Garry Jacobs (00:00): 

The world faces unprecedented challenges that require urgent responses, new innovative solutions, and we need technology to do that. 

James Kotecki (00:19): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki and we are back. CES 2023 is January 5th through 8th in Las Vegas, and we are here to get you hyped and get you smart about the world's most influential tech event. 

James Kotecki (00:37): 

A central theme of CES this year is human security for all, how technology improves food access, healthcare, environmental protection, and more. To support human security, CES has partnered with the World Academy of Art and Science, a group of scientists, artists and thinkers, tackling some of humanity's greatest problems. The WAAS was founded by people like Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and Bertrand Russell. Today the President and CEO is Garry Jacobs, who is today's guest. 

James Kotecki (01:07): 

Garry, welcome to the show. 

Garry Jacobs (01:10): 

Thank you, James. It's great to be here. Exciting. 

James Kotecki (01:13): 

It is exciting, especially because this issue of human security for all, such a substantive, meaty policy topic. In fact, this is actually a UN initiative. 

James Kotecki (01:25): 

So set the scene for us. Why did the UN partner with the World Academy of Art and Science? And then why did you in turn, as the World Academy of Art and Science partner with CES? What brings these different groups together? 

Garry Jacobs (01:39): 

James, it starts with the context. And why we're here at CTA, I think is easily answered that way. The last half century has been absolutely unprecedented and remarkable advances in technology in all fields. Yet at the same time today, with all our accomplishments, the world faces unprecedented challenges that require urgent responses, new innovative solutions, and we need technology to do that. 

Garry Jacobs (02:10): 

Just to cite out the obvious, we're just recovering from COVID-19 pandemic, which posed not just a health problem, but a multidimensional threat to virtually every aspect of people's lives all over the world, not just health. We had impact on food production and food supply and economic activity and jobs and schools were closed everywhere and transport shut down and manufacturing and global supply chains and all. We're in the middle of the war in Ukraine creating severe food and energy problems, price inflation for people all over the world. 

Garry Jacobs (02:45): 

So it's not just a question of war. It's a question of threatening the security of people in all areas. Not to mention climate change, which is just kind of looming in the future and we're reading about it all the time. But that's likely to exceed the challenges we face today so many times more. We simply can't afford to ignore these problems, and technology has to be part of the solution. 

Garry Jacobs (03:11): 

So we're looking to partner with CTA to look at and encourage this tremendous creativity and innovative resources that are here in the industry, to see if they can turn more and more of their attention to addressing the issues that are of deep personal interest and concern to people all over the world. 

James Kotecki (03:30): 

It seems like the phrase human security for all is really meant to encapsulate and bring together a lot of seemingly disparate policy issues, global crises, that if we think about all these different things happening, it can seem overwhelming. Is the idea of human security for all that you kind of put it into a context that regular people can understand and respond to? 

Garry Jacobs (03:52): 

That's exactly it, James. The UN has been promoting the 17 sustainable development goals since 2015, and they cover a lot of the same territory that we're talking about. But for a lot of people they say, "Well, what has that to do with me?" But when you talk about food for everybody, energy for everybody, healthcare for everybody, education for everybody, a safe environment in the community, personal safety, equal rights for women and minorities and everything, it comes home as something personal and not just the quantitative numbers that we hear about CO2 in the atmosphere or unemployment or inflation. 

Garry Jacobs (04:35): 

And that's the message that our security doesn't just depend on our military forces, even though they're really important to have national security investments. But most people are not being impacted on that. Most people are being impacted on these other things that affect all of us, all over the world it's what we have in common. And that's what we're trying to focus on. 

James Kotecki (04:58): 

You're referred to the partnership with CTA. That's the Consumer Technology Association, which is of course the group that's putting on CES. And so now we turn to the perspective of an average CES attendee. So they're coming to CES once again. Maybe they're excited to be back in Vegas after a couple of years of not being able to come. And they show up and they see human security for all as part of the show and they think, "What does this have to do with me in this context?" So we talk about obviously very important reasons to care, but what's the business case? What does the average business person who comes to CES need to think about this? 

