>>: Today it is my pleasure to introduce Doctor... with Kentaro so I guess I know a few things...

>>: Today it is my pleasure to introduce Doctor Kentaro Toyama. I've had a long association
with Kentaro so I guess I know a few things about him. I'll try not to, I won't spare him
embarrassment anyway. Why should I do that? Kentaro came to Microsoft Research right
after grad school and I remember that he really didn't want to join MSR because he wanted to
go and build a startup or something like that. He said I don't know. We convinced him that he
had great research potential. I think we turned out to be right because now he is a professor at
University of Michigan an pursuing academic career. My association with Kentaro was right
from the beginning, but I came to know him really well when he went to India with me to call
found the Microsoft Research India lab. One of the reasons I asked Kentaro was, he is not
Indian, although, he can pass for somebody from India or something. To go to India with me
and not any of the other people who are from India is because he was always an out-of-the-box
thinker, so for Kentaro every time he was doing something he for some reason became very
critical of how it was being done, who was doing it, what was being done and then went out
and started challenging and questioning it. I okay. This is the kind of person I need to help me
set up the lab. I'm a very traditional person. I think leniently and things like that. Of course, in
India he had a great time. I'm not sure if he is going to tell you about the India experience
here. Some of it comes through in the book. But one of the things in working with Kentaro
three years I realized and I came to appreciate that he is tremendously articulate. His ability to
speak about anything, analyze things and be deeply analytic, extremely argumentative. I don't
know if I want to go to that side too much. I have had a lot of arguments with Kentaro. He can
stand his ground and he is an amazingly good writer. Most of you if you have already read the
book you already know that fact. He is one of the most entertaining and crisp writers on pretty
much any subject and he did that. And then suddenly he had this disillusionment about the
work he was doing and the mission he was on which is, again, reflected in the book, and came
back to the U.S. I think was a mission. I don't know if it was a mission of writing a book right
away, but that's what it led to. He also has a blog. I think it's called ICT4D Jester. You should
read that. It's a bit more [indiscernible], quite a bit more in that forum and it's quite
entertaining to read. If you don't watch out you might we might cite you or court you on that,
so if you want to know that that's something. Anyway I think you're in for a treat. If you read
the book you already know that, but otherwise thank you again for being here and Kentaro.
>> Kentaro Toyama: Thank you. With respect to writing, one of the things I kind of did right
before I left Microsoft was go through a list of all the skills that I have, and I realized that while I
was at Microsoft I probably spent more hours writing e-mails than anything else. It occurred to
me that maybe I could do that part a little more professionally. That's kind of the lead up.
[indiscernible] mentioned that he and I went to India to cofound Microsoft Research India.
India is a very unique place and so the lab itself was also unique. This is a photograph of the
first building that we were in. We regularly had farm animals walk in front of the building which
is something that you probably cannot say for any of the other Microsoft Research labs. While I
was there I started a research group that focused on how to use digital technologies for
international development, so for projects in agriculture, education, healthcare, governance,
micro-finance. This was all in a bid to try to find ways to help alleviate poverty. Just to give you
a flavor for one of those projects, Ronnie's face is kind of a little bit hidden over there but she
was a researcher in my group and one of the things that she worked on was how to design user
interfaces so that they could be used by people who were not literate. We call this project text
free user interfaces and the idea was to basically find ways to use interfaces that have practical
value for different communities, in this case women who lived in slums in Bangalore and to see
if we could do something to help them use this technology. I'm not going to get too far into the
actual project itself, but one of the things that was interesting about this project was we found
that even among non-literate women, there was a range of mental preparation for using a
computer interface. All the things that Ronnie kept finding was that there are some women
who despite the fact that they couldn't read, could actually very quickly navigate the user
interfaces that we designed. These were interfaces with lots of graphics and video and audio
cues. There were other women who seem to have a lot of challenges. She hypothesized that it
might have to do with their level of formal education, maybe with their cognitive skills overall,
and we did a study in which we kind of looked at how quickly different people could navigate a
particular text free user interface based on different kinds of menu structures. Some with very
deep kinds of hierarchical menus, some with more shallow ones and then one being a very flat
list, and basically what we found was exactly what she hypothesized which was that there was a
tendency that if you had more formal education to be able to navigate these interfaces better
than people with much less education even if none of these people could read and the
interfaces had no text in them whatsoever. Over the 5+ years I was in India I oversaw lots of
different projects and also read about other people's projects in this field of ICT, which stands
for information communication technologies and development. In project after project this
kind of phenomenon was visible. For example, in another study that we also did, this one with
people who were semi literate, it turns out that a lot of people have learned the alphabet and
they can pronounce full names and so on, but they still struggle when they read a newspaper,
so people who were semi literate. So we would provide little text cues next to icons and the
hope was that over time they would begin to recognize the text cues and then be able to
navigate the interface more and more quickly, and we found exactly that phenomenon. But
again, if you started off with more literacy the text help you much more and you actually
improved in your literacy more rapidly. If you started off with the literacy of course the text
didn't help at all, and if you had a little bit of literacy then it helped you somewhere in the
middle. This is yet another study, not in our lab. They looked at the use of mobile phones by
