael, and I met through. A common, friend a common, brown. Alumnus. Troy, Hannah cough who was also my former business, partner, at a startup, company in Chicago, when, I was speaking to a group in Chicago and, I. Think we both envisioned, that you might be willing someday, to come to campus and then leave, it up to our star. Program. Manager Liz, Malone to just capitalize, on that opening, and to reach out to Michael and here he is many, of you have already expressed how excited, that you are for us to have him here so I'm, not going to take a long time to introduce you you'll cover your story I think in the, context. Of what you're going to share and then we will leave, a lot of time for, your, interaction. Your questions, your discussion, all, I ask because in the spirit actually appropriate for I think one of your points, here we're, gonna document this and share.

It More widely we, are increasingly, live-streaming. All of our programming, and also documenting. It for asynchronous, access. And I hear from lots of alumni all, over the world that they're accessing those. Pieces, of content on our YouTube channel so, I'm gonna leave the mic there, and if you have questions, comments want. To interact will, ask that you just form a line there and and do that and I think you're gonna even invite, to do that at some point throughout, so, Michael. Thank you for being here we're also going to be doing a podcast episode, at. The Watson Center later, this, afternoon, and. We'll. Also invite, everybody through. Watson, to access. That as well thanks. Very much thanks, des. Everyone. Thanks, for coming out I didn't. Realize when we scheduled this that I was like the opening act of spring weekend. Okay. It's, kind of cool for me actually I need, to like steal one of these light blue spring, weekend t-shirts from someone it's, really awesome to be back on campus I haven't been back at Brown in a long time. It's, I'm excited, to be in this sort of joint room with the Entrepreneurship Center and the tech summit so I'm gonna tell just a little bit of my story sort of I got to brown through. How I got into my career and then talk a little bit about my. Experiences, in the Obama campaign's, as a way of talking about the, evolution of digital and technology over the last. Decade. Or so particularly, relative to politics and social movements but then we can take this conversation wherever people, want to go so, I'm. Comfortable. With questions, whenever you have them but. I'll and I can run around the mic to you a little bit so I came, to Brown in the fall of 1996, I was a soccer, player, so. I was recruited to come and play here but. I came from, I, grew, up in Washington DC and. I grew up in this sort of nutty. Bananas, DC, prep school scene for, anybody you know there's some people in this room who probably can know I see some nodding it's, a really really insane, environment. It. I, went to st. Albans which is the most competitive environment. I've ever been in in my entire life including, working at the White House. And. That. That, sort of prepped, me were certain expectations.

And A certain mindset around achievement. And accomplishment, and. Said. What success was supposed to look like and all these kinds of things that a lot of people come into a school like brown with, right these like, very intense expectations. For. Me not a lot of clarity other than, achieving. But. Not a lot of clarity about what that meant but that like success. And competition, and winning was important, but. How, and what I was focused on was. Not as clear to me when I was 18, and 19 years old and I got here and so I one, of the reasons I loved Brown was, the, variability, and the ability to study all kinds of stuff I ultimately, in this probably. This. Will end up making sense at some point in the story but I ended up double basically. Double concentrating, and creative writing and biochemistry. Which. Is, really, a good preparation for doing digital technology, and analytics and politics if anybody's curious. Yeah. I, never. Took a computer science class when I was here and. Then have, gone. On to have this sort of whole career around sort of the intersection of, communications. And technology in the digital world so. What. I spent, a lot of time here doing was sort, of exploring, and. I. Was curious I was always obviously, always curious about a lot of things like sort of left brain and right brain and playing. Soccer and was a wannabe jabber walk and like a bunch of other stuff I, was a bolt leader when I was here it's both still around me good. And. So. I did a lot of stuff when I was on campus I when. I graduated, I had. No idea what I was gonna do I had. I ended up with, my constant, my final concentration, was creative writing. Even, though, and. So I was I didn't, I really had no concept, of what I was gonna do next and. So. I took some time off I went to work and I went to work as a graphic designer. Perfect. Sense makes perfect sense I have a very linear story. And. I. I went to work in a very I was living in Chicago I. Went. To work in a little teeny boutique design firm where I basically had, a boss, who realized. That I was curious and good at learning things and would just hand me brought extra projects, and I.

