UW-Madison graduate Brian Pinkerton, who has worked for some of the world’s largest tech companies and is now chief architect for Apple’s Siri, talked about the changing responsibilities of big tech during his presentation to the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. The conference was held virtually Thursday.
“This is a time when we should ask companies to do … a more rigorous job of being citizens of the world,” said Pinkerton, who has worked for a mix of companies ranging from startups to Amazon, Facebook and Apple. He also serves on the board of visitors for the UW-Madison Department of Computer Sciences.
It’s not that Pinkerton blames the “tech” itself — he invented some of it, including the world’s oldest-surviving internet search engine. Rather, Pinkerton sees technology as a tool envisioned for useful purposes by software developers and others who didn’t always stop to think about possible harmful effects on society. Techies generally saw their work as democratizing communications and data, not something that might be manipulated to disrupt democracy.
“The technology and the grow of the networks (expanded) way faster than we could grow our legal mechanisms or our social mechanisms to respond to it,” Pinkerton said. In part, that was due to a “healthy tension” between building platforms and companies to better connect people and generating the advertising revenue to pay for it.