Garry Jacobs (05:32): 

I'm a business consultant myself. I've spent my life studying successful businesses historically and over time. And one of the things we found is the companies that grow not only fast but keep growing over and over are the companies that are able to adapt to the changing, evolving needs of the society around them. And that's what the CES show is all about. New innovation, new technology to meet new needs. 

Garry Jacobs (06:01): 

Just to call for an example, in the '80s, the computer was coming up and it became a dominant force with the spread of the PC and all. But it was one company that really realized computers can be a threat. We can feel threatened and replaced by the computers going to replace us unless we learn to speak its language, which is some crazy thing like Fortran or Unix or something like that. And Apple created ... I studied Apple at that time. I was there when the Macintosh came out. Apple created a computer that talks our language, that speaks to our metaphor with desktops and trash cans and stuff like that. And I think it's really important that companies attune themselves to meeting needs in ways that people can reverberate to and relate to. And that's what we see here. 

Garry Jacobs (06:51): 

I can give you a dramatic example that you'll see that people will see and hear at the CES in January. On the last five years, we talk so much about the mobile phone and how it has changed our lives and everything. In the last five years, India has extended mobile technology down to the lowest levels of the society in the rural areas to people who never had access to banking, never had access to formal credit, and had no way to even receive government subsidies and things like that. And now it's become a pioneer in mobile banking. You can go into the barber shop or the dentist or virtually anybody and just transfer money over your phone. You don't need a credit card, you don't need anything. And this has had an impact on maybe hundreds of millions of people who are now having economic inclusion and financial inclusion. 

Garry Jacobs (07:50): 

The technology of mobile already existed, but to think of it creatively in terms of how it can benefit people in outlying areas where now they can get pricing on products all over the world, they can be ordering products from Amazon a thousand miles away and so forth. So I think looking at it from the consumer's point of view is really the heart of what CES is all about. New technologies require looking at it differently than before. 

James Kotecki (08:18): 

It seems like the basis of this idea of human security for all and the various things you're going to do at the show, which I want to talk about, is kind of about shaking people's perspective up a little bit. Say, Hey, you're kind of looking at this one way, you should be looking at this another way. What do you think is the roadblock for certain companies? Do they just kind of get in their silos and in their lanes and in certain mindsets and they aren't able to see some of these bigger pictures? 

Garry Jacobs (08:39): 

This is a subject I've studied for a long time and studied companies over a hundred years. And what looks so obvious to us in retrospect is usually not very obvious before somebody does it. One of the ways I think about it is that the mind is like a rear-view mirror. When we look in the rear-view mirror, we know exactly where we were coming from and it all makes so much sense to us, and it was logic that we should have done this. But when you look one step ahead, what's going to happen next year, next day, next month, we are blind to a very large extent, and that especially when we are successful. 

Garry Jacobs (09:19): 

And you know the corporate histories are full of examples of highly successful companies like companies that were the biggest when I was growing up. What happened to Kodak and its camera? It was the name all over the world in cameras. And yet when the digital camera came, "We don't do that. We don't need that." There were ... I don't like to mention too many names and I'm not down on any company, but even when the internet was invented, one of your top members said, "Don't worry about that. It has no real impact. It's a passing fancy." And another one of them, when Apple went into the iPhone business, the CEO said, "Look, there's no chance of them succeeding in this. We've already got Blackberry and Nokia, and do we need anything more?" 

Garry Jacobs (10:06): 

So it looks so obvious in retrospect, but when we're successful, success can be the biggest barrier to our future progress. It's good to be humble. It's good to be attuned. And the companies that really attune keep changing their business model as the society moves. 

James Kotecki (10:26): 

And I imagine one of the other problems of being so successful is that up until the prediction that you make that is wrong, all of your other predictions might have been correct. So you might have said, "Oh, thing A is a fad, thing B is a fad, thing C is a fad." And you might have actually been right about all those things. And then if you keep in that mindset, then finally the thing that comes up that isn't a fad or that actually is a threat, you've already kind of locked into a mindset that you already can predict these things and it's not. 

