General James E. Cartwright, Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Mikael Hagstrom, Executive Vice President, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, SAS
Paul Saffo, Managing Director of Foresight, Discern Analytics; Senior Fellow, Strategic Foresight Initiative, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council
Moderated by Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief, Scientific American
Panelists centered the discussion on disruptive technology in two key areas: security and the labor market.
Explore the other panels from the Global Trends Conference
Read the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds report
Read the Atlantic Council’s Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World report
Mr. Hagstrom detailed the threat of cyber attacks and the mismanagement of the governance of new technologies and Mr. Saffo discussed that increasing automation in manufacturing has translated into declining demand for human intensive labor in a variety of industries. Tying the two points together, General Cartwright drew upon comparisons between this technological revolution and the industrial revolution. He emphasized how the digital revolution empowers the cognitive capacities of the human race in ways the industrial revolution empowered the physical capacities of humans. In military and security affairs, this shift means that competitive advantage in computing power is critical, while distributing and leveraging information are the major occupations of leaders. Emerging technologies discussed included prosthetics connected to chips embedded in the brain, additive manufacturing, and robotics.
The panel particularly discussed how these emerging technologies could influence the alternative worlds outlined in the NIC report. The ability of the United States to bring diverse perspectives to common problems was highlighted as an advantage when it comes to adapting to technological challenges, but the slow pace of governmental administrative change and disinvestments in research and education threatened to hurt US leadership on those challenges.
Federal News Service
MARIETTE DICHRISTINA: Hi again. I’m Mariette DiChristina, editor-in-chief of Scientific American, and you’re here now for “Emerging Technologies That Could Change Our Future. And I have to say, I was really – ever since I heard about this panel I was really looking forward to it and the distinguished guests I’m about to introduce to you.
Our December issue, which you have under your chairs, has three items that are going to – that directly connect to things that all three of you brought up, so I want to compliment, first, the Atlantic Council and all the folks here on having really, really cutting edge, very important scientific and technology topics here, and I think it’s just going to be a very enriching discussion.
They say – many times in science and technology it is often said that advances are neutral and that it’s up to society to decide what and how to use. And in this panel on emerging technologies, we’re going to take the first of a series of I assume deep dives that will occur through the rest of this conference where we’ll look at some of the themes that the report brought out through this particular lens of emerging technologies.
We’re going to in this panel talk about things like how robots, the great labor savers, can also threaten humanity’s need to have work that is meaningful to them – something, indeed, that was hinted at a little earlier today. We’ll look at digital threats that come from a combination of diffusion of public authority along with enhanced personal empowerment, which we’ve also spoken about, through tools such as social media.
And in fact, it’s funny, right before this panel, Mikael, here, who we’ll introduce in a minute, was showing me how social media commentary was shaped and shaping through the output of this conference so far. It’s fascinating to see this.
And we’ll explore ultimately how humankind can both me exceeded by machine thought and perhaps even come to combine it with man-machine interfaces.
How this will work is each panelist is going to have a few minutes for some opening remarks. Then I’m going to pose a few questions and then really I’d like to encourage a conversation for the panelists and with the office – with the audience. When you ask a question, please do remember to identify yourself.
So without further ado, I’d like to just briefly introduce the panelists and then invite them to make their quick opening remarks.
Mikael Hagstrom, where I’d like to start off, is executive vice president, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific, of SAS. He was elected chair of the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union Executive Council, and is a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council and the executive committee that functions as the United States Council for International Business Board of Directors.
To his left is Paul Saffo, the managing director of foresight at Discern Analytics, who teaches at Stanford University where he is also a visiting scholar in the Stanford Media X research network. He serves on a variety of not-for-profit boards, including the Long Now Foundation.
And then to my left here is General James E. Cartwright, Harold Brown chair in the Defense Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic International Studies. General Cartwright has served as commander, U.S. Strategic Command, and then was nominated and appointed as the 8th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s second-highest military officer.
Now I’d like to invite Mikael and then Paul and then James to just give a few opening remarks to help get our conversation started.
MIKAEL HAGSTROM: Great. Well, I’m actually quite optimistic, as a technologist would be, and that’s where I’m starting out. And specifically here in this building, calling back the printing press in the 1400s and all the technology that has come since then and that continues to revolutionize the way people connect with one another, digital media has just been the last example.
In just a short amount of time the instant global communication has given rise to the world’s newest and most powerful asset class, that of data, which is what I work with daily, the impact of which has been astounding for people and nations alike. Elections have been won, dictators have been toppled, and lives have been made and in fact lost.
But following the invention of the printing press and the adaptation of the amendment to the U.S. Constitution to effectively govern the use of the technology, today I’m really here with this one comment, and that is to tell you that similar governance is needed for the digital assets. So that’s my first point, really, that modern technology is an asset that must be safeguarded through progressive legislation.
Modern technology plays an important role in human progress, and nearly two years have passed since the Arab Spring burst out – forth in the streets of Tunisia. To date rulers have been forced from powers in Egypt, Libya, Yemen. You have the civil uprisings that erupted in Bahrain and Syria, and media protests have broken out in Algeria and Iraq and Sudan, and you remember the situation in the Philippines, et cetera.
Because modern technology is important, the U.S. is legislating to protect it, and in fact in this very building in January 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined how the U.S. would promote Internet freedom abroad.
So this high-level concern with Internet freedom abroad underscores the importance of technology in enabling democracy as we’ve seen it in the Middle East.
But Europe, where I’m spending a considerable amount of my time, is at the crossroads when it comes to technology legislation. In an effort to strengthen its privacy rights, the European Commission recently announced comprehensive reforms to the 1995 data protection rules. And while I commend Europe on its ambition to protect its citizens, the proposed laws would effectively outlaw some positive use of technology and in fact part of technology itself, technology crucial to public safety and economic growth.
So progressive legislation is needed to safeguard technology rather than outlaw it in the U.S., Europe and beyond. And if we don’t take the lead on this – we have heard a lot of remarks to others, like China – they will. And a digital economy will happen with or without us.
My second really short example is in the context of the cybersecurity, where I think more focus must be given on the digital asset. The discussion of cybersecurity should not be limited to the physical asset. The physical asset – like just a few weeks ago when six major American banks were cyber-attacked by a group of Iranian hackers – this threat is real and should not be overlooked. However, news of the attack overshadowed similar news on hackers who around the same time stole sensitive data from servers at the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.
And the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned about cyber actors launching attacks on our critical infrastructure in combination with physical attacks, and he has described that as the cyber Pearl Harbor. But cyberattack on digital assets could compromise national security too.
So if you’ll bear with me for just a second, the Petraeus incident demonstrates how vulnerable our digital assets can be. In this case it was FBI that used electronic metadata to identify email conversations involving David Petraeus, his biographer and others. As we now know, the discovery has led to his resignation as the CIA director, but interagency probes account for the minority of cybersecurity breaches in the U.S.
But what if – what if instead of the FBI it would have been the KGB discovering the information – or even worse, planted groundless claim, as the case with BBC on Lord McAlpine, falsely accused of being a pedophile.
If we do not focus on cybersecurity for some protecting our digital assets, we are willfully leaving ourselves open to attack.
So that’s really my close. Just as a printing press can be used to spread the Bill of Rights or propaganda, modern information networks and the technology they support can be harnessed for good or for evil. The same networks that help organize movements for freedom also enable terrorists to incite violence against innocents or take out leaders critical to national security. We must view this technology and the resulting data as the asset it is, and there is where progressive, multilateral legislation is needed to protect its positive use while minimizing the negative.