small entrepreneurs in Indonesia, and what they found was the entrepreneurs that had the
greater capacity as entrepreneurs would actually take advantage of their mobile phones more
for business and basically expand their businesses, for those that didn't have a lot of capacity as
entrepreneurs didn't do so well. Here is another study, this one in Tanzania with healthcare
workers in rural areas, and here the idea was to see how they could monitor healthcare
workers so that they were actually seeing the patients they were supposed to see, do their
rounds and the interesting thing about this study is they started off with SMS text messages as
a way to remind healthcare workers to see certain patients, as well as human supervisors who
kind of basically meted out some kind of scolding encouragement as the health workers did
their jobs. What you see in this first graph first of all is that the combined system with the
supervisors and the text messages actually does much better than a control situation where
there is no reminder whatsoever. But once you leave out the supervisors, once you leave out
the human element the text messages by themselves eventually converge to the control
situation, which is just as good as not having the text messages. Again, as I mentioned, this
happens over and over and over again where you see the impact of technology having a
gradient depending on who is involved, who the users are, what kind of organizations are using
the technology. I basically thought really hard about why this pattern repeated over and over
and I came to this very simple conclusion which is not new in any sense. But it's basically that
technology effectively amplifies underlying human forces to the extent that those human forces
are capable and directed in the right direction you can expect technology to augment that and
to cause positive value. But where those human forces might be corrupt or dysfunctional, the
technology either does nothing or in some cases it makes things worse. I believe this explains
why so many of us probably in this room all have very positive experiences with technology, but
that that same positive experience does not transfer with the transfer of technology to other
contexts necessarily. Incidentally, I'm going to ask this group if anybody recognizes this quote.
The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient
operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient
operation will magnify the inefficiency. Does anybody recognize who that's from, anyone who
hasn't read the book? Anybody else? All right. If you read the book, does anybody remember
this quote is from? Bill Gates, yes. This is from Bill Gates, The Road Ahead, and I believe that
this is exactly the thesis that I am going to try to argue. This idea is quite straightforward. It
basically just says that technology is a tool and that it amplifies the tool user and whatever their
intentions are, but it also has lots and lots of counterintuitive ideas that I don't think we
necessarily follow through. These fall out like corollaries. They are a very logical extension to
the basic idea. But before I go there I'm going to suggest that we are really living in an age
which technology is seen as the savior to all kinds of social problems. Arnie Duncan is the tall
gentleman on the right next to president Obama and he says technology is a game changer in
the field of education, a game changer that we desperately need both to improve achievement
for all and increase equity. In this particular speech that he gave it was at the SXSW
conference. He mentioned the word technology 46 times. In comparison, he mentioned the
word teacher only about 25 times. For him the technology is far more important than teachers.
Hillary Clinton, so this is an image from the Egyptian revolution and Hillary Clinton says access
to information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable. And she in 2011 she
basically began a foreign-policy doctrine called internet freedom where the idea was that the
United States would in addition to all of the other things it does, champion the idea that the
internet should be a site for free and open expression. Next, here is Mark Zuckerberg. Here's
something that he said when he rolled out internet.org, which is a project to try to get the
internet more users. The richest 500 million people have way more money than the next 6
billion combined. You solved by getting everyone online. He's claiming that the way to solve
social and economic inequality in the world is by giving everybody the internet. These
statements sound a little bit outlandish but they come from very powerful people who hold key
positions and have a lot of resources. So combined, Arnie Duncan, Hillary Clinton and Mark
Zuckerberg and really this list goes on and on, most of the CEOs in Silicon Valley have at some
point made claims along these lines. Increasingly, people who have nothing to do with
technology will make similar claims and so forth. The overall impression that you get is that if
we simply invent more technologies and spread more of them throughout the world, that the
world will naturally become a better place. What I'm going to suggest is that was not our
experience in part because of this application phenomenon, and also for other reasons that I'll
get into. At this point I'm going to ask everybody a few questions. The first one, I'm just going
to ask you to raise your hand wherever you agree with the question. Are you as rich as you
would like to be? Anybody? Okay. This is a Microsoft crowd, quite a few satisfied people, very
good. Are you as educated as you'd like to be? Okay. Probably about a third of the hands.
Earlier there was about a third of the hands. Are you as compassionate as you would like to
be? Okay. A few people. Did anybody raise their hands all three times? Maybe? Okay. I
actually get a lot fewer hands in the audience especially for the first two questions in most
audiences, but this is a very well-educated and reasonably well-paid audience. But my claim is
that everybody in this room should in theory if we believe in the internet as an incredible tool,
should be able to say yes to all these questions because, in fact, you have access to all of the
information you need to be these things. For example, if you search how to be rich, you get 41
million hits on how to answer that question. And a lot of the information is a bit of quackery,
but a lot of it is reasonable. Are you as educated? These days there are massive open online
courses and you can really get an education on just about any topic. And here's the Dalai Lama,
a guide to cultivating compassion in your life. So one question for all of you who didn't raise
your hands is what are you waiting for? Why isn't the information enough? Okay, time it is
certainly one. Anybody else?