Garry Jacobs (10:53): 

And there are many dramatic examples of companies that missed opportunities. When the Xerox was invented, I forget the name of the guy now, he went around to 50 of the top companies. This was in the early '50s, offering this technology, big name companies even big today, and was turned down by them. And finally it was a company who wasn't even really in the business that said, "This looks like it has a potential." And that became Xerox Corporation. So we have lots of examples. 

Garry Jacobs (11:26): 

3M was one of the ones that turned it down, and by the way, they decided virtuously that they're never going to make that mistake again. And so they reoriented their whole culture to think differently and come up with unimaginable innovations like the Post-It note, a billion dollar company, just because the glue doesn't really stick too well. 

James Kotecki (11:49): 

So CES is obviously a great place to meet a lot of different people and have these kind of innovative conversations and get different ideas for how the future could unfold. And I want to talk about specifically what the WAAS is helping to program at CES as far as this human security for all initiative. First of all, I understand there's several different conference sessions that you're going to be programming at CES. What are some of the topics? Who are some of the people that you're looking forward to? 

Garry Jacobs (12:17): 

Well, one of them I just mentioned was on the financial inclusion through the mobile phone system, a top executive from the government of India that is offering this technology free to the world because it's had such a tremendous impact on enhancing human security in India and they want to help spread it to other countries. 

Garry Jacobs (12:39): 

Now for that, it's not the governments that do this. It's the businesses that do it. So for companies to see this opportunity and to understand what we have missed, there are some things that are easier to do in India financially than even in the US, which is the start of all of this phenomenal technology. 

Garry Jacobs (12:59): 

So I think there are opportunities for everybody, not just for the curious who want to learn something, but for those who want to benefit. 

Garry Jacobs (13:07): 

And I mention education. UNICEF has done a study of technologies that could dramatically improve the quality and lower the cost of education even at school level around the world. They have trouble selling it to governments. But our feeling is the real innovations in education are going to come in the private sector. It's going to be companies. And that's what's happening already at the higher educational level. Technology is there, but adaptive, resourceful strategies for disseminating it and making it into a business model. 

Garry Jacobs (13:44): 

This is a huge market. We have hundreds of millions of youth are entering the age for higher education today. And there's no way we can meet that need by building more universities. It would take us 50 years to do it. So we need new delivery systems. 

Garry Jacobs (14:02): 

And that's what's happening already. You have companies like Google and Microsoft and Amazon who are creating their own courses and offering them out to people and saying, "If you take these courses, you get a job, you qualify with them." So education's a big one. 

Garry Jacobs (14:18): 

Healthcare. Innovations in healthcare, whether it's the wearable things to protect us at home or the improvements in technology for diagnosis or for treatment, there are many companies in this industry that are real leaders in the healthcare industry. 

Garry Jacobs (14:36): 

And then you have, of course, food. One of your big new entrants is John Deere from the association. John Deere is pioneering in new technologies to improve food production that can have vast impact. Many companies are there like that, water conservation, ecological, dealing with pollution, reducing the consumption of raw materials and so forth. 

James Kotecki (15:00): 

We talk about so many of these issues like healthcare, like education, and I wonder if there's actually things that we collectively have learned during the pandemic that maybe we haven't even fully digested in the United States, but that could have broader impacts around the world. So, if you think for example about education, and the lesson for a lot of folks I think in the United States was Zoom education stinks and we got to get kids back into the classroom. 

James Kotecki (15:25): 

But I wonder if there's a situation in developing countries where that's not a choice between having a kid on Zoom and a kid in a classroom. It's a choice between having a kid on Zoom or an equivalent kind of virtual school and nothing. And so if we've learned lessons from the pandemic about how to better disseminate and do that kind of education online, that that actually has huge impacts. 

Garry Jacobs (15:44): 

James, just imagine for a minute, just to follow up on your thought. Imagine for a minute that any student, any youth anywhere in the world could have access to the highest quality teaching and the highest, most reliable information in the language of their choice sitting at home or sitting in their area. The cost of education has skyrocketed, not just in the US. In India, we see people mortgaging their homes in order to get their children into medical school or engineering college and stuff like that. It's not necessary. 

