By Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware Inc.
As leaders from more than 100 countries prepare to gather at Davos, a debate continues to rage regarding the role technology will play in society going forward. Will tech innovation be a fundamental part of the solution, or part of the problem, or both? Can we control powerful new technologies like artificial intelligence, genome editing and facial recognition in order to maximize their benefit to humanity, while minimizing the risk and harm?
As I’ve shared previously, we now have at our disposal four tech superpowers, and I firmly believe that tech will be a force for good over the next decade and beyond. Technology itself is inherently neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s up to us, as a global community, to determine how we develop and govern these new tools as their impact on our world intensifies.
What’s often overlooked in this highly charged debate is a separate but related question: do we, as leaders in the tech industry, possess the patience and drive to tackle large-scale societal challenges like financial inclusion, quality education or environmental sustainability – especially over the long haul? History suggests that Silicon Valley has been strong on talk regarding saving the world, but relatively light on action.
I’ve worked in the tech industry for almost four decades now, and I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the psyche of truly brilliant technologists. In my experience, most great engineers are wired to seek out the “brilliant flash of genius” solution to a problem. Whether it’s fully conscious or not, we technologists want to believe that tech innovation alone can overcome almost any barrier to human progress.
In many ways, technology is only beginning to galvanise itself to address big, societal challenges. Over the next decade and beyond, we need to inspire talented technologists all over the world to engage with the diverse teams that are working on complex problems like economic inequality and climate change. Just as important, it’s imperative that we enable and empower the nonprofits who are the heartbeat of these efforts.