Emerging Technologies

Future of technology: Start-up founders on how to innovate for a better tomorrow

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How can we ensure future technology development benefits people and planet?

How can we ensure future technology development benefits people and planet? Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Gaia Gera
Lead, Innovator Communities, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Technological innovation has the power to solve the world's greatest challenges.
  • But what considerations need to be taken into account for future technology development to benefit people and planet?
  • That's the question we asked members of the World Economic Forum's Innovator Communities.

In an era defined by rapid technological advancement, harnessing innovation for the betterment of humanity and the planet is more critical than ever.

As the pace of technological evolution accelerates, it prompts a fundamental question: what considerations should underpin future technology development to ensure it becomes a force for good?

We asked leaders of the World Economic Forum’s Innovator Communities, comprised of leading visionaries and disruptors, to share their unique insights on what considerations need to be taken into account for future technology development to benefit people and planet.

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Who are the World Economic Forum's Innovator Communities?

'Crafting tomorrow's tech with heart and purpose'

New technology development should be based on a human-centric and mission driven approach, prioritizing tools that enhance human connection, well-being, and collaboration.

Eduardo della Maggiora, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Betterfly

"The pivotal factor for future technology development to benefit both people and planet lies in its human-centric approach. Prioritizing tools that foster greater human connection and well-being is paramount. Technology should aim to empower individuals by providing them with resources to unlock their personal and social potential and also help them to collaborate and contribute to the planet, fostering an ecosystem where technology amplifies human abilities to address global challenges."

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May Habib, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Writer

"We can have a future where AI takes dignity away from a lot of people. Or, we can have a future where AI enables a lot more progress, access, and prosperity, and we’re working like hell for the latter. At Writer, it’s been exciting to see the byproduct of generative AI, the productivity metrics, executives being happy, companies doing more with less, but they aren’t what motivates our team to keep pushing the boundaries of AI. What motivates us is the way that AI is elevating people at work, giving people a chance. What motivates our team is the potential for AI to totally transform work as we know it."

Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, Chief Executive Officer, Grammarly

"We should be careful to steer AI solutions toward augmenting human potential, not replacing humans. Only by innovating with the goal of helping humans perform, communicate, and live better without negative consequences can we avoid a dystopian future."

Alex Zhavoronkov, Founder and co-Chief Executive Officer, Insilico Medicine

"We need to be led by a mission to improve human productive longevity and to focus our energy on innovations that directly impact this mission, including new AI-discovered targets and AI-designed therapeutics and – eventually – personalized medicine solutions driven by AI – as well as the continued development of more sustainable chemicals and materials and clean energy solutions."

‘Navigating with integrity and a sustainable approach’

Ethical principles should be driving AI development and designing technologies with minimal environmental impact, addressing biases, and promoting social justice.

Alon Chen, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Tastewise

"Two considerations stand out to me when ensuring that future technologies benefit both people and the planet. Ethics: algorithms and AI must be developed with ethical principles in mind, addressing potential biases and promoting social justice. Technology should be accessible and inclusive, avoiding perpetuating existing inequalities. Sustainability (environmentally): technologies must be designed with minimal environmental impact, minimizing resource use and emissions, and maximizing renewable energy sources. Sustainability needs to be embedded in every stage of development, from design to production to disposal."

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Pablo Borquez Schwazbeck, Founder, ProducePay

"The most meaningful consideration for agricultural technology development to benefit people and the planet is ensuring widespread digitization of global information systems and successful market-risk mitigation derivatives that give growers the certainty and tranquillity required to produce healthy and sustainable food. Many of the world’s emerging economies serve as the world’s “fruit basket” which means that they have an outsized impact on agriculture’s environmental footprint. As these regions adopt technology that accelerates sustainable practices, there is the potential for rapid global improvement on climate change, and water and soil health."

‘Designing tech for long-term impact and accountability’

Technologies should be designed with flexibility, considering long-term impacts, and taking accountability for risks and potential abuses.

Rene Saul, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kapital

"Design technologies with the flexibility to evolve as needs and circumstances change. Considering the long-term impacts and potential future applications of the technology. Also, several key factors should be taken into account like economic impact, sustainability, regulatory compliance and local issues. Finally, as technology evolves, so must the skills of the workforce. Investment in education and training is essential to prepare people for the jobs of the future."

Rotem Iram, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, At-Bay

"People and businesses are still operating in an environment where we are largely getting products that are insecure by design and by default. The problem with this is that when a product hits the shelf, it’s extremely difficult to go back and add back in more security. Take email. It’s responsible for more than half of our customers' cyber insurance claims, yet it’s extremely hard to go back and fix the risks exposing businesses to cyber attacks and make it more secure. That’s why it’s so critical that all technology vendors take accountability for risk and consider all of the possibilities of their product’s use - and potential abuse - by customers and adversaries."

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Who are the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers?

‘Orchestrating transparency, traceability, and diverse stakeholders’

Highlighting the role of AI in waste management, addressing demands for transparency and traceability, and emphasizing the need to involve diverse stakeholders.

Chet Kapoor, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Datastax

"Coming from an enterprise perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new technology. The generative AI market is moving fast and we’re all trying to get to the front of the parade. But we have to take a step back and think about how we’re doing things, because it’s not just about the technology, it's about trust, safety, and responsibility across the entire ecosystem. As an infrastructure provider, we have a big role. Our responsibility is threefold: make it easy for enterprises to do the right thing with AI, provide rock-solid, secure cloud infrastructure, and communicate honestly with our customers and their users."

Anirudha Jalan, Co-Founder and Director, Recykal

"AI has a very promising role to play in the space of waste management and technology for circular economy. We are at a stage wherein consumers and corporates demand transparency and traceability - and with the build up of data sets in this space, we see the role of AI to be significant in the very near future."

Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, Chief Executive Officer, Grammarly

"AI is the most powerful technological force shaping our world today. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the scaled deployment of AI positively impacts human well-being. First, we need a broad set of stakeholders to have a voice in the conversation, including industry leaders, governments, and community leaders around the globe. The global reach and convening power of WEF will play a critical role here. Second, we need to invest in embedding responsible AI development practices across all the applications and tools through which people interact with AI. Regulation may eventually create consistent standards, but the pace of technological change means that regulation will not be sufficient; it will require a mindset shift in our approach to building AI products. This includes everything from removing bias in training data to a well-defined set of safety checks to clear policies on user data."

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Contents
'Crafting tomorrow's tech with heart and purpose'‘Navigating with integrity and a sustainable approach’‘Designing tech for long-term impact and accountability’‘Orchestrating transparency, traceability, and diverse stakeholders’

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