Would Say some, version, of I don't know how to do this and he would say some version of that's why you have two weeks instead of one week yeah. But we do you have a week to figure it out in a week to do it and. I just started to learn and. You. Know I I came into design sort of through the window of communications. And writing which was something that I've always done and always loved and started. To learn design and started to learn. Motion. Graphics and then I started this was in like 2000, so the very beginnings, of sort of the real interactive, web flash was still a thing. Ajax. Was not a thing so interactive HTML. Was html5, was a long way off, and, so, I what. What I discovered, is that if you I was in such a small team that if. You actually wanted to get anything done and implement anything you then had to keep learning like seven other things right so, you. Know I started I had to learn Photoshop and, then I had to learn After Effects and then I had to learn flash and then and learn ActionScript, and I know learn HTML now I learn CSS I mean JavaScript, and I delivered PHP you know you end up like sort. Of accidentally. You. Know they didn't use this term, back then becoming, so sort of a full-stack person. Right. From design. All the way down to you, know basic, server setup sysadmin, type stuff and, i'm i would never call myself an engineer, the engineers that work for me and that I've worked with would punch. Me because. For, denigrating, their their. Capacities, I mean sort of stealing at work but, I became, the sort of jack-of-all-trades. Techies. Technologist. Person, and. Me. And another buddy from Brown who. Played who I also played soccer with decided. We were gonna start a, little sort. Of web design web development company in Chicago and we, were just experimenting we, were like this was the early days of Ajax, the early days of interactive web we're using flash, as a front as a UI for Java, it's like this, is a terrible idea but. It was cool at the time and. Before. Things, like html5. And. So. We, were just experimenting and then the O 4 election happened and. We. We started this company partially. Because we sort of we, didn't know what else to do we wanted to work on things that were interesting to us and there weren't sort. Of jobs, doing. The things we wanted to do, social. Media was still really new at this time right. This is basically, like oh this is o4. And. The. What happened to for me in the Oh for election was really sort, of a seminal moment in my life and, career so I grew, up in DC, I said so I grew up with politics, in my blood I'm sort of in the air it's like a disease right and and you can't get away from it and you know I grew up with you, know kids who were you, know kids of Senators and stuff, and and.

So I grew up with this very personal, relationship with politics, right that I was something that I was close to and then the concept of self-government made a lot of sense to me because like my friends parents were on c-span, that's. Not most I realize now, that's. Like just, not most people's experience in politics, unfortunately. To, some degree right like this was a feature of privilege, it should be a feature of the system that's a different talk. Although. We can talk about if you want to, and. But, when the Oh for election happened I kind of had this crisis, of, when. The Democrats managed to lose to President Bush a second, time I kind. Of freaked out and I just was. I sort of decided that I either. Needed, to stop caring about politics, or I needed to start working in politics because how have you managed, to do this twice. And. But. Now it's you know it's, January. Of 2005, the elections just happened, I got into this argument of, violent agreement with my best friend one of my best friends who I grew up with and. Who's. And. He, had done some volunteering for Kerry and he had just he had just finished his JD MBA at Harvard it, was a very impressive, doing all this interesting stuff and we, just sort of had this argument of violent agreement we were both just the currently frustrated. With what had just happened in, the election in the country, and, somewhere. In this conversation. Eli, said well. If we're so, smart, why don't either of us do this for a living and he. Just meant it rhetorically and and was just sort of talking and frustrated, inventing but I just couldn't stop thinking about this it just sort of stuck. In my brain and I and I just really started to. Dig. Into this idea of what am I doing with my skills, like what am i doing the right things will am i working on the things that matter to me or the things that matter to me most a hobby and that, concept. Partly. I just couldn't let it go so, Mike, and I shut, down our little company and I went to work for Senator Durbin, as an intern. Because, I was living in Chicago and, I decided I needed to work in politics and I had no idea where, that was like, where, do you start when. You do. That when you're I had no idea I was 28 years old I was working for free as a student, intern in senator, Durbin's. Office opening, the mail I think, in. That process, to give it a little color I called senator Obama's, office and they didn't have any spaces for interns they, called Durbin's office they said well we have student interns and I said something, like well. I'm thinking about going to grad school because, for. Those of you who haven't gotten there yet in your 20s you're always thinking, about going.

