Kevin Werbach

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Leading Expert on the Business, Legal and Public Policy Implications of Emerging Technologies; Authority on the Future of Blockchain and its Implications for Trust in Business and Society; Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics, The Wharton School

Biography

The world has entered a new phase – one in which AI, algorithms and big data hold sway over large parts of the economy and our lives. Blockchain technology is still in its infancy but looms on the horizon as a potential disruptor in many industries. Yet, our laws, regulations and ideas about trust and accountability have not kept pace. Naïve optimism has given way to concerns about harm to democracy, market competition and even human freedom. When it comes to understanding both the opportunities and threats of new technology, Kevin Werbach is a leading authority. Drawing on his extensive experience in tech, government and academia, Werbach helps organizations navigate technological change and harness its opportunities in trustworthy ways.

Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Werbach is a pioneer in emerging fields of algorithmic accountability, wireless communications, gamification (applying digital game design principles to business processes) and blockchain governance. Werbach approaches the most pressing issues in tech from a realist standpoint, skeptical of both “techno-utopians” seeing inevitable benefits and pessimists warning that technology will undermine the core values of humanity. Broadly, Werbach communicates a framework in which organizations can leverage technological innovation and effective governance to promote trust. More specifically, he identifies the implications of such technologies as AI, 5G wireless and blockchain, their current states of development and where they can help (and harm) organizations’ goals.

Werbach combines a tech/business background with direct experience in crafting the regulations and policies that helped to shape the internet age. He heads the cryptoregulation initiative of the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, serves as faculty advisor to the Penn Blockchain Club, and teaches one of the first interdisciplinary courses on blockchain, cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology. An award-winning teacher, he also created Wharton’s course on “Big Data, Big Responsibilities: The Law and Ethics of Business Analytics,” and was named Wharton’s first-ever “Iron Prof” for his research.

In addition to serving as expert advisor to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and U.S. Department of Commerce, Werbach was a member of the Obama Administration’s Presidential Transition Team. His books include “The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust” (MIT Press, 2018), “For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business” (Wharton Digital Press, 2012, with Dan Hunter) and “After the Digital Tornado: Networks, Algorithms, Humanity” (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2020).

Prior to joining the Wharton faculty, Werbach was the editor of Release 1.0, a renowned technology report for senior executives, and co-organizer with Esther Dyson of the annual PC Forum conference. Before that, he served as Counsel for New Technology Policy at the FCC during the Clinton Administration. Called “one of the few policy wonks who really got it” by Wired, he helped develop the U.S. government’s e-commerce policies and authored “Digital Tornado,” the first comprehensive analysis of the implications of the internet on telecommunications.

A sought-after commentator, Werbach has appeared frequently in print and broadcast media, including CNN, PBS NewsHour, CNBC, NPR, ABC News, USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Financial Times and The Economist. His writing has been published in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Wired, Fortune, Slate, IEEE Spectrum, and numerous academic journals, and he has testified before the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the FCC. He is an affiliate of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy; a fellow of the Global Institute for Communications in Japan; treasurer of Public Knowledge; and an editorial board member of Wharton Digital Press, Info, The Journal of Information Policy and I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society.

Werbach is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as publishing editor of the Harvard Law Review, and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.

Kevin Werbach is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Books & Research

The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust

(The MIT Press, November 2018)

The Gamification Toolkit

(Wharton Digital Press, May 2015)

For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business

(Wharton Digital Press, October 2012)

Media

Kevin Werbach's Medium Blog

Linkedin Logo

A Magical Success Story on the Knife-Edge of Catastrophe: Notes from China

September 19, 2019

Bitcoin Dreams

August 20, 2019

The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust, Book Review: Driving Networks to Consensus

March 27, 2019

Technology Vs. Trust: Why this Wharton Professor Thinks Blockchain's Time is Yet to Come

March 11, 2019

Trump's 5G Plan Is More Than a Gift to His Base

March 6, 2019

Business Bookshelf: How Blockchain Technology is a Form of Trust

February 22, 2019

People Don't Trust Blockchain Systems - Is Regulation a Way to Help?

