I spent the week in San Francisco for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and Alumni Annual Summit. One of the goals of my trip was to get a better understanding of how the recent techlash has reverberated in the Valley.
After conversations with high-profile venture capitalists, companies and leading thinkers, I came away with a sense that the inherent tension of the techlash in the Bay Area isn’t between tech companies and governments or citizens; it’s between those who believe tech is going to save humanity and those who believe humanity will save tech.
For example, I met one founder whose startup is able to decipher brain activity to measure staff performance. So, if we can glean that our employees are more alert on Tuesday at 10 a.m., then we can schedule meetings for that time to optimize company performance. Score one for tech over humanity.
However, when asked if the company had thought through the ramifications of their biometric tech data being weaponized in the hands of a bad state actor, they told me that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which emphasizes users’ rights to their own data, would help prevent that.
That a migrant worker trying to feed her family wouldn’t have much choice but to opt-in to the terms wasn’t something that had been considered. Score one for humanity over tech.
As an aside, GDPR seemed to be the nom du jour. Rather than oppose the European regulations, most tech companies I spoke with seemed to embrace the new regulations as the panacea for all concerns about privacy.
“We’re GDPR-compliant” is the new “Powered by Intel.”
Pressuring those two product perspectives together are investors, who seemed unwavering in their belief that exponential growth is essential for overall prosperity, and employees, who—as one tech CEO confided—are increasingly demanding moral leadership from executives.
All of this creates a window of opportunity for Canada.
While others focus on building products with the belief that tech will save humanity, Canada’s innovation ecosystem can differentiate itself by building companies that focus on humanity saving tech—ideals that are aligned with our values and brand as a country and, in the age of the techlash, ideals that could attract great talent while striving for prosperity for all.
Speaking of brand Canada, it was announced Thursday that The Logic will be a part of the next cohort of companies in The Information Accelerator program. We were one of four publications chosen from more than 100 companies across 22 different countries. We’re just the fourth publication from outside of the United States to ever be selected for the program (the others being from mainland China, Hong Kong and Italy).
This partnership between such an esteemed tech publication as The Information and The Logic, not only affirms what we’re trying to build as a high-quality news publication in Canada—it’s also a testament to the growing influence of Canada’s innovation economy on the world stage.
Hard to believe we’re less than four months into this journey together.
For that, we can only say thank you.