Like. Everybody, you know there's always those do I'd lost good you know you think about all the time, every. Time you don't like your job. And. So it wasn't a lie per se but I wasn't really going, anyway. I went to work for I went I went in as a student intern and then when the semester ended I just kept coming I was like Milton from office space like I just I, didn't, have to go to a different class because I wasn't in school so I just kept coming to work and, they, just kept giving me more stuff and so I sort, of just evolved. Into this kind, of a weird appendage, of the staff this. Unpaid, Stafford, doing, all kind of stuff and I like fix the website and, I started working on correspondence. And writing things for Senator Durbin and little. Stuff right like you know thank, you letters to you know birthdays for people in this nothing, I'm Elizabeth a speechwriter I think I don't want to oversell what I was doing here I was mostly opening, the mail and. Answering the phone but it was an interesting way to start to answering. The phone in particular, was like a really interesting way to feel, the, connection between citizens. And government because. This. Was this that, went through the summer of a five so this included, Katrina. This, included, the. Harriet, Miers Supreme. Court nomination and Senator Durbin was on judiciary. And. People. Would call. During. Katrina, and just cry, into the phone what. Are how. You have to help these people and I'm like I'm. A 28, year old intern, opening the mail in Chicago, I I, will. Do what I can you ever like what do you what do you say like what and it, helped me start to understand like that. There is that. There is like real. Empathy and real opportunity. To serve in government in, a way that we often don't associate with politics so. I kept doing this while and then I sort. Of tripped my way on the speed-up tripped. My way into the Obama campaign so now I did. This for a little while went to work for a political, consulting, firm so all of my technology, skills. Are sort of in my back pocket, I'm basically, working. On campaigns doing, polling, analysis, and direct mail and communications, and, everything. I ended up being a field director at a that's, in the city so, managing volunteer so I've learned another. The entire gamut of how campaigns work I have, this weird skillset in my pocket that I'm not really using around design and technology, and web development other stuff then, the Obama campaign starts and I. Fling. Myself at the campaign and you, know basically, wallpaper. The office, with my resume and say I'll take out the trash or do whatever and much. Like a startup, I. Unlike. The, presidential. Campaign is is. Very similar in that the more hats you can wear the more valuable you are and I. Had, accidentally. Created. This resume. That was basically, digital. Politics. But. We didn't even use the word digital back then we didn't have any idea, what to call this people, always ask me did you study digital, politics, and like of course, not it wasn't a thing when I was in college I think even if I'd wanted to there was none, of those things existed. You. Know I was here pre Facebook, and YouTube thank, God. And. And, so. But I but, I had developed this sort of unusual Swiss. Army knife of skills right, from I understood how campaigns work I understood technology, and I kind of just came in very, early in the campaign two weeks after the announcement I started. Out as the deputy director of digital and I ended up being the CTO. Largely. Because, I was just the most technical, person in the room so now, I'll start talking a little bit about technology and politics in the Obama world so. Political. Campaigns, are not are very non technical organizations. Right, the the level of technical sophistication inside. These, organization, is very very, low and. That. That. Has lot and lots of consequences, and being the most technical, person in the non technical amendments very, it's. An interesting opportunity, but it's also really frustrating. But. It meant for me that as the one person that could translate, between all. The groups in the campaign, it created an opportunity for me that was really unique. And special I was you know 30 years old and I was the CTO of the Obama campaign there's, a big opportunity and it was a really interesting time we, think about that moment it's important to remember when, that was right there's a lot of Mythology, a particularly, about the o8 campaign, Twitter.

Was Brand new Facebook, had only been open to non edu addresses, for a year and a half or so when the campaign launched, there, were only only, a hundred, million Facebook, accounts total globally, at the end of the campaign, right so it was not social, is not ubiquitous the wait is now but. It was a mechanism, for a challenger, campaign, to start up ending the way people participated, in politics, and we knew, that. We could not win a traditional, primary there, was no there was no path, for us in a, primary, that looks like normal primaries, right there was remember, that there was a huge. Primary, all, of the most of the talent, and most of the activists, were sort of behind Edwards or Clinton particularly, Edwards in Iowa. This. Was pre, self emulation. And. This. Created, a necessity, for innovation. And this is an important. Concept, right that like we didn't walk. Into the campaign and say we're gonna be the most digitally, savvy campaign, ever, that's. Not a goal, right that's that's, it's. Not a good goal for a political organization, the political organizations trying to win right. However, this. Political, desperation, of we can't win traditionally, led, us into all of these new opportunities and so you, know we were very much an opportunistic, consumer, of of. Digital. And technology we built almost nothing we, had almost no engineers, on the campaign everything, was bubble gum and baling wire and all-nighters. I. Took. Five, days off in 605. Days. We. Basically. Just sort, of, brute. Forced, our way through a lot of what we managed to figure out and we we, get a lot of credit for a lot of firsts, but, timing has a lot to this to do with the success of a rain dance. It. Always takes a second. And. So some, of it is just we were happy with it first of their cuz we were the first to be there but, we did discover that, people were hungry for new ways to participate more personally, in politics, so, as we, looked to 2012. What. We what the real gift of incumbency is is time you, know you're gonna raise a billion dollars and you know you're gonna run a two year campaign which you have no primaries, to worry about so you can start to plan so. Now we started, to have real conversations about, building, things, so the 2012, campaign was. A much more technical. Organization. We had a full engineering team we had a whole product function, I recruited, a real CT it real CTO, who like you, had to build stuff and had taken computer science classes and like you know could, use the word engineer without making people snicker.