And about a week ago I was here on a trans-Atlantic legislators debate that continued here in Washington for two days, and there was a lot of constructive dialogues but a lot of it is on past topics – you know, such as cleaning the – (inaudible) – which we’ve discussed about for a decade. But going forward there are a lot of big topics, and again, the digital asset is one that I wanted to see a whole lot more common work on in the trans-Atlantic area.
That was my opening point.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Mikael, I think you’ve made clear the two-edged sword that is digital media, certainly. Thank you.
PAUL SAFFO: I’m just going to make one opening observation about one aspect of the world in 2030. It builds on what you heard from Fred and Mat earlier.
Think about the so-called jobless recovery that we’re hopefully seeing the tail end of, perhaps, or the beginning of the change, that the last couple of years have seen a longer period of unemployment and more substantial than in any recession in the last 50 years. That’s not just a problem; it’s also an indicator. In my opinion it’s the indicator of the leading edge of a new trend of cyber-structural unemployment.
To put it bluntly, robots and 3D printing are taking our jobs away. But the story is not quite that simple.
Some history: The 1930s we had the so-called technocrat movement which came up and had magazines with lurid covers of – showing that robots would take our jobs. It didn’t happen.
Then in the 1960s, the beginnings of Moore’s law and the information revolution – sociologists like Daniel Bell observed that, well, yes, in fact, robots were going to take our jobs and it would happen sometime before the end of the 1980s. The part I like best about Daniel’s forecast was he said, well, the great challenge will be the so-called leisure society – our greatest social challenge in this country in the 1980s would be finding out what to do with all of our spare time. (Laughter.) And speaking as someone from Silicon Valley who has three full-time jobs, I can’t wait. (Laughter.)
So the robots still didn’t take our jobs.
And then in the 1980s with the IT revolution maturing, it was observed there was a pretty clear pattern here, and that was, well, yes, the robots – in the form of productivity, because let’s face it, productivity is nothing more than the substitution of capital for labor – and they discovered that productivity was in fact taking jobs away. Of course, mainly they were blue-collar jobs so the white-collared class didn’t much care. And in addition what they said – on balance, however, automation is creating more jobs than it destroys, which put us into a two-decade period of saying, OK, the challenge here is making our society mobile enough to go to where the new jobs are and retraining people to take advantage of those jobs.
Something happened soon after 2000, and in fact now robots are taking jobs. First we offshored people to China; now we’re re-shoring those jobs to robots in the United States. Mat mentioned one example. I know of a solar company that’s doing this. Lot and lots of people are bringing things back. 3D printing will accelerate that process. We’re in for big disruptions.
And in fact there are some jobs actually being taken by robots. A very large unnamed manufacturer in China, perhaps the largest manufacturer or electronics on the planet – they have 1.2 million workers; they had a little problem with suicides recently – (laughter) – well, their founder announced that by 2015 they will have 1 million robots on their lines.
But I want to point out that it is not the jobs that robots take away that created this so-called jobless recovery, and is not – that’s not the leading edge of the trend, that robots are shoving us out of jobs. Rather it is the jobs that were never created to begin with because of automation.
I happened to be at Facebook two days before their public offering in May and I noticed a really interesting thing – their campus seemed pretty empty. Now, of course they built it for growth. They were optimists and the like. But I was thinking about the numbers. Facebook had $2.7 billion gross revenues in 2011, 1 billion (dollars) net profits. They had over a billion users at the time, with 500 million people signing on every day. They accounted for 12 percent of the Internet traffic – that’s bigger than Goggle – and they had 2,500 employees. Divide 1 billion by 2,500 – not a bad spread.
Well, in fact Facebook is not a company and Facebook doesn’t have employees. Facebook is a machine, and figuratively speaking it has just enough humans to walk around the hall to make sure the plugs don’t fall out of the wall and deprive the computers of the electrons they need to run the business.
That’s what the future is is this is a world where we are creating companies that require ever less jobs to begin with. And I think where it’s headed here, that cyberstructural unemployment is one of those end-stable transitions. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have jobs and we’re all going to be unemployed. We’re in for a period of turbulence here, and the turbulence specifically is very comparable to what happened to the agricultural industry in this country. In the last 1870s agriculture accounted for 75 (percent), perhaps 80 percent of the workforce in the country. It was 40 percent by 1900. It had dropped to 1.5 (percent) to 2 percent today.
Now, think about that. There are a total of 1.2 million farmers and ranchers in this country. We have fewer farmers and ranchers than we have active military personnel. And arguably, you know, I would say that the farmers, as we all know, are in fact more powerful than the Pentagon – just look at how much better their lobbying works here in Washington. (Laughter.)
But here’s the challenge ahead over the next couple of decades: What will replace the job as that central activity that gives us meaning in our lives and, at least for the moment, gives us health care and a bunch of other things besides? The notion of the job is even younger than the notion of the nation-state. Is something else entirely new going to turn up in the middle of the next century, or will the computers be generous and give us things to do to keep us busy so we don’t go play in the street? It’s one of those uncertain transition periods, and I think it’s going to be a fundamental effective technology over the next two decades.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you. In fact, while I was preparing for this I was looking at some quotes about technology, and one that I just want to – I’m inspired to toss off because of what you just said was Elbert Hubbard, the writer and philosopher said, “One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men, but no machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” And I think that might be a fun thing to probe during this discussion.
Jim, please, go ahead.
GENERAL JAMES CARTWRIGHT: I think I’ll pick up a little bit where you left off.
The military perspective a little bit to some extent on this and throughout history, while we don’t like to advertise it as an activity – war tends to generate innovation. It tends to stimulate it; it tends to accelerate it. Resources are put against it. And so this has been a trend in medicine; it’s been a trend in logistics; it’s been a trend in mobility for – throughout the ages.
And I guess my perspective to some extent on this discussion is that the industrial revolution was really about empowering the physical side of the human race. I mean, at the end of the day machines allowed us to do in scale what no one person could do or no group of people could do. And to the earlier discussion, it also engendered incredible disruption. It engendered beliefs early on of what it would be, which were all basically put in the context of what we knew at the time and what we understood about ourselves and our value system. And then we tried to project lineally out, here’s what will happen if I give you a machine. And we’re doing it to a large extent today in the digital world.
And from my perspective is as I look at the things I was asked to do for the last 10 years relative to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, would have in years past – Vietnam, Korea, et cetera – been about how fast can you build ships, how fast can you build airplanes, how fast can you build tanks. Easily 70 percent of my time was in the digital side.
Competitive advantage was in computational power and how you could move information, knowledge around, and how you could put it – infuse it in somebody who didn’t have a master’s degree – I mean, or may have. It didn’t really matter. What mattered was that the cycle times of knowledge and competitive advantage were so short that the real leverage was in the information side.
And the information side of this equation really is now starting to emerge as the empowerment of the cognitive side of the house. It really is. I mean, that’s where advantage was.
I’ll never forget one time Bob Gates and I were visiting Savannah and the 3rd ID down there – one of the units getting ready to deploy – and we were giving them – I can’t use brand names, but pads and phones, OK? (Laughter.) Not the kind the Army issues. (Laughter.)
And they had gone through the training and were about to deploy. And as all of us have learned when we deal with soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, is find a young one and you’ll get the truth. It will be blatant, it will be quick and it will be straight to the point. And he grabbed some young soldier walking out of the barracks and said, OK, what do you think about this? What’s your reaction to all of this training and what’s your reaction to going overseas with these things into a war zone? And the guy said it straight. Typical military – had three reasons why it was a good idea. The first was, it always works; the second was, I didn’t have to go to school; and the third was, I can call for anything I need – anything I need – if I get in trouble. I’d as soon leave the barracks without my rifle as to leave without this. Very straightforward.
