Future Decoded event raises questions on digital risk

Is technology good for society or bad? This was one of the issues covered at the Future Decoded event in London

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Is technology good for society or bad? This was among the issues covered at Microsoft's Future Decoded event in London.

Microsoft chief technology envisioning officer, Dave Coplin, said: "Technology  allows us to do things differently."

But former Newsnight anchorman and TV journalist, Jeremy Paxman, in his presentation, warned: "We are either heading to some worldly paradise, or going to hell."

Paxman said technology was moving society to individualism: "Ours is an age of individuals, the age of consumerism, taking personal freedom and erecting it everywhere. This is the age of the narcissist. We live in a time where anyone's opinion is worth as much as an expert."

In his keynote, Bob Geldof said: "Technology has never given us what its makers promise." However, he spoke about the potential of the internet to improve society.

Speaking on the power of the internet, he said: "The notion of the internet is that we are in constant contact all the time."

Business focus

While not strictly not a technology issue, Martin Sorrell, group CEO of WPP, urged businesses to start innovating again.

Among the challenge for business face is how to balance the books while maintaining innovation.

Pointing to the demise of Japan, which in the 1990s was heading towards becoming the world's biggest economy, Sorrell warned that consolidating in a bid to reduce cost is not the right approach to growing business, since innovation can be cut out.

He said businesses needed to be more innovative. Rather than justifying budgets for new projects by looking at past performance he said you cannot rely on data to prove a case statistically.

"Innovation cannot be incremental. Innovation needs fundamental change," he said.

The notion of the internet is that people are in constant contact all the time, said Geldoff.

Geldoff described the web as a brain synapse shared around the world that people are able to tap into. "We can't even imagine the benefits," he said.

Technology Education

He also called for greater emphasis on technology in education: "There cannot be just three 3s, we need read, write, arithmetic, and also coding."

Education was one of the topics Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke about in his fireside chat at the event. He said: "As more human capital is expressed by digital tools, access to Computer Science education is essential."

But education should not be digitised, according to Paxman. He questioned the value of screen-based education. Paxman said the availability of screen experience was hampering children's ability to learn: "So much of education is not about information. Something is lost when a book is presented through a screen."

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