James Kotecki (00:01): 

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This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki. CES 2024 is January 9th through 12th in Las Vegas, and we're giving you an exclusive look at the future with interviews to get you ready for the world's most powerful tech event. And an event that channels its power for good. Human security for all was an overarching theme at CES 2023 and CES 2024 will once again focus on the ways that technology can help people secure their health, wealth, freedoms and future. CES is partnering with the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security and the World Academy of Art and Science on the Human Security For All, HS4A global campaign. And this year technology is officially the newest pillar of that campaign. But what will this really look like at CES and how can you help promote your favorite technology as a Force for Good?  


Joining me now is Amanda Ellis, the former ambassador from New Zealand to the United Nations in Geneva, who is now at Arizona State University. We are also welcoming Jon Miller, former chairman and CEO of both AOL and NewsCorp Digital Media Group, who is now at Force for Good, an organization which describes itself as transforming capitalism for a secure, sustainable and superior future. We are not booking underachievers on this show, folks. Ambassador Ellis and Mr. Miller are uniting here on the show and CES to promote technology as a key dimension of human security. Welcome to you both. 

Amanda Ellis (02:19): 

Great to be here. Thank you. 

Jon Miller (02:19): 

Thank you, James. 

James Kotecki (02:25): 

That was a great introduction that I got to read, because collectively you have so many impressive current and former titles. Jon, I know that you've been coming to CES for a long time. What draws you to CES and to this human security topic at CES in 2024? 

Jon Miller (02:41): 

For me, first I'll answer from a business context. I always find it the level set that I look forward to at the beginning of every year. You really get a chance to see what's coming, where companies are positioning themselves. It gives you a whole context for the upcoming year, and that's why I think I've been attendee for a long time. And then last year was the first time ever the show was themed and it was themed around this human security for all messaging, which was really fantastic from obviously our point of view, and I think going forward for the idea that CES can play a role in these kinds of issues. I think we established that last year and this year, looking forward to amplifying that as the issues are still very much with us. 

James Kotecki (03:22): 

And Ambassador Ellis, I understand this will be your first time at CES. What draws you to CES and this human security idea? 

Amanda Ellis (03:30): 

Well, I am so excited to see the tech world and particularly the initiative that Jon is leading around Force for Good. We know that technology has absolutely transformed our world. And if we go back to the United Nations original definition of human security for all way back in 1994, it was around freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to live in dignity.  


In my previous roles as a development economist at the World Bank, the OECD, then running New Zealand's development agency, we really saw how at an individual level, tech for good could make such a huge difference to this concept of human security. So I am super excited to go and be alongside veterans like Jon. It's so important that we bring our big international institutions like the UN and the brilliance of the tech world more together to help create better futures. 

James Kotecki (04:34): 

And Jon, you brought up the focus on human security last year at CES. Remind us how that actually shows up in the fabric of the event itself and maybe some of the ways that we can expect it to show up at CES 2024. 

Jon Miller (04:49): 

Sure. And again, it was the first time that CES had ever done anything like that. So it was really great to see. There was signage in most of the main pavilions and exhibition spaces, so it was pretty hard to miss if you were just walking in. And that was really done in collaboration with the CTA all the way through.  


Then there were a series of panels in the Great Mind Series and elsewhere that brought together some of these different themes that we've already touched upon in the different areas around human security. And then one thing I think we'll add this year hopefully is also involving the marketers that are there and the brands, because they have a great interest in this obviously. So I think we're going to look to do more with them this year and that'll be one of the additions for 2024 in addition to continuing things like the Great Minds series. So we want to be as much as part of the fabric of the show as we can be in 2024. 

Amanda Ellis (05:41): 

Sorry to jump in. I'm just excited to think about the opportunities that there are, and I'm probably one of the least tech-savvy people on the planet, but I'm so excited by the individual opportunity that it offers. And so for me, the excitement of thinking out of the box. Previously, we talked about national security and when we look at the age of the Anthropocene that we are now in, we are now powered by human action on our planet. And we are seeing the role that technology can play to help mitigate, for example, the escalating climate crisis, to help solve poverty through things like FinTech. And for me, the opportunity to really put those things together and have everybody understand that tech has the ability to really in this decisive decade help steer the ship, the age of the Anthropocene in the right direction. 

