Clean Energy Entrepreneur Desai on Tech’s Pitfalls & Promise 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 Nisha Desai, a clean energy entrepreneur in Houston. While she says she is concerned about tech’s impact on children, in particular—see more on that below—Desai says she still believes the positive impacts that emerge from innovative technologies outweigh the bad.

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

Nisha Desai: I don’t think 2017 was a turning point in attitudes towards tech, except in two areas. One is the intersection of politics and tech—I think with stories of meddling in elections, and stories about using Facebook and fake news and targeted ads to influence the way people think, that all seems to have created greater awareness about the impact of technology in our public policy.

Second, and this is particularly relevant to me as a parent, I think there is a lot more concern about the unintended consequences of technology on our kids. Every one knows that kids spend way too much time on their smartphones, and so far, we have tended to bemoan that from a way-of-life perspective. However, we are now seeing that there are truly darker sides to the way we use technology today, from cyber-bullying to much higher rates of stress, depression, and suicide amongst our kids.

Despite the above, I generally think that folks in my circles are very excited about tech, particularly in artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and blockchain. On the clean energy side, solar, energy storage, and microgrid continues to attract interest from multiple stakeholders.

[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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