Garry Jacobs (16:23): 

We have an old paradigm, an old system that hasn't adapted and we're talking about major disruption in education all over the world that's going to be done by the private sector through new technologies. We're going to give up a lot of the superstitions that have prevented us from doing it, and it's going to be companies that innovate and prove these new models work. 

James Kotecki (16:45): 

Hey, speaking of the word innovation, what a great transition you just set me up for, human security is going to be a factor in the CES Innovation Awards. And these are typically physical products, but sometimes maybe more digital things or concepts that are displayed and awarded at CES. What's an example of a tech product that you have your eye on that you think might be the kind of thing that could be a contender for such a thing? 

Garry Jacobs (17:10): 

Well, James, you and I are going to have to wait patiently for CES because I'm asking that question every day. And we would love to know in advance. In fact, the academy is putting up the judges, the panel of judges that will finally be selecting the innovative technologies in human security. And we are as eager as anyone to know what's going to come out of it. 

Garry Jacobs (17:33): 

We can quote from the past. We all have seen remarkable technologies. But that's what this is going to help us do. We want to hold up those examples of the really successful companies that are doing something innovative and making it great as a model and a catalyst for others. 

Garry Jacobs (17:50): 

We look at the unmet human needs, there are commercial opportunities. But we got to think differently. And as we discussed that that's not always easy, especially when we're successful, especially when we think we know what our business is, what our industry is. And adapting to the opportunities requires giving up those old perspectives. 

James Kotecki (18:13): 

This idea of thinking differently, attacking old problems in new ways. It feels very entrepreneurial. It feels like a concept that would be at home for kind of a stereotypical scrappy person in a startup or a two-person company in a coworking space ready to take on the world and disrupt the giants. 

James Kotecki (18:30): 

But let's be honest. I mean a lot of the people that come to CES are from more established companies. Maybe they're mid to high level executives in large established companies. They're one important piece of a much bigger puzzle. 

James Kotecki (18:44): 

So what's your message to those folks? How do they think, "Okay, I'm in the middle of this giant machine and we can do good things, but it's slower for us," or, "I have to convince 50 other people and all these different stakeholders and it's a more challenging modality than if I was just kind of a scrappy entrepreneur." What's your message to someone like that? 

Garry Jacobs (18:59): 

That is the challenge for all of us, and it's the challenge for every company. The world has never changed so rapidly as it is now, and the rules that worked before and the technology that worked before and the products that were the leaders before are simply there's no guarantee that they will be in the future. And that's what you're getting at. 

Garry Jacobs (19:20): 

The only way that we know of to do that is to really bring in the new generations, bring in the young leaders and thinkers. I remember studying Intel back about 35 years ago, and they had introduced a course for what they called constructive confrontation. They were having the problem that their older executives, older means by that time 35 years old and not older than that, were being challenged by the young people who came in just out of Stanford or Berkeley or other schools and were challenging them and questioning them and challenging the way they were thinking. And they said, "Look, we need that challenge. We need it without creating resentment and building obstacles and resistance. We need to learn to hear the youth and give them a way to express themselves because they're not wedded to the old the way we are." 

Garry Jacobs (20:15): 

And of course the technology industry is one of the youngest industries in terms of its innovations. You remember Steve Jobs was thrown out of Apple by the older timers that he had hired to help him do it, and the company didn't recover until they brought back the youthful vision. 

Garry Jacobs (20:35): 

So this is a challenge. I think that if companies are aware of it, if they have respect for the fact that yesterday's success is no guarantee for tomorrow, then we find ways of encouraging that creativity, of listening to it without feeling threatened by it, of creating innovation and entrepreneurship in the company to test out new models. 

Garry Jacobs (20:58): 

And of course, one of the ways the most successful companies do that is by acquisition. They look at the young companies that have come up with something new, that have a new model, a new technology, a new delivery system, and they test them out and they encourage them. They become the incubators, incubators for great creativity, and that's how most of the really successful ones keep growing. 