Jon Miller (06:49): 

If I might even take off on that, and part of the reason we are embracing CES and being embraced is that we also think these kinds of things and solving these issues and tackling these issues is actually good business. We're not really here to just advocate philanthropy and so on. That's fine. But this is really, we believe that companies that help solve these issues will be the companies that own the future, so to speak, in terms of their performance and how well they do. And so we want that message to get out there too, that we're really encouraging the embracing of these principles as good business as well. We think that's really key to the understanding of what we're trying to do. 

Amanda Ellis (07:30): 

Love that, Jon. 

James Kotecki (07:31): 

Jon, you obviously have a CEO C-suite mindset. Yeah. I'd love to hear a little bit more elaboration on that from the C-suite perspective because I suppose there's maybe a few ways you could frame up why it's good business. One is you mentioned marketing and branding, so maybe people just want to buy from businesses that they feel like have the right message on the environment, but does it go deeper than that? What are some of the business cases that you can make for someone who is hearing a conversation like this one and thinking, "Yeah, that sounds great, but I'm really in this to make money." 

Jon Miller (08:03): 

And look, it's a great question because business leaders have to confront that question every day to perform in their jobs. And so let's start with where you did. But with the simple stuff, which is if you're a brand and a products to market, consumers around the world are actively making choices for brands that stand for something and stand for human security is one of those aspects that consumers care about and will make a differential choice as to what they consume on that basis. So that's just one.  


Two is, and I see this a lot in the companies I work with, in hiring if you don't have these kinds of principles as part of what you're willing to articulate as a company, it will affect who you get to hire and who applies to work at your company. A while back, I was an advisor at Unilever, for example, which is one of the companies that has been really out front of this for a long time, in front of environmental issues. 


They ranked very, very high right after Facebook and Google actually in terms of company choices for people to work at in a LinkedIn survey. That's remarkable when you think of the products they make compared to say at the time, Facebook now Meta and Google now Alphabet, to be up there in that league is really in terms of being a first choice, is really about the values they had as a company.  


Those are just two simple ones. But beyond that, technology is so rapidly evolving to be in a position where it creates not just products but solutions to these large issues. And that's why I say if you're part of those solutions, that's where the money flows are going. That's where developing countries are going to put their efforts as much as they can. That's where established and the large leading economies are going to rebuild their economies around. So the investment spend and the returns are going in this direction, the more you can embrace that, we feel the faster you can not only grow as a company, but you'll be doing some good in the process. 

James Kotecki (10:01): 

Ambassador, I'm sure you can follow up on that with some more expansion from a development economist's point of view, as you said. 

Amanda Ellis (10:07): 

Absolutely. And just before I do, I was thrilled when I was at the World Bank to work closely with Unilever, and as Paul Polman says, "There's no business to be done on a dead planet." So I love Jon's focus that you can do well by doing good. And for me, that's what makes CES such an exciting venue aligned with the human security issue. 


Now of course, we for the first time in human history actually have a global development agenda. All 193 United Nations member countries signed off on the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, and it's a 15-year global agenda. So really exciting to see how it is that tech is, as Jon says, so eloquently helping to provide solutions to poverty, health issues. And we look at what happened in tech with the global pandemic and how quickly the use of high-tech was able to pivot to save literally hundreds of millions of lives. 


So for me, that was just so exciting. Now, from my perspective, really right down at the grassroots level, one thing that I find particularly uplifting is around finance, having been a former banker. So looking at how FinTech is able to empower small businesses, and particularly women who are often excluded from traditional banks because of a whole raft of legislative reasons. And just as an aside, no country in the world has yet achieved full gender equality and only 14 have even legislated for it. 


