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The Great Debate: Technology Creates More Jobs than it Destroys

Moderated by:
Jim Stogdill (O'Reilly Media, Inc.)
Brian Behlendorf (The Hyperledger Project at the Linux Foundation), Adrian Cockcroft (Battery Ventures), Ari Gesher (Palantir Technologies), Kimberly Stedman (Freelance)

The steam engine replaced muscle with machine, laying waste to entire industries—and building new ones amidst their rubble. Over the protests of Luddites, we got the weekend and the end of child labor. What at first seemed an end to jobs was a boon to productivity, and since that time the human lifespan has doubled.

On the other hand, technology outstrips our ability to adjust society. Machine learning, automation, software, and the rise of a service economy are concentrating wealth more than ever before. Productivity rises without a commensurate increase in quality of life or the wealth of the average citizen. It’s not just blue-collar work, either: IBM’s Watson, now shrunk to the size of three pizza boxes, can make better cancer diagnoses than a new medical graduate.

Is technology creating new jobs, and ridding us of drudgery? Or is it spawning an era of rampant unemployment and class divides? That’s what we’ll be debating.

The always-popular Great Debate series returns to Strata. In this Oxford-style debate, two opposing teams take opposing positions. We poll the audience, and the teams try to sway opinions. It’ll be a fast-paced, sometimes irreverent look at some of the core challenges of putting data to work.

Photo of Jim Stogdill

Jim Stogdill

Radar, O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Jim Stogdill heads up O’Reilly’s Radar and Strata businesses. A lifelong technology practitioner he’s finding this media thing ridiculously fun. In a previous life he traveled the world with the U.S. Navy. Unfortunately from his vantage point it all looked like the inside of a submarine. He spends his free time hacking silver halides with decidedly low-tech gear. @jstogdill.

Photo of Brian Behlendorf

Brian Behlendorf

Executive Director, The Hyperledger Project at the Linux Foundation

Brian Behlendorf is the executive director of the Hyperledger Project at the Linux Foundation and senior technology advisor at Mithril Capital Management in San Francisco. Over his career, Brian has held a mix of technology startup, public policy, and nonprofit tech leadership positions. He serves on the boards of the Mozilla Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Benetech—three organizations using technology to fight for civil liberties, open technologies, and social impact in the digital domain. Previously, Brian was chief technology officer at the World Economic Forum, served for two years at the White House as advisor to the Open Government project within the Office of Science and Technology Policy, was an advisor to Health and Human Services on open software approaches to health information sharing, and founded two tech companies, CollabNet and Organic, and several open source software projects, including Apache and Subversion.

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Adrian Cockcroft

Technology Fellow, Battery Ventures

Adrian Cockcroft has had a long career working at the leading edge of technology. He’s always been fascinated by what comes next, and he writes and speaks extensively on a range of subjects. At Battery, he advises the firm and its portfolio companies about technology issues and also assists with deal sourcing and due diligence. Before joining Battery, Adrian helped lead Netflix’s migration to a large-scale, highly available public cloud architecture and the open sourcing of the cloud-native NetflixOSS platform. Prior to that, he managed a team at Netflix working on personalization algorithms and service-oriented refactoring. Adrian was a founding member of eBay Research Labs, developing advanced mobile applications and even building his own homebrew phone, years before iPhone and Android launched. As a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, he wrote the best-selling Sun Performance and Tuning and was chief architect for high performance technical computing. Adrian graduated from the City University, London with a Bsc in applied physics and electronics and was named one of the top leaders in cloud computing in 2011 and 2012 by SearchCloudComputing magazine.

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Ari Gesher

Engineering Ambassador, Palantir Technologies

Ari Gesher is a senior software engineer and engineering ambassador at Palantir Technologies. He is co-author of the upcoming book Architecture of Privacy, about building data systems that responsibly handle sensitive data. Ari can often be found speaking on the topic of privacy protections, big data, and the limits of automated decision making.

At Palantir Technologies, Ari has split his time between working as a design prototyper for the user interface team, a backend engineer on Palantir’s analysis platform, thinking and writing about Palantir’s vision for human-driven information data systems, and moonlighting on both Palantir’s Privacy and Civil Liberties team and Philanthropic engineering team. His current role involves understanding and discussing Palantir’s role in the world of analytics, big data, the future of technology, and its impact on the world.

An alumnus of the University of Illinois computer science department, Ari has worked in the software industry for the past 15 years, including a stint as the lead engineer for the open source software archive.

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Kimberly Stedman

Analytics Manager / Analyst / Writer, Freelance

I do big data, social systems, and gameplay. I like wicked problems. Everything’s people with me: cognition, culture, and the intelligence processes of the global brain.

I used to be a field anthropologist. I’ve lived in five developing countries. Lately I’ve been working in game analytics.

Right now, I’m thinking a lot about the adoption of big data, and how to make that process effective.