A fundamentally different thought than liberty ships or, you know, fighter jets or any of those things. It was a fundamentally different approach, and you could see it in their mindset.
The empowerment on the cognitive side is really starting to take effect. OK? We’re just at the very beginnings of it.
So I take that to some of the work that we have done, and most people believe that this is going to start to emerge over the next couple of years in the medical side probably first and we’ll see it in other areas as we start to advance.
And we on the military side, you know, work very hard to keep the casualty rate down. When somebody gets hurt we want to make sure they survive. You go back – Civil War, you know, Vietnam, Korea – you’re dealing in the if you get hurt, 60 percent of the time we might be able to save you. OK? That’s about where we were, and that’s improved over the years. We have been dealing at the 98 (percent), 99 percent. If we can get to you in an hour, you’re going to live. OK? Fundamentally different than any other conflict.
Demographics – males 17 to 35 in the war zone – no historical precedent for that population growing in the middle of a conflict, not decreasing, and yet that’s what was occurring.
And so as you look at this, we try to understand the implications of it. The implications of man-machine interfaces, how cognitive power and how machines are going to come together.
We just finished rolling out something that has been about seven, eight years in the making, which is prosthetics on the medical side – arms and legs – that are connected wirelessly to a chip just on the scalp and that that chip, through mapping of the brain, is controlling those arms and legs.
We’ve just had a competition – I think it was in New York City – they do every year where they run basically up to the top of a skyscraper through the stairs, and one of the soldiers that participated in that had two prosthetic legs connected wirelessly to a chip on the side of his head which converted the stimulus straight to the brain and allowed him to move those legs as if he was walking. And we’ve had the same with arms.
That kind of interface is very interesting in what it’s teaching us. One of the first things we discovered as we started to work our way through that is we have a very difficult time with something called phantom pain. It is basically the absence of stimulus. It is really at the essence of dreaming. You dream because you lack stimulus so the brain creates stimulus. OK? It’s the same with phantom pain. Even though the prosthetic is not connected to the body, as soon as the chip goes on the skull, phantom pain goes away. OK? In other words, wherever that leg is, your body believes it is you. Think about the implications of that for man-machine interfaces.
We also have worked very hard on the education side to start to understand some of the rudimentary issues there. One of the activities that we have done through DARPA was to basically work with mice – mice, Marines are about the same – (laughter) – sorry. I’m a Marine. (Laughs.) But train a mouse to run a maze with a chip. Take the chip off that mouse, put it on another mouse and have the mouse immediately know how to run the maze. Take the chip off of the mouse that knows how to run the maze and the one that you’ve just tested and they still both know how to run the maze. Implications for education, implications for knowledge, implications socially for evil and good, are significant.
Our progress in this digital age is not going to be without significant disruptions socially. Our progress in this digital age is not going to be without challenges of people who have fundamentally different risk calculus than the average American. OK? Whether it’s because they don’t have any food, they don’t have water, they don’t have access to whatever it is, but it is very difficult – and I really commend the study, but it is very difficult to sit in this value chain as we understand the world today and say, this is how it’s going to look when 2030 comes.
I mean, we probably don’t know, other than to know – which the study calls out very clearly – that the transition will be chaotic to some extent, it will be challenging to the existing value structures that we have. And as we look at that in an aging demographic, it is probably going to be very disruptive.
If you go back to the industrial side, it was the genesis of world wars and civil wars and all sorts of things. It is not likely to be a – you know, a gentle passing, so to speak.
I’ll leave it at that.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you.
A couple of quick follow-ons to the remarks that you all just made. Starting with Jim, it occurs to me that what you just started with where you were talking about how, you know, 70 percent of effort and designing was on the digital side, and that it really all became about moving information around – that seems like a real thread through all the things that you’re talking about, whether it’s how to create growth and somehow create jobs as well through the digital age, whether it’s – whether it’s transmitting information through digital media.
Would – either Mikael or Paul, would you like to respond to that a little bit?
MR. SAFFO: I think that’s Mikael’s company’s business. You go first. (Laughter.)
MR. HAGSTROM: I would like to take a step back and just look at the numbers. And I’m not thinking so much of the trade figures but the investment flows that comes between the largest economy in the world, which is the trans-Atlantic economy.
The growth is pretty much now in the serviced sector, or at least that’s what being referred to now as the sleeping giant for both U.S. and Europe. And it’s no doubt that if you look at the economy, for instance, in Europe that services is the largest part of the economy, but still it’s a very small part of export.
So I think if we look at the open data act – and there was also studied on this in the U.K. after France’s more open data act in the U.K., about how many hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions that could be made out of the technology, that equally you’re going to find areas being automated, and U.K. certainly suffered that in the industrialization age. I mean, they had large chemical plants; they were amongst the world leaders on chemics and core production. That’s no longer the case.
But if you look at the service economy, it is certainly very instrumental to create the work in the service economy which seems to be part of the growth. So I think that that’s the other part of the coin.
When we look at the health aging, which is another large topic, I certainly see a lot of new approaches coming through with the use of the digital asset, if you will, and data. And not as advanced, perhaps, as the general is referring to – referencing, but just the fact that we can tap into the collective knowledge when a doctor is trying to look at what other – what has other doctors done in the situation I’m in in the moment. So on a much lower level, but it’s still the human that makes the decision, but they need tools in their hands.
Or when we look at things like – rising quickly like child abuse, you know, the fact that you can actually profile the victim and the perpetrator alike and give completely new tools to the social workers that are actually getting shrinking budgets, less capacity to handle the growing problem.
So in many areas the digital side is essential for us going forward, and I think it’s not one of deciding can we do with or without it; it’s just one of deciding how does that world look like. What is the cyber police? How does he or she look like? What rights does a cyber police or a cyber military have? And that work isn’t quite done yet, I think.
That’s a bit longer that I intended, but I got excited. (Laughter.)
MS. DICHRISTINA: I think excitement is good. (Laughs.)
MR. SAFFO: I just observe that every new abundance creates a new scarcity. And when information was scarce you had to go to the information watering holes. Then when we moved information around, scarce things – first wave, scarce things became the workers, so we used to take workers – send workers to work; now we send work to workers. We had the offshoring story.
And then the knowledge skills became scarce, so we moved it back to computers, you know? No just a great time to be a radiologist. If you have a kid going to medical school, don’t bother. We need about a tenth of the ones we need. First we offshored them outside the United States to Indian radiologists. Now it’s the pattern recognition.
But I would start saying, where does the – you know, all of this ability to move information around – where does it create the new scarcities and what are the responses?
And if you think about the tradeoff between bits and atoms, that the net effect of the information revolution has been to steadily dematerialize society of physical objects. You know, your car engine, per given unit of horsepower, weighs a fraction of what the same horsepower would have taken 20 or 30 years ago because of the knowledge that went into the engineering and because there’s a chip there instead of a bunch of other parts that used to be there.
We’re taking it to the next phase with 3D manufacturing, where the point of manufacture is moving to the point of consumption. Physical objects become fashion, as – you know, if you have a case on your iPhone, it’s probably 3D manufactured. The military – I’m hoping General Cartwright will talk about some of what they’re doing, but I give you one example.
The A380 – they have built using 3D printing the hinges for the little covers that cover the wheels. So it’s not anything super critical, but what they discovered was when you 3D print this hinge you can use – literally use information to substitute for atoms, that the old hinges were cast, and when you design something for use that’s cast, you design it for two purposes – one, the purpose intended; secondly, to survive the casting process.