It's. Name was Harper Reid he came out of the startup scene in Chicago and it was Green, is great and, we. But we realized. That we had this opportunity to build our way out of some of the problems that we had in a way at things that didn't work things that weren't integrated and I, ended up with this super weird title chief. Integration, and innovation, officer, which. Was basically sort, of Harvard. Business Review speak, for nerdy deputy, campaign manager and. So, I oversaw, all of the building that we were doing and this, also coincided. With the. Commercial, the sort of consumerization. Of cloud. Computing the, rise of AWS, the. Sort of capacity, to, do start. Doing big data ish. And. Start, running a real analytics, program so in a way where. We, did, some. Very. Smart data analysis, in the capacities where we had we, didn't use cloud computing we didn't use. Sort. Of clusters, and like a lot of the things that we rely on day, in and day out for data science now didn't exist so 12. Was really the time the level the innovation, in 8 was about the elevation, of digital to being a strategic pillar of an organization, right. So that digital was not a function, of communication. Was a mechanism, for changing, the way in the scale at which we did everything so. It became part of fundraising. And organizing, and communications, and other stuff you know for the. Digital team was a bunch of guys there. Was a moment in the Kerry campaign where one other guys walk walks in the office he goes don't, let the guys where the computers break anything, like that's basically, digital enough for. And. It was just you know it's mostly a communications, function right and digital was subservient. To you. Know, send. To this press release to the email list by. The way not a good plan guess, anyways curious about email strategy because. There's your email list is not full of reporters, they, don't want a press release, you. Need to get people something to do right so we were able to say no when. Those ideas came in and say yes, this is what we should talk about but let's talk about it in a way that these people are going to be animated, by and let's ask them to do something so. Digital the elevation of digital was the real innovation of 8 the, elevation of analytics. And technology. Was the evolution, of 12. And. That. Sort of started us down this whole, path around. Big, Data in politics, now I keep, using air quotes on big data because the data in politics is actually not that big. There's. Only, 200. Million voters in America and most, of the data in politics, as is, more is more under sophisticated. Than you would expect most. Of what we deal with is basically a giant table that. Is 200, 200, rows one, per person and has many columns as we can come up with about that person, but, it's very flat, right. It's not graph based generally. It. Is basically. A huge. Spreadsheet right and. We talk to people as many times as we can we try to think about smart ways to talk to them we try to integrate between. All of the touch points that, people. Have with the campaign but the world operates. Very effectively, as a graph and we do this very effectively as individuals, we are connected, via different, edges to all kinds of people and organizations most. Organizations. Still think about communications, and in terms of channels right, so this very, linear, publisher. Media, channel audience, sort. Of narrative. That sort of pay to earn the model that still dominates, a lot of talk about sort, of large-scale. Corporate communications, and marketing in the agency world the, problem with that is it's completely. Terrible it's it's a completely inaccurate way of describing the, way people actually consume, information so. As the world starts becoming more graph base we were trying to shift and have a more integrated, view of a person right that, we were a node in the graph along, with the voters that we were trying to engage and that, meant we had to change our behavior we needed to change the way we were integrated, hence, this crazy title, and my, job was sort of this impossible job basically, of running around an, organization, that was.

Trying To adapt to this world but where most of the leaders in the organization hadn't. Bought, into this side yet. And. So. There was a lot of organizational. Tension the other thing about the second campaign it was a much more professional. Operation, I mean that in both the good ways and the bad ways right, the Oh a campaign, was, a. Movement. Of true belief I mean it we were all true. Believers we were it was it, was an amazing experience it's also the worst job I've ever had so like I try to be honest about campaigns. It. Was sort of the best and the worst job I've ever I've, ever had the second campaign was. Um we were in a much better campaign but it was much more professional you're the incumbent all of the party apparatus is around. You so it's not driven by the same level of belief so culturally, it's super different. And. It kind of burned me out on campaigns, so. After. The after. The second campaign I started, another company called Tim shell and Tim shell was basically. An attempt to bring digital transformation, and good platform technology, to the rest of the social impact landscape so, politics, is sort. Of well served although, there's lots of problems with it by this. Cottage, industry of political tech companies, but the larger, social impact landscape, so everything from nonprofits, the foundations to social enterprises, to corporate CSR groups are, not, particularly, well served by technology, and innovation and all that, Semin like something we wanted to solve like I got into politics, because I want I believed, in governing, I believed in you. Know that the public, service was a mechanism for good. Debate. Whether I'm crazy or not I, still. Believe that, I. Believe. In the potential of that at least, and. So. I didn't really I wasn't I didn't get into politics I loved campaigns, I just happened, to end up in campaigns, and, it's sort of you, know if I wanted like couch. Myself, a little bit here like there's, super competitive environments, they sort of fit with some of the things that I was taught and some of the skills I had I'm like I'm good in a crisis I don't panic I'm very calm like I work. Well in that kind of environment when I was a kid and I wanted to be a doctor and I was like 9 I wanted to be a trauma surgeon like. That should tell you something about my, brain, and. I, still have some of that mentality so I I was well suited to campaigns, but, I. Wanted, to work on the problems after election day and that's what Tim shell was all about so, we tried to build a company, around those ideas. What. I discovered, in. The venture world and a social enterprise the intersection, between adventure and startup in social enterprises, there's, a lot of talk about the evolution of capital, and the evolution, of business models is very hard to operationalize, that still the, mechanisms. And the the actual, sort. Of flow of capital and funding, is actually. Still pretty traditional there's still sort of one philanthropy, pocket, and there's one revenue seeking return.

