Business has reaped the rewards of new technologies but is also vulnerable to the disruption they unleash. For every Netflix – dynamic, innovative companies that use technology to capture a market – there’s a Blockbuster, succumbing to disruption because its leaders failed to anticipate the future. From AI and robotics to blockchain and cybersecurity, Stern Speakers’ roster features visionary women from leading institutions and organizations who are strategically steering companies toward realizing the full potential of emerging technologies.
Deciphering the Future
Foresight is a necessary but difficult skill in an age of disorientating change. Strategist and acclaimed author Amy Webb provides a high-level, holistic approach to the evolution of future technology. In her new book “The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity” (PublicAffairs, March 2019), Webb takes a thought-provoking look at the way AI is reshaping our society in both good and bad ways, and raises the question of who is going to be wielding power over our data and lives in the new era. Drawing from her book and previous research, Webb’s keynotes and workshops are tailored to individual organizations and reveal precisely what trends will impact them – for better or worse.
Isha Datar, pioneer in the emerging field of cellular agriculture, is motivated by an acute awareness to sustain our consumption habits: in the long run we will need to embrace methods of synthetic meat, egg and dairy production.
The Dawn of AI
Arguably, the most transformative new technologies are those related to AI, robotics and their practical applications for business, health care and education. While Dr. Rosalind Picard, pioneer of affective computing, focuses on using AI to create wearable devices for monitoring health, Dr. Ayanna Howard is building a new generation of robots that can perform vital roles in education and in treating children with disabilities.
Dr. Rana el Kaliouby, co-host of PBS’s Nova Wonders series, is a leading authority on “Emotion AI” – the programming of technology to understand (and react to) how humans experience pain, joy and happiness – which will have vast utility across multiple industries. Dr. Pattie Maes, meanwhile, takes a different direction: rather than developing more sophisticated robots, she is creating intelligent devices that aid, augment and enhance humans.
New York Times best-selling author and social psychologist Dr. Sherry Turkle examines and reveals how human empathy and intimacy have been undermined by digital technology. She shows organizations the importance of restoring confidence in their brands by preserving and prioritizing face-to-face interactions – with customers through marketing strategies and with employees through engagement and internal communications.
The Future of Work
Automation and the rising life expectancy are having a profound impact on employment. Anticipating the future of work begins with reforming education: Julia Freeland Fisher’s just-published book “Who You Know” encourages K-12 schools to utilize digital tools to expand students’ networks by connecting them with industry experts. These relationships create new opportunities that offer students real-world experience while creating an employment pipeline to the businesses in their communities.
Dr. Michelle Weise is an authority on the next stage of academic journey. She specializes in using technology to expand options (and affordability) for non-traditional learners while providing solutions to reskill the workforce for the rapidly evolving job market.
Managing technological change and the presence of multiple generations collaborating in the workplace are the combined expertise of Tammy Erickson, who devises strategies for companies that want to create better cooperation and training for employees.
Security and Blockchain
One safeguard against abuse of technology for malign purposes is the blockchain. Dr. Neha Narula is one of the world’s leading authorities on this emerging tool; she shows businesses how it can help usher in a new age of transparency and openness, beginning with digital currencies.
Unexpected Advancements in Tech
Technology is neither static nor predictable, and three additional speakers show how unexpected breakthroughs can emerge to challenge the status quo – and the way we think about the world. Mary Lou Jepsen’s work on medical imaging technology yielded a surprising result when she found she could build wearable devices that allow for telepathic communication. Yes, Dr. Jepsen has developed early versions of mind-reading technology.
Courtney D. Cogburn, an expert on the negative impact of racism on health and learning, worked with VR experts to design a virtual experience that allows users to experience prejudice and discrimination as a person from a different race, potentially revolutionizing the way organizations develop sensitivity training and build cultures of diversity and inclusion.
And Neri Oxman, a renowned architect and designer, has worked at the intersection of computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering and synthetic biology to create an entirely new science and art form known as Material Ecology, involving the use of nature to design and build consumer products.
The common message of our speakers is that we need not fear technological change, as long as we adopt a proactive approach to the trends that lie ahead. The organizations that develop strategies to integrate and address emerging changes will not only thrive in the future but help shape it.