Alec Ross

Alec Ross

Author of The Industries of the Future. Formerly Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary Clinton

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 11, 2016

Discussion

Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
Hi - I'm Alec Ross, author of the Industries of the Future. If you want to understand what's going to shape our world for the next 10 years, I've got some thoughts and would love to hear yours. I'm delighted to be here-- ask me anything!
Kingsong Chen
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
Hi Alec, I am starting to see that cities are making a real effort to innovate. How do you think we can attract more young people to government technology?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@kingsongchen Such a good question. I think the main thing to drive young people to public service vs. the private sector who have technology chops is for government to not frustrate the hell out of young people with their insane, inane procurement process. When somebody with technology skills goes into government and then can't use those skills because they can't use the tools that they want and build what they want, it sends them back to the private sector
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hey, Alec! One of my favorite questions to ask is what do you think will change in the next 10 years that most others will disagree with?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@rrhoover Here it is --- In ten years, the deaf and mute will be able to speak, and everybody reading this article will be conversant in dozens of foreign languages, eliminating the very concept of a language barrier. It used to be the case when I traveled abroad that I would take a little pocket dictionary that provided translations for commonly used phrases and words. If I wanted to construct a sentence, I would thumb through the dictionary for five minutes to develop a clunky expression with unconjugated verbs and my best approximation of the correct noun. Today I take out my phone and type the phrase into Google Translate, which returns a translation as fast as my Internet connection can provide it, in any of 90 languages. When I can’t say something, I’ll hold up the screen and my non-English-speaking counterpart can read what I am failing to say. Of course my pronunciation is bad to the point of incoherence, I can only do a couple of sentences at a time, and I have no idea what others are saying to me in response. It’s basically good enough to ask where the bathroom is and then hope somebody points in the right direction. Today’s machine translation is leaps and bounds faster and more effective than my old dictionary method, but it still falls short in accuracy, functionality, and delivery. In essence, this is little more than a data and computing problem. Professional translators argue that local dialects, inflections, and nuance are too complex for computers to ever account for sufficiently. But they are wrong. Today’s translation tools were developed by computing more than a billion translations a day for over 200 million people. With the exponential growth in data, that number will soon signify the number of translations made in an afternoon, then in an hour. Massive amounts of language data will go in and out. As the amount of data that informs translation grows exponentially, the machines will grow exponentially more accurate and be able to parse the smallest detail. Whenever the machine translations get it wrong, users can flag the error—and that data too will be incorporated into future attempts. We just need more data, more computing power, and better software. These will come with the passage of time and will fill in the communication gaps in areas including pronunciation and interpreting a spoken response.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Thoughts on Bernie Sanders? If you were working on the Clinton campaign, what would you have her do immediately?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@jeffumbro I don't think that most people who are supporting Bernie Sanders know that he's a socialist. I would educate people about what a socialist actually believes while also emphasizing her vision for how she can address the legitimate issues of Sanders supporters such as inequality
Arsalan Khan, M.Sc.
Arsalan Khan, M.Sc.@arsalanakhan · Blogger
Hey Alec, What are the top 3 ways to spur citizen innovation through federal, state, local governments and families?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@arsalanakhan 1. Reform the government IT procurement process 2. Make it easier to hire tech experts and/or enable tech experts to volunteer to do work in partnership with governments and 3. more open data, so that citizens can use government data/resources to build products that make use of that data in a way that government isn't doing on its own
Arsalan Khan, M.Sc.
Arsalan Khan, M.Sc.@arsalanakhan · Blogger
@alecjross Any estimates on how much open data is currently being used by citizens?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@arsalanakhan yeesh --- I'm not sure.
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hi Alec! 😀. I'd love to know, what's the one thing you've done professionally that scared you the most?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@mscccc Great question! Hmmmmmm....probably some of the really edgy work I did in the east Congo taking on some of the militias. That made some pretty nasty enemies
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What makes you happy? 😃
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@ems_hodge This question! Here are 5 more things 1. Playing sports with my kids 2. Cooking 3. Eating (do you see a trend here) 4. Playing racketball and 5. Traveling someplace I've never been before...
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Noting your knowledge on the "industries of the future", which, do you believe, are the cities of the future? In America, or otherwise.
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@andrewmettinger So glad you asked that! Bottom line: I think there will be 10-15 global foci for the innovations of the future, maybe 3 of which are in the USA. There's a chapter about this in my book (http://alecross.com/the-industri...) and an excerpt here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/s...
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi @alecjross. Thanks for joining us today. When you think about the intersection of technology and government - what do you think the biggest opportunity is?
