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Welcome to another episode of The Brand Called  You. A vodcast and podcast show that brings you   leadership lessons, knowledge, experience and  wisdom from thousands of successful individuals from   around the world. I'm your host, Ashutosh Garg  and today I'm delighted and privileged to welcome   a very very senior academician from Texas USA, Mr. Moshe Vardi. Moshe, welcome to the show. Good to be with you. Thank you. Moshe or I should say Professor   Moshe is a professor of Computer Science at Rice  University, USA. He is an author of two books, and  

has over 700 articles to his credit, and he has  been recognized, awarded and felicitated globally.   So today, Moshe, after such an amazing  track record that you have, today will   focus on information technology. And let me  start by asking you, before I get into this,   tell me a little bit about your own  background, and what took you to the US. I discovered computers almost accidentally at age  16. There was an advertisement in the paper,   but the programming course in a local university. And I don't know exactly what  

intrigued me. But I was somehow intrigued because  at that point, we're talking about many years ago, there was computers were not on people's  mind, they were in a what we call the glass house,   you know, big corporation, University as a  mainframe. But somehow I was intrigued. And I took   this two week programming course. And it was love  at first sight, as they say. And so I went in,   got my education in Israel. And Israel at the  time in particular was such a small country   that the feeling was that if you want an academic  career, you need to go abroad to broaden yourself,   so to speak. Today, it's less necessary because  Israel is a powerhouse in computer science.   But at the time, it was you need to  go abroad. And most people used to go to United  

States. So I went to United to do a postdoc. But  I went to Stanford, but I met my wife in Palo   Alto, and the rest as they say is history. Wonderful. And what made you stay in academics,   rather than in business or  industry or a startup? So I did go after I did my postdoc,  I did, I did go to IBM Research,   not only because I was in, I lived in town  in Palo Alto, and IBM was just down the road in   San Jose and I did part of my postdoc at  IBM research. So I apply there and then  

I got the job as a what's called RSM research  staff members. And then ultimately, I became a   department manager there. And then IBM is business  talks. And when it would become very   clear that doing industrial research is  wonderful when the company is very profitable.   But when business is very tight, you know,  the tightening everywhere and it became   somehow it seemed that it was  not a good long term bet.  

And then I decided after about 10  years in industry, decided it was   time to move to academia. And it was one of the  my best career decision ever. So no regrets. Fantastic. So now let's talk a little bit  about what's happening in the world today.   And my first question to you is, what are some of  the challenges being faced in the digital age? I would say is that we launch a revolution.  And very often people who launch revolution   don't realize what they have launched,  kind of the accidental revolutionaries.   So we saw this is a wonderful invention, this is  great microprocessor. This isn't good or internet,   this is great. But what we have really  launched is an astounding revolution in terms of  

depth, right, because we have taken a concept  used to be very nebulous information. If you ask   people you know, before what is  information? It was what information is trying to   quantify love, compassion, you know, we have lots  of lots of things we can we refer to but we don't   think of them quantitatively. Well said and we  turn information into something that can be made quantitative, can be measured, and can  be processed. Information not can be processed. So today, the phrase information processing  is a bit kind of, you know, old fashioned to   information processing. But the fact you can pause  this information is you get this nebulous concept.

So if we look  at kind of what are the,   you know, the thing that shaped humanity, then,  of course, was that they would develop language.   Okay, we don't know exactly when they  started, people debated exactly 100,000 years   ago, we develop language. And then we develop  much closer very recent in cosmic timescale,   he would just yesterday, you know, about  6000 years ago, maybe will develop writing. And then in the middle  ages will develop, you know, the print.   And kind of this is the next and all of these  will be huge, huge revolution that change humanity,   humanity before money after it's a different  thing. And now we are we have launched yet  

another one. And we, you know, we have not any  better than then other inventor in foreseeing   the consequences of our invention, there is a  beautiful story that I like about physicist in   the early 19th century in Cavendish lab in  Cambridge, UK. That is they discovered the   electron, beautiful scientific discovery, they have  a cocktail party to celebrate it and the toast   to the electron, which will never be of any use  to anyone. Okay. And now we laugh with them right.   But we have not been much different than them. We  did not foresee what we are launching,  

