Big Questions in Emerging Tech: What do we need to ask today to innovate intentionally tomorrow?

We are on the precipice of a number of technologies that can redefine the internet and how we live, work, and play. To build the future we want, we have to optimize for intended consequences and guard against unintended ones. This session will focus on what we should be asking today to support the world we want tomorrow.

Safiya Noble runs a research institution on tech + society at UCLA and Bilal Zuberi is an investor at leading Silicon Valley VC firm Lux Capital. The two engaged in a rare conversation on the ethics of technology sector beneficiaries and where we need better leadership and processes to avoid unintended consequences. They focused on areas like predictive analytics and data generated by sensors, where this data can then be used and combined for automation, drug discovery, cybersecurity, etc. Especially in priority areas like these, ethics and high-quality leadership are essential to counterbalance potential harms.

Key Takeaways:

  • “We can’t solve problems we can’t talk about” - Safiya Noble
  • The myth of a universal human (ie. designing products for the broadest use) hurts new technologies. “We have to figure out how to do this, A/B testing is not enough,” said Bilal.
  • “There are people who are taking leadership roles talking about it, CEOs making everyday decisions based on [ethics]… It’s really important they’re provided with the tools that are required for them to make the right decisions.” - Bilal Zuberi
  • “What is the sector’s role and responsibility in engaging with social scientists and humanists and others to imagine different kinds of solutions that are also invested in?” - Safiya Noble
  • “The narrative of dropping out of school to become a billionaire doesn't signal promise in my community, it signals the great inequity of who gets funded and supported." - Safiya Noble

Supplementary Resources + Readings

  1. Algorithms of Oppression - Safiya Noble
  2. The Era of Move Fast and Break Things is Over - Hemant Taneja
  3. Tech Policy Press

Session Speakers:

Safiya Umoja Noble, PhD

MacArthur Fellow, Professor (UCLA), and Director, UCLA Center on Race and Digital Justice

Dr. Safiya Noble is an internet studies scholar and Professor of Gender Studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she serves as the Co-Founder and Faculty Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). She holds affiliations in the School of Education & Information Studies, and is a Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford where she is a Commissioner on the Oxford Commission on AI & Good Governance (OxCAIGG). She is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and the inaugural NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award recipient.

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Bilal Zuberi

General Partner, Lux Capital

Bilal Zuberi is a Partner at Lux Capital, investing in startups that solve big, practical problems with technically ambitious solutions, across industries. Bilal led Lux’s investments in Applied Intuition, Ironclad, OpenSpace, Nozomi Networks, Commure, Tendo Health, DesktopMetal ($DM), Evolv ($EVLV), Aurora Solar, Saildrone, Fiddler, and others. Previously, Bilal was a VC at General Catalyst and co-founded GEO2 Technologies.

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Justin Hendrix

Co-Founder and CEO, Tech Policy Press

Justin Hendrix is Co-Founder and CEO of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and holds a BA from the College of William & Mary and an MSc in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas at Austin.

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