So when we look at a disadvantaged group in developing economies, the role of technology to be able to leapfrog some of those institutional problems and empower women at the grassroots has really been behind the microfinance revolution. And for me, that's one of the really exciting uses of FinTech. And now of course, we're seeing a whole range of very sophisticated consumer products in business. Now the flip side is we also need tech to be protecting, there are always nefarious actors and being sure that the consumer is aware and savvy and protected is that flip side of human security. 

Jon Miller (12:35): 

One of the things Amanda just touched upon, and it goes back to what I was saying, is the companies that don't embrace these things we believe are going to get leapfrogged and they will be potentially left behind. And certainly we've seen that the pace of technology development is only increasing, it's not slowing, it's only increasing. And probably the AI revolution will further that. And so we feel you really need to embrace these opportunities to stay even at the parity that you would like to as a business. So again, we believe in the business proposition here as well as the human proposition. 

Amanda Ellis (13:13): 

Jon, the point that you made about employees is a really critical one. Data that we have seen very recently show that millennials overwhelmingly want to work for companies that have a purpose. And so this idea is tech as a Force for Good, which you embody is such a critical one for those in the war for talent. And obviously that is a really important business differentiator. So we are seeing that millennials are really voting to work for companies with a mission, and human security for all is that next big idea where we really understand that the nation state, which is what our international institutions are still premised on, is very old-fashioned when we live in a world where we have global pandemics, a global climate crisis where individual human security is actually impacted. So for me, very exciting to see that this is good business and that business as a Force for Good is helping to create a race to the top. 

James Kotecki (14:22): 

As a host, I always think about guest dynamics and I love the dynamic here where the two of you are extremely complimentary of each other in terms of the complimenting viewpoints that you're able to bring to the table here. So I want to get both of your perspectives on this next question, which is how much of this initiative is celebrating things and acknowledging things that the tech sector is doing already or would be doing already?  


And how much of this is you actually calling on technology leaders to do something more, to do something different? In other words, is there still a gap between what technology companies generally are doing and what you want them to do? What is that gap and what are we doing to try and fill that in? So I guess we can just start with you, Jon. 

Jon Miller (15:05): 

Well, you've asked a very good question because we want to do both. We really want to acknowledge and as you say, celebrate the very real things that are happening and developing and the companies that are doing them and they are real and it is increasing. At the same time, the challenge is daunting. And if you go the SDGs that Amanda was talking about a few moments ago, one of the things we've analyzed is how much money it takes to achieve some of those goals. And the numbers are very daunting. They're in the trillions and they're in the literally hundred trillion level. So the only way that's going to happen is if governments continue to support these types of things. But also as I've been saying, businesses really get behind it.  


And in order for that to happen, they have to see it being good businesses as we've discussed. So there's a celebration, there's a challenge, and there's an opportunity. Because again, when the gap's that large, that also means the economic gain that you can make as a business is that large, which is part of why I've been saying that this is such an opportunity. But it is both and it is daunting, and we try not to emphasize overly much the depressing aspects. They're there, I think we know them. I think we're all experiencing wherever we may live, different elements of climate change, for example. It's really coming home in a way that never have before.  


I'm a New Yorker, there was an orange sky this summer from the fires and so on, and it was quite strange. So even if you live in an area that you don't necessarily think is the front lines, that's changing very rapidly on you. So I think people realize that, and that's not as much the mission that we try to have. What we try to really focus on are those solutions, pointing out what's working, pointing out what's good, pointing out what needs to be done and pointing out the inherent incentives to that. 


The other thing I'll just say in closing on this question, because it's a great question, is we also want to keep it very human-centric. This is really about how does it affect actual people in their daily lives and how does that continue to hopefully be improved and not threatened? And so we try to really bring it back to that level, if you will, of the human as lived world. And that I think is the way that it also becomes really front and center for people because we all are experiencing something like that in our lives. 

Amanda Ellis (17:30): 

Love that. So I'm going to jump right in because I really like that framing, the celebration, the opportunity and the incentives. In terms of celebration, I wanted to give some very concrete examples. I'm privileged to be the co-chair of the UN WE Empower, WE standing for women entrepreneurs UN SDG challenge, which was launched by Secretary-General Guterres and the then president of the World Bank, Jim Kim, along with the Council of Women World Leaders who are the current and past women heads of state at the UN General Assembly back in 2018.  


