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.

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Last year I had the opportunity to meet with Xeudi Chen and Pedro Oliveira, the Backslash team at Tisch’s ITP lab. At the time, I didn’t understand how the geographical relevance of their project would change so significantly in a year. Backslash is an NYU project that creates devices to protect protect protesters in countries without the democratic right to peaceful dissent.
Backslash features:
  • A bandana with encoded messages that differ depending on how it’s folded and can only be unlocked when an image of the fabric is scanned with a corresponding app
  • A jammer to block your signal because governments have retaliated against people whose metadata have placed them near the protest
  • A geotagged panic button that warns others when violence has escalated
  • A personal router for when the government has blocked cell service
  • A personal black box to have a record of the protest as police crush cameras and phones – it is discrete and can’t break
All of these were made by non-engineers with low-cost, accessible, existing tech. These products were not intended for use in the US, but their use may becoming increasingly relevant here, particularly as journalists come under deeper scrutiny.
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Genevieve’s Bio

Hi All!

My name is Genevieve and I am studying Risk and Resilience at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. My background is very interdisciplinary, but I am broadly interested are power dynamics and how they play out at intersections of various fields and technologies. A few examples of related projects that I have been working on recently examine:
  • The role of bias, transparency and accountability in AI through The Future Institute at HKS
  • The relationship between neuroscience and the risks associated with astronauts’ spacesuits through SEAS
  • Applications of soft robotics at the Wyss Institute
  • Data extraction and the creation of a data economy in the Arctic through the Harvard Urban Theory Lab
Prior to coming to Cambridge, I was teaching design ethics and intercultural communications in social innovation and technology at the University of British Colombia, Kaospilot, RISD and the Pratt Institute. I have also founded a jewellery company that focuses on international mining policy. We partner with organizations such as the UN, OECD, USAID, etc. on issues relating to property rights and conflict in mineral extraction.
In this course, I am interested in exploring the implications of power structures and technologies across media.
I am from Vancouver, Canada. I really love to surf and snowboard and solidly am mediocre at both.
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