>>: I think I could always be better.
>> Kentaro Toyama: You think you could always be better, right. So you might have a much
higher ideal than what you happen to be currently?
>>: [indiscernible]
>> Kentaro Toyama: Right, and there will always be. That's certainly true. Anybody else? Yes?
>>: It takes time to process all the information.
>> Kentaro Toyama: It takes time to process all the information? Terrific. So all of that is true,
definitely time and based on your answers to the first question, this is not necessarily a group
that believes that resources are a limitation. But of course for many people in the world the
time, the resources, just the sheer amount of mental energy that you have left at the end of the
hard work they, all of these things are constraints. The idea that the information is the bottle
back to causing certain kinds of social change is flawed, at least that it's not that information is
not needed. It's just that it's not really the bottleneck between the things that really unlock
individual change in people. For this reason information as an education, communication
doesn't in itself lead to peace. Technology doesn't necessarily lead to economic growth and I
can go into each of those questions at a different stage. Next question. In which of the
following countries is democratic free speech most available online? What do you think? I'm
not suggesting that you necessarily know all about these countries, but based on the question,
over these four countries, which do you think has the most democratic free speech online?
Who thinks it's A, North Korea? Okay, nobody. B, China? Anybody? Maybe. Okay. C, Russia?
A couple of hands. D, the United States, okay, so the vast majority of you. And why do you
think that?
>>: You hear a lot about censorship in these other countries so if I believe the news reporting,
that's what it tends to suggest.
>> Kentaro Toyama: Okay, so in many of these other countries there is censorship. What else?
>>: I think it is partly due just to education. In grade school, democratic countries through the
freedom country, everything is freedom. I think it's part of [indiscernible]
>> Kentaro Toyama: Okay, so because of your education there is a culture of free speech in the
United States? That's good. All of these things are true. I put these three countries here
because they actually are very different with respect to the internet. In North Korea it turns out
that they have their own internet. It uses the same IP protocols as the internet in the United
States, but it is completely closed off and certain IP addresses are basically mapped to different
machines in North Korea, and a few high-level officials have access to the larger internet
outside of that. But otherwise, North Koreans, even if they have access to quote, unquote, the
internet, are only speaking to each other. I'm pretty darn sure that nobody there is criticizing
the supreme leader on social media. China interestingly, has an amazing censorship force. It is
something like 300 to 400,000 persons strong, both private and public sector. It turns out that
some ridiculous percentage of social media posts actually get entered. It's in the order of
maybe 10 percent. One of the things that they found was that it wasn't that the government
was censoring criticism of the government. It was censoring anything that could provoke mass
action, physical mass action, so whether it was protests in the street or even a lot of people
getting together for what we would call a flash mob. All of that is what the government most
fears. In Russia, interestingly, there is actually quite a bit of quote unquote free speech, but
there is also an incredible campaign to spread misinformation. Putin's government, just
recently there were some articles in New York Times Magazine and other places where there is
a vast campaign spreading misinformation so that average people can't trust the things that
everybody is reading and so you can't tell what's real information and what's, citizen
information and what is based on the government. Of course, in the United States we generally
have free speech online and my contention here is we have these things because we have free
speech off-line. It's not that the technology that runs the internet somehow is more
democratizing in and of itself, but that as it goes to different countries, various centers of
power mold it in a form that reflects what they would like to see. Here is Kim Jong-un and I
guess he is showing off the internet to a bunch of generals. Last question. Imagine that you
and a very poor, I say rural farmer here. But just imagine the poorest person you can imagine
who is involuntarily poor. The involuntary part is important. I'm not expecting you to think of a
well-educated contented monk, and that you had exactly one week of free unlimited access to
the internet to raise as much money for the charity of your choice. The question is who would
be able to raise more money, you or this very poor person? Who thinks you? Okay, most
people. And who thinks the other person? Okay, good. And why you?
>>: I have rich friends.
>> Kentaro Toyama: So you have rich friends. What else?
>>: We have social capital.
>> Kentaro Toyama: Social capital, good, a lot of connections.
>>: Awareness of the resources.
>> Kentaro Toyama: Absolutely, you are much more literate about the resources and you also
had the kind of education that would allow you to right persuasive e-mails, all of these things.
