Chris Ategeka founded UCOT to bring together leading companies with all who have a vested interest in action-oriented dialogue about the benefits and unintended consequences of technology. 1440 Multiversity has been a proud host of UCOT's annual event that attracts delegates from over 40 countries, using the campus as a catalyst for the organization to Wonder Well and look toward the future. To learn more about UCOT, visit helloucot.com.
Chris: I'm a product of someone else's generosity, and technology played a role in making that happen. As UCOT, and as myself personally, we are not anti-technology. I love technology. I use technology, and it has so much tremendous potential for the world. We at UCOT look on the bright side of technology. You will see that in almost everything we do today.
There's so much good that's happening on the technology side. And, that luxury comes with some unintended consequences that people sometimes willfully ignore. One time I was sitting in the audience for a presentation and someone was talking about deep fakes. I don't know if you're familiar with that term.
Chris: Deep fakes are altered videos. Essentially, somebody gets a bunch of images and videos of you speaking on different topics. Then, they train an algorithm to make a mock-up version of your face. And it can make you say anything they want you to say.
If you haven't had a chance to get terrified, search online to learn about deep fakes. They are believable because it's video. You can't refute video proof.
Chris: Right. We as humans are now hard wired to believe that what we see someone doing is actually what they did. And that ability to alter the truth in moving form is terrifying. Imagine if someone creates a video of the President of the United States declaring war in an enemy country. And then the enemy country responds. It's terrifying.
When I watched the guy who had been working tirelessly to create this technology talking about all the justifications of why this is amazing, deep down in my heart, I was thinking, "Why are we doing this?" And, that's just one experience that makes up a larger picture that formed in my mind when it started to think to myself, "This is your purpose. This is what you need to do."
Chris: I dug deep and studied the technology. I realized that there are trillions of dollars going toward making technology better, faster, efficient, and novel. And there's a lot of incentive in that world. The sad reality is that almost the same amount of energy is going toward abusing that same technology that's doing the good.
So, any technology becomes a double-edged sword. I believe technology is society's new campfire, we exist to make sure that we do not burn ourselves with it.
Chris: Yes, I got myself in this space of saying, "Hey, if not me, then who?"
Chris: A few things. One, I have a son who is 14 years old. I am looking at the way the technology is going today and the world I'm going to leave behind for him. He will be here in 2100, and what is the world we're leaving behind? I want to be able to do something about that. Think about 100 years from now.
Chris: 100 years from now, we may have a world that's tech optimized and it works for everyone. But there's a possibility that we may not have any world left. So, being able to think deeper about the now, while also putting in the picture of tomorrow is very important.
Chris: Because the wave is going that way. Right now, individuals, the oldest stakeholders from the employees to customers to shareholders of any big giant tech company want to see that the company is doing good. They want to see the company cares about the environment. They want to see that they have an emphasis on the team, on their boards.
The wave is going that way thanks to some people who are working hard in this space, including UCOT, trying to raise consciousness and change the perception of the public understanding of the conversation here. Companies are realizing that they will be left behind if their company doesn't have a policy that's dealing with climate change next year. So, they are very eager to engage in this conversation because their bottom line depends on it. That's the reason we got here in the first place: the bottom line. Until the bottom line is threatened, companies can't or don't move.
Chris: UCOT is designed under two banners. The first banner is this action-oriented global community of getting world leaders to start having serious conversations about unintended consequences of tech. And this is important for several reasons.
The first reason is these are the people who are making decisions directing the world in whatever direction it's going. So, changing public perception, creating a community around this idea, working together to solve the problems, sharing resources, and avoiding repeated mistakes are central topics.
There are so many people who care about it but not enough of us are working together. So, at 1440, we bring people together from all sectors. Public, private, and government spaces come together under one roof. We sit together and talk about these issues, then we start to think more deeply about large scale action, collective action. That's the main component of the conversation and content and getting the message out there to the general public.
That's what happens when we gather at 1440. And that leads to the other banner which comes from the idea that anyone can stand on a podium and tell you their house is on fire. But what are you really doing about it?
Chris: Right. So, the second banner is the lab. We have the UCOT labs, which are looking at creating products and services to respond to these unintended consequences.
Chris: Anyone can be involved. If you're a resident of planet Earth, you are welcome. That is important because the reason the technology has gotten us where we are today is because there is so much exclusivity among the people who are designing these technologies. They come from certain backgrounds, certain race, certain income bracket.
Chris: I have an analogy about the lack of diversity in the innovation of Silicon Valley. Let's say you are walking down the street, you stub your toe, you start bleeding, then you curse. Then, you go out and you make a better shoe. And the better shoe you're going to create is going to fit over your foot and you're going to test it on yourself and your close friends. And you get a few of your nearest buddies to invest in your new innovation of your new shoe. And before you know it, every single person is homogenous. They're all the same, wearing the same shoes. The people who have the ideas and have the money to take those ideas to market are the same people who look the same. So, to me, part of this work is to bring diversity around the table so people on the decision-making tables are diverse enough from the racial perspective, from a gender perspective, from every perspective. Then we will not continue to perpetrate the same problems that have gotten us this far.
Chris: Have you heard of gene editing? Right now, we're editing the natural world. There's a whole effort right now toward eliminating mosquitoes that cause malaria. That's a good idea. A bunch of children in Africa and other places will not die because of this amazing technology. But now the challenge is, imagine the mutation of that getting into bees. And when they get into bees, then you don't have any food.
Chris: Everyone is welcome. We need diversity to be able to innovate products and technologies that work for everyone, not just a select few.
Chris: We need to get back to nature. Nature is designed to be regenerative. I am all about regeneration, and 1440 represents that. We also need to get back to our roots of community. I was born and raised in Africa. The best stories are told around fireplaces without much distraction. So, 1440, even just by its location among the redwoods, encourages that kind of presence in conversation. We get people there, and they become engaged and available for the conversation.
Chris: Love wins. I'm a product of someone else's generosity. And I've said it over and over again, in every good or bad situation, you can see love coming through. So, I believe love is the answer.