We have seen such an incredible number of women who are using tech for good across the world. So for example, in the US flood base, which is helping use AI and big data to predict flooding and save women who are the majority of victims and communities. Looking at medical online in Pakistan, for example. In Ukraine, using EdTech to ensure that Ukrainian children can continue to learn in over 121 countries where they're refugees and in bomb shelters, which is really tragic. But Zoya Lytvyn, who is our awardee from Ukraine, has used EdTech for good.  


There are so many wonderful examples. And at ASU we have something called Solar SPELL, a Solar-Powered Educational Learning Library, which brings to individual children in developing countries who have no access to the internet a solar hotspot that allows them to learn. So many fantastic examples, a celebration of the role that tech can play at a very human level.  


Now before I come to opportunities, I want to talk about incentives. And right now, as Jon pointed out, huge cost to meet the SDGs, but as an economist, I can tell you that the cost of not meeting them is much higher. And there's a very interesting paper that has just come out by the International Monetary Fund, the IMF and Ian Perry says, "The single biggest solution to the climate crisis is getting incentives right." 


Estimate of subsidies, implicit and explicit to fossil fuels in 2022 were over $7 trillion, which is almost double what we spend globally on education. So we are subsidizing what we know is creating the climate crisis. And they estimate that if we were immediately to be able to remove those subsidies, we would reduce emissions by 34%, and we need to get to 43% as estimated by the scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by 2030. So we would be the vast majority of the way there.  


Now, in terms of the opportunity that tech can offer, we have for example, the chief scientist for Carbon Mapper, Greg Asner, who's based here in Hawaii with me. And we are mapping carbon at point source. That rolls up into a much bigger community called Climate Trace, tracking real-time atmospheric climate emissions using big data and AI to go right down to the facility level. And it's how I discovered that in New Zealand, there are actually some coal plants being run by Fonterra, our big dairy company. I didn't know. So there's nowhere to hide anymore. 


I think that technology empowers the individual to then take action with their parliamentarians and be able to say, "Hey, this is going on. We know, and you guys need to be really living up to the commitments you made under the Paris Agreement." So for me, the huge opportunity, particularly in climate for tech as a force for good is to empower the individual human to know what's going on, hold business to account and vote with our wallets. 

James Kotecki (21:46): 

Really, really appreciate those specific examples. Jon, from the perspective of someone who has been to CES before, and if you're imagining yourself walking the show floor, are there technologies, are there areas of the show that you're going to be gravitating toward as you think about examples of human security? 

Jon Miller (22:04): 

Well, there's a number. Everything from things that remove carbon from the atmosphere on a home-based level, for example, and also emit less carbon into the atmosphere from homes. Homes is one of the areas that has a big impact on climate change, for example. But one of the areas that's very personal to me is with the development of AI, there's so many rapid advances that are coming from that in really all disciplines. And I want to very much want to see how that's filtering out into all the different areas from medical to big data, et cetera.  


But I'm also personally very concerned with disinformation. It's one of the things that I spend a fair amount of time on because I think as we all know, the potential for creating all kinds of information with AI, including deliberate disinformation, is just going up exponentially. I think that is really one of the big risks, frankly, that the world faces now because we really do need to have the ability to have facts as it were that we all can trust in and really abide in and use as we discuss things. And that's a general statement of course, but I think with AI now we have just huge potential for not only great information and great things like education around the world, but also tremendous amount of disinformation. And I'm going to be very curious to as to how that plays out at the show and who is demonstrating what in that regard. 

James Kotecki (23:33): 

And disinformation isn't the only concern with technology, of course. I mean, we're obviously having this great conversation on this episode of a show and a podcast. It's all about how great technology is. But we have to understand that we're talking at a time when people are concerned about technology across a whole number of factors around inequality. Basically the idea that technology is a force for good is not necessarily a universally shared kind of go-to emotion for folks across a number of different reasons.  