February 5, 2019

How the Blockchain Ushers in a New Form of Trust (Audio)

January 14, 2019

Privacy, Trust, and Whether Blockchain Can Help Us Achieve Them (Audio)

January 10, 2019

The Economist logo

The Meaning of Blockchain

January 8, 2019

Building a New Architecture of Trust With Blockchain

December 28, 2018

Blockchain to Supply Chain: New Technology Could Make Big Impact on Big Oil (Video)

December 28, 2018

WGBH logo

Blockchain Builds Trust Using Math (Audio)

December 18, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Fear the Blockchain Regulators

December 8, 2018

One on One with Kevin Werbach, Author of the New Book; the Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust

December 5, 2018

How the Blockchain Brings Social Benefits to Emerging Economies

November 28, 2018

Why We Must Regulate the Blockchain

November 25, 2018

How the Blockchain Will Impact the Financial Sector

November 16, 2018

Can Employees Change the Ethics of Tech Firms? (Audio)

November 13, 2018

As the Founders Exit, What's Next for Instagram? (Audio)

October 3, 2018

CNBC logo

At Top Schools Like Wharton, Students Are Flocking to Classes on Bitcoin and Blockchain

September 12, 2018

Here's What One Judge's Decision Means for the Future of Cryptocurrencies

September 12, 2018

Penn's New Blockchain Course Gives Crypto Fans a Chance to Link Up

September 7, 2018

What the Russia Hack Indictments Reveal About Bitcoin

July 22, 2018

How the Blockchain Can Transform Government

July 5, 2018

What the End of Net Neutrality Actually Means (Audio)

June 14, 2018

When Crises Come, Ethically Challenged Firms Such as Uber are most Vulnerable, Wharton Prof Says

April 16, 2018

Why Blockchain Creates a New 'Architecture of Trust' (Audio)

June 16, 2017

The Promise - and Perils - of 'Smart' Contracts (Audio)

May 18, 2017

Intro Video

Video ThumbnailKevin Werbach: "The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust" | Talks at Google - youtube Video

A-Z Name

Werbach, Kevin

Biography

The world has entered a new phase – one in which AI, algorithms and big data hold sway over large parts of the economy and our lives. Blockchain technology is still in its infancy but looms on the horizon as a potential disruptor in many industries. Yet, our laws, regulations and ideas about trust and accountability have not kept pace. Naïve optimism has given way to concerns about harm to democracy, market competition and even human freedom. When it comes to understanding both the opportunities and threats of new technology, Kevin Werbach is a leading authority. Drawing on his extensive experience in tech, government and academia, Werbach helps organizations navigate technological change and harness its opportunities in trustworthy ways.

Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Werbach is a pioneer in emerging fields of algorithmic accountability, wireless communications, gamification (applying digital game design principles to business processes) and blockchain governance. Werbach approaches the most pressing issues in tech from a realist standpoint, skeptical of both “techno-utopians” seeing inevitable benefits and pessimists warning that technology will undermine the core values of humanity. Broadly, Werbach communicates a framework in which organizations can leverage technological innovation and effective governance to promote trust. More specifically, he identifies the implications of such technologies as AI, 5G wireless and blockchain, their current states of development and where they can help (and harm) organizations’ goals.

Werbach combines a tech/business background with direct experience in crafting the regulations and policies that helped to shape the internet age. He heads the cryptoregulation initiative of the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, serves as faculty advisor to the Penn Blockchain Club, and teaches one of the first interdisciplinary courses on blockchain, cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology. An award-winning teacher, he also created Wharton’s course on “Big Data, Big Responsibilities: The Law and Ethics of Business Analytics,” and was named Wharton’s first-ever “Iron Prof” for his research.

In addition to serving as expert advisor to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and U.S. Department of Commerce, Werbach was a member of the Obama Administration’s Presidential Transition Team. His books include “The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust” (MIT Press, 2018), “For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business” (Wharton Digital Press, 2012, with Dan Hunter) and “After the Digital Tornado: Networks, Algorithms, Humanity” (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2020).

Prior to joining the Wharton faculty, Werbach was the editor of Release 1.0, a renowned technology report for senior executives, and co-organizer with Esther Dyson of the annual PC Forum conference. Before that, he served as Counsel for New Technology Policy at the FCC during the Clinton Administration. Called “one of the few policy wonks who really got it” by Wired, he helped develop the U.S. government’s e-commerce policies and authored “Digital Tornado,” the first comprehensive analysis of the implications of the internet on telecommunications.

A sought-after commentator, Werbach has appeared frequently in print and broadcast media, including CNN, PBS NewsHour, CNBC, NPR, ABC News, USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Financial Times and The Economist. His writing has been published in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Wired, Fortune, Slate, IEEE Spectrum, and numerous academic journals, and he has testified before the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the FCC. He is an affiliate of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy; a fellow of the Global Institute for Communications in Japan; treasurer of Public Knowledge; and an editorial board member of Wharton Digital Press, Info, The Journal of Information Policy and I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society.