This thought experiment is meant to illustrate that you can hold the technology constant and
the outcomes can be dramatically different. You can also flip this. Imagine that you're running
the same experiment but not with somebody who is very poor, but with either Bill Clinton or
Bill Gates. Who would be able to raise more money? We already know, at least with Bill
Clinton, that he can use the technology in a way that will help fund raise any of us. And this is
true, again, for different tasks, so if you were trying to seek investment advice, or if you are
trying to get a better education or if you are trying to get a better recommendation for a
restaurant, all of these things. This is just to show that the technology by itself doesn't impact,
doesn't make things even, although, in some sense it spreads access, but the different
outcomes also depend on capacities that we have, the social connections that we have and so
forth. So technology in and of itself doesn't fix dysfunctional institutions. It doesn't make
things more democratic. It does not shrink inequalities. What I'm going to do is go back
through these quotes and then reconsider them. Education, there have been a series of very
well run rigorous randomized controlled trials showing, for example, the giving kids laptops has
no material impact on anything that you would consider good for their education. Whether it's
their grades, their test scores, their attendance in school, their tendency to be disciplined, this
particular study by two economists, Farely and Robinson, [phonetic] did a study in the state of
California where they gave half of about 1000 children laptops. The other half were the
control; they didn't get it and that's exactly what they found. A couple of years ago while I was
writing this book I needed to find different ways to make income and one of the things that I
did is I talk at a nonprofit organization in Seattle called the Technology Access Foundation
which was founded by Trish Dziko who used to be a Microsoft employee. This was an
afternoon class for third through fifth graders and our goal was to help teach them computer
programming, robotics writing, podcasts and so forth. My greatest battle in teaching them
computer literacy was the computer itself. As soon as my back was turned on any one child
they would all go and find whatever gains they could find online and play them. This is a shot of
one student over their shoulder. Ultimately what I found was that it was up to me as a teacher
to really make sure that the students were focused and I talked to the other teachers to see
what kind of rules they had. It was only through kind of a very difficult process of imposing that
discipline that the children ended up being able to focus on programming. Even in a class about
computers, it's not that you want to maximize screen time. You just want to make sure that the
tool is being used for learning. Finally, this is Lakeside School and so another thing that I did
was to work at this school for a couple of months. Lakeside School is the school that Bill Gates
went to. It has a lot of technology. The kids are all required to carry laptops. They also have
smart phones. They tweet. They, you know, sports results, they communicate by e-mail with
all of their teachers. Many of the children are probably children of your colleagues. They are
executives at Google, Amazon, Microsoft and the student-teacher ratio there is amazing. It's
like 9 to 1. It's an amazing school. It's got all of the resources that it wants. It's got all the
technology it wants. So what do the parents pay for when they want an extra boost for their
kids? I was there as a substitute tutor for a friend, so basically the parents were paying me to
provide more adult guidance for the students who were having challenges. What's interesting
is my guess is for all of you who are parents, you probably have some kind of guidelines about
how you want your kids to use technology either at home or at school. Is that case? Kind of? I
see a bunch of people nodding. And so we have some intuition. Wise parents have some
intuition that the technology in and of itself is not necessarily a net positive and you have to be
very careful about how children access it. I think of it as it's the equivalent of automobiles
accept in the cognitive domain. We don't happily give the right to drive to our children because
we know that as powerful and amazing technology as a car is, that they can get into a lot of
trouble with it. And I believe wise parents have that same intuition with digital technology. But
this is not something that we have yet shared with the rest of the world. In fact, there is a lot of
push from the technology firms side to get more and more technology into schools. With
respect to democratization, I'm going to talk little bit about revolutions. This was, again, Egypt
and it was often called the Facebook revolution. Was it a Facebook revolution? Well,
interestingly enough in Libya and Syria the dictators in those countries soon after they started
getting protests, they shut down the internet in those countries. In Libya, as you know, Gadhafi
was eventually hunted down in the streets and executed by these militias. In Syria the civil war
is ongoing. The rebels have not given up despite the fact that they have no social media to
organize these rebellions. How are they communicating? We of course know that previous
generations had revolutions very successfully without any communication technologies,
without even electricity. I think if we're going to call the Arab spring a Facebook revolution, we
have to call the American Revolution a lantern revolution because of Paul Revere and one if by
land, two if by sea. Basically, the lesson is that revolutionaries will use whatever
communication tools at their disposal, but just because they use those tools doesn't mean that
the tools are the cause of the revolution. Finally, this is China. China is amazing because this is
a country of 1.3 billion people and over a billion of them have mobile phone accounts and
about 750 million of them are on the internet in one way or another. So this is a country that
has an abundance of digital tools and at least as far as we can tell there is no mass uprising to
overthrow the government just because the tools are there. So all of this is to say that digital
technology is not either necessary or sufficient to have a democratic revolution, and so this idea
that Facebook was a critical part of the Egyptian revolution, I think is flawed. It was certainly, it
played a role. It probably accelerated some of the protests and so forth but I don't think it was
the main event. Finally, what is the story with respect to inequality? One of the interesting
things about massive open online courses is that they were originally billed as a free way for
everybody to get an education. So anybody in the United States could certainly walk to the
library and take some of these courses. Recent studies have shown, basically, that the people
who complete MOOCs are basically college-educated professionals who already have a job.