And so I would love to hear from both of you, starting with you Ambassador Ellis. What do you say to someone who you try to give them this tech is great, human security for all, technology for good message, and they're mostly concerned or even afraid about technology's role in how it's shaping the future. 

Amanda Ellis (24:19): 

This is such an important issue. I was at TED Global this year and heard Greg Brockman talk about AI. There was a whole session on it, which was very eye-opening because drones can be used to deliver products to people who may be home bound, but they can also be used to deliver weapons. So we have to be very clear-eyed, and this is where we need a real robust set of regulations and rules. And I know this is my experience, so of course I will come back to that, but we can't just trust that without guardrails, people are going to do the right thing.  


Unfortunately, not everybody has the same ethos as Jon. I wish they did. The world would be an absolutely perfect place, but it is our role to shine a spotlight on the potential for misuse and how we can put in guardrails. The concept of human security for all very much addresses that.  


Now in terms of some of the practical examples I gave you earlier, I think at a personal level, people are seeing the great things that technology can do. My mother, for example, is in a rest home and finds it difficult to read now in her nineties, but she can use technology to listen to podcasts, which wasn't possible 20 years ago. So there are some very practical examples of how technology can make people's lives better.  


And through the WE Empower competition, we see so many new ones each year that we haven't thought of before. I think, "Oh wow, there's another terrific idea, a great use of tech." But for me, like Jon, disinformation is a really critical one. And it's so hard to know how do you actually research? My husband and I have this debate almost every night at the dinner table because he's a brilliant researcher. And I'll say, "I saw this today." And he'll say, "Yeah, now what was the source? Unwind that." And it's so important, I think that we can help educate and I hope CES will help do this. What is the source? What is the trusted source? How can we be sure that something is real and not just beautifully generated to look real? 

James Kotecki (26:42): 

And Jon, your organization is called Force for Good, so I know you can bring us home with an optimistic message here. 

Jon Miller (26:48): 

Yes. And also Force for Good works very closely with the World Academy of Art and Science on the Human Security For All project, so we're very closely knit on these things. And I think the optimistic thing from a technology point of view is that the gap that we mentioned earlier in terms of investment and what's needed is actually quite daunting. A tremendous amount can be made up of that from the tech sector and existing technologies plus emerging technologies. So this is not something that we have to put off or wait for years.  


In fact, the ability to really affect the outcomes is very much present now with existing technology, again, developing technology and with hopefully the inspiration, if you will. And as we were talking, the opportunity to capture those in new and emerging markets as well as rebuilding and remaking the existing large economies. Because if we do both those things together, the gap will actually shrink by 30% to 40% just on that alone from the technology sector and the investments that it can make. So that's really a positive message in the midst of what is overall still remains a daunting task. 

James Kotecki (28:01): 

Just one quick question now to the both of you, just a quick soundbite or two, what's one encouraging thing you can say to someone who's thinking about coming to CES 2024? 

Jon Miller (28:12): 

The most encouraging is put on comfortable shoes and walk a lot because a lot to see and you want to see as much of it as you can. 

Amanda Ellis (28:22): 

From what I've heard from my colleagues from the World Academy of Art and Science who were there last year, it is an incredible opportunity to see what human ingenuity can create. I'm so excited to be going for the first time this year. 

James Kotecki (28:38): 

Well, ASU's Amanda Ellis and Force for Good's Jon Miller talking about Human Security For All at CES. Thank you both so much for joining us today on CES Tech Talk. 

Jon Miller (28:49): 

Pleasure. Thank you, James. Thank you, Ambassador.  

Amanda Ellis (28:51): 

Thanks so much. 

James Kotecki (28:52): 

Well, that's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. And hey, if you're joining us on YouTube, be sure to hit that subscribe button and leave a comment. And if you're listening on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart Media, or wherever you get your podcast, be sure to hit that follow button. Just show us some love and tell your friends too.  


You can get even more CES and prepare for Vegas at CES.Tech. That's C-E-S dot T-E-C-H. Our show today is produced by Nicole Vidovich and Mason Manuel, recorded by Eric Kirkland and edited by Third Spoon. I'm James Kotecki talking Tech on CES Tech Talk.