Entrepreneur Dave Troy has been in the tech business since he was 14, beginning with a self-made computer sales career. He later ran a massive internet service provider and eventually founded 410 Labs, a studio focusing on apps. Along the way, Troy dove into countless other projects and emerged an expert and TED talker, whom the media regularly consults on tech. STYLE had questions for him, too.
Broad question: What is the state of technology today?
I think we’ve gotten into a little bit of a trap because we had the sense that technological progress was a sort of unalloyed good, that it was necessarily a good thing. But what we’ve learned is that technology has good and dark sides. It’s like a weapon that can be used for good or ill. There are sort of two major sets of things coming: first, the next big technologies like Blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Those things are going to be very important over the next few years. But we’re going to end up spending a lot of time going sideways, too, as we incorporate more ethical consideration, privacy and data-driven elements into existing technology.
It’s not all bad, is it?
It’s pretty fascinating to be able to find like-minded people online and convert that to real-world relationships or to meet someone in real life and be able to keep in touch with them online. The benefit of that is really unprecedented, and it has a positive impact. The less positive thing is when we’ve been prompted to be divided by news media, when we’re manipulated by foreign governments, when we’re ruder and more insensitive in an online setting than we would be face-to-face. There’s this kind of illiteracy — we need to be educated about how to be more civil online, but there’s also a lack of intentionality by the platforms themselves. It raises serious questions about how tech can be used to make the world better or make things worse.
If what’s lacking is intentionality, how do you think we can regain control?
We have to radically rethink education. One of the failings that we’ve had is that we started to think, ‘How can we educate kids for good jobs?’ with STEM, then STEAM. But what about all the other stuff? Philosophy, humanities, literature, architecture … we need to quit fooling around with gimmicks in education and return to getting people really, really educated. The industrial revolution and the graded educational system since then have been geared toward a specific skill set. We haven’t emphasized ethics, humanities, philosophy — particularly in tech — and we can see it in how companies pursue things. That’s not the world we live in anymore. It should be driven by curiosity and the inherent drive to learn, which is absolutely there in every single person.