As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Bancroft, Executive Producer and Co-Host of Globalive Media’s Beyond Innovation, which airs weekly on Bloomberg Television around the world.
Michael Bancroft is a senior media executive and journalist with experience running multi-platform networks and creating internationally distributed shows at the intersection of business and technology.
His globally distributed television show, “Beyond Innovation,” uncovers the world’s new and emerging technologies changing the way we live and do business. Michael is also the co-host of “The Feed with Amber Mac and Michael B” on SiriusXM, a top trending tech podcast and radio show.
Michael was an executive producer for Bloomberg TV, where he launched and was responsible for all aspects of Canadian programming. For four seasons, he was presenter and executive producer of the internationally distributed technology TV show, “App Central.” Michael grew the audience of “App Central” tenfold on CTV, from one network to five in Canada, and sold the program to four countries.
Michael has worked for leading broadcast networks including CBS, CNBC, ABC, BNN and Network Ten. He has worked with and reported on leaders in the field of business, technology, politics and entertainment. Michael has covered stories and events from all corners of the globe, including red carpets in Los Angeles to the jungles of Rwanda. He has a postgraduate qualification in journalism from UCLA and an MBA in finance from Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
One of the key turning points in my career was during my time at the Los Angeles TV duopoly KCBS and KCAL where I learned to produce live news. One day after the editorial meeting, the news director at the time, Nancy Bauer Gonzales, asked me what I wanted to do and I replied, “maybe your job.” She gave me great advice and said if I wanted to be successful, I had to understand people and money and suggested I get an MBA. I did just that and have an MBA in Finance. Since then, I have worked with CNBC and Bloomberg. Subsequently, my love for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship grew.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
While studying at UCLA, I was very lucky to be able to interview Morgan Freeman. I was young, with little experience. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve had, as he was not only present and aware of everyone he came into contact with, but he was also very open and witty. It was easy to see why he is so good at what he does. I learned from our interview that having confidence and doing your homework is not a negative, and that you should never pretend to be something that you’re not.
You have covered hundreds of innovative ideas. Based on what you have seen, can you tell us about “ 5 Big Ideas That Might Change The World”? How do you think these will change the world?
Idea #1 — Gene-editing technologies that eradicate disease
While there’s been some understandably negative press about gene-editing following the scandal with the rogue scientist in China altering human babies with CRISPR, these technologies hold astounding potential to improve the world for the better, and that shouldn’t be lost in the media frenzy. It is theoretically possible that we’ll one day be able to effectively eradicate the instance of many diseases by altering our genes to become resistant to them, saving countless lives and untold sums of money. It would also go a long way to alleviating burden on the healthcare system by keeping people out of hospitals and freeing up the time of healthcare professionals to focus on other pressing matters.
Some of these innovations don’t have to happen before birth either. For instance, a startup in Hong Kong called OPER Technology is developing nanotechnology to remove stem cells from a patient’s brain, modify them to fight diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, and then reinsert them into the patient’s brain where they can proliferate and eventually cure the patient of their ailment. What’s crucial to advancing gene-editing technologies is to vastly increase the data we have about how our DNA and genes in general work, and there are several interesting startups working on this. One of them is called Nebula Genomics, and it’s backed by famed geneticist George Church. The company is paying people for the right to sequence their individual genomes and include that information in a giant database, where researchers can use it to study and develop treatments. Church believes an understanding of our personal genomes will one day guide many choices we make in life, such as what to eat, how best to exercise, and how much sleep we need in order to ward off diseases we’re predisposed towards.
Idea #2 — artificial intelligence/machine learning in healthcare to revamp drug discovery and research
One of the ways we’ll use the greater amounts of data we’re collecting about our genes and our healthcare in general is by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning. We can deploy these algorithms to greatly accelerate the study of healthcare data to unearth new treatments and pharmaceuticals that can address diseases. AI and machine learning can analyze the raw data being collected to figure out which combinations of compounds are more likely to effectively treat disease, and this can help researchers reduce the time and cost of finding winning formulas. This is potentially transformative to the healthcare industry because it costs about $2.6 billion on average to develop a prescription drug, and there are countless billions spent on drug candidates that ultimately fail. That should mean the retail price of drugs would fall, making these treatments more accessible to the patients who need them.
