Continuing backlash against major tech companies in what is largely described as systemic abuses of power has led many to question the sustainability of the digital economy. From Facebook data breaches to Google’s transparency issues, everyday people are increasingly venting their frustration at Big Tech’s ever-expanding presence. Amidst all this furor, however, some notable tech leaders are creating innovative and responsible solutions to tackle crucial deficiencies in the modern data economy.
As McKinsey & Co. has helpfully illustrated, data is the lifeblood of the modern economy, and must be taken seriously by tech entrepreneurs and leaders. Here’s an analysis of 5 leaders responsibly tackling the data economy, why their work is so important, and what motivated them to act in the first place.
1. Elon Musk and AI
Few leaders within the tech community are as globally recognized as Elon Musk, and for good reason. The innovative entrepreneur has helped put SpaceX, Tesla, and other inspiring startups on the map while also campaigning to raise awareness about major issues generated by technological change. When it comes to the problems posed by the rise of artificial intelligence, for instance, Elon Musk has been an industry leader in informing the general public about the social and economic risks of unchecked AI development.
Indeed, Musk has embarked on a billion-dollar crusade to thwart the development of what he claims will be harmful AI initiatives. Noting that intelligent machines could jeopardize the well-being of human lives around the world, Musk is forever reminding Silicon Valley that AI projects must be built responsibly. He warns that rapidly rolled-out automation programs can cripple economies or even end human civilization.
Musk is pioneering responsible data growth for an excellent reason; the unknown scares him, and he urges caution when foraying into new and exciting areas of scientific development. AI is one of the least-understood developments of the modern era, so his arguments that we should be cautious when development it are deeply appreciated.
2. William Erbey and Digital Congestion
Entrepreneurs like William Erbey, a finance professional and technology investor, are of a differing opinion when it comes to the role of AI. By arguing that humans can tap into the power of artificial intelligence to diminish digital congestion, Erbey is trying to leverage intelligent machines to create a faster, more accessible internet for everybody. While also cautious that data economy concentrated in the hands of a few powerful companies, Erbey understands that internet users cannot properly protect their privacy without some sort of regulation. With this privacy and user-first mentality in mind, Erbey has invested in a Multi-CDN platform which could alleviate internet congestion without infringing upon users’ rights.
Erbey is concerned about digital congestion because of the extent to which it diminishes economic growth and impedes the interconnectivity. Envisioning a future where huge sums of information don’t necessarily have to slow us down, he’s working hard to ensure that the data economy doesn’t implode under its own weight.
3. Ben Lorica is Changing Data Science
Some leaders are also tackling problems generated by the data economy from the perspective of science and engineering, rather than from economics. Ben Lorica, Chief Data Scientist at O’Reilly Media, whose technical expertise is helping foster changes across Silicon Valley and elsewhere, is one such example.
By advising countless startups and reminding the world that the quality of data is often far more important than its quantity, Lorica is going the extra mile to ensure companies of the future are staffed with competent but also morally-responsible professionals. He’s also playing an incredibly important role informing the general public about new, data-centric innovations, such as the rise of deep fake technology. By posting such essays as “a world of deepfakes,” he’s preparing consumers for a new era defined by both fascinating yet frightening technology.
Clever and reliable tech leaders informing the general public about nascent digital threats and helping startups reach their full potential are needed now more than ever.
4. Gabriel Weinberg’s New Era of Privacy
In the data economy, privacy is on everyone’s mind, and for good reason. If you don’t jealously guard your information, some company or hacker could be turning a profit by exploiting your personal information. That’s why innovators like Gabriel Weinberg worked hard to create the privacy-oriented search engine DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t vacuum up user data or log their search history in the way that Google and others do.
Weinberg’s hard work earned him a profile in FastCompany precisely because it’s the kind of privacy-centered work we need to see emanating from Silicon Valley right now. Most consumers are more concerned about privacy than ever before but take few (if any) steps to ensure they’re not being spied upon. This is because most everyday people have no idea how to thwart major tech companies and their surveillance-friendly policies.
With leaders like Gabriel Weinberg offering helpful alternatives like GoGoDuck, however, tomorrow’s internet users can rest assured that they’re not always being victimized when they need to look something up on the web.
5. Ajit Pai and Government Oversight
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was thrust into prominence over a public debate regarding the end of net neutrality, an opportunity he used to champion stronger government oversight when it comes to Silicon Valley. By persuasively arguing that private companies and their data-vacuuming practices were a substantially larger threat to consumer privacy than ISPs, he helped convince a generation of voters to pay attention to politics in order to ensure a brighter digital future for all.
Noting that major tech companies like Facebook and Google have immense power over their own regulators, Ajit Pai has convincingly battled for greater government oversight in Silicon Valley. While these companies enjoy nearly unlimited access to the data of Americans and millions of others abroad, ethics warriors like Ajit are reminding us that such data should be closely stewarded by government regulators who prevent wrongdoing in the pursuit of profits.
These 5 tech leaders are showing that accountability, transparency, and ethics have bigger roles to play than they currently enjoy. As the New Year gets underway, we can expect even more innovators, academics, and business leaders to tackle the problems presented by an ever-growing data economy.