What the future of technology means for society, according to industry leaders

SpaceX via Getty ImageA Tesla roadster launched from the Falcon Heavy rocket with a dummy driver named ‘Starman’.

  • That Startup Show is launching a new season.
  • It will showcase the best Australian startup talent and address the big questions facing the tech and startup sectors.
  • Its pilot season was downloaded more than one million times in 60 countries.
  • We asked some of the local and international talent on the show how they are thinking about the future of technology.

That Startup Show, a weekly show which addresses the big questions facing the tech and startup sectors, is back for a second season after a hugely successful pilot season.

The show, which is supported by LaunchVic and the Department of Industry, Innovation & Science, will seek to showcase the very best of Australian startup and tech talent including CEO of 99designs Patrick Llewellyn, and CEO and co-founder of Fleet Space Technologies Flavia Tata Nardini.

“In the last year there has been a kind of ‘teckoning’ where the reality of inequalities and failures in the global technology industry has hit home, leading to a cultural shift in how we understand the role of tech in our lives and its impact on us as human beings,” That StartUp Show CEO and co-founder Anna Reeves said.

“That Startup Show explores the big questions – where does Australia want to be in this picture? What kind of innovation nation are we? What kinds of companies are we creating and why? Will they solve more problems than they create? What do we really want, and are we global competitors or collaborators?

“It’s not all about Silicon Valley anymore. We’re hoping to shape the conversation about what it means to be an entrepreneur on a global scale, both now and in the future.”

With this in mind, Business Insider asked those involved in the show how they’re thinking about the future of technology, and its impact on society.

Here’s what they said.

Patrick Llewellyn, CEO of 99designs

SuppliedPatrick Llewellyn

Automation is already changing the way we work on a global scale, but the potential impact goes way beyond shifting job roles. This technology will save us all time, allowing people to pursue more meaningful creative work in the long run. As we gain back hours in our day to day lives, there is the very real potential for a resurgence in the arts. If we have more time to both appreciate and create things like local music, drama, poetry and visual art, then the possibility of reframing how society values them is hugely significant.

Pamela Melroy, former US Air Force test pilot and NASA astronaut

Pam Melroy

All technology has the potential for good and bad outcomes for society. It’s very important for people developing technology to be aware of the implications and raise them, even though they may not be in the position to solve it. Fundamentally I believe that more people are good than evil; societal benefits outweigh the negatives particularly if they are considered as the technology is being developed.

Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO and co-founder of Fleet Space Technologies

SuppliedFlavia Tata Nardini

Technology has consistently revolutionised the way that society operates. We saw how, in the mid 1800s, manufacturing technologies and the introduction of new machines to help make jobs more efficient, accelerated and changed the way that businesses were run. The same is happening now, but on a whole new level.

We’re entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where connected machines and devices are completely changing the way that we do business.

There’s myriad data out there that can be analysed and used to make smarter decisions for businesses across all industries, for individuals and society. New technologies in IoT are taking that data via long range, low power satellite connectivity (distance no longer being an issue), extracting the meaningful parts through edge computing and providing businesses the world over the information that they need to thrive.

As society and businesses become more tech-focused — even traditional industries like agriculture or mining — we’re going to see IoT technologies proliferate. That will enable businesses to work smarter, wherever they are, and as a result solve some of Earth’s greatest challenges such as resource depletion or feeding a rapidly increasing population.

Sarah Moran, co-founder and CEO of Girl Geek Academy

SuppliedSarah Moran

Here’s a question – what would the internet look like if there were more women building it? In these weird times of cybercrime, AI, rockets to Mars and bitcoin millionaires, my thoughts about the future largely drift towards who is creating it, who is making money off it and how they might stuff it all up for the rest of us. By creating more diversity in STEM careers and startups, we can ensure that everyone has a voice and an input into how our digital future will look. Technology products and tools will reflect all of society, and not just a subsection of the community it serves.

Alan Jones, entrepreneur in residence at BlueChilli

SuppliedAlan Jones

Technology has always improved our ability to get work done at a lower cost but it’s always been us who do the work. We can harvest many more acres of wheat but we still need to drive the harvester, or make the sales call, or perform the surgery. Technology in the next few decades will mostly involve offloading the work we do to autonomous technology. Those with the capital to access the best technology will be immensely productive and generate huge wealth. But the value of many kinds of work will fall to almost zero. We’re not used to running an economy in which the value of labour and the cost of goods and services are not tightly connected and it’s likely we’ll make a lot of mistakes adapting. How do we avoid making millions of people suddenly unemployable?

Charbel Zeaiter, co-founder and chief experience officer at Academy Xi

SuppliedCharbel Zeaiter

As the next wave of digital disruption strikes, emerging technologies such as Mixed Realities (MR), will revolutionise the way we learn. MR includes Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality and will allow students to step inside abstract concepts, understand historical facts, or simulate hypothetical tests. The proof is already out there with research on lecture-style retention being at five percent, while with MR students have a retention rate of 75%.

Jamie Skella, director and chief product officer at Horizon State

SuppliedJamie Skella

We are continually designing our future, together. The changes happening around us are not happening to us against our will. We create these technologies, and collectively we accept them or reject them. If the value that a technology presents us is meaningful enough, then we make trade-offs for it. We give up some privacy to be on social networks because of the benefits, as an example. This will continue: trade-offs for benefit versus potential detriment. As long as we are net-gaining on our benefit and leaving comparative detriment in the dust, then we are always going to be in an overall better place. This has been the trend so far, with us living in the safest, most equal, and most prosperous time that has ever existed – largely a result of modern science, medicine, and technology – although you’d never believe it watching the evening news.

Benjamin Law, author of The Family Law and Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East

SuppliedBenjamin Law

There’s this trend for everyone to rant about ‘young people on smartphones’ – which is really an expression of anxiety about technology generally. I get it: human contact and communication are important. However, most of us use technology to communicate with family, catch up with friends, absorb the day’s news, learn something new, make work more efficient or decompress after long days. All of those are human needs. As Professor Genevieve Bell says, in its most optimistic and hopeful form, technology complements who we are and what we know how to do well.

Ahmed Salama, co-founder and creative director of That Startup Show

SuppliedAhmed Salama (L) with co-founder Anna Reeves (R)

Advancements in AI, blockchain and bioengineering have the biggest potential to shift the course of how we live and work. But if this technology is to serve humanity, it must built upon a foundation of empathy. And this doesn’t happen without diversity.

The show starts on July 12, premiering on Gizmodo and Lifehacker as well as via thatstartupshow.tv, iTunes and Amazon Prime.

Allure Media, Business Insider’s publishing company, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fairfax Media and also publishes POPSUGAR, Gizmodo, and Lifehacker.

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