- Former President Barack Obama said Thursday at Dreamforce,Salesforce‘s annual mega-conference, that climate change was the issue he’s most worried about.
- Obama went on to detail two more major issues. The second was the rise of inequality within and between nations, and he said new technologies had “amplified inequalities.”
- The third issue was the rise of the information age, as he said political differences were becoming greater because of social media and the internet.
- Read more on Business Insider’s homepage.
Former US President Barack Obama says there are three issues he’s the most worried about at the moment – and the top one is climate change.
“Climate change would be right at the top,” Obama said onstage. “There’s such a thing as being too late.”
Obama said modern culture contributed to climate change by encouraging people to consume more. By way of example, he said houses today consumed more electricity than before.
“We were just talking about the fact that it’s great we’re creating all sorts of energy efficiencies, but it’s also true that part of our challenge about climate change is a culture that says more is always better and bigger is always better,” Obama said.
New technology has ‘amplified inequalities’
The other two most important issues are the rise of inequality within and between nations, as well as the rise of the information age, Obama said. These issues, he said, are being “turbocharged by globalization and technology.”
Obama said that while new technology had given a larger reach to successful figures like himself and Benioff, helping them become more successful and influential, he also thought technology had “amplified inequalities.” He said he thought about what could be done so “every kid has a good school and nobody is homeless on the streets.”
“So much of the political turmoil we’re seeing right now has to do with people feeling legitimately and materially insecure because of those disruptions, and we have not adjusted our social institutions to make sure that we benefit from this huge rise in productivity that comes from technology,” Obama said.
‘We are siloing ourselves off from each other’
Similarly, Obama said, with the rise of social media and the internet, political differences become more stark, and the internet can look different to different groups of people.
“Part of what happens is that people don’t know what’s true and what’s not, what to believe and what not to believe,” Obama said. “They’re suddenly confronted with things that they didn’t have to deal with.”
He added: “I think that right now one of the biggest challenges we face is how do we get a common conversation and a common culture.”
He pointed out that when he was growing up there were only three TV stations, and everyone watched the same TV shows.
“Even if I had a more conservative bent and you had a more liberal bent, we shared something that allowed us to then have a disagreement but not feel completely separate,” Obama said. “Now, if you watch Fox News, you live in a different reality than if you read The New York Times.”
Obama nevertheless said technology still had positive impacts.
“It’s not just affecting politics,” Obama said. “We are siloing ourselves off from each other in ways that are dangerous. The irony is, we thought and I still believe the internet can be a powerful tool for us to finally see each other through the bias.”