@alecjross I live in Philadelphia, however I am from Jamaica -- how can small caribbean countries build, innovate and compete with power houses like the US and China?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@iamcuan I don't think "compete" should be the goal. I think that the goal should be to start a business that builds a product or service that people around the world want and buy. I think that trying to compete with a country with 1.3 billion people (China) and the world's center of innovation (USA) is not the short-term goal. The short-term goal should be the creation of a strong business that scales outside of the region
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
What startup are you most fascinated by and why?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@alexcartaz Let me give you two: Mark43 and Andela. Mark43 is re-inventing law enforcement by giving local law enforcement the kinds of tools normally reserved for the likes of MI5 of the FBI. I believe that this will create less police harassment, less targeting based on race, and a better job of identifying real criminals. I introduced the CEO, Scott Crouch to David Petraeus (who knows a thing or two about security analytics) and he was so impressed he invested. I did the same with Eric Schmidt (who knows a lot about data science) and he did the same. Andela represents the best of how the technology community can fuel the development of Africa with a private sector model. Check them out here http://www.andela.com/
Carmen
Carmen@macclabs · travel writer, cofounder
Hi Alec, what do you think will the speed of the internet / technology increase in the next 10 years- double, tripple ...?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@theleanpioneer today, February of 2016, we live in a world of 16 billion networked devices. By 2020 that number will be 40 billion. Given this slope, the speed of technology will increase far more than just double or triple. It will be UNRECOGNIZABLE in 10 years to what we have today
Manuel Meneses Namihira
Manuel Meneses Namihira@manuel_meneses · Social Innovator, co-founder @Cirklomx
Hi Alec! What is the best path you think there is to tackle inequality in the future, and what role will technology play?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@manuel_meneses I have a decided non-sexy answer to this ---- I think we need to reform vocational education and community college so that they are more focused on the industries of the future. They serve very vulnerable parts of the population, and I think they could get hurt in the next wave of automated labor if they aren't reformed. The other thing I would say is tax code reform. It's INSANE that the wealthiest Americans often pay lower tax rates than the middle class. Our tax system is fundamentally unjust, and it's unjust because it is so complicated and riddled with loopholes
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What's something you've changed your mind about in the last year?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@jakecrump Well, for one thing I never thought the Republican party would nominate a fascist to be president, but they might.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Alec! How do you see charities and charity giving evolving in the future?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@theo_dimarhos I have spent more time working in the nonprofit/charity sector than I have in either government or business so this is something I care a lot about. I think that the one way in which they should evolve (note should, not will) is there needs to be more consolidation. There are too many itty bitty little charitable organizations have tiny impacts but having a full-time staff. The charitable world needs to become more business-like, while continuing to serve the public good
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Alec. I'd love to know more about your thoughts on robots and their role in industry in the next few years?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@ems_hodge The robots from the cartoons and movies of the 1970s will be the reality of the 2020s. Look for them to go from doing work that is merely manual and routine to work that is cognitive and non-routine. What that means is that robotic labor is going to go from just being blue collar labor to also becoming white collar labor which is a BFD
@alecjross What future technological innovation do you think will be disastrous for the American middle class?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@iamcuan hmmmm....I'd say that blockchain technology is going to nearly eliminate the need for paralegals and wipe out big chunks of the legal profession. That's bad for people with these jobs (who are middle class) but it will also create consumer surplus that benefits the middle class
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@jakecrump I really don't have one. My life is kind of bananas. In 2015 I probably traveled to 20+ countries and no one day looked anything like the next, except when I was writing, in which case a typical day had me unshaven, in sweats at my computer. Interrupting myself to go for a run/work-out and eat. Then the kids come home and I make dinner
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
If Silicon Valley and the federal government collaborated to help solve one problem with an infusion of technical know-how and development, what do you think the most important problem would be and why?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@alexcartaz I think they need to work together to counter violent extremism and ISIS recruiting. I am NOT in favor of creating mandatory backdoors into encrypted technology as FBI Director Comey is, but I do recognize that the reason that Al Qaeda dwelled in caves and ISIS holds physical territory and is openly recruiting is at least partially because in Al Qaeda's hayday they didn't have social media. By contrast, ISIS does a great job using social media and using the American technology industry's communication tools to recruit. we've got to work together to counter that
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
Who are some of your role models?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@jakecrump here are three: 1. Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America and Teach for All. 2. Walter Isaacson who runs the Aspen Institute and well-known author 3. Sheryl Sandberg. Triple threat: government, private sector, author/influencer