Seeking Pocket and we. Talk a lot about the intersection, and venture philanthropy and, social enterprise and all these that we have a lot of transition, vocabulary, around this stuff but a lot of it hasn't settled and so. There's it's hard it's really hard to fund a company, whose primary, goal is social impact that, we were trying to run it was. A for-profit, and we're running as a for-profit, and. The platform that we one of the platform's we built, despite. Not wanting to be a political tech company. Ended. Up being the digital, foundation, for secretary Clinton's campaign and, this brings us to 16 so 16 now, is this. Really. Sort of we, now see social, as a ubiquitous, set. Of edges in the way we interact with the world right, whether you're on Twitter, or not you're consuming, tweets whether you're on these platforms not you're being influenced, by them. And. It. Was a really, the. The mentality, for. For the, campaign's was much, was much more product-centric. So, I was talking about in digital centric and then being engineering, centric, in 12 its. What 16 was sort of the maturing, of that into something that was truly product centric like who were the users what problems did people need us to solve so when the. Stef, Hannah took over as the CTO for Secretary, Clinton that. Was her, background was, as, a she. Was the head of one of the heads of product, at Google so, you start with me who's basically this, scrappy. You. Know stay up all night make stuff work brute force CTO. Right, just gobbling stuff together which was well sue to do it then. You have a a serious, engineering, centric, CTO and twelve talking, about buildings like building things for the first time but tending. To solve engineering problems. Right. So the data is not talking to each other well let's make it all real time well we, never asked anybody if it needed to be real time we just thought that was the right way to do it turns, out doing data you, know integration. In real time is expensive. And hard and it would have been way better off if we just ask somebody a question and, said does this need to be real time because we could have made ourselves lives. A lot easier Steph, Hannon is the sort of mature in sort, of evolution, into a really, product centric CTO, then. The. World goes insane and. You. Know I think we're living, through to. Sort of wrap up and start inviting people, into the conversation here. You. Know this sort of really interesting, moment. And sort of cultural. Technical.

Communications. Evolution. Right that that a lot. Of the things that have we have that we have built and become come, ubiquitous. To our lives we never really, had a serious, conversation about how we wanted them to function relative, to society, relative. To institutions. Relative, to things like democracy, we. Kind of. Like. Let those conversations, be privatized, for, any, number of reasons right, me partially just because some. Of the people who we should have been we sort of didn't notice and some of the people who should have noticed didn't know any better I think, you see in, the. Zuckerberg, testimony, a couple weeks ago the. Start of a conversation we would it should have had 10 years ago asked, by people who were, found Lee naive about the topic that they're trying that they're trying to regulate which. Is, both. Encouraging, that, we've started the conversation and, a little scary that we're not having a good enough conversation, we. Need to have the same conversation about, AI how, do we want this to function in society like so much of the talk is like robot apocalypse it's like doesn't. Have to be you know just because we all watch too much sci-fi doesn't mean that has to be where this goes right, like there are real warning signs and things to be worried about right, and we should have serious conversations about these things and there are very. Thoughtful, people like Jared linear who's, like one of my favorite thinkers and the CSS or, CS AI world talked, really eloquently, about the ethics, of these kinds of things we. Need to have this conversation now, and so a lot of the work that I'm doing these. Days centers, around do, we have the kind of leadership we need for. Where we're going right. That the. Conversation, for instance we have about the, future of Education the future of work tend not to intersect. Enough, right. So you hear a lot of talk about everybody. Because right now there, aren't enough computer, science engineers to go around nobody can hire there's this incredible, like challenge, of talents and open jobs so everybody's gonna go study computer science and get it beat going to stem right except. 10 years from now that's. That's not gonna be where we are anymore like of, all the things today I is likely to be good at one of them is gonna be computer programming, and exactly, how that, plays, out we, don't know and we'll see. But. The skills that we need in the technology, world are extremely. Different. Ten. Years from now than they are now so if we're studying for the world we're in now none. Of us are gonna have jobs, right. If, if, you really want to have a job in a world full of robots become. A mechanic, right, like they're all gonna break right like, we're gonna have to fix all these things and how many of us like know how to fix stuff anymore like, you really want to be seriously, in demand be a mechanical, engineer. Anyway. I think we're in this really. Intensely. Important, moment around leadership, and, like. Questioning. The sort of underlying dynamics. Of the systems that we live in we see democracy feeling, under threat we see institutions. Like Free Press under threat, see. The leadership, just. Not working, right right not working, it's certainly not in the places where we would normally expect to find leaders I spent a lot of time since the 16 election, sort, of wrestling. Inside, the Democratic Party, with what's. A party for, and. And. Wondering, where leadership is gonna come from their political leadership so. My. Life like, my story is not terribly, linear right, I think to, just sum up and let people start to ask some questions you, know I think like, not, thinking about your inertia pa's a problem solving thing my.