They are not jobless high school dropouts. Any idea that providing the content for education
free to everybody immediately levels the educational playing field is broken somewhere. What
about other uses of the internet? I don't know if you remember about Zach Braff, the actor
director ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund one of his movies and there was a bit of an outcry
because he raised over $3 million and people were like this is a successful actor. Why can't he
use his own money instead of asking the public for it? But despite that backlash, he was still
able to raise $3 million. The average Kickstarter campaign raises $6000 what that tells you is
that your popularity, you are celebrity status is still the thing that matters in a world in which
everybody is able to raise money online. Finally, ongoing show this graph. This is a graph from
the United States Census Bureau and basically this green line at the bottom is the rate of
poverty in the United States. It declined from about 1940 to about 1970 and since 1970 it has
been basically flat. This graph doesn't show it, but after this it's gone up because of the
recession. Since 1970 we have also had this explosion of digital technologies. In fact all of the
technologies that all of us use and work on were invented roughly since the 1970s. I'm not
saying that the technology has caused this flat lining, but if you believe that the invention of
novel technologies and their penetration in a population in and of itself causes beneficial social
change in terms of poverty alleviation or eliminating inequality, then basically, juxtaposition of
these two very obvious facts suggest that there is something not quite right with that story.
Basically, what I think is that in America we are politically not yet committed to eliminating
poverty and so even though we have amazing tools that could help us in that fight, the human
forces are not there to be amplified by the technology. A lot of times at this point, especially if
it's a technology heavy audience, I feel like there's a general subduing of the mood. But there is
a lot of bright side. Amplification is not all bad. In fact, it's a potentially very powerful thing.
What I'm going to suggest is how can we use technology in a positive way and are there other
things that we need to do as technologists to help the world become a better place? The main
lesson of amplification is that for technology to have positive impact we have to ensure that the
right human forces are in place first. In a project that we did in India, that we started in India,
this is a project called Digital Green. We use digital video in a particular way to basically feature
local farmers in how to videos and then use those videos as teaching aids for other farmers to
learn about better agricultural practices. This system is now been spun off as a nonprofit and is
funded by the Gates Foundation by USAID, by DFID which is the United Kingdom's aid
organization, and it's impacting something like 5000 rural villages mostly in India and also in
parts of Africa as well. But the critical thing about Digital Green is that even though it uses a lot
of technology, it always needs to piggyback on an existing organization that has good trust and
rapport with farmers. As long as those organizations are focused on helping farmers learn
better agriculture, then this methodology which involves technology can basically help them do
better. It amplifies the positive effect of an organization that's already doing good work. A
caution there is that it's not that if you spread more of these videos that farmers become better
farmers. In fact, in countries like India there are already a lot of television shows which most
farmers do have access to in which they are constantly streaming agricultural videos and so on,
but those don't seem to have the impact simply because the farmers don't have any reason to
trust that this information is relevant for them. It's often out of context. They don't know the
people who produced a video. Whereas, as long as we work with the local organizations that
have rapport with farmers, that trust is there. Another thing that I think we can do as a
technology industry is actually help other people become productive in our own industry. One
of the great I think mistakes that people generally make is to believe that somehow technology
is successful and it's a source of economic development. That appears to be what happens at
companies like Microsoft and companies in Silicon Valley, and therefore we should give other
people that technology. But the reality is all of you, many of you answered that you were as
rich as you wanted to be to the previous question. And you can answer that not because you
own fancy devices, but because you have the education and the entrepreneurial capacity to
actually earn a living that allows you to purchase those things, right? For example, if I buy a
laptop with Microsoft's software, I'm not really getting that much richer, but Microsoft
shareholders and employees are benefiting from that. So the best way to help people through
technology, if that's really what we want to do, is actually to help them become producers of
the technologies. This is Patrick Awuah. He used to be a Microsoft program manager and he
launched a University in Ghana called Ashesi University because he believed that the
educational opportunities that he had in the United States were ultimately the underlying
cause for his success, and I think that was a very true insight. He didn't just decide after retiring
from Microsoft that he was going to start a business that was going to generate gadgets for
people who were poor. He said what we really need is for people to become better educated.
This University is one of the most successful private liberal arts schools in Africa. Now it's
widely recognized, and he is basically at this point within his 12th year and there is now a
generation of students who are kind of following in his footsteps. Many of them have gone
through reasonably successful career, often in software engineering and sometimes in business
and they have now kind of quick those because they want to do something that gives back to
society. Finally, I am going to talk about two different potential science fiction outcomes. One
of the things that I think is really interesting is ever sense I left Microsoft I used to do work in
computer vision. And one of the things I thought back when I was actually doing research in
this area was that it would still be a few decades before we have image processing to the point
that you could give a computer and image and it would output a text description. But a year or
two or go researchers in computer vision have basically shown that that is actually doable
because we now have enough annotated imagery, we have the computing power and we've
become a little bit smarter about how to apply the learning algorithms that we've been working
on. I actually think we are potentially very close to what Ray Kurzweil dubbed the singularity,
the moment when some of our machines become smarter than human beings. I think that
moment is both amazingly interesting but also terrifying because I don't think we can predict at
all how that technology will be used and so forth. And I think it's really up to us in the
technology industry to potentially decide that since it will come out of our labs. So there are
two possible outcomes for this. One is the matrix. I'm sure most of you have seen this movie.
