How Will Humans and Technology Interact in the Next Decades?

Cyberport Venture Capital Forum

Tech investor Dr. David Siegel and serial entrepreneur Steve Hoffman shares insightful thoughts regarding the technological agendas that are going to prevail in the upcoming decades

While the world has witnessed a rapid digitalization of our everyday life in the course of the pandemic, attention has been brought to the debate that has long been around–how should humans and technology interact? And how do we prepare for new developments? In response to this, Dr. David Siegel, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder of financial sciences company Two Sigma, and Steve Hoffman, Captain & CEO of the world-leading startup accelerator Founders Space, have shared some of their unique insights with us.

Humans are the center of technology

Dr. Siegel, an expert in building autonomous computational systems, described the pandemic as an “automation-forcing event”. Despite the massive integration of technology into our lives in the past two years, he is alarmed at how it is being used to “dehumanize work, social interaction, and so many other aspects of our lives during the pandemic”. 

Not everyone is fortunate enough to work, learn, and socialize from home–it is a privilege, and Dr. Siegel is aware of that. “[This] has given us a glimpse of what an overly tech-centric future could look like–and it verges on dystopian,” he says.

To highlight the importance of investing in the workforce, he brought up how the multinational automobile manufacturer Ford Motor Company made a smart call by investing in people. Back in the mid-1910s, the company paid their workers more than double the prevailing factory salary. Not only did the move build a committed and reliable workforce, it also expanded and sustained the customer base. This investment reflected the fact that owners, employees and consumers are all equally substantial parts of the system.

Hence, Dr. Siegel urges everyone to “place people at the center of the future we’re building”, if we don’t want our society, economy and sanity to suffer.

Dr. David Siegel, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder of financial sciences company Two Sigma. Image courtesy of David Siegel.

Future of finance and investment-quantitative technology

Apart from replacing in-person lectures and business meetings with Zoom calls and developing vaccines against Covid-19 at an unprecedented speed, technology has also been pushing into other areas like investment and finance.

Over the past few decades, the field of quantitative investment has made significant advancements. On that, Dr. Siegel contends that the role of quantitative approaches–that is, those based on advanced data science and systematic techniques–will continue to grow in private market investing. These approaches will extend to data-rich areas like real estate, private equity, and venture capital. 

In response, some companies are utilizing sophisticated data science methods to boost their growth and profitability. Meanwhile, other private investment firms, like Two Sigma, are scouting ways to source and analyze deals quantitatively. When Dr. Siegel co-founded Two Sigma, he believed that innovative technology and data science could help discover value in the world’s data. Today, the company drives transformations across the financial services industry in investment management, venture capital, private equity and insurance.

Buckle up, startups! Capital and funds await you!

Hoffman also agrees with the urge to get more tech-savvy talent on board, especially for startups who aim to grab the market. “A tsunami of venture capital has flooded the market. Investors are hungry, and startups can name their prices,” says Hoffman. Noticing the growing shortage of workers globally, Hoffman contends that there are sweeping opportunities for startups developing artificial intelligence (AI) and smart machines to fundraise and grow. Another area that will witness rapid growth is the tracking and optimizing of logistics, supply chains and manufacturing, for which AI can immensely optimize performance and deliver more value to customers.

“Startups should be raising as much capital as possible, so if a contraction does come, they can not only survive but continue to grow,” suggests Hoffman. Besides raising funds, the location where startups establish and grow their businesses is also crucial. On that, Hoffman sees a myriad of untapped potential for entrepreneurs in new markets, like Southeast Asia, India and Africa.

Steve Hoffman, Captain & CEO of Founders Space. Image courtesy of Steve Hoffman.

Human talents are key to tech-led future

Regardless of the extent that the financial sector embraces technologies, like AI, Dr. Siegel insists that human talent and effective teamwork are key to unlocking the potential of technology. “Systems talent and a systematic approach are required to develop the complex infrastructure that enables data aggregation, analysis and computation reliably and at scale,” he remarks.

Moreover, highly experienced, intelligent and creative researchers, who can select from the multitude of machine-learning techniques available and devise approaches that generate significant value, are also crucial. He adds, “paradoxically, for the foreseeable future, progress in machine learning may depend even more on people–people with interest in financial applications and great skill in computer science, statistics and modeling.”

Venturing for Success: Resilience, Growth and Opportunities

Hosted by Cyberport, the innovative digital tech hub of Hong Kong, the annual premier Cyberport Venture Capital Forum is returning on November 2 to 3, 2021.  Going with the theme “Venturing for Success: Resilience, Growth and Opportunities”, this year’s CVCF will shed light on the urgent topics pertaining to reinvented technology and the venture ecosystem post the pandemic.

The 2-day CVCF will go hybrid to feature both online and offline events. To aid startups with funding and deal-sourcing, Cyberport is hosting an innovator showcase and an exclusive matching platform to connect startups and investors.

Over the years, CVCF has been providing a platform for promising startups to demonstrate their innovation and creativity. With CVCF, the community successfully connects the capital, innovation, and ambitious entrepreneurs. With insights from global venture expertise and world-renowned business leaders, startup leaders will be able to build an action plan to reimagine their business.

Registration & more information: Cyberport Venture Capital Forum

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