Experience, As a problem solving methodology. My. Experience, of my own life in my own career is sort of a series of finding, the problems that I care most about and, thinking. Hard about sort. Of the, highest and best use of my talents right there's. There's. A quote. That's often attributed. To Charles. Bukowski that's, about sort of if something doesn't let sort of burn. Your soul aflame like, you shouldn't do it it's not actually bye-bye Bukowski, but he did write a poem called so you want to be a writer I recommend. Everybody, read that poem. It, has to do with like. Being like, a life of passion and a life of intention, I talked to the early on about like coming, into Brown with just a real like, kind of pathological, sense, of overachieving, because, I I had to achieve because that's what you're supposed to do but I wasn't I was kind of an unguided missile, like I was just there's. A pretty capable kid, I was, good at stuff and so I I did well right I landed here but, I I wasn't really going toward, anything I was mostly running away from this. Sort of like Boulder, of anxiety, of you've, got to be better and good enough and win and all those other things and finding. Things to run toward, has. Kind of been the whole point of my career and. Here. We are so. Who's, got questions I. Can. Pass the mic around. Marcelo. Can pass the mic around thanks Marcel. I think. He's. Got you there. Yeah. Thank. You very much for. Sharing your story here, it's very inspiring. To me and. So. Now people. Are people. In the world I'm more connected, than ever right, now as you. Mentioned, although. Your. If you are not using Twitter you're influenced, by it or other, social media and so. A morning of what. Advantage. Or disadvantage, do. You think this. Change is, do. You feel optimistic about, it or do you worry about it both. I'm. A pretty optimistic person, in general so I believe. In our potential to take advantage of these things that, to create more. Connectivity, as a mechanism for better understanding and, more empathy, and ability, to know more people at a distance right, I think one, of the good thing you know there's sort of a lot of debate in the sociology world around Dunbar's, number right. In like how many relationships can we maintain I, think, there's starting, to be some, real, thinking around the fact that that number is actually going up these. Tools actually and we can add a minimum maintain. More. Weak ties than, we've ever have, had that part. Of why. That number is where it is was because of the mechanisms, we use for maintaining relationships now they have a different. Debate about depth of relationship and, quality of relationship, and the, value of in-person connections. And meeting, physically, versus online all these other questions but I think there's an enormous amount of potential in these things right like our, ability, just to like, seeing. You. Know seeing young people caring, about things not, not, happening anywhere near them is, a positive, feature of this right, I, think. There's all kinds of challenges right and I think when the business, models, of most. Of the media landscape are driven by attention, it's. Very hard for, any of these systems to optimize around, truth, right. So the this, is where this rears. Its head the most is in journalism, right.