In it there is an advanced AI that harvests human energy to feed machine masters while
offering the illusion of a pleasant life. I want to suggest that we already have companies that
do this. And because this is a Microsoft audience, I want to say this is true of Facebook. Is
fundamentally not that different. Basically Facebook is harvesting your attention, yours and my
attention to sell to advertisers and they benefit the more time we spend on Facebook. I think
Facebook on the whole was relatively innocuous, but I could easily imagine that if Facebook the
company ends up with a machine that is not only smarter than us but it would become smarter
and smarter and smarter the way that the singularity is supposed to work that one day we will
all be zombies online unable to take our eyes off of Facebook basically because it provides such
a compelling experience that was machine generated. I don't think we want that world. And it
requires those of us who are closest to this technology, including many of you, to actually
decide before we hit this when I think of as a nuclear bomb in the IT world of incredible
machine intelligence, to kind of decide what rules this technology should have. So I don't know
how many of you have read Isaac Asimov, but in many of his robot stories he has something
called the three laws of robotics and every robot after some point in his book chronology
basically is endowed with these laws and they are basically unable to break the laws without
some immense suffering on their part. The first law is that no robot should allow a human to
come to harm or through neglect allow him to come to harm. We haven't even begun to
discuss this kind of idea, but I think it's essential that we do and I think that all of you in this
room as well as many of the people at Microsoft are exactly the people to think about this. I
think there is an opportunity to be the first to make a stake in the ground with respect to we
should respect this technology in a way that it does serve positive ends and not just those of
>>: [indiscernible]
>> Kentaro Toyama: That would be true if Facebook would be happy to be used just by wealthy
people, but it's actually hungry for more users. And then of course there is the Star Trek future,
which, this is Jon Luc Picard in one of the movies. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the
driving force in our lives and he's talking about human lives. We work to better ourselves and
the rest of humanity. So one of the conceits in Star Trek is that this happened because of
technology. We eventually got to the point where food became as easy as ordering in what is it
called? The matter replicators. And I actually think what is unsaid here is that somewhere in
the intervening years between now and the Star Trek future, there were other social cultural
political battles that were fought such that the immense resource abundance that they
eventually have in the future was actually relatively evenly distributed. In our world today
there's already enough food to feed the entire population such that there is no malnutrition.
But for whatever reason the balance of food distribution is such that there are over 800 million
people in the world who still go to bed hungry every day. And so that suggests that it's not
enough to have the technology to generate plenty. There is something else, which I believe,
again, is cultural, economic and political and that those forces need to be addressed as much is
the technology. Especially for those of us in the technology industry, we want to make sure
that technology helps us not exacerbate situations that are already harmful. I do believe, again,
that many of you in this room have the potential to affect how technology gets used in the
future. I'm going to end there and I'm going to take questions. Thank you. [applause]. All
right, questions? Comments?
>>: We have a question online and it's from when you were talking about, well, I'll give you the
question and then you'll know when you were talking about it. What about Sugata Mitra and
his Hole in the Wall Project where kids learned diverse and deep subjects from just having
access to the internet with no knowledge of computers?
>> Kentaro Toyama: Okay, great. The question was what about Sugata Mitra who was the
founder of the project called Hole in the Wall which some of you may have heard of. Mitra won
the I think the TED prize in I think it was 2013 and he believes in something called minimally
invasive education. And that project was begun in India. It was begun in Delhi and we actually
invited him to give a talk in the early days when he was working on it. Basically, the idea is to
provide a rugged PC freely available to neighborhoods that are relatively poor so the kids can
come and play on them. And his claim was that within days the kids would learn how to use a
computer. They would learn how to use Google and then in some of his later studies the claim
was that these kids would then teach themselves English as well as I think it was biomechanics.
They were supposedly learning these very complex subjects on their own with no adult
supervision whatsoever. If you look through the papers that basically cite these crazy ideas
about what these kids accomplished on their own, it turns out that they are mostly written
either by Sugata Mitra himself or by teams that worked very closely with them. Other
researchers who have gone and looked at The Hole in the Wall projects in different places have
found that within months they're often in a state of disarray. They're not working and when
you actually ask the adults in the neighborhood what they remember, many of them say that
there were older teenagers coming here to play videogames. And that's not really a surprise. If
you look over the shoulder of any child with a smart phone, they are not solving math
problems. They are not learning biophysics. They are playing Angry Birds. And that tells you
that, again, there's this idea that the technology is sufficiently powerful. On the one hand
children have an immense desire to learn. They are naturally curious. On the other hand they
have a tremendous potential to be endlessly distracted. And when you give them a tool that
can do both most children tend to choose a distraction because it's easier and requires less
mental effort. So yes, Sugata Mitra, unfortunately, I think, despite what he says is not the real
thing. The tech knowledge he is not really teaching children. Yes?