what we have unleashed.  In fact, there is a quote, I think   attributed to I think, you know, to Samuel Morse, when invented telegraph, and   the first message was sent, which is really kind  of part of information processing, we think of   inserting we Shannon, but the telegraph, actually.  And the telephone will have a way of taking sound   and taking information and digitizing it and  transmitting it. Right.   Shannon showed us how to measure it. But the ideas   started before, but I think it was Samuel Morse  who said what have we roth?   What have we done? You know? And, and now as  a society, we are really I would say today,   the biggest challenge to society is dealing  with this revolution that we launched.  

And computer scientists, in particular are having  a hard time because we used to think first of all,   we think we you know, we're playing  games, you know, programming, it's nice puzzles,   you know, not cool devices. And we have changed  the world for the better and for the wars. I   mean, for the better is you and I can sit now on  the other two sides of the globe and have this    conversation. And it's not quite like  being in the same room. But it's,   a pretty good approximation.  Okay. I mean, think of what would happen   with the pandemic if we did not have zoom. Absolutely. And yet, Moshe, when you look at it,   while you know, you and I are speaking here,  we seem to be continuously moving into a   more and more complex set of technologies and I'd love to get your   perspective on the metaverse, tomorrow you  and I could be sitting and talking and in the   metaverse but Metaverse is there, artificial  intelligence is there, machine learning is there,   robotics is there. How are all these going to  change the world? What is your perspective?

Well, I think some of them we have we have  lost track of what technology should be about.   Okay. And actually the technology was  always supposed to help people. Okay,   a life needs when he conceived of the reasoning calculus, it will be like glasses for the brain. You know, it  was all about really human augmentation. Okay.   And some of them we kind of we lost track of this  and we became, we fell in love for technology for   technology's sake. So now we seem to be rushing  into the metaverse and ask wait a minute,   what problem, what human problem is trying to solve  right now? So you look at a company like Facebook,   which is one of the sources I mean, it's been a major player in the current ills   of societal yields. And we had we had the leakage  of the Facebook papers just a last fall.   And we showed that even Facebook know about all  the societal damage that they're causing. 

But hey, it brings the money so we can't stop  it. Okay, you have to continue, because that's   what brings the money. Yeah. And so they have  instead of telling us look whether metaverse will   cure what we have done before. Mayor Culpa, we're  very sorry at what we have done. But now we have  

ideas to how to repair it, how to mend it. No,  now we have more technology. And the answer is,   what problem is, what human problem out they're trying to solve, none of that stuff. It's profit driven, you know, and we are  all sucker for technology. I'm not better   than anyone else. Wow, we let's use it, we'll  

figure out the consequences later. And in the  meantime, you know, seeing you know, we have the   United States, which you can probably describe  it the mother of modern democracy. And democracy   here is in serious peril. And it's complicated,  you know, historian will spend decades   trying to analyze what happened to this country.  But I think it'd be very hard to   not to conclude it, technology played a key role  there. And one of the main things technology,  

discourses, you know, societal polarization.  So, for democratic society to function, there   has to be a sense of shared  destiny. Okay, we are in it together. Okay. Sorry to interrupt you. But  coming back to the metaverse. You know,   you give me the example of the cocktail party  when the electron was found. And you said that,   we don't really know, that time they  didn't know what an electron could do.   Yeah. Is the metaverse a party  that's too early, or do you see  

something significant happening in the future? So when are we talking about somewhere, probably maybe 15 years ago, so I don't remember  exactly when second life, right. And   I was among the people oh, we're  going to build a virtual campus.   Let's do that. You know, and people will  come in, they'll visit the virtual campus.   And one of the dissolute I remember  a point in which I said Oh,   four letter word. A female colleague of  mine came to me very disturbed.

Someone on second life drop his pants in front of  me. She was almost   as disturbed as this has happened in real life.  She found it very, very disturbing and realize,   you know, what are the rules? You know, at  least for example, in real life, okay,   in this physical presence if I drop  my pants, it's called indecent exposure. It's a criminal  activity, indecent exposure.  