So If, what we need from journalism is to present the truth. But, almost. All of our business, models for media, our attention, centric. How. Like how. Do we square the circle and I think we, watch the journalism while not figuring, it out mostly right now right, and you. Know it's not like propagandas. New right. Like Trump, didn't invent this, right. President, Trump is really, good at it he's, really good at he has he is the master, of the big, culture, of declaration, if, I, say it with enough conviction people. Will believe me by, the way I've made a pretty good career out of doing that so. How. You become, the CTO of a political, campaign when you have never taken a computer science classes pretty much that. However. We. Live in this sort of declaration culture, where like demonstrating. Values is is sometimes, secondary. To declaring, what we believe or what we think is true and we've, sort of developed, this like very. Sort. Of relativistic. View, of truth. And. I. Think, this is a place where there's real problems, with so, much connectivity, I also think, and I don't. Want to get, into blaming the user blaming voters too much for this but, there is a role that we have to play as users of the system that we have more. Power and more access to more information and we're not really. Dramatically. Better consumers. Of information than we were a generation ago right. I think, we work a lot at my new job my new, job with running Chicago ideas with young people in Chicago and they're actually really good at this but I. Think. I'm. Sort, of this weird, too old to be a millennial too young to be Gen X sort. Of tweener person, and. People. Who are my, age and a little older than me are terrible. At this right. Like really really just not good enough consumers. Of information not, properly, skeptical, not appropriately, thoughtful. About sourcing, all these other kinds of questions and. This. Is this is something where as individuals, we have to figure out how to get better at using these things so we're less. Easy to manipulate. People. Are always like manipulation. Is not new propaganda, is not new we've always, been around like. Part of what I think is challenging. Around this from like a privacy, or a data perspective is people say well, you choose to use Facebook it's, like okay I get.

The Personal responsibility argument. However. Our our when, we do that are we really making a sort of valid. Contractural. Sort. Of values, based. Judgment. With, full understanding, of what we're giving up and what's being done with our data the answer is no there probably, a handful of people in this room who actually really, get that but. That. This, room, is very unusual all, right they're like do we really understand. The trade-off we're making the answers now right, and there's been this joke in Silicon, Valley for a long time that if something's, free and you can't figure out what the product is then you're the product it's, not funny, like. That's offensive, as hell right like there's whole, companies, who just, don't give a about their users because, the users and the customers, are not the same right. And, you're. Watching Facebook, right now wrestle, with is hard and spending, an enormous. Amount, of money on their own communications. And media trying to right the ship of like. Changing. Like the fundamental culture. Right that like the, things that they. Talk about about, the power of connectivity, and their. Business model are. Coincidentally. Aligned. Sometimes. But. Not but. Not connected. Necessary. By the body by design and that's, something they're gonna have to figure, out and I think this, is the right conversation, to have who's. The right room to regulate that who's gonna be the ref man. That's we, don't have time for that we, also, got a question sure, you, want to pass the mic around I. Know. There's more questions there's no way there are. Hello, there we go first, of all thank you for coming Alex oh nice, to meet you thank you for coming to spend a great talk Jeb, Bush recently came to campus and spoke about breaking. Out of your kind of bubble of information. How. I guess, a two-part question how do you view is. The responsibility, on the individual, to do so of breaking, on the bubble when it's very, difficult when when. The ways. We consume information are, curated, beyond, our control and my. Other question is, is. Political, advertising, just the sit in the same evolution, as you, know product, advertising of using, this the data that is available to hyper target should, political advertising. Follow, the same rules at other companies followers which should they be part. To send us December, both, good questions so in the first one do. We have some bear some personal, responsibility for this sure like. I think one. Of the things I ball that I consume, a lot of news, and a lot of content, Charlie not surprising. In. From, sources, knowing, what, you guys know about me that probably aren't surprising like I read the politics. Session of the, New York Times in the Washington Post every day that's. Not surprising anyone I also read all of every, day right. In my RSS, feed in, my, set of RSS feeds so like of all the things that I make sure that I'm consuming, every day like. I'm intentionally, seeking, out content, that drives me nuts. Because. It's important, to understand, I know what they're gonna say on MSNBC, right. I. It's. Important, to understand, you, know there's a there's just a strategic value to this of like understanding, your opponents but it's also there's. Some sort, of a bigger human, cultural. Come, under. Standing your, neighbors and your fellow citizens and the people around you choosing. That is really hard, right there are some days where I'm like now I just can't like. I can't take it I can't read, I cannot, read read that comma day like. But. It's important. Right, it's important, that we like, genuinely. Understand, each other that we are willing, to see all. Of human experience, right, and it that doesn't mean we validate all of those ideas right like. Certainly. Not, not arguing for that but. Sort. Of understanding, what the spectrum looks like is important right so the, out this, is one of the fundamental.

