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The Great Debate: Technology Creates More Jobs than it Destroys

Moderated by:
Jim Stogdill (O'Reilly Media, Inc.)
Brian Behlendorf (Mithril Capital Management LLC), 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.

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Brian Behlendorf

Managing Director, Mithril Capital Management LLC

Brian Behlendorf is Managing Director at Mithril Capital Management in San Francisco. His career has been a mix of technology start-up, public policy, and non-profit tech leadership. Brian 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. Prior to Mithril, Brian was Chief Technology Officer at the World Economic Forum. He also served for two years at the White House as advisor to the Open Government project within the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and then later as advisor to Health and Human Services on open software approaches to health information sharing. Before that he has founded two tech companies (CollabNet and Organic) and several Open Source software projects (Apache, Subversion, and more).

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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 at Netflix he managed a team 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” book and was chief architect for High Performance Technical Computing.

He 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. He can usually be found on Twitter @adrianco.

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Ari Gesher

Engineering Ambassador, Palantir Technologies

A software/systems engineer with a lot of experience building big, real-world systems.

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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.