Houston Investor Murthy Reflects on Tech’s High & Low Points in 2017

A series of events this year—from the Equifax data breach to the foreign use of social media to influence the U.S. presidential election—has prompted some to question the utopian promise of innovation, especially when it comes to Web companies and cybersecurity.

To help put things in perspective at year’s end, Xconomy reached out to Neal Murthy, a Houston investor, entrepreneur, and gaming enthusiast, who, in 2017 launched his latest project designed to foster innovation in the western hemisphere. Called Innovation Across the Americas, the NGO is focused on leveraging expertise across borders, especially between the US and Mexico.

While Murthy says he believes overall public sentiment about tech is positive—as evidenced by our increasing adoption in all walks of life—he does acknowledge that news such as that of Apple saying the company purposefully slows down older iPhones could mean a meaningful shift in the public’s perception of the company.

Xconomy: Do you think 2017 was a turning point in public attitudes toward technology and the tech industry?

Neal Murthy: Not really a turning point. There were ups and downs in public attitudes toward tech.

X: Which attitudes in particular have changed, and in what ways?

NM: I believe more people are aware of the impact of cybersecurity issues, although the general upward trend of awareness and adoption of technology has continued. I don’t see 2017 as a particular inflection point in public attitudes, however.

X: If attitudes toward tech have changed for the worse, what were the events that brought about these attitude changes, or solidified them?

NM: In the U.S., I’d say the most impactful event in tech attitudes was the Equifax data breach, which affected a large swath of people and caused a great deal of concern. The revelation of the Uber data breach is probably impactful too—the event occurred in 2016, but it was revealed in 2017 to the public. Apple also revealed that they’re purposely slowing down older iPhones; this could have profound impact on how people perceive Apple, in particular, and what it means to “own” a device. Generally, however, it’s too early to tell what the impact—if any—will be.

X: Has the public perception of tech improved in some ways? If so, how and why?

NM: Interestingly (and relevant to all these questions so far), I don’t know of a good measure of public perception of tech; perhaps someone should create one. That being said, the continued increase in tech can be seen as a positive reflection of public perception in some ways, I’d think.

X: Does the change in public attitudes show up in ways that could materially affect the tech industry? If so, how?

NM: Undoubtedly. I’ve referenced the Apple “fiasco” above. No idea what the impact could be, but it might erode the public reputation of Apple and shift power and influence in the mobile markets.

[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of posts sharing thoughts from technology leaders about 2017 trends and 2018 forecasts.]

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