When you 3D print it, you just design for the use intended. It can be lighter, more efficient, and eventually printed at the airport instead of in southern France and shipped out.
So I would just think about that pattern that this abundance of information is highlighting new scarcities that we then have to overcome.
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: And I – my sense is that the digital age is not replacing manufacturing. It is basically empowering it at another level that we hadn’t really thought about before.
My reflection back on the current conflict – because it’s my kind of base of reference – is the idea of building the mine-resistant vehicles to protect the soldiers against IEDs was a hugely cost-imposing strategy on us. Building a vehicle to solve a problem takes too long, costs too much and perishes way too quickly. I mean, for every 2,000 pounds of armor we stick on that thing it only takes about 500 pounds of explosive or 5 pounds of explosive – 5 pounds of explosive, 2,000 pounds of armor. It’s just – it’s not leveraging.
So the advantage out there is not that we’re not going to build vehicles and do things like that. It is how quickly can we adapt them to the realities that they actually will incur in a world that’s ever changing? Where does the person belong in that value chain? Because today we built from the industrial revolution, basically people that would drive, ride, whatever it was, associated with the vehicle. And yet the vehicles today can far exceed the capacity of the human body to sustain itself, particularly in aviation and on the sea and under the sea and in space.
And so the question is, where do you put the person, what are the sociological implications of where you put them, and what is it that the person brings to the table in the cognitive side that the machine can’t? And how do you put the two together?
Most people say the machine, the computational power in 1997 exceeded us. That was the chess masters. That was the games with chess. And then there was the Jeopardy activity with the computer. The reality is, if you talk to any of the chess players, if you talk to the guy who was the Jeopardy player, the first thing they’ll tell you is it’s not me-or. It’s when you put the two of us together that you get the synergy. OK? It’s the combination of the two. But we have to understand what the combination of the two is.
Today for a single predator it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 analysts required to operate that activity for an unmanned aerial vehicle. That’s – having a person stare at a screen is not the best use of a person. But where do you put them? How do you build the interface? That’s the critical difficulty here.
And we’re starting to understand that, but one of the things that’s being revived is the social scientist and the engineer are coming back together again. You have to do this for a person. You have to do it. That’s where the success is. It’s the integration of the man and machine and the optimization of the man by doing that. that’s what you’re looking for. We’re not there yet. That’s what we’re looking for.
MR. SAFFO: I’d agree, but in a larger economic context there really are jobs going away. I think it was Fred who said that sub-Saharan Africa was not harvesting its demographic dividend at the moment. By all rights, manufacturing should be making a massive move from China to sub-Saharan Africa but it is not because the Chinese are hanging on by their fingernails, automating as fast as they can, and the losses they’re suffering are the losses of jobs back to the United States. Apple just announced that it’s putting a line – manufacturing line back in the United States.
This is a moment where that classic pattern of jobs moving from Thailand to China and now not to Africa, that this really is in a broader economic sense really costing jobs.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Is there – just a quick follow-on for any of you on this. What are the frameworks that we can create to help solve this problem? Are there – do they exist? Are the discussions happening now? I mean, I think your observation is a very salient one.
MR. SAFFO: Well, when Mat invoked Herman Kahn earlier I thought that was a perfect thematic remark for this meeting because this is precisely one of Kahn’s unstable transitions.
And managing it – you know, last time I checked that – I mean, I’m just waiting for the first company to be announced that has no employees. (Laughter.) I mean, you know, besides something on Wall Street. (Laughter.) And last time I checked, you know, really rich people didn’t want to give money away that they saved by not hiring employees. So it beats the heck out of me, and I think it’s going to take us two decades to solve this one.
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: I just worry about the linear extrapolation of the machine replacing the man and no need for man. It didn’t work in the industrial revolution. It’s probably not like – and I know that’s not what you’re pushing, but –
MR. SAFFO: Yeah.
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: – it’s probably not likely to work as we would predict it today as we look to the future. I mean, nobody’s crystal ball is that clear, and we don’t know what directions.
But the question of human empowerment in this and that approach, which I thought was fabulous in this discussion that preceded us, is really what we’re trying to understand here. And there may be a huge – there likely is a huge demographic issue in it. Hard to tell.
MR. SAFFO: Yeah. I think humans have a future here – (laughter) – and we’ll all have jobs or your grandchildren will have jobs. Washington seems immortal. I mean, whoever it is who’s making those black SUVs, they’re safe for 30 years. (Laughter.)
In Silicon Valley I have some friends who ascribe to the notion of the so-called singularity, of which I am agnostic, that sometime around 2030 machines will become smarter than humans and everything will change. I don’t know whether it will happen or not, but I will offer you a forecast of what life will be if it does happen.
So if we do end up in a world of super-empowered robots that are truly smarter than us and evolving more quickly because of Moore’s law, there are two outcomes. The optimistic outcome is that they will treat us like pets. (Laughter.) And the pessimistic outcome is they will treat us like food. (Laughter.)
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: Next question. (Laughter.)
MS. DICHRISTINA: I think – especially the personal empowerment part that we were just on before you jumped the rail to food – robots that eat – I’d like to visit some of the themes that are in this wonderful GT2030 report and how emerging technologies interplay with those.
So one we started to just talk about was individual empowerment. And Mikael, you said something interesting before, which was you talked about our legislative frameworks. You talked about the rise of the digital media and how that could interfere with it sounded like some crime solving. And so could you speak to this flex point between individual empowerment and broader needs of the global community?
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, I think my point was in the context of the national security that we look very much on how cyber can interrupt physical assets. But I think it’s time to look at the digital asset reputation. There are few things that can back our supreme commander into a corner like a public opinion, and we have seen that many times. And if that’s a created one, I think that’s a threatful experience that we should look at.
But the generic usage as I see it is, you know, growing across so many market segments. Just take a practical one – we touched on banking. We haven’t really come up with a way to deal with what we popularly call fraud, which is the modern bank robber that tries to rob the bank via the Internet. So we do have methods to catch a bank robber that walks into a bank and we are pretty good at that and they always get prosecuted.
But if you tried to rob a bank as a computer hacker, the worst that can happen to you is that you get discovered and they shut down the connection. And then you try another 20,000 times until you get in. And if they happen to stop you there is no legal evidence that they can use in court, if I simplify the analogy.
So there are new instruments that we have to put in place rather than just to do the wall – the cyber wall, if you will. You actually have to be able to track, monitor, follow, understand and learn from. These are technologies we have developed with national security, and it’s the same type of technology with the likes of credit card fraud. See, it’s a kind of a waste in society that has to be tackled that I think is very critical.
When I look at topics like job loss, and we used an example with a farmer – you know, the productivity on the corn fields kind of going – (inaudible) [40:55] – every third year or so, which is an incredible achievement obviously in the genetic side of the house – less so perhaps in the digital, although when you combine the two you can for sure do miracles. But I think what it has led to is if you look at the demographics of the world you have a lot of resulting implications like urbanization.
I mean, when the first census which you were involved in – the census policy – if you look back at the first census there was sort of 80 percent in the countryside; now it’s past 50-50, and the projections say that soon most people will live in cities. And they don’t live in cities like you did in the countryside. Coming from Stockholm, I studied there a bit more and that means – there 80 percent of the families are divorced and sort of – kids have multiple parents to keep relationships with. And societies just change in many aspects. And I think therefore it’s hard to draw one line and say that’s the line that changes it.
So it’s sort of the perfect storm of things coming together. And what that adds – and that’s my one remark here – is complexity. So you can bring all those different – you know, the aging population, the changing demographics, all of these factors – together and you have a complexity we didn’t have before, and we have to deal with that very, very fast.
