VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger has used his VMworld 2019 keynote to ask the tech industry to not lose sight of the good technology can result in.
“Technologies, they amplify human behaviour — the good and the bad — then we ask the question: Is tech good or bad?,” Gelsinger asked. “The answer is generally neutral; it’s neither good or bad, but it’s often how we shape it and will technology shape the world that we want to live in, or will it create a world that we’re afraid to live in?”
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“I sincerely and equally believe that technology has the opportunity to expand the life of every human on the planet and eradicate diseases that have plagued mankind … to give modern education to every child on the planet … to lift the remaining 10% of the planet out of poverty, reverse the implications of climate change,” the CEO continued.
According to Gelsinger, developers have the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat to ensure the world heads in a positive direction.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a technologist. Honestly, I could have said that 10 years ago, but what’s different today is, I think there’s never been a more important time to be a technologist, like it or not, we have a bigger role to play in the future of the planet and humanity,” Gelsinger said.
“No one is more qualified, more capable to do that.”
Gelsinger also touched on blockchain, calling the underlying idea — distributed ledger technology (DLT) — good, but its most popular outcome, bitcoin, bad.
“Blockchain, this idea of distributed and immutable trust — is it good or bad?,” Gelsinger asked. “Bitcoin today is not okay, but the underlying technology is extremely powerful.”
He justified this by saying bitcoin is often tied up in illicit activity, and uses a lot of power.
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“We believe we should do both good engineering and engineering for good,” he said of why VMware is investing in blockchain.
In a bid to highlight the lack of diversity still abundant in the tech industry, Gelsinger put the spotlight onto nonprofit organisation Techsoup that provides support to other nonprofits. Specifically, the organisation’s partnership with MotherCoders, a nonprofit with the mission to help women with kids continue or begin careers in tech so they can thrive in a digital economy.
With only 24% of the tech industry represented by women, Gelsinger said “that is simply not right”.
On inclusivity, Gelsinger said it’s important that organisations aren’t left behind as the industry moves to the next phase of technological transformation.
“It’s so important to empower everyone,” he said. “There’s a lot of amazing social goodness that’s going on, and almost everything spreads to technology, but again it’s not about the technology itself, technology is only inherently good or inherently bad — if we help people use it effectively, that makes a difference for them.”
Touching further on why he is involving himself in tech for good initiatives, Gelsinger told media following the keynote that it’s important to set the culture of the organisation from the top.
“If you’re going to be a CEO, the business has to be successful … but once you’ve made the business successful, everything else is important, such as the culture that you set,” he said.
“Are you going to get there with the highest of integrity, or cutting corners?
“I think the singular view that the sole notion of a business us to produce profits for shareholders — that was maybe an appropriate way to think about it in the early days of capitalism 60-70 years ago, so I strongly believe this is a sea-change kind of environment we’re in.”
Disclosure: Asha Barbaschow travelled as a guest of VMware to VMworld in San Francisco