James Kotecki (21:21): 

And CES is obviously a place where the sparks of those ideas can certainly fly and those meetings and those conversations can happen. And CES, overall, we're here on this show really talking from a place of great optimism, but I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention that sometimes human security issues aren't solved by technology. They come from technology. Is there a framework that you encourage innovators to think about in terms of unintended consequences or just making sure that the results of what you're innovating on are a net positive and you're not putting on blinders to avoid the potential downside risks? 

Garry Jacobs (21:56): 

James, I'm really glad you asked that question because it goes back to the roots of why the World Academy of Art and Science was founded in 1960 because among the founders were people like Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, who was the father of the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb. And they lived to regret that they had done it and realized that what they thought they were saving the world for democracy ended up endangering the whole world, including all the democracies. And the academy was founded by people who felt that science cannot just invent in an ivory tower and let somebody worry about the results. The inventors have to have the sense of responsibility for the possible. 

Garry Jacobs (22:45): 

Technology's a double-edge sword. The internet can be used for saving lives and educating millions. It can be used for fake news and espionage and criminal activity and all the other things as well. That's the nature of technology. 

Garry Jacobs (23:00): 

But the problem with our educational system is we often don't teach our technical students about the impact of technology on society, whether it's the environmental impact or the security impact or the infringement on freedoms or anything else. And we feel the whole educational system has to adapt to making the sense of social responsibility really important. 

Garry Jacobs (23:27): 

I mean, our industrial revolution went on for decades, more, a century, never worrying about the environmental impact. We can't afford that luxury of unidimensional focusing anymore. We've got to equip our companies, our business leaders, and our technical people to understand the double-edge sword and consciously work to maximize the benefits and minimize the side effects. 

James Kotecki (23:56): 

So is there a shared set of values that you encourage people to get on board with? Because obviously when you talk about doing the right thing, people can have different definitions of that. 

Garry Jacobs (24:08): 

Well, that happens to be the field in which I have studied and written a lot in business I'm speaking. And my own research and experience in consulting has shown that the companies that are really committed to the highest values, not just to put it on the corporate wall or make it sound good in the mission statement, but I mean are really committed to it, are the companies that keep growing and thriving in the long run. 

Garry Jacobs (24:35): 

Because values are not just some idealistic, unrealistic principle. Values are the essence of what makes human being successful and society successful. If you can't trust a bank, why would you ever do business with it? If you can't trust a product, if working in a place is not safe or a product is not safe? These are core values. And there are many wonderful stories, I've documented many of them, of companies that decided doing what appears to be not the profitable thing but the right thing is actually the most profitable thing to do. 

Garry Jacobs (25:14): 

A simple example I'm talking a hundred years ago was DuPont. DuPont started out in the gunpowder industry and they gave it up around 1900. But they had developed the value of safety. And they took that value of safety so high that their safety in DuPont factories was 80 times greater, 80 times greater than in the average chemical industry. And they said that pays for itself over and over again. Our downtime is the lowest. Our accident rates are the lowest. Our equipment losses are the lowest. Our depreciation is and so forth. They could show that it works. 

Garry Jacobs (25:57): 

And that's our experience. The top companies really know the value of values and know that it's not just a platitude that's contrary to the business model. It makes for the most successful, sustainable business model. 

James Kotecki (26:13): 

Well, doing the right thing for our business and also doing the right thing for our world at the same time is very appealing. And thank you for helping to guide us through some of these concepts. Garry Jacobs, President and CEO, World Academy of Art and Science, thank you, and we'll see you at CES 2023. 

Garry Jacobs (26:30): 

I look forward to it. Thank you, James. 

James Kotecki (26:33): 

Next up on CES Tech Talk, we learn about the autonomous race car competition. You can cheer on from the stands at CES 2023. 

Speaker 3 (26:43): 

On January 7th what people are going to see is the world's fastest robots competing with each other. 

James Kotecki (26:50): 

Please subscribe to the show so you don't miss a moment and get more CES at That's C-E-S . T-E-C-H. Our show today is produced by Nicole Vidovich with Christine Miller and Mason Manuel, recorded by Andrew Lynn and edited by Third Spoon. I'm James Kotecki, talking tech on CES Tech Talk.