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Alex Salkever    

Advanced Technology Futurist, Author of "The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future"

What does the future look like? Alex Salkever has been thinking and writing about this for two decades, covering AI, green energy, genetic engineering, cloud computing, self-driving cars and more.

A former BusinessWeek editor, he is the author of four award winning books examining the impact of technology on society and our personal well-being, including “The Driver in the Driverless Car: How our Technology Choices Will Create the Future” and “Your Happiness Was Hacked.”

Salkever has worked as a senior technology executive for multiple technology companies in Silicon Valley and contributes articles to leading publications including Fortune and Foreign Affairs.

Speech Topics


AI and the Future of Technology Infrastructure: It’s All Going to Change

The runaway success of ChatGPT, Stabile Diffusion, Midjourney and other generative AI systems has taken the new technology genre mainstream at lightspeed. But even though generative AI might seem like magic, there is a lot that has to happen behind the curtain for the Wizard to work. Already, the ChatGPT busy message is a common occurrence. Generative AI is incredibly compute intensive and combines heavy requirements for both massive data crunching in the cloud and localized, specialized data for specific contexts and use cases. Increasingly, as it becomes a part of every application — which is clearly the intent of Microsoft, the part owner of OpenAI — answers will need to be delivered quickly and crisply — as if we were actually talking to another person. To make this possible, we will need a total overhaul of our technology infrastructure. This talk will cover how the insatiable demand for AI will impact data centers, wireless networks, servers, devices, cloud computing, networking, and many other related aspects of infrastructure.

The AI Cheat Code: How ChatGPT (and AI Tools) Will (and Won’t) Forever Alter Human Work

In 2022, AI finally broke through to the mainstream and began to impact in obvious and meaningful ways our work. ChatGPT took the world by storm and upended the status quo. High school students used it to write college essays. Respected news publications tried it out for original articles. Executives began to use it to draft emails. Marketers started using it to write blogs and social media posts. Its output was astonishingly convincing. Except when it was factually incorrect, unoriginal and formulaic. ChatGPT will make us far more efficient for many tasks. But it will not replace humans and usually will become an extension of their wisdom. And that’s the key to understanding AI writ large, and its role for the next five years — the cheat code. AI can give humans superpowers but you have to understand its limitations to unlock its true magic. This talk will trace the origins of AI, the incredible breakthroughs of Deep Learning and modern AI, cover the limitations of current AI and provide guidance and insight on how AI will change human work in the near and long-term — and what that might mean for you.

Will AI Make Us Stupid and Other Relevant Questions to Ask Before We Buy In

With the rise of generative artificial intelligence, many creative tasks are now being outsourced to deep learning systems. Companies are rushing to embed AI into all manner of tasks. Some are low-value, such as responding to emails and analyzing customer sentiment or writing short abstracts. But we are also seeing people experiment with AI as a wholesale replacement for writing blogs, creating charts and graphics, and building powerpoint presentations. Is this healthy or good? What are the secondary and tertiary benefits of the creative process that make us better thinkers and more creative people — and will AI atrophy this muscle in catastrophic ways? What are the potential longer term impacts of AI on our brains?

What Happens When Energy Is Free?

The costs of creating and storing energy are rapidly dropping. Solar panel and wind power pricing is plunging. Batteries are quickly becoming more efficient, storing more power per square meter at a lower cost. And a host of new battery technologies are on the horizon. We have already seen what happens when certain things that used to be expensive become free. On the internet, knowledge became more or less free with the rise of Google (and it will become even more free with the improvements in AI like ChatGPT). This unleashed a torrent of innovation. In many industries, much lower energy costs unlock amazing possibilities — for example, today, many of the energy intensive industries like aluminum production and data centers are located in areas with cheap power even though those locations may be far from customers and create other costs. Air travel is totally bound by energy density calculations. Clean water becomes easy to make with cheap energy. So what will a world look like when energy is free and how will this change society and business?

The Coming Age of Hyper-Personalized Everything, From Vegetables to Clothes to House Design to Genetically Modified Kids

Hyper-personalization is like nuclear fusion — always 20 years away. But a host of breakthrough technologies have brought us to the brink of hyper-personalized reality. In medicine, it is now possible to affordably analyze DNA and prescribe treatments that work best for our specific genes (and, equally important, not waste time on treatments that don’t work). In food, CRISPR has made it incredibly easy to edit the genes of crops without adding alien DNA, unlocking the ability to create foods that match our nutritional needs. CRISPR is also unlocking novel gene therapies that will be highly personalized to treat specific conditions and even improve our kids by making them taller, smarter, and more resilient. The cost of 3-D printing is plummeting, leading to the emergence of affordable and infinitely customizable printed homes made from novel materials. Naturally, in the era of AI and chatbots, our interactions wiith information will be massively personalized and we will all truly live in an Internet of one. This talk looks at the future of hyper-personalziation, what it means for us, and the promise and peril of this exciting era.

The Future Coming Faster and Faster: Will It Be Jetson’s Or Blade Runner?

If it feels like the future is getting here faster and faster, you are correct. Technology innovation and adoption is accelerating by many key measures. How will this impact our lives for better and for worse? We have video doorbells with facial recognition, automated ovens that recognize foods and set cook times, and driverless cars that (mostly) drive better than humans. We are about to pass the ultimate reality check — flying taxis! At the same time, we live in a world where technology we cannot control in turn controls many aspects of our lives in ways that we may not like. From medical diagnoses to social media feeds to what interest rate we get on a credit card even to whether we get considered for a job, behind the scenes algorithms are exerting more and more hidden control — sometimes with terrifying results. For example, scientists are now realizing that many of the diagnostics algorithms for diseases work well on Caucasians but poorly on blacks and Asians because of genetic differences. In China, we have the ultimate example of a dystopian future — where people are biometrically tracked constantly and policed by drones telling them what to do and where they can go. This talk looks at the good and bad of the future, and what we as businesses, societies and humans can do to make it better.

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Lessons from Elon: How He Sees The Future and What We Can Learn From Him

Elon Musk is arguably the greatest business innovator of the 21st century. He founded Tesla, which took electric vehicles mainstream and made them cool. He founded SpaceX, which broke the iron grip of major defense companies on space launch and is now democratizing the satellite business. He is now executing one of the biggest land grabs ever in his rush to populate the Low Earth Orbit real estate with thousands of cheap, networked Starlink communication satellites. So maybe his Twitter takeover didn’t go so well, But there is a method to Elon’s madness. His insights and success hold lessons for every business on how to seize the future.

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