The Next Step: An Exponential Life

This evening, MIT Technology Review hosted a dialogue on the unprecedented technological revolution that we are currently witnessing, debating both the risks and opportunities that lay before us. Making up the panel were:

  • Francisco González, BBVA Group Executive Chairman
  • Dr. Steven M. Lipkin, Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University
  • Dr. Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
  • Professor Joseph A. Paradiso, MIT Media Lab
  • Professor Jonathan Rossiter, University of Bristol
  • Jason Pontin, editor and chief and publisher of the MITTR


The guests described how we have found ourselves at the beginning of the 4th Industrial Revolution rooted in both information and economics. They were interested in separating what can be considered pure science fiction from actual risk, with an emphasis on emerging technologies, which have ultimately put humanity at risk. We are changing our climate at a rate that we have not yet seen. We are wiping out species at an unprecedented rate.There have been two dozen near misses involving nuclear technologies.



The nature of technology as a double edged sword was emphasized. It has raised the quality of life, health and education, and a new capacity for happiness globally. The same technology poses an existential risk, however, to humanity.

For example, the biotech intelligence that creates the capacity for bioweapons, will also be the solution to wiping out the next global pandemic. The challenge will be in ensuring that these technologies benefit as many people as possible.hÉigeartaigh and Lipkin cautioned how inequalities will also exacerbate the risks. Whether assessing access to healthcare or affordability of space flight, the economics profoundly change the impact of the historical perspective.



Rosetter asserted that Brexit and Trump’s win are a reflection of a revolt against modernity and a rejection of expertise.

With an entirely white male panel, there was a glaring lack of diversity, particularly given the nature of its content. A conversation on the future narrows drastically with a limited engagement amongst its participants.