And that’s where the collective knowledge comes in. And I think no single person can – with the exception maybe of the president, I have to say – but no single person can make decisions fast enough and intelligent enough. You’re dependent on the collective knowledge. And so I think that in itself is going to lead us going forward.
MS. DICHRISTINA: And did you have a response on the cybersecurity aspect? And especially also – another theme in the report – diffusion of power as opposed to individual empowerment – how do you grapple with those?
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: Well, the cybersecurity side, you know, is a good foil for the – you know, the yin and the yang or the good and the evil or any capability. I mean, I think you can use it badly or you can use it for mankind.
I go back to the prosthetic example. Nobody questions how wonderful it is that we can take someone who has lost a limb and put them back in the condition where they are part of society and able to function as well or better than they were in the past. Nobody questions that.
But what if that chip is connecting you to a weapon and nobody else knows about that weapon yet? Or you pick it. I mean – and so as we start to move into these new environments, first we try to put them in the conditions that we know and stick them into our value chain or our legal system, et cetera, and make them work there, force them to do something, until somebody with a fundamentally different risk calculus does something very asymmetric with that idea that probably an aging society wouldn’t have thought of or wouldn’t tolerate. But it comes out.
And then the question becomes, is that where we want to go? Are we going to try to uninvent it, which is very difficult? Are we going to say I’ll find a way around it but as far as my society is concerned I won’t do that or I will do that? These are all questions that are coming at us that we’re just guessing. I mean, we’re really just guessing about what it’s going to be like as we start to look at this.
But the cybercrime/whatever has got us thinking about how inadequate oftentimes the existing rules, thought processes, value systems are in some of these disruptive technologies, and they’re not going to go away. It’s going to challenge us, disrupt us more as we go forward. And I just see that’s the way it’s heading.
MS. DICHRISTINA: I’m sure the audience has lots of questions, but I want to take the moderator’s prerogative of asking one more that I really was curious about. And you have to forgive me – I need to look down for just a minute to make sure I get the terms right.
So in the 2030 report it talked about four different potential worlds – the stalled engines; the fusion, which by the way I hope it’s not like how we joke about fusion in the physics world in the Scientific American where it’s 20 years away and it always will be – that’s the joke about fusion, but hopefully that will not be the case – (laughter) –
MR. SAFFO: (Inaudible) – was always 50 years away. (Laughter.)
MS. DICHRISTINA: The genie out of the bottle, where there are increased social tensions; and the non-state world.
I’d like you to just each speak to, from your perspective, which one of those scenarios you feel that the current emerging trends that you’re tracking are pushing us, if you can do that. I know it’s a tough problem to do off the top of your head, but do you feel like the technologies you’re talking about are more destabilizing? Are they more toward potentially future world? Because what I’m trying to get at is we learned about many interesting themes in the earlier panel – how do the emerging technologies that we’re talking about here create flex points there, and do they seem to be on the upside for humanity or really, really worrisome?
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: If you – if you take the time to study or at least work on things like, you know, trying to think about what the alternatives are for the future or the complex problems, you don’t want an answer. I mean, it’s much richer to have a wide arrow bar here that is likely to encompass reasonable alternatives and know that there are probably some that are unreasonable by our values that will actually occur. But get it spread out as much as you can so that when the situation bubbles in a particular area you have a reasonable context in which to make decisions, a reasonable context in which to understand how close to extreme you are versus where you would call mainstream.
And so to me there’s no one. At different times different issues are going to manifest themselves, and decision-makers in 2030 are going to have to figure out how to work their way through them, and they will do it – I think somebody ended on this today – through leadership, through the ability to get consensus amongst, you know, groups – nations, people, et cetera – and move in a direction that makes the most sense at the time. It may be wrong – there’s always more than one answer to a problem – and we can adjust fires.
And one of the things that this country has been so great about – now, I’m biased – is that it brings diversity to the issue. It basically brings – you know, for us, we thrive or we try to thrive on diversity, and that diversity oftentimes is what saves us. It’s different perspectives looking at a common problem and trying to decide a way forward. And that is – it may be messy in the decision process, but it has always stood us well.
MR. HAGSTROM: After you. Oh, you’re looking at your –
MR. SAFFO: No, no – (laughter).
I would just say, you know, it is a simple fact that first we invent our technologies and then we turn around and we use our technologies to reinvent ourselves as individuals, as communities, as entire societies.
But the tricky part about that is the timing of the technology’s arrival with whatever the problem du jour is. And there can be positive effects of technology where it actually accelerates something novel or it preserves something in an old way. I mean, in general we tend to pave the cow paths with new technologies. We do an old thing in a new way, and then we get tired of that and we innovate.
But I give you two examples. Leaving aside the politics of it, if one really wanted to eliminate Social Security and come up with a better system, the time to have done that was in the 1950s when the first UNIVAC computers came along because the Social Security system was dying under the accounting that had to be done manually by human beings. And the computers came in and they were a perfect substitute for the humans and they allowed the old system to continue down the same path – no change in direction.
The opposite example is the impact of the Apollo program on the microprocessor. You know, every time you turn on your smart phone you need to send Neil Armstrong a note and say thank you very, very much because NASA arrived at the right moment in time to be the cost-indifferent customer of an extraordinarily unreliable, expensive piece of technology, and that allowed us to jump a curve into a different space.
So I guess the real answer is we have to sequence events right so that, you know, we always have the technology going in the right direction.
But the other thing I would say is at the end of the day, this is about education. Technology gives us powerful gifts and, as Heraclitus said, nothing new ever comes into our lives without a hidden curse. And the way you maximize the gift and avoid the curse – not to compound quotes – I think it was Will and Ariel Durant who said civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. And as our technologies get more and more powerful, we’ve got to work a lot harder on that education point so that individuals, both in government and super-empowered elsewhere, make the right choices. That’s how to get to a happy scenario in the matrix.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Mikael, did you want to add anything further?
MR. HAGSTROM: I would reinforce. I absolutely think it boils down to education and being able to sort through the information – what information is accurate, what isn’t, et cetera – and the empowerment that all the new technology can bring when we have that in place. Absolutely.
The other piece I think when it comes to education is that we need to have more cross-faculty work to address the new complexity of the issues because, you know, the greatest innovation workbench we ever had with the NASA project, but imagine that now in modern age when we would need us to have different – from across – experts from across the faculties in private-public partnerships to work forward, and I think that’s really that collective knowledge and coming back to education. I couldn’t agree more.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you.
Did you want to add more? You look like you did.
MR. SAFFO: Just mentioning space – it is one of those fascinating moments where it looks like the United States is going to beat China to the moon. Not that we’re in a race, but I guarantee we’ll beat China to the moon, but it ain’t going to be done out of Florida. Private space will get there. You all saw the announcement last week that for a mere $750 million you can reserve a seat on a trip to the moon by 2020. I think I’ll watch the video. (Laughter.)
MR. HAGSTROM: I hope it’s not booked out yet. (Laughter.)
MR SAFFO: But I think it’s a good example of what you’re talking about – public-private partnerships.
MS. DICHRISTINA: All right. As much as I hate to share you all because you’re fascinating, I’d like to – boy, there’s a hand up already. I’d like to turn to the audience. And in the spirit of having kind of a more interactive conversation, I’m going to ask three questions – I‘m going to have you ask three questions and then have the panelists respond to them.
In the back there.
Q: Thank you. Jim Steinberg. Can you hear me?
