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Microsoft Highlights the Promise and Perils of Tech

Overview Microsoft President Brad Smith delivered a CES® 2021 keynote address, discussing how technology can be a formidable weapon and a powerful tool, and the responsibilities the tech industry has in realizing tech’s greater purpose.

For decades, CES® has been the stage where innovations come to life, where tech’s movers and shakers reveal the next big thing set to change the course of history.

“In the 1970’s, CES introduced the world to this new consumer device called the VCR,” said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft — a CES 2021 technology partner — in his keynote. “In the 1980’s, it did the same thing with the camcorder. And in the 1990’s, it was the DVD.”

The rapid advancement of technology throughout the years has been exciting and has paved the way for many opportunities and possibilities. But as Smith quoted John F. Kennedy, “technology has no conscience.” It is up to the tech industry — and the world at large — to harness the power of tech for good and for growth.


The Power of Tech

Technology tools such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition have uncovered many possibilities and new opportunities.

“People appreciate the convenience that it provides to unlock a phone or to identify a missing child and reunite a family,” Smith said of facial recognition.

Technology has also offered us new solutions to make the world a better place. In the keynote, Smith introduced Microsoft campuses and showed the electrical generators that help keep computers running in case there is an electrical grid. Each generator powers the equivalent of 3000 homes. But with emissions technology, each generator actually produces less emissions than the daily lawnmower. Even more advanced technology will make these products more eco-friendly than they are.

“By the end of this decade, they’ll be replaced by either new generators that run on hydrogen power or new advanced fuel cells,” Smith said. “And in that you see this extraordinary intersection between digital technology, energy technology, environmental science, and the need for innovation. This in so many ways is the physical embodiment of our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”


With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Yet even with the promise of technology and the successes we continue to achieve with it, Smith warns that companies must all be responsible for the dangers that technology can bring as well.

“We have to think as well about the new guard rails that we need to create so that humanity remains in control of our technology,” Smith said.

Critical issues such as cybersecurity, privacy, trust and safety must be considered on both private and public fronts.

Smith urges the world to build “rules of the road that are going to guide us” when it comes to cybersecurity and believes that a way to protect the future is new ways of sharing data — securely.
While protecting personal privacy, sharing information about possible cyberattacks and other security concerns with leaders around the world can help keep everyone safer, he said.


What We Achieve Together

As we launch the new year, Smith encourages the entire tech industry to work together to address these challenges.

“If we come together and do work well, it can be a road that leads to a brighter future,” he said. “We will decide whether technology is used for good or for ill. That is our opportunity. That is our challenge. More than that, that is our responsibility to ensure that the technology we create serves the world.”

Watch the Microsoft Keynote

At CES 2021, Microsoft President Brad Smith examines the dual use of technology, what can be both an extraordinary tool that powers economies and communities and a formidable weapon that can undermine democracy and fundamental human rights.

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