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Business Management

Are tech companies responsible for IT-driven social change?

On 11th September this year, Barcelona was broken. Although few of the foreign businesspeople would have known it beforehand, they were arriving on the National day of Catalonia. Taxis were hard to come by, many shops were temporarily closed and countless people on mopeds buzzed around draped in red-and-yellow flags. A local explained that we shouldn't expect things to work properly that day, as people had other priorities. She wasn't wrong.

11th September was also the start of VMworld Barcelona 2017, an annual three-day conference of 20,000+ VMware executives, staff, partners and customers, with numerous analysts and journalists tagging along for the ride. It began with an upbeat keynote speech by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and ended with a Kaiser Chiefs gig.

It was an odd juxtaposition, a world within a world. Barcelona itself is a wealthy city but Spain has significant problems including an unemployment rate in the high teens, even higher for young people.

Humanity is disinterested by work… but terrified of being replaced by robots. Could free money be the answer to a post-automation world?

In his opening speech, Gelsinger said, “Today is the slowest day of technological innovation of the rest of your life.” He went on to cite examples of technology changing so fast that the innovative quickly becomes mundane, such as exoskeletons and CRISPR gene editing. The rate of innovation is itself increasing, an exponential change.

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Alex Cruickshank

Alex Cruickshank has been writing about technology and business since 1994. He has lived in various far-flung places around the world and is now based in Berlin.  

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