I’d like to pose a kind of contrarian view of the discussion about employment. Every couple of years the American Society of Civil Engineers produces a report card on the status of basic infrastructure in the United states, and this has obviously been brought more to the surface in recent years between Katrina and Sandy and I forget the rest of the women’s names and men’s names of all of these catastrophic events – the droughts in part of the country, the fact that part of the Mississippi is going to be shut down because there’s not enough water.
There has been, at the same time that we’ve had these technological advances, an extraordinary – perhaps the greatest period of concentrated disinvestment in infrastructure in this country, not to even mention parts of the world that are desperately in need of basic infrastructure and shouldn’t have to get there on the basis of cheap labor moving from China to Africa, so therefore we need some railroads and things like that and greater sources of power.
So what I would suggest is that on balance there are probably tens if not hundreds of millions of jobs that would be fruitfully invested – because the other side of productivity is not just innovation but having a kind of economic foundation through which all of these products and services and things can be provided.
So I would suggest that the labor problem is also related to an imbalance in investment in the recent period that urgently now needs to be corrected and probably would create some skill sets within a young labor force that right now has trouble doing much more than Twittering.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you.
There’s a person in the second row here – gentleman in the front.
Q: I’m – Harlan Ullman with the Atlantic Council. Can you hear me in the back? I’m Harlan Ullman with the Atlantic Council.
I want to reinforce that last point and have argued very strongly for a national infrastructure bank. But let me put this in a broader historical context.
If you went back to the end of the 19th century, you had railroads, you had steel, you had electricity, you had the telegraph, telephone, the internal combustion machine, which really were revolutionary technologies that changed society for the better but also empowered people and provided employment. Could you list three or four equivalent technologies that you can see that would relate to the railroads and to the internal combustion machines of a century and a half ago that might be relevant to the future?
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you.
And then two rows back there’s one more, and then we’ll answer them.
So we have a national infrastructure bank and three to four technologies that relate to railroads and internal combustion engines equivalent.
Q: Hello. My name is Philip Stevens.
Actually it’s the direct follow-on for that – from that last question because I’m trying to imagine the world in 2030. I’m trying to imagine things that we’ll be doing then but we’re not doing now because of technological advances. What you’ve all well described is how we can do things more efficiently – more effectively fight wars, more effectively patch up soldiers more effectively and efficiently. But what about things like flying, to add to the list, that we’ll be doing in 2030 that we’re not doing now.
MS. DICHRISTINA: OK. Anyone want to start?
MR. HAGSTROM: You know, I’m going to go down the IT hole – is that OK with you – on technology?
MS. DICHRISTINA: Go ahead.
MR. HAGSTROM: Because the computer technology has very much been about moving and storing data even since the first machine, and I think the beauty now is that we’ve actually finally reached a breaking point where we don’t have to work around memory and CPU limitations, which we’ve had to do until today. So everyone that’s read – the computer scientists had to learn how to work around them by splitting tables, creating indexes – you know, that’s Google’s ID. You sell the indexation as marketing.
As a search – what if you don’t need to use the index? What if you don’t need split tables? What if you could take all the citizens in Europe and the U.S. and somewhere put a billion rows in a big matrix in memory with 200 or 300 variables – anything from identifying who you are to whatever it is – in memory, and ask any question, on the index or not, or ask if there’s any question that I didn’t think of that I should have asked – meaning exceptions from trends and so on. That computer capacity arrived last summer, and the first generations of computer software that utilizes that, which moved from a very eloquent phrasing in the old computer technology for multi parallel processing, which was master and slave – I always hated those expressions – to account so everyone can talk to anyone all the time, sharing information between the nodes.
That’s what you have today. So you can actually in one second get any answer to any question you want. And that’s where you start to see new solutions come to bear.
For banking it would be a government that pushes more lending to small or medium enterprises, and the small or medium enterprise being able to go into service portals, do whatever scenario planning on the cash flow based on the bank’s advanced system. So now it’s no longer the risk department or even the client executives, but the client themselves that can do those calculations, et cetera.
So we are opening up a lot of avenues that wasn’t there. And as we move away from indexation, as we move away from all the CPU limitations, I think in the IT world that’s the largest breakthrough because now you can sweep data, you don’t need to have index structures, you can deal with real time data in a completely different fashion. And I’m talking about real time data from not internal systems or even social media but the real explosion which is upon us, which is when we connect all the sensor data and being able to react to that real time. And that’s the biggest breakthrough that no one has figured out quite what the possibilities are yet.
So for me that’s the major one on a practical level.
MR. SAFFO: General, do you want to go first?
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: You know, my sense is early on in this activity a lot of what you’re seeing is existing activities done at a level of efficiency that just completely rivals any scale that you did before – whether it’s the single man and the farm and moving to the tractor and moving then to – I mean, I grew up on a farm. We could do 300 acres with the tractors we had, which were, you know, were relatively efficient. One guy could do that. You know, before that it was 80 acres at the most with a good horse team and four or five sons. You know, and today I took Karzai out to Nebraska and showed him what farming is today. You enter the field one time at the beginning of the year and you plow, plant and fertilize in one pass, and then you harvest and prepare the ground in another pass later in the year. That’s it. That’s the only time you’re in there. And the crops are basically based on satellites and Landsat and everything else, optimized for every acre and every hill. And within 10 years, there won’t be people on those tractors.
And the scale at which you can do that to solve hunger issues, et cetera, in farming is so significantly different than it was in the past. And the quality of the meats and the poultry and the vegetables and the plant, all of that has been improved substantially and will continue to move in that direction based on everything that we can see. And it’s not that we’re going to build a better tractor, you know, in 10 years, but the likelihood that tractors will basically become automated, like airplanes have become automated fundamentally different than what they were before. I was one of the lead design engineers with the F-18. I can’t tell you how frustrating that was. We took almost 60 percent of the software and – (inaudible) – because the people we were training just would not accept what that software would do for them. And it wasn’t until we got young people in after about four or five years that we really understood what the airplane could do because we could turn the software back on. (Laughs.)
So I mean, it’s just – it’s so fundamentally different. And today, when you look at an airplane that probably, you know, burns 1,200 gallons of fuel in about an hour and a half – of which about 20 minutes is on station in a fighter and the rest of it is just going and coming and practicing going and coming – versus an unmanned vehicle which stays over the top of a soldier or a Marine for 24 hours a day, looks over any hill they need to have looked over in any kind of weather; provides coms, sensors, weapons. I mean, it’s just fundamentally different than anything we ever knew about airplanes. And it’s hugely disruptive.
I grew up as a pilot. I can’t imagine an airplane without a person in it. But the reality is it’s far more efficient – far more efficient, far cheaper, far more leveraging, far more adaptable. All of those things come to the game, and mobility will accept that.
And so it’s different. Today we are – I mean, at the extreme you can jump in the cattle cars and fly from one coast to the other in five hours. You know, we just flew a vehicle from one coast to the other in 11 minutes. It’s a fundamentally different game. But there’s not a person that’s going to survive that flight. (Laughter.) You know, it’s just – other than Slim Pickens riding on the back of an ICBM it’s not going to happen, you know? So you just have to – I mean, it is fundamentally different. It’s not necessarily that we’ve got something that we’ve never had before. I mean, when DARPA came up and worked with the universities out in California to do the first instantiation of a network of IP protocol, I mean, that was something fundamentally different. But people argued about it – well, I can do that with mail – I can do that with, you know, a phone call, something like that. But at the end of the day, it’s different. And so I don’t look, necessarily, at the inventions particularly early on. I look at where’s the leverage for the human being going to be in this thing and then how disruptive will it be?
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you.