>>: [indiscernible] correctly. I think you said, your first question was how many of you feel you
are rich enough? Was that the first question? Is it telling that most of the people in the crowd
were thinking rich as far as money, especially when you are saying technology? I think my
question is do you feel there are more people focused on technology as a way to become rich
rather than how do I use technology to help others?
>> Kentaro Toyama: Yeah, so the question was are more people thinking of the technology as
to how do I become rich as opposed to how do I help others? That's a good question. I frankly
did not know, but I do think that on average more people are concerned about how to make
their own lives better than necessarily how to improve other people's and that's true even for
me. As much as I am focused in my professional career on trying to do research that helps with
international development, the fact is if you add up all of the hours in my day, most of my day is
spent on selfish personal interests. And so I think on the whole we are as a society tending
towards a little bit more about what we need, and that makes sense. I mean you have to take
care of yourself. You have to take care of your family. But what I think we want to move
towards is a society in which more and more of the percentage of our time and effort and
resources are spent on trying to help others also attain a similar quality of life. Yes in back?
>>: I'm curious. I hope that one day you'll have a conversation with Mark Zuckerberg, but I'm
curious how you will have that conversation. He is the standard now for the true technology
believer, right? How would you approach him?
>> Kentaro Toyama: That's a good question. You know, at some level if I had to pinpoint one
person who is the core audience for this book, it's actually Bill Gates. I think he made an
incredible transition in his own life, similar to Patrick's, in which he decided he was going to quit
focusing on Microsoft and more on his foundation, and he has definitely done that. At the
same time I think he has a tendency to want to solve the world's problems through engineering
rather than through causing deep changes in human beings. And I think Mark is potentially cut
from the same cloth. It's interesting in his private giving he actually gives to educational
projects in the United States. He has given over $200 million to school systems in the country,
but with respect to internet.org, you know, the interesting about that project is that it is
actually, apparently under what's called the growth division at Facebook, which tells you that
the intention of that project is not necessarily to help people do interesting things on the
internet, but rather to expand Facebook's empire. I mean the first thing I would ask him his are
you really serious when you say that you think spreading the internet in the way the you are
doing is really helping people. And if he is actually serious I would say the next thing I would
want to do is take him to a trip to a very poor village which they happen to have the internet
and there are more and more of these, and show him that not much happened as a result of
the technology. I think you had a question?
>>: [indiscernible] I believe the values to access to the laptop and then it's far better now than
it was then [indiscernible] with cell phones with internet connection. Do you think the scenario
is a little different now than what you may have observed?
>> Kentaro Toyama: When you talk about access, you been kind of like access in the market in
terms of being able to buy these technologies at a lower cost? Yeah, certainly, all around the
world is getting easier and easier to get access to lower and lower cost goods. In fact, this year
marks the year when very likely the number of mobile phone accounts in the world will exceed
the human population. That doesn't mean that everybody will have a mobile phone because
many people have multiple phones, but it's an interesting barrier. Basically, what that means is
that our technology is spreading. So if you believe that, for example, the fact that you are on
the internet somehow dramatically improves your life, then we are on the path to eliminating
poverty for good. I suspect that 10 years from now we will be having similar conversations but
not with mobile technology. It will be with tablets or maybe with drones. It will be with
another technology. And I don't think that aspect is going to change. In fact, a previous
generation thought very similar things about television. They thought with television we can
democratize education. We no longer have to send kids to schools and pay for expensive
teachers. Now you have audio and video being streamed right into everybody's living rooms.
Why don't we have kids just sit there and watch TV and they will become educated? And my
guess is in 15 years or less we will look back and say why did we think of these crazy things
about the internet. Yeah, in the back?
>>: This goes back to the same question, the effectiveness of teachers. My experience is that a
teacher is much more effective than the program and its echoed in these stories of
[indiscernible] and so it's not really having the full potential. Do you think there is some
fundamental law at work or have we just not found the right program that, you know, instead
of providing the distraction of a videogame, it provides the drawing of a videogame but at the
same time educates people?
>> Kentaro Toyama: That's a great question. I have two responses to that. One is I think the
fundamental flaw in a lot of this is to believe that education is about the material content of
what you are learning. There are these tendencies to take the textbook and say textbooks are
boring so we need to amp them up. Everything we have that's digital is really a flashy blingy
sound effect immersed version of these textbooks, and the content is still the content. The real
problem with education, I think, is the motivation of the student to do the hard internal work to
learn. That motivation can conceivably be generated through some amount of technology, but
really, the best solution for generating motivation is other people or even the internal
motivation that students themselves have. Really, at this point we have no substitute for that
other than other human beings and human beings are good at scolding kids, encouraging kids
and inspiring kids and I think there are arguments to be made that all of those things need to be
used in a very smart way in order to help a child develop the intrinsic motivation so that they
learn. The other thing is with respect to gamification. There's a lot of talk about gamification
and how you can use games to help motivate students to learn, and I think that's probably true.