What happened in the metaverse if somebody  dropped your pants? What's going on? We gonna Metaverse policeman. Yeah, we need a Metaverse police, who is responsible?   What are the rules in the metaverse? And  answer is we don't know. There are no rules.   It's kind of the wild west. And so  I think we need to really take it a   think very, very hard. What is the purpose  of the metaverse? What is the purpose other   than Google? The Facebook wants to make more money  and trying to distract attention from the scandal   that we went through, okay? And answer is I have  no idea. You know, everybody's telling me we need   to go to the metaverse. Wait a minute, what is the  rationale? What problem are we trying to solve?

So you know, one of the other things that people  talk to me about the metaverse, and I'm not an   expert like you. But there is this whole issue  of privacy and personal space that each one of us   irrespective you and I probably the same  vintage. But even the younger people are very   fiercely protecting. What happens to privacy  in an open platform like the metaverse?

So the paradox of privacy is that  we are giving away our privacy.   But I keep going to talk about the word  the Greek called the Sand Heap paradox.   And the paradox was really about  failure of induction to say if you take one grain   of sand, you put it on front of you. It's one  grain of sand, you add another grain of sand.   And everybody can say, if something is not  a heap and you add one grain, it's not a heap.  

But you and I know that if you put enough grains  of sand, eventually this will become a heap,   right? So when does the heap become a heap?  And so we give, we are willing to give away   tiny bits of information about ourselves. One bit at a time, it's like imagine that I'm   willing to reveal each time let's suppose  you say, every time you reveal a pixel   of some photograph, you get $1 pixel. Of  course, if it was a new evolution, you know, not   photograph, and I reveal enough pixels and my nude  picture is on the web. Okay? And I don't know,  

but you my body is not beautiful enough  for me to want it to be on the web.   But the point is, because we are giving our  privacy one pixel at a time, I click like, oh,   what's the big deal? I click like, Okay,  I shared every time, every tiny activity,   every grain of sand, reveal a tiny  bit and epsilon about ourselves.   And one of the things it's very hard for the  human mind to comprehend is the accumulated impact   of very, very small actions, for example, that's  why I know very intelligent people, they have   a hard time with the concept of human cause,  climate change, because they say, you know, okay,   I drove to the supermarket, it's nothing,  you know, how much can it affect the atmosphere   of course, each one of  them by itself is a tiny contribution.   Okay. Collectively, we have changed over over  now, since evolution of about 100-150 years,   we have changed the climate, the same way we give  away one pixel information, one pixel at a time,   one bit at a time. And we have no idea what  do they know about us? What picture does   emerge? Who  knows Moshe Vardi better? Moshe Vardi   or Facebook? Because I live in this manufactured  reality in myself in stalking my own self image.  

Facebook, see everything I do. Okay. So now,  what's the other side? What do they do with it,   they then influence us by putting advertisement by  putting content that they decided we should see.   So the influencing  us again, one bit at a time.  

Each bit of influence by itself is  nothing. But when you spend a lot of time on Google on Facebook, and you see what they  want you to see, what is accumulated impact?   So what happened is we ended up  giving away heaps of privacy,   and for free, but what we are paying is  being exposed to heaps of influence. Very interesting. So now we have a society,   that is being polarized, because if your perceived  liberal, Facebook wants you to stay engage,   they will show you more the corner you like, if  you're conservative, you will see the other kinds   of content. And so we are creating this what  people call filter bubbles. And, you know,  

now, the people from the other side are not just  well, my esteemed opponents, your opinion of them   keeps going lower and lower. And the notion of  shared destiny is gradually eroding as we speak.   And so I mean, people don't realize how close  the United States was on January 6 of 2021   to losing its democracy. Yeah, you're right.  It was a small, very small number of people   with some bold action managed to stay  with disaster. Well said. Well said. So I'm now going to ask you  another question. Because, you know,   you are a computer science guru, you  know, the digital world.