AI is also being used to spot diseases much earlier in their development in patients. A company called Cognetivity is using AI in a simple psychological test that takes 15 minutes, and the AI has been able to identify early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. As a result, these patients can get the care they need when their brains are healthier and curb the effects of the disease. Ultimately, if AI can be used to identify health conditions much earlier, we may see pharmaceutical companies shift their focus to curing or treating early-stage diseases rather than late-stage ones. That would fundamentally change the way the industry operates today towards more preventative rather than reactionary care.
Idea #3 — quantum computers to tackle some of the most complex problems
Quantum computing is tricky to explain because of how quirky the laws of quantum physics are as we understand them, but its potential impact cannot be understated. In a nutshell, a quantum computer can assess a very large number of possibilities at once and identify the most efficient or effective solution given the end objective. A traditional computer system — even supercomputers — process one possibility at a time, so the ability to weigh thousands — if not millions — of options in an instant can exponentially reduce the amount of time it takes to solve even complex problems. Quantum computers would theoretically be able to solve even extremely complex problems in which there is no one right answer and limited time and resources to find a solution. Think search and rescue efforts or deploying emergency aid: you want to figure out the best way to distribute the resources at your disposal so that the most lives are saved, but there are numerous ways you could go about doing so.
Right now, quantum computing is still in its infancy; they aren’t even remotely powerful enough to beat out an average laptop processor. However, the technology itself has been shown to work, and now it’s a matter of scaling it. Quantum computers require some very particular and difficult-to-create environments in which to work, so we aren’t likely to ever have quantum processors in our smartphones, but they can be used as cloud-based computing services, as IBM has chosen to do.
Idea #4–5G connectivity that unleashes the potential of the Internet-of-Things
We’re starting to see some telecommunications firms roll out 5G wireless networks, and it can’t happen soon enough. 5G promises to deliver wireless internet speeds that are dramatically faster than anything on the market today, and that opens up the potential to truly connect everything around us to the internet via smart sensors and tiny processors. By hooking up these sensors to everything from traffic lights to factory robots to vending machines, we can in theory gather incredibly granular amounts of data on virtually every interaction that takes place. All of this data can then be processed and analyzed by AI algorithms to identify ways to make services vastly more efficient and cost-effective. For example, Internet-of-Things sensors can be used to detect the flow of vehicles in a busy city intersection and optimize the changing of the traffic lights. This would save drivers time and money and ultimately improve the economy. You can apply this logic to just about anything, and that creates so many exciting possibilities!
Idea #5 — autonomous vehicles not just on the ground but in the air to relieve congestion
We’ve all heard about the potential for autonomous vehicles to make getting around town easier, but there’s still the problem of congestion on city streets due to the sheer number of vehicles out there. Enter autonomous flying taxis: a way for commuters to quickly get from point A to point B while avoiding all that traffic. There’s only one roadway, but theoretically no limit to the number of roadways you could have in the air. Of course, there would need to be the right regulations in place to make sure a network of flying vehicles could operate safely, and that would take some time to develop, but it’s an intriguing possibility. There are a number of companies — including Airbus and Boeing — that are working on autonomous flying vehicles, and several firms have carried out successful test flights. It will probably take several years for them to actually start operating, but the technology is closer than many skeptics might have you believe.
The overarching concern for many of these technologies is the way all of the data gathered is going to be collected, stored and used by the companies behind them. There’s been plenty of attention to these issues sparked by the data-collection practices of Facebook, Google, Amazon and many other technology giants, and it’s something of which every company needs to be mindful. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which we have no privacy whatsoever from technology companies, governments and nefarious agents who would seek to do us harm. It’s also possible to envision scenarios in which we merely have the illusion of choice: that those who hold our data can come to understand, predict and ultimately engineer our behavior based on an understanding of how we live each day.