I think a lot of the research is going in a direction where certain things can be identified. But
imagine a world in which everybody's K-12 education is gamified and possibly through video
games. At the end of that if a student goes through that kind of education maybe they will
have learned the science and history and the math and the writing that you want them to learn,
but they will become human beings who cannot learn unless it is in the form of video game.
And to me that would be doing a much greater disservice to real education than having inserted
the content into their brains. Yet?
>>: I have kids in middle school and high school and they're now embarking on, they have
shipped them over to the common core, which is a pedagogical approach that emphasizes
communication, collaboration skills, critical thinking, problem-based learning, project-based
learning. And I think it's going to be a challenge until teachers really understand that and
maybe parents, but I see that as being matched to the technology that used to just be
doorstops if you randomly handed it kids. I think pedagogically what you need is a pedagogy
that goes along with it that is in line with like you are saying, but I actually am way more
optimistic about the five-year timeframe for education because I'm really impressed with what
they're trying to do in a lot of schools now.
>> Kentaro Toyama: Yeah, thanks Jonathan. I believe that what you're saying is actually true
for good schools and for schools who can attract good teachers who know how to incorporate
technology and doing really interesting things with it. But most of the educational problems
that we talk about in this country, we are not worried about the kids that are going to private
school who have wealthy parents who can find a way to pay for tutoring and all of this. We are
worried about the kids where the teachers are unfortunately not the best teachers. They're in
school districts which don't raise enough budget to be able to afford even the basic things that
you and I would expect in a regular education. To me if we were suggesting that pushing more
technology into those schools is going to help them, it doesn't work for exactly the opposite
reason why our schools work with technology, which is again, amplification. If you are in an
environment that is unable to help kids learn what they could be learning even without the
technology, then the technology is not going to help them learn more. I think that's consistent
with what you are saying.
>>: I think pedagogy with professional development for teachers are numbers one and two out
of maybe four.
>>: I have two things. The first one, I was wondering if you could just give your thoughts on the
ideas that [indiscernible] and then the second one was as we're progressing and moving
towards a more digital marketplace for cheap labor, I wanted to know your thoughts on like
actionable steps that we could take to sort of help mitigate the exploitation of human
>> Kentaro Toyama: Okay, two big questions. The first one was whether Silicon Valley is a
meritocracy or not. I think it's a reasonable meritocracy, but it's obviously clear that it is not a
pure meritocracy in the sense that there are plenty of people who have tremendous amounts
of skills and talent, but who are excluded for reasons other than their capacity. At the same
time, I think that even thinking about meritocracy as the end-all and be-all of a problem in that
if you have a meritocracy all that it does is then create a new form of separating people. And
those that who have somehow managed to gain the mysterious thing called merit and up
getting all of the advantages over our society, but we are not focused on helping everybody
else get that merit as well. I think meritocracy is a better alternative to many of the systems
that depend on nepotism and seniority and things like that, but it's still not the final thing. We
have to go beyond meritocracy. To your second point, second question, which was, again,
remind me?
>>: I was saying that as we are moving towards a more, we have a digital marketplace or cheap
labor and labor will become cheaper and cheaper, what are the steps that we can take to help
mitigate this exploiting of human resources?
>> Kentaro Toyama: One of the greatest challenges I think is that as the technology has
become more and more capable, it means that all of the jobs that depend on those capabilities
basically become less and less productive in terms of economic income. Basically you can't
make money doing those jobs because there's a cheaper way to do it through machines. What
that means, generally, is that you have to ensure that more people are educated or have the
skills to the point that they exceed whatever the machines are capable of doing. If machine
learning, for example, keeps improving, it might be that a good percentage of the people in this
room eventually will have to fight for their jobs says we don't have the capacity to compete
with those machines. I think the only answer to these things is political, which is to say, this is
not a technology problem. It is a problem of our larger society and how we decide to allocate
the resources that the society produces. And I do think that all of us who are in the technology
industry actually can do an immense service to the politics of this country by basically coming
out and saying we are working on these amazing technologies but they are not going to solve
these deep social problems for you. We have to as a country address them from a political
angle. And I don't think that's going to go away. In fact, one of the conclusions of my book, I
didn't go too much into this is that exactly in a world where there is a tremendous amount of
technology, if you believe in amplification we should be working on the other side, which is the
human side. Is in back?
>>: The question I have dovetails really nicely with her question, so this is great. Would you
view your reading of technology and its purpose as deeply egalitarian or do you have kind of
another interpretation of the purpose of technology? That is viewing technology to
instrumentally serve the public good and that if it doesn't, if it deviates you have a problem.
>> Kentaro Toyama: You know, I think the whole point of amplification is to say that the
technology will amplify whatever we think it should be doing and so to the extent that we as a
civilization believe that it should be helping humanity in some sense mature and become more
enlightened, I think the technology will help us do that. But if it all ends up being about
maximizing shareholder value and making, turning us into a world where there is competition
for resources is the primary objective, then the technology will amplify that and in some way
turn us into a caricature of ourselves. Thank you. [applause].