MR. SAFFO: So three infrastructure projects for you: Two in the United States and one globally. The U.S. – Rural Fiber – it would be nice to bring – I’m not going to impugn another country by showing how low our ranking is in Internet connectivity, but it is shocking. A great infrastructure project would be to put in decent fiber and get it out to rural communities – and by the way my community as well in Silicon Valley.
Second one is high-speed rail; would be a great project.
Global challenge is water. And there’s plenty of work for lots of people to do in all those things. I would just make two observations. First of all, our infrastructure in this country is in terrible shape. But at some level the taxpayers must like this, because we’ve been working really hard for a couple of decades now to get our infrastructure in terrible shape. We’ve been talking about it forever and doing nothing, particularly in my state, California. The last person who did infrastructure was Jerry Brown’s father in the 1960s, when we established the – you know, the university system and the highway system. We’ve been living off it ever since.
There’s a big difference between creating a green fields infrastructure and reworking an infrastructure that already exists. And apart from the engineering side – and I teach in an engineering school – you know, in Silicon Valley things happen because we have entrepreneurs with big ideas, shoestring budgets and not a lot of adult supervision doing something that’s impossible because nobody told them it was impossible. That was easy for DARPA to do with the Internet the first time around, because nobody knew that they were doing it. The lack of adult supervision mattered. Just try and reinvent the Internet today and see what the – you know, the telecoms companies do. So redoing infrastructure is much harder.
And I think at the end of the day, it’s a change in mindset by us alive today. Jonas Salk put it nicely when he said: The task for us all is to learn how to become good ancestors. You know, it’s OK to run a deficit, but apply the deficit moneys to things that will benefit generations yet unborn. You know, we should be taking infrastructure seriously but not thinking about solving the problems today. Say what do we need to do now so when our children are adults that things are a platform for them?
MS. DICHRISTINA: General, you had another –
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: Could I just jump in real quick?
MS. DICHRISTINA: Please do.
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: I had a – because you spurred a thought to which I agree, on the infrastructure. One of the lessons – and this is more of a personal lesson to me than probably anything else – but as I – as we look at Afghanistan as an example, it is likely in my opinion that the laying of the fiber in Afghanistan and the widespread use of cellphones between tribes that for 5,000 years withstood invaders and wouldn’t talk to each other, valley to valley, that that will have a bigger effect on their culture than 5,000 years of war. I mean, I just – just go look at what happens when they start talking to each other. We had DARPA put in the first thousand phones – iPhones. And to stimulate it we did “American Idol,” only we called it “Afghan Idol” on those phones. (Laughter.) You can’t believe the people that – how quickly they started to communicate between tribes and across boundaries that heretofore were uncrossable, and that no war and no invader has been able to pull together. It’s going to last. I mean, it’s a big shift. It’s very powerful.
MS. DICHRISTINA: One quick question from me, and then I’d like to go back to the audience. We talked a bit both now and in the earlier panel about education – science and math education – and how that’s really at the root of many things. How big a problem is it, in grappling with emerging technologies, that so many of the policy leaders aren’t scientists or technologists; that they – you know, how – and how can we make that less of a problem, if it is one?
MR. : Get rid of the lawyers. (Laughter.)
MS. DICHRISTINA: There was a comment get rid of the lawyers, which I’ll share because I was amused.
MR. SAFFO: No. Wait until we make all the lawyer – robot lawyers – (off mic) –
MS. DICHRISTINA: Robot lawyers? (Laughter.)
MR. SAFFO: I think – I mean, there are lots of lessons about this. Me personally, I just – you know, I live – again, being in California, I live for comments like members of Congress saying the Internet is like pipes and plumbing. You know, we dine out on that stuff. So I’m not sure I want them to understand it. (Laughter.)
But if you did, just one practical way to do it is reverse mentoring. As the general observed, you look to the person at the bottom of the organization. I know, with a certain corporation I worked for seven years ago, and they had to learn – the senior executives had to learn biotech. And so what we went in – what I went in and did is paired the CEO and the senior executives with a just-graduated Ph.D. in biotech and said, good news, for the next year you’re going to get to see a lot of the CEO and you’re going to teach him about biotech. Now, the only wrinkle is at the end of the year we’re going to give the CEO an exam, and the grade on his exam is going to go into your hiring file. So it created a dynamic for people to work.
I also see this at Stanford. I see a lot of gray hair in this room. There are people in this room who probably remember the days when everybody looked up to seniors on university campuses. If you’ve been on a campus lately, you’ve realized that ain’t it anymore. The seniors and the grad students are asking the freshmen for help because they’re a lot more hip on the technology. So I would just say the way to do this is to reach down to the bottom and talk to the folks who know it best. And they’ll learn something the other way, too.
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, I certainly agree. You know, I think – that’s not where the money goes at the moment – education, unfortunately. But when – (inaudible) – my son to school, 8 years old, he knows more about multitasking than I do. I mean, he’s the one that shows me how to use two fingers on the iPad, and looking at me as if I’m from Middle Ages when I – (inaudible) – with one finger.
He walks in there, to the classroom. And I can recognize the classroom but he can’t. You know, there is – he has to leave all his – you know, his iPad, the pieces he uses at home. And it just gets worse because they multitask, the kids do, and they come in with the blackboard and we expect them that they’re going to do it – learn it the way we did. I don’t know if the chip implants idea is a bit scary – (laughter) –
MS. DICHRISTINA: I’m hoping for it myself, really. You’d save a lot of time.
MR. HAGSTROM: But I do think we certainly need to invest for the long haul, and that’s the area.
And it’s not just type of – any type of investment. I come back to the example with water. I read – New York they had calculated how many new freshwater plants they’re going to have to build in order to maintain the water supply for New York. And I came across some other statistics; if you – days later – which suggested that over 50 percent of the freshwater produced never makes it to the consumer. I mean, why not fix the leaking pipes before you build more water plants? I don’t know. I mean, obviously I don’t understand the full problem but –
MS. DICHRISTINA: It’s the infrastructure point, just like it. Yeah.
MR. HAGSTROM: It’s the infrastructure piece. And I think we have some of that issue in the schools, too. More of the same. It’s not selling more. Sometimes we have to approach it totally differently, and I think the school system is one of those.
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: Yeah – I mean, I gave the example of the airplane and how difficult it was to get existing pilots to be able to function in an airplane. I mean, there was a real belief, much as what Chuck Yeager probably experienced as he tells a story of, you know, likely when you go through the speed of sound your body is going to disintegrate or you’re – you know, everything is going to go haywire on you.
And so we had a really difficult problem with when we moved to digital gauges. The belief was that you could not possibly tell trending, so you wouldn’t know that you were going faster or slower because the digits wouldn’t look like they were moving, like a needle. And so we had to take digital gauges out of airplanes and put steam gauges back in in order to make the pilots comfortable – until we got rid of those pilots through aging – (laughter) – and put them back in. I mean, it was – and so there is a really difficult issue here with acceptance of technologies and comfort with them; particularly, there’s an aging demographic that goes with it. And it’s very difficult.
And so, kind of at the end of the first one, it’s leaders. If your leaders cannot understand these new technologies, if they cannot relate to them and how they are leveraging, the likelihood of them being able to lead is very much diminished. And so how are you going to in fact think about strategies to bring your leaders along at the speed at which these technologies are changing. That is to me one of our most difficult challenges.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Excellent point. I’d like – we have about eight minutes, I think. There’s a hand in the back on the left for a couple more questions, I hope.
Q: Yeah. Bill Copeland (ph), with the State Department. I have had conversations with many countries over the last year about science and technology, and they all want to talk about innovation – (off mic) –
MR. : Let them fix the mic.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Can you put the mic on? Yeah.
