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Craft header mcb tech sak

Get ready for Techno Socialism

Mcb tech makes us deliberate on important topics with impact across sectors. This year we looked closer at surveillance capitalism and the use of new technology for good and for bad; are we headed for an egalitarian tech utopia or a dystopian neo-feudalism where the billionaires of the world reign supreme?

More people than ever came to experience mcb tech this year, with a star-speckled lineup of international keynote speakers and futurists from the Norwegian startup scene. As always, the overarching theme was future, tech, and innovation, but in somewhat contrast to previous years, the message from the speakers was not all rainbows and unicorns about the future.

Everything is on the line.

How we did it

The annual future-oriented tech conference is initiated and hosted by the Norwegian clusters NCE Media and NCE Finance Innovation, usually done physically at Media City Bergen. To make this year’s conference truly stand out in a digital venue, we deployed the technology from Vizrt, a Bergen-based company known to be the world’s leading provider of visual storytelling tools. With their technology, we were able to create a virtual studio and “teleport” speakers to the stage. Mcb tech .21 was supported by our partners: Sparebanken Vest, Vizrt, NRK, TV2, BT, Schibsted, Frende Forsikring, Forskningsrådet, and VIS, as well as our international community partners from more than 20 different countries.

A live conversation between Jake Tapper in a studio in the US and Dyveke Buanes in Media City Bergen, made possible by the technology of Vizrt.

Facebook vs. Democracy

The first speaker was Jake Tapper, Chief Washington Correspondent, and Anchor at CNN - masterfully teleported into our virtual studio at Media City Bergen by the team at Vizrt. Tapper and Dyveke Buanes (NRK) discussed how the Trump administration had mastered the art of digital marketing, luring the minds of the American people into an alternative reality where the lines between facts and lies were blurred at best.

Futurist, King of Disruption, and “tech optimist” Brett King took us into the future by showcasing the astonishing potential of new technology such as 3D printed homes, lab-grown food and gene therapy to eliminate health issues and decease. In his view, there are four potential outcomes, where only one is desirable for the collective good: “the rise of technosocialism”. In this utopian future, we can leverage technology to create better living conditions and equality for everyone, and not just the select few – the modern royalty if you will.

Brett King talking about the future of technology with moderator Henrik Lie-Nielsen.

How we decide to use technology was also at the focus of Shoshana Zuboff´s presentation. Her talk centered on our false perception of control when it comes to how we use social media, and the information we give away about ourselves online. What we do not realize is how much information is “taken” from us and how this is used to influence how we act, think, and even vote in an election by serving highly targeted information (or misinformation) to each and every one of us.

“You can have Facebook, or you can have democracy, but you cannot have both” - Shoshana Zuboff.

The shortcomings of Capitalism

At the end of the conference, we were left wondering what could happen if we let GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) continue unchecked. The speakers also took a critical stance towards the shortcomings of capitalism, and how it in part is responsible for the spread of Covid-19, economic inequality, and destabilization of our democracy. The drive towards more and more sophisticated technology is often rooted in delivering a return on investment for shareholders, and the powerful algorithms behind the social media platforms we use every day are developed to turn our attention towards advertisers and in doing so change the world some small percentage in their favor.

Shoshana Zuboff known from Netflix docudrama "The Social Dilamma" and Pinar Heggernes, Professor at The University of Bergen.

The question, then, is what the goals of these advertisers are. Is it something that we can all benefit from – or is it to make the rich even wealthier or to spread misinformation in the run-up to an election. And are we being critical enough in questioning what this technological development could lead to if the companies behind the levers are left to their own devices? These are questions we should ask ourselves, and that we hope mcb tech .21 gave you some food for thought going forward.

You can also read a take on this by Agenda Magasin.

Global reach and significance

At the core of mcb tech is the desire to attract and put a spotlight on global impulses, and to showcase Norwegian innovation to the world. This year the conference made it to an audience all over the world thanks to the collaboration with our community partners in Scandinavia, Tokyo, Milan, Singapore, Hong Kong and more – all in all 20 different countries. Mcb tech .21 really showed the potential of doing global events in a digital pre-covid world- something we hope the record-breaking number of participants this year can attest to!

Mcb tech managed to get a globa reach thanks to our great community partners from all over the world.