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What are the 3 resources that have most improved your life? (blogs, books, movies, advisors, etc)
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@jacqvon Great question....I'd put friends at the top of the list. As I've ascended in my career, they've grown all the more important both as advocates and as people who continue to give me honest feedback. The higher I ascend in my career, the fewer people tell me what they really think. #2 I would say is the internet. I know that's ridiculously broad, but having access to a universe of information was not something I had at my fingertips when I graduated from college in 1994. #3 is travel. I know that's not really a "resource" but I'm so much better a person and professional because of what I've learned traveling
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Alec! Thanks for joining us. What's something you used to fervently believe that you now see as fundamentally misguided?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@eriktorenberg hmmmm ....good God that's a good question...... I used to believe that we had to crack down harder on non-violent drug criminals. This was actually from my experience as an inner-city school teacher in Baltimore where I saw the impact of drugs and drug-related violence in the neighborhood where I taught. I now thing that this is a failing strategy and we need to look at drug addiction/abuse as more of a public health than law enforcement issue. This may seem SUPER obvious to many/most, but when I was spending every day in inner-city Baltimore, this was not my perspective...
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What's your favorite app? Aside from Product Hunt, of course.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's something you believe (not mentioned here yet) that is unpopular?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@eriktorenberg Well, in my social circle my belief in the death penalty is unpopular. That would probably put me in company with less than 10% of the people of San Francisco....
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
It's interesting to think of all the opportunities for technical innovation in the government. Do you think government identification will ever transition into a permanent digital form? E.g. in addition to a physical birth certificate we can always log in to a government website/portal to see our information, cast votes in elections, see our medical records, see tax information, etc. If so, when do you think this will happen and what are the biggest barriers? If not, why do you think it will never happen?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@alexcartaz It's already happening in some places. Estonia is the best example. It's basically 100% digital. India (which is 1.2 billion people compared with Estonia's couple million) is going to an all electronic identity program. I think the barrier to the USA doing this is not technological, it's cultural. First, we don't have "national" IDs. That is typically done by the state. Second, I think people are getting more and more worried about privacy and what government can do to compromise that privacy.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What do people in tech just not get about politics or government?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@eriktorenberg Tech is a bubble. They don't get that the mindset(s) in the tech community doesn't always (or even often) translate to middle America. I think the other thing I see is that tech often sees every problem as having a rational solution, but in geopolitics, there is much that is inherently irrational. You can't de-bug ISIS. There's no hack there.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
How do you think technology can be used to grow the middle class, reduce wealth inequality, and/or increase the efficacy of public education?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@alexcartaz How to answer that in under 2 minutes...the bottom line is that technology can deliver world-class education to communities that lack quality education. That's the single biggest thing it can do to strengthen the middle class
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's a question we forgot to ask you? If you were asking yourself questions here, what would you ask yourself?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@eriktorenberg What's your philosophy in life?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@eriktorenberg And having just asked myself the question, here's the answer: "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
Kim Willis
Kim Willis@kim_willis · Strategy Consultant
Hi Alec, Volunteering in Lesvos, Greece for the refugee crisis I met many super smart people whose dreams have been interrupted . I can't get comfortable with the idea they'll have to settle for jobs in new countries, if they are granted asylum, that are beneath their capabilities. How do we quickly turn refugee camps into innovation centers so that those who are stuck in transit, without a country, can feel empowered and create their own future? Which industries would benefit most quickly from cultivating this workforce?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@kim_willis Great question. There is some cutting edge work here through something called "The Hive" which is being developed by UNHCR and Ari Wallach. Having said that, there is no easy answer to this. Refugee camps can be truly awful places. The level of dislocation and disorientation is impossible to under-state. I love what UNHCR is doing, but I think that before making the camps "innovation centers" they have to be made clean, functional places. Now I know many of them already are (and I hope that's the case where you are volunteering in Lesvos) but sadly the ones that I have seen are not quite like that
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What's your take on VR? Do you think it will eventually be a success?
Alec Ross
Alec Ross@alecjross · Author, The Industries of the Future
@jakecrump I've never had an immersive VR experience. I was at the FB HQ recently and was supposed to check it out, but ended up running out of time. I expect that it will eventually be a success. I think that we're basically still on chapter 1, page 1. This is a $ intense field so it will take time to develop, but I bet it will develop...I could see it as a big industry of the 2020s