Q: Is it on? (Pause.) How about now? (Laughter.)
MR. : Maybe just shout.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Just shout.
MR. : Project – shout. It’s on now, I think.
Q: There we go.
MS. DICHRISTINA: There we go. Thank you.
Q: Over the last year I’ve had conversations with many representatives of governments about science and technology, and what they all want to talk about is the connection to innovation and how they can create a more knowledge-based economy in their country, more innovation-based. And they want to know about what types of investments, what types of policies are going encourage that. And I think that’s because they see in order to be competitive in this globally connected world they have to become much more capable in science and technology. And so many of them – all continents are making bigger investments in education and research and development. They’re trying to change government policy. So I see over the next 18 years, there’s a great potential that many more countries are going to be highly capable in science and technology. And that’s going to have implications I think for the U.S. and Europe. So I’d be interested in what implications you see.
To me, the conclusions that I take from it for the United States in particular is we have to engage, we have to make the right investments and we have to run faster. and I think that could actually create a very positive win in the future. But I’d be interested in your reactions on that issue.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Yeah, go ahead.
MR. : Do you want to just – do you want to take other questions?
MS. DICHRISTINA: No, I think – I’d like to address this one.
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: I think you’ve got the right three attributes. And I – my sense is that the pace is going to be very quick. And you know, the question becomes on the innovation side policies and – I mean, there’s others here that probably know this better, but most of the companies I visit that – they say, oh, talk to us about innovation. And I said well, bring your HR guy in here – you know, what’s your metric in HR for a good company? Well, how long I retain my intellectual capital or my people – which is 180-out from what you actually would do for innovation, which is get somebody with a good idea, pay them big money for, you know, about two years, and then his idea is the hammer and everything will become a nail, and you want to move him on out and the next guy in.
And so how do you start to reconcile a stable workforce that evolves, you know, with learning versus one that which is what people are thinking when they think innovation, often, is the one’s that going to invent the touchscreen and do it quickly and break you out as a company that will, you know, last for some amount of time.
And so many of the policies that are treated with some reverence because they make a stable workforce and stable capability tend to take you in a direction away from disruptive innovation. And somehow as the senior executive, you’ve got to protect the innovators, turn them over at an appropriate rate, look for the new innovators and get them in – but get them in with an incentive structure that’s probably fundamentally different than the guy that you want to work there for 40 years. And you just have to work your way through it.
But I think you’ve got the right things. You’re going to have to run faster, you know, and you’re going to have to think harder and all of those things. The Superman approach.
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, you know, I think my view here is that it’s attractive that there is such a high number of engineers being released every year or educated every year in, say, China or Singapore or whatnot compared to, say, Europe or U.S. But I think the reality is that we’re not just about making things faster. Take the eHealth systems, for instance, which were popular. You can have engineers develop an eHealth system, and what it will be is exactly the system you had before except you’re going to look at the more advanced – technologically wise, more advanced system in terms of capturing that data.
But the truth of the matter is that most of the governments that invest in that design buy technology just alone, buy a system that effectively means that the nurses who already are very busy and doesn’t benefit from this system at all, and only perhaps can share one computer and four nurses, they are the one that has to manually enter data into that new eHealth system which the government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on. I mean, that – if you excuse my French – is pretty useless, because the data quality is going to be low and the productivity is going to go down. It’s not going to benefit the nurses.
So what we need is more cross-faculty training. I think the engineering is absolutely pivotal. It’s a very important part: Mathematics, physics, engineering. But equally is it that we actually can do cross-faculty training as an enablement – an enabler before the kids come out of the system so that they can actually think of how it applies to problem-solving to concrete issues, be it in the – in the retailing part of the world, the financial part of the world, the public serving part of the world. Lawyers that studies technology – that’s a scary thought, isn’t it? (Laughter.)
MS. DICHRISTINA: I’m waiting for the robot lawyers myself.
MR. SAFFO: You know, there is – it’s something of a truism at this point that with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the arms race ended and it was replaced by the brain race, and that we’re now in this global brain race and the smartest people will win. I think it’s a concept past its pull date.
I would be aware about innovation and I would also be aware about STEM training – so science, technology, engineering and math. We need to do more of that stuff. But we also are seeing that in some parts of our system maybe there’s too much STEM, and that it’s time to put a little emphasis on the humanities again. So at my little university, Stanford, the humanities department is – noticed that, you know, everybody wants to be an engineer. And by the way, innovation and entrepreneurship has gotten to be so overwhelming at places like Stanford.
So my last class I taught, I had 16 students. Four of those students were starting companies already. I – the scariest experience I had was a high school student I spoke to; he was a summer intern at a program at NASA, and he was coming towards his senior year and stuff. And he called me up a couple months after and said, could we have coffee, please? And I’m really troubled – you know, I’ve got to come to a decision.
So I said, well, what’s up? He said, I got to decide whether I’m going to go to Stanford or not; they gave me an offer. And I thought, OK, well, it’s going to be the usual conversation of, you know, Stanford, Cal Tech, MIT, you know. No, it wasn’t that. He said, it’s going to be Stanford if I go to the university, but I’m almost 18 years old and I haven’t had my first startup IPO success – (laughter) – and I’m worried that if I go through college I’ll be too old when I get out.
So, you know, we got to be careful about the monster we’re creating. And we got to make sure – well, at Stanford we like to think – you hear a lot of talk in my department that I’m in about creating T-shaped people. and a T-shaped person is someone who has an area of real depth but also has the broad expertise to be able to move from one area to another and above all to make the connections, as you were saying. At Stanford, we don’t consider things – something interdisciplinary unless you have at least three departments involved. But finding that way to create rounded, T-shaped people, and not better calculators and better engineers alone is crucial.
MS. DICHRISTINA: I know we’re out of time, but I’d like to give you each a chance to just give us – give the audience final thoughts – like a key point that you want them to take away from this conversation. Thirty seconds or less, each of you, if you wouldn’t mind.
GEN. CARTWRIGHT: It’s going to – it’s an age that will empower the cognitive powers of the human being, but it will come with tremendous disruption.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you.
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, I think it will be a quote from my son last night, 8-year-old. He was playing Minecraft. And he said, Dad, you see, the only way you can die in Creative mode is if you dig too deep, so I’m not going to dig too deep – (inaudible, laughter).
MS. DICHRISTINA: That’s great, thank you.
MR. SAFFO: I would simply echo what Mat and Fred were saying at the start, that it’s about thinking longer term. You know, in periods of rapid change, what our instinct tells us to do is the opposite of what we should do. It’s a little bit like driving a car on an icy road. Instinct tells you one thing; Newtonian physics tells you the other. And instinct says turn against the turn. Physics says go with the turn.
The same thing – in periods of rapid change we tend to get very shortsighted, and problem-solving in the short term. The winners in periods of rapid change are the ones who can think long term, even though it goes against our instinct. And that’s why this report is so very, very important.
MS. DICHRISTINA: Thank you. I mean, I think that’s an excellent point to end on – you know, the very hopeful nature of harnessing all of the digital assets that we have at the ready; taking that long-term view so that we can, you know, best benefit humanity.
And I just – quick, blatant plug for me – under your chairs are Scientific American’s “World-Changing Ideas,” which talk about some of these emerging ideas. And in the next issue, which I’ve been helpfully handed, we have pieces on 50, 100 and 150 years from now, where we – and that’ll be out in three days – where we start to take a look at way farther out. And I’ll be really interested to get all of your feedback.
I want to thank the panelists very much. That was a fascinating conversation. I was eagerly looking forward to it and now I’m so sorry it’s over. Thank you very much. (Applause.)