The Challenge of Managing Disruptive Technology

  • Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced, "we’ve completed construction of our first full scale aircraft … Aquila a solar powered unmanned plane that beams down Internet connectivity from the sky. It has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 … and can stay in the air for months at a time. We've also made a breakthrough in laser communications technology. We've successfully tested a new laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second … and it can accurately connect with a point the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away."
  • At a conference on air traffic management systems for unmanned aircraft in Mountain View, CA (attendees included representatives fromNASAFAAAmazonGoogleVerizon and Cisco) Brian Wynne, CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Internationalsaid  "We have a lot of real estate agents that are out there taking pictures of properties, and that's great, but we have much more complex operations that we need to be able to get to, including beyond visual line-of-sight and nighttime operations ... we need finalized rules [by the FAA] as soon as possible.”  
  • At the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence inBuenos Aires, Argentina -  Tesla’s Elon MuskApple co-founder Steve Wozniak, professors Stephen Hawking and Noam Chomsky and over 1,000 AI and robotics researchers, presented a letter that said “Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria … artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where thedeployment of such systems is … feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: … we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so.Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”


  • As commercial interests leverage advances in computingdata  storage,  communications and artificial intelligenceregulators face the difficult challenge of helping to enable innovation while addressing many potential safetyenvironmental and privacy issues.
  • Also, debates about “appropriate use” in the area of warfare (as highlighted at the Buenos Aires event) as well as worker displacement in the labor force will likely increase.
  • Bottom line – “disruptive technology” will bring about manyunexpected outcomes – with positive and negative economic andsocial impacts.