Welcome to #TechAways, where our talented tech team – full of voracious readers – introduces you to our selection of the top stories we’ve read each week. We’re here to help you keep up with the hottest developments in the tech world and their implications for Europe.
Zachery here, with #TechAways coming your way from Davos this week. The World Economic Forum’s annual conference brings together the glitterati of the corporate, NGO and political bubbles. Tech companies have historically been the darlings of the party, but oh how things have changed.
It’s no secret that big tech has had a tough time lately – from major hacks and online hate speech to manipulated elections. Some of the big players, like Facebook, came to Davos on the defence. Policy-makers, NGOs and companies alike seem ready to tackle some of those hard issues with a multi-stakeholder approach. Some tech leaders are even ready for – shockingly – more regulation.
Will the political élite play ball?
While not openly negative about the role of big tech in European society, Monsieur Macron made one thing clear: fairer is better. Monsieur Macron clearly sees an important role for big tech and big data in the future of France and the EU, but he advocates a digital ecosystem that is both friendlier to newcomers and more beneficial to society.
Will his charm offence continue to bring other leaders on board?
We’ll keep you posted.
An about-face charm offensive [Reuters]
Facebook launched a timely charm offence towards EU leaders just before leaving for Davos to mingle with the 1%. First, executives like Elliot Schrage (VP of Communications and Policy) tacked on opportunities to speak to national policymakers and stakeholders across Europe before heading to Switzerland. New national legislation like Germany’s hate speech rules have them eager to push what the company views as a more balanced approach. Putting their money where their mouth is, Facebook announced the opening of three new European training centres. As pressure mounts on issues like copyright, privacy and competition, Facebook is clearly eager to demonstrate its contributions to the EU.
Salesforce CEO: “Social media seriously harms you and others around you” [The Guardian]
Do you consider Facebook as harmful as cigarettes? Well, this is what Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff suggested during an interview in Davos. He believes technology has addictive qualities that must be addressed. He wants governments to bring in regulation, as they did with cigarettes, to prevent social media from being psychologically damaging for users. However, how feasible is it for authorities to set up restrictions on social media that are often used worldwide? Legal proceedings are by nature lengthy while technology evolves at lightning speed.
The AI map [Wall Street Journal]
The US is a powerhouse when it comes to academic and corporate AI research. China is quickly catching up, thanks to growing investments, as well as freer access to big data. And Europe? It’s known more for legislation and privacy restrictions rather than for innovation. And the eternal question about balancing privacy and ethics against innovation? Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer for Microsoft, which has invested heavily in AI and is also is vocal supporter of strong privacy protections says: “Ultimately, AI advances are inextricably founded on the broad use of data to train machines as they go about learning.”
Interested in coding? Teach yourself! [MIT Technology]
HackerRank published a ‘Developer Skills Report’ based on a survey of more than 39,000 developers. What does it say? One out of four developers learned how to code before they could drive. Apparently, it is never too late – or too early – to start coding. Interesting however is that more than 70% of the developers are at least partially self-taught. Motivated to learn? Most coders say they turn to the developer community Stack Overflow or YouTube, 60% use good old-fashioned books and 50% rely on MOOCs and online courses. This year’s EU Code Week will take place between 6-21 October. Stay tuned!