Technology companies may not want to hear it, but there needs to be stricter regulation over data collection and privacy by governments, industry associations and companies themselves. Trust is so difficult to create and yet so easy to break, and companies would do well to consider this when crafting their data policies. Of course, we don’t want to see overly strict regulations that choke out innovation and prevent data from being leveraged in a meaningful way, but there needs to be a more informed approach to integrating new technologies into our lives. On the flipside, consumers need to come to terms with the fact that they won’t have the level of privacy that once existed. There’s no such thing as a free lunch; when you use technology, you’re agreeing to fork over information about yourself and your habits. We all need to be more thoughtful about the way we use technologies and consider what conveniences we actually need — and how much we’re willing to sacrifice to have them.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
There’s plenty of hysteria over machines “stealing” our jobs, but much of it is overblown. While AI is indeed becoming highly sophisticated and will automate away many types of jobs, we often don’t consider the jobs that are created thanks to the added productivity that machines generate. For example, AI might automate some repetitive procedural-style office jobs, but the company that implements it may open up new locations or launch new products with the money it saved, creating jobs at the new locations or in the product design team.
Ultimately, the best way to future-proof your career is to continually learn new and diverse skills that can be applied in many different roles. Having a wide range of proficiencies makes it harder to replace your value to an employer or in a marketplace with a machine, and also gives you more possibilities to enter new fields or job roles. There are many ways to pick up new skills on the side using edtech platforms, and it’s also wise to think about how to monetize skills you might already have that can generate some side income and eventually grow into entrepreneurial endeavors in their own right.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
In the media industry, there are many time-consuming tasks such as tagging and articling photos and video, captioning or transcribing interview footage, and identifying ideas that resonate with audiences and drive viewership. If I had a million dollars, I’d invest it in an artificial intelligence system that could quickly and efficiently handle these tasks so that media professionals could focus on the creative aspects of the job and put together even more compelling content.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Intention: I always try to understand why I am doing something and make sure I am being honest with myself when making a decision. It’s also key to pay attention and understand the intention of others when they cross your path. There are things that are in your control and there are things that are not in your control. As long as you do the very best you can with the things that are in your control, it’s the best you can ask of yourself.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
One of the most powerful habits that far too few of us adopt is getting a proper night’s sleep on a regular basis. It’s shocking how much productivity we lose by sleepwalking through the day. We often lack the mental and emotional energy to apply our talents to their fullest and, in doing so, we greatly undermine our own potential. It’s also been shown that our brains typically operate more efficiently in the morning, yet many of us don’t start our days until much of the morning is already gone. There’s a lot of wisdom in the expression, “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Going to bed early in the night and waking up early in the morning to eat a healthy breakfast and exercise for an hour or so gives our brains the energy needed to achieve great things!
Another habit that can help drive success is the simple act of writing down our goals and taking stock of them on a daily basis through journals or logs. You won’t reach your goals if you don’t formulate a plan in the first place and keep a laser-like focus on them. Keeping track of your progress on a daily or weekly basis can keep you in the habit of envisioning those goals and taking the steps necessary to achieve them.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
My elevator pitch might go something a little like this:
Have you ever received a piece of advice that changed the course of your life forever? Well, I’m a seasoned media executive driven by a desire to deliver stories that trigger those ‘Aha!’ moments and inspire audiences to reach great heights. I cultivate a content platform that shares the brightest ideas and lived experiences of successful executives to a network of entrepreneurs and professionals. Our viewers want to change the world for the better, support others like them and learn about the trends that are shaping our future. They come to us for the wisdom, knowledge and examples they crave. We’re in a unique position to connect our audience to the big ideas and powerful figures driving those conversations because we travel the world to unearth these stories and share them in one convenient place. We’ve mastered the art of building relationships with business leaders and producing thoughtful content with them. I’d love to explore how we can work together to nurture this community with compelling stories that deliver the messages the leaders of tomorrow need to hear.
How can our readers follow you on social media?