I mean, you're teaching it, you're reading  it, you're aware of it. What are the three   predictions that you would make that we should  watch out for in the digital economy? So I'm much better at looking at the past, reflect  about the past and making predictions. There   is a thing in Danish expression  that says predictions are difficult, especially   about the future. Okay. Okay. I think that the  other make a prediction, I would say we are now  

at a kind of an inflection point, in terms of,  we have a disruptive technology. And we also   have a huge concentration of power. Yeah. And in  some sense, if you look at United States,   1981 was a pivotal year in the history of  this country, for three things.   Number one, I came here as a postdoc.   This is a joke, but more seriously Reagan was elected,   was inaugurated as President, was elected in 1980,  was incorporated as a president. And the PC   was introduced in 1981. And you  know, of course the PC before that there were  

other computer but the PC was when personal  computers went mainstream, business tool, okay. And so we started a wave  of technology on one hand. And the same time   Reagan introduced or made it the standout  the reigning dogma became neoliberalism,   which has led the market less affair,  let the market decide on everything.   Okay, so we've lit no regulation, and  exploding technology. And now we are seeing  

the consequences of this. Okay. And so now, you  know, people are realizing that having on one hand   disruptive technology was no words or so to speak,  guardrail with no rules. Yeah. Okay. And also   allowing huge concentration of power. You know,  when you wonder, how did Google become so big,  

they have bought dozens and dozens of  companies. Because one of the liberalisation   was antitrust, okay. You know, in fact, the last  serious antitrust action by the government against tech company was Microsoft. And they've lost  the case, even though Microsoft have turned  

itself after they today, Microsoft considered  one of the good players in a big tech. But   in fact, if without the  lawsuit, even again, Microsoft,   Google will not have existed, but  Microsoft would have bought it early on.   But both Google and Facebook have  bought dozens of companies with no government saying, Well, wait a minute, we  shouldn't have this concentration of power.   So we have disruptive technology, little  regulation, and huge concentration of power.  

And I think people are realizing this is a very  combustible mixture. And there are more and more   European Union is a font of trying to  regulate it. And it's a large enough   market that it will affect and I think more and  more, you'll see more and more talk in the United   States. Actually, this is one issue that seem to  be some kind of a almost a bipartisan agreement.  

The too powerful industry is not good for  democracy. Now, on the other hand, this is by now   a huge industry and currently powerful. You know,  I don't know exactly not because the stock market   is going up and down. But a couple of months ago,  I calculated the market capitalization of the big,   we call the Big Five, okay, which is alphabet,  Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. And market   capitalization at the time in maybe around  February, was a over $10 trillion. Wow. Okay,  

so you have a very large, very large, powerful  industry. And they can hire tons of lobby's,   they can put tons of money into political campaigns. And who will win, the people    or big tech? And I think, yeah, I think this is  not one of these, I would say, a pocket struggle   really for the soul of democracy, and  I would say is from my point of view, it's also   a struggle for the soul of the discipline, what is  computing about? You know, whom are we serving? Or   we ended up leaving academia essentially serving  the big tech machinery producing because now   most of my students, where do they  end up? They end up in big tech.   So I'm really producing the cannon fodder  for big tech to continue its expansion. And so I think we are in an epic struggle now for  democracy, and for the soul of   the discipline. And who will  win? I don't know, I hope that you know, I hope  

that you know, and in the movie, it is much more  satisfying when the good guys wins and wins at the   end. But also what is the prize?  Okay, so World War II, the good guys wanted to   end right. Right, we can see oh, there was a happy  end because the human toll will just incalculable,   incalculable. So this is now an  epic struggle. I hope the good guys will win.  

But whenever you go to war, you start by  digging graves. Absolutely. Right. So Moshe, on that  note, I think we have run out of time now.   Thank you so much for speaking to me. I  would love to just carry on talking to you  

because you're such a fascinating speaker  and you have such vast knowledge   about out the entire technology space. Maybe  I'll set up another time to speak to you on   some other things. And thank you so much  for speaking to me. It's been a pleasure.   And good luck in everything you're doing. Thank you, Ashutosh. It was a pleasure talking  

to you. Thank you.   Thank you for listening to The Brand Called You,  videocast and podcast. A platform that brings you   knowledge, experience and wisdom of hundreds of  successful individuals from around the world. Do   visit our website to watch and listen  to the stories of many more individuals. You can   also follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and  Twitter. Just search for The Brand Called You

2022-06-13 05:10

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