Challenges With, algorithmic, content, display or feeds. Streams that are out rhythmically, designed is. You. Know if it's, designed to just get you to pay attention to what you're most likely to respond to its gonna audition. Push. You toward the edges things that you love and things that you hate right so like the. Partisanship, of that is very obvious I think one of the other challenges here is imagine, if you. Were sort of opening up your you know a TV screen or looking at you know sort of the channel guide if. Because. Because. My TV knows I'm a Democrat. Fox. News wasn't an option because. It doesn't think I'm ever gonna click, on it that. It's not a that I'm not making that choice is a problem, that's, a problem I may never click the button ever. I mean never say yes. I want to watch on Hannity very unlikely however, I'm. Choosing. Not to and removing. That choice for me changes. My. Understanding. Of things, like the Overton, Window which is the concept, people know that Scott Overton, windows the concept of like what's valid, sort. Of spectrum. Of ideas and sort of particularly, political, conversations, in them in a community. And. That. Lack of choice is like a is, a real problem with you know and this comes up in very practical terms and things like the trending topics on the Facebook there's been a lot of debate about this because it was human. Curated, and they went to all machines and they went cuz it and then they were getting really abuse they went back to humans and there's still a problem. These, problems are really hard. So. Yes, I think it it is good for us and healthy for us to challenge ourselves I think. Expecting. People to override, their, own psychology of. Being, you. Know targeted. With like, heavy, like. Psychographic. Behavioral, targeted. Stuff and like not clicking, on the cat video and like choosing, something like we, can't it can't just be about it can't just be on us that's, just never we're not it's. It's irrational to expect us to be able to sort of override our own biology like, that all the time which is the ridiculous, and so. You. Know there is a place to one. Of the questions about this is always like is, the answer just more transparency, and how the algorithms, work I think that's a good thing, it's. Probably not enough. Ultimately. The. Question around, political, advertising, versus from other forms, of our chatters and commercial advertising we. Already have lots of rules that are specific, to political, advertising because it's more important it. Is more important, to how society works it's more important to the running of the country we, are we, think it should be like. More, carefully. Monitored. It should be more transparent all these other things so I don't. They're not the same now and they shouldn't be the same. Because. When. You're manipulating, me to buy one kind of toilet paper over another kind of toilet paper like, that's, that's problematic, like if we've crossed some boundary, of exploitation. Of my psychology I think that's problematic, if. You do that in service of, changing. The political direction, of a nation it's more problematic let's just, like more, important, than toilet paper so. Despite. What you might think about politics right now so. The, rules should be different for politics they are different for politics they're not sufficiently, different so, there, are a lot of. Carve. Outs and problems, and the FEC law around. Like. For. Instance in. The in FEC. Law you, don't have to do paid force and, attribution. In all in, all digital, advertising basically. Because it's hard and there's, like not a lot of space so they just carved. Out an exception for a digital it's. Just laziness right and it's just an industry of people being like creating, a saw like a massive, thing to exploit. And use you. Know we have rules like saying. Who and who would TV ads paid for we don't have those in digital Facebook, has said they're gonna start offering this, but you're gonna have to let go find, it which, is problematic. But. Finding. Ways to execute. On the things that we believe the, values that we already believe in and have already decided, on relative. To political media in digital channels is something we just need to do. The work of getting through. Now, we're back to the question of are the people who make these regulations, capable. Of regulating.

With These, environments, we. Need more people who. Understand. Technology and, media in. Office, full-stop. Like. That. Means people who are engineers. That means people who have worked, in business that means we, just we. Can't expect, to get. Like, thoughtful. Reasonable. Complicated. Very, difficult, ethical, technical. Questions, answered, by people who can't understand, the technical side of the conversation and that doesn't mean like throw, everybody out and fill up Congress, with a bunch of algorithms like that's, not that's also not the answer right. We're. Supposed to live in a system of self-government our. Government is mostly, a. Political. Class. That governs, us right. It doesn't look like us sufficiently. In all kinds of dimensions race, gender, class, but, also capability. Right. This is another type of diversity that we lack in leadership so, there's, this, is a place, we have we have to change this or the. Regular regulatory. Landscape, and, the leadership that we're looking for we're never gonna find and government, has to work right. Government is not a start-up you can fail right. So so. We. Have to figure out this problem I think. I have to stop there I think um I think it's time for pizza I, really. Hate to stop things there because, what you're saying is so critically. Important, and profound but, I do and, want. To thank all of you for coming today, for participating, today for asking really engaging questions I want, to thank the CIS. Tech. Summit organizers. For approaching, us at the Nelson Center to collaborate, with you and I. Mostly, want, to ask you to join me in thanking Michael, for being with us. You.

2019-01-08 19:06

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Awesome lecture! Just out of curiosity, do you think there's a way to design social media platforms to be better places to discuss politics? In Brazil's recent election, I've experienced how such platforms (like Facebook cough cough) seemingly compartmentalize users into their own political bubbles. Not only do they prioritize providing content that reaffirms their users' beliefs/opinions in their feed, but also content that causes controversy and outrage (regardless of how truthful they are). Is it possible to avoid such things through design without fundamentally changing the "attention centric" business model? For instance, feeds could, by design, have reasonable arguments that challenge the users' political beliefs, or have optional surveys on trending political topics that show what percentage of their friends agree/disagree with them after being completed.

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