Friday, February 3, 2023
My mind is still reeling from my trip to Lisbon last week to keynote at the Building The Future tech conference sponsored by Microsoft.
My premise was that those in the tech industry are arguably the most powerful people in the world and with great power comes great responsibility and a duty to protect human rights (which is not the global state of the law).
I challenged the audience to consider the financial price of implementing human rights by design and the societal cost of doing business as usual.
In 20 minutes, I covered AI bias and new EU regulations; the benefits and dangers of ChatGPT; the surveillance economy; the UNGPs and UN Global Compact; a new suit by Seattle’s school board against social media companies alleging harmful mental health impacts on students; potential corporate complicity with rogue governments; the upcoming Supreme Court case on Section 230 and content moderator responsibility for “radicalizing” users; and made recommendations for the governmental, business, civil society, and consumer members in the audience.
Thank goodness I talk quickly.
Here are some non-substantive observations and lessons. In a future post, I'll go in more depth about my substantive remarks.
1. Your network is critical. Claire Bright, a business and human rights rock star, recommended me based on a guest lecture I did for her class. My law students are in for a treat when she speaks with them about the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (that she helped draft) next month.
2. Your social media profile is important. Organizers looked at videos that had nothing to do with this topic to see how I present on a stage. People are always watching.
3. Sometimes you can’t fake it until you make it. This is one of the few times where I didn’t know more than my audience about parts of my presentation. I prepared so that I could properly respect my audience’s expertise. For example, I watched 10 hours of video on a tech issue to prepare one slide just in case someone asked a question during the networking sessions.
4. Speak your truth. Going to a tech conference to tell tech people about their role in human rights and then going to a corporate headquarters to do the same isn’t easy, but it’s necessary and I had no filter or restrictions. I didn't hold back talking about Microsoft-backed ChatGPT even though they invited me to Lisbon for the conference. It was an honor to speak to Microsoft employees the day after the conference with Claire, Luis Amado, former head of B Lab Europe, and Susana Guedes to discuss sustainability, ESG, diversity, and incentivizing companies and employees to do the right thing, even when it's not popular.
5. Explore and leave the hotel even when you’re tired. I was feeling run down last Friday night and wanted to stay in bed with some room service. Manuela Doutel Haghighi (one of my new favorite people) organized a dinner at an Iranian restaurant owned by a former lawyer with 6 badass women, and I now have new colleagues and collaborators.
Stay tuned for my next post where I'll cover some of my remarks.