Werbach is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as publishing editor of the Harvard Law Review, and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.

Kevin Werbach is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Big Data, Big Responsibilities: The Ethics of AI

AI and related technologies are transforming the business landscape in virtually every industry. But in addition to offering enormous new opportunities for growth and innovation, these technologies can also produce abuses of privacy, unethical manipulation and new forms of discrimination. In turn, such challenges have resulted in more political scrutiny and regulation of the firms that develop and employ these emerging technologies or utilize the data of millions of consumers. These actions create potential pitfalls ranging from public backlash to extensive fines and even outright bans. Organizations seeking to benefit from big data and analytics must consider their limitations, as well as the emerging legal and technical mechanisms of algorithmic accountability. In this presentation, Kevin Werbach draws on his Wharton course, “Big Data, Big Responsibilities,” to outline the legal and ethical challenges posed by AI and the data economy, and discuss how organizations can benefit from these technologies while respecting their consumers’ privacy and autonomy.

The Rise of Blockchain: Myths, Realities and Opportunities

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are wildly overhyped. Some experts (as well as non-experts) tout the coming triumph of the blockchain-enabled cryptocurrency over all existing forms of money. But the digital currencies that do exist are frequently used for illegal activity or bubble-inducing speculation that tends to end in catastrophe for investors who fail to sell at the right time. And yet, says Kevin Werbach, it would be wrong to dismiss these technologies. Separate from cryptocurrency investment activity, organizations and communities around the world are starting to deploy blockchain-based systems – in a less dramatic fashion – to address real business needs and create new financial instruments. These include shoring up transparency and accountability in global transactions and supply chains, and creating alternative, decentralized financial structures that combine reliability with wider accessibility. Ultimately, blockchain can reinforce and build trust between organizations in an era when digital technology is more likely to harm rather than help confidence in institutions. In this presentation, Werbach demystifies blockchain and identifies its real-world value propositions, along with the remaining challenges before it reaches its full potential.

The Future of Technology: The Convergence of Cyber and Physical

AI, blockchain and 5G are each touted as the “next big thing” that will change the world and disrupt business. Yet, even relatively tech-savvy executives admit they do not really know what these technologies are or why they are important. These three seemingly unrelated trends are actually elements of a common mega-trend: automation of the world. In fact, augmented reality (AR), the Internet of Things (IoT) and gamification are part of the same process: the convergence of cyberspace and physical space. To leverage the power of the digital world in the “real” world, we need a brain (AI), a nervous system (5G) and memory (blockchain). Furthering the analogy, IoT is the sensory apparatus, AR is the visual field and gamification is the emotions. They are all mutually reinforcing. In this presentation, Kevin Werbach shows audiences how to leverage investments for maximum benefit by seeing this “big picture” opportunity. Only by understanding the cumulative impact of these emerging technologies will organizations truly realize their value and transformative power.

After the Internet: The Worldwide Web in 10 Years

Today, we take for granted that the majority of humanity is connected in real-time to the global internet, which was the stuff of science fiction 30 years ago. Yet, there is no guarantee there will still be an internet as we know it even 10 years from now. How might the internet fragment, or conversely, how might cyberspace become indistinguishable from the real world? What would be the implications, and how can organizations plan for these scenarios? In this presentation, Kevin Werbach, who has been an active practitioner since the internet’s early days, takes a look at where the web is going over the coming years and decades, and how organizations can remain ahead of the curve.

From Good to GREAT: How to Build Trust in the Digital Age

We are experiencing a global crisis of trust. Technologies such as e-commerce, social media, AI and the sharing economy are increasingly seen as means of exploitation that undermine, rather than reinforce, trust. Many organizations aspire to be ethical and socially responsible, says Kevin Werbach, and yet, good people and companies still frequently wind up doing bad things. How many Silicon Valley giants, for instance, profess to believe in privacy, security and human rights, but are then revealed to be routinely exploiting personal information, allowing data to be compromised or stolen, or aiding authoritarian governments? We need to start focusing less on values than on the ways to act on and implement them. GREAT—Governance, Responsibility, Accountability and Trust—is an integrated framework for organizations that takes advantage of emerging digital technologies. In this presentation, Kevin Werbach shows how organizations can re-establish authentic trust through emerging technologies of blockchain, accountable algorithms and digital identity.

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