Berggruen Institute Members Share Their Perspectives on Technology and Disruption at the WorldPost Future of Work Conference

In March, Berggruen Institute 21st Century Council members Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, Arianna Huffington, Laura Tyson, Nouriel Roubini, Mohamed El-Erian, and Walter Isaacson shared their perspectives at The WorldPost conference on “The Future of Work”, which took place at Lancaster House in London. Discussion around the theme “prepare to be disrupted” ranged from how the emergent sharing economy, along with 3D desktop manufacturing, would take work back into the home to worries that automation could eliminate as much as 47 percent of current jobs in the United States.

In a panel on innovation and disruption, 21st Century Council members Walter Isaacson, Reid Hoffman, and Mo Ibrahim discussed the new innovators and how technological shifts have transformed the way people and businesses engage with the world around them. Reid Hoffman argued that while technology does create jobs, there is a painful disruptive period when the old jobs are destroyed. Mo Ibrahim similarly argued that in Africa the overall message is clear — technology has meant a net gain in jobs. 

Eric Schmidt gives a keynote address on “The New Digital Age”

In his keynote, Google’s Eric Schmidt said he wanted to talk about “why we are so unhappy – and why we shouldn’t be”. Schmidt rolled off a list of issues – including the rise of ISIS, a lack of jobs and instability in Ukraine – which make us feel like “we have no cause for optimism” and, he added, “many people blame technologies for these ills”. “What I want to do is tell you that’s not right and in many cases technology is the solution and technological achievement and advancement is essential to life in the 21st century.” Using 1915 and 1615 as examples, Schmidt painted a picture of other eras of war, sickness and terrorism, concluding that “we are much happier now”.  He concluded: “I am absolutely convinced that technology is not the problem and it may even be the solution.”

In a discussion on the global economy 21st Century Council members Laura Tyson, Mohamed El-Erian, and Nouriel Roubini offered rare insight into the unstable and interconnected world of global markets, capital flows, and fiscal policy. As Nouriel Roubini argued, in an interconnected world “immigration is a zero-sum game. If we’re getting China and India’s best and brightest that means those countries are losing them.” Laura Tyson called for a multi-lateral tax solution to address the flow of global capital to regions with low rates of taxation. 

In a keynote on “Redefining Success”, Arianna Huffington called for a new definition of success that included well-being, wisdom, and wonder. 

Nicolas Berggruen and David Bonderman closed the conference with a discussion of the changing landscape of investment as untraditional business models and new technologies revolutionize the global economic landscape.

Queen Rania of Jordon (L), Nicolas Berggruen (C), and Arianna Huffington (R)

Also at the conference, Jordan’s Queen Rania spoke about how social media is fostering small business startups in the Arab world and offering a different narrative than that of the fanatics. She also called for dropping the “I” from ISIS since “there’s nothing Islamic about them.” 

A gallery of pictures from the conference can be found here.