Interop 2015: Lord Wei – “Techlash and How to Avoid it” (17th June)


At this year’s Interop event at ExCel in London, I attended a couple of the seminars that took¬†place. Of them all, this one stood out the most, because it addressed a looming societal issue that will inevitably affect us all in the (near) future.

Lord Wei is the youngest member of the House of Lords and has been highly influential in and around Shoreditch and the San Francisco Bay area. But his reach extends far wider than these localities. He is passionate about helping startups and technologically-minded individuals to work together to create a better future. He is the founder of the Shaftesbury Partnership, which is a “social business intermediary and incubator”.

The talk was focussed on how society could effectively function in the future, when technology threatens to strip individuals and organisations of jobs. He cited Uber as a prime example of this. Currently, there is the fear that Uber will eventually deprive taxi companies and drivers of their means to make a living. But then what about Google, who are making significant Research & Development waves in the driverless car sector? Won’t they, in turn, negate the need for Uber? Lord Wei was explaining how Google employees in Oakland are becoming increasingly embarrassed to say that they work for the tech giant, for fear of being beaten up. That may sound extreme, but many people have come to despise the large corporations that appear to be monopolising the system.

This is what he refers to as “Techlash”

Then, he continues to divulge ways in which such a “Techlash” can be averted through social policy, government and action. In short, people should embrace the onset of technological innovation – a world where mundane processes are automated – not try to fight against it. CocaCola invented a robot that would serve a cool, refreshing Coke to people in the street in San Francisco. Results showed that people were three times more likely to take the drink when it was served by the robot instead of a human.¬†Although there is a lot of resentment surrounding the technological takeover, Lord Wei stresses that it is necessary to facilitate a smooth transition towards a tech-embracing society.

To do this, people need to be educated in how to transition from their current system, to one where they can create “experience value”. Lord Wei noted although kids are starting to learn coding as a core part of the curriculum, we have not yet produced enough qualified people to fill the masses of coding jobs that have opened up in the employment market. He says that we need to offer accessible training to “runners” in companies, so that they can learn key tech skills on the job, and build themselves up within organisations to fill the jobs that are created.

Maker Wharf, an organisation founded by Lord Wei and Chris Currell, aims to explore ways to integrate individuals into the work of the future. They do this by creating co-working spaces for entrepreneurs, makers and SMEs to collaborate on projects and share ideas. Maker Wharf want to be available in every neighbourhood in the world, in order to help makers thrive and pass on their skills and knowledge to future generations.

If you enjoyed this, why not check out ioet’s recent post about Interop Tokyo?

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