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Review of CNBC’s Work Summit – Building a Resilient Future

Dr. Ashish Jha from Brown started off CNBC’s Work Summit event by calmly talking about possibilities of the race between variants and vaccines. What are the numbers, which one might win this race, and how?

The simplest number that I remember is this: if 10,000 per day have it, and 100 per day die from it, then we are around the same rate as the flu. Also, 60-70% vaccinated is the goal, and that will make an enormous difference. But, at least 70-80% of the population being vaccinated is what’s needed to achieve herd immunity.

It’s all very rational. But we live in an irrational world. We also live during a time in which conspiracy theories are all the rage. Salacious celebrity gossip? So boring, and so passe. Microchips, secret ploys for global domination, oh my! So, as he calmly and rationally talk facts and statistics, I mentally rolodexed all of the conspiracy theories, their reach, and tried to figure out what % of the population will not get a vaccine because of those. Not sure why? Here is an article with another relic of the past, references. But my brain short-circuited, and I paid attention to him talking about vaccine passport instead, daydreaming about flying and looking down again upon fluffy clouds.

Next up was Katie Porter, a Congresswoman of California’s 45th Congressional District. She explained how caretakers are as important to infrastructure as construction workers are. I suddenly imagined caretakers looking badass in their scrubs standing next to construction workers in their shiny vests and yellow hats.

She also talked about how in order to compete globally, we need more women in the workforce. Because of the pandemic, we are now approximately 1-2 generations behind (I think she said the numbers are back to where they were in 1988.) Other countries are ahead, and the US is extremely behind. Her concern was that this backwards slide of women in the workplace effects the entire US economy, and it’s ability to compete in the current global economy.

Quiz time! They paused to do a quiz and share the answers. This was an audience of mainly C-Level execs. CEOs, CIO, CFO, etc.. and alot of long titles. Sometimes CIO was Chief Information Officer, and sometimes it was Chief Innovation Officer. I wish this were a physical event so I could see how people fit 5 part+ titles on nametags. I felt like a clownfish out of the water. Anyway, the answer was that 71% said employers should not mandate a vaccine.

Next up was Caroline Wanga, Head of D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) at Essence; which she described as “Black Girl Magic HQ!” D&I baffles a lot of people. I hope all of the people who have questions watch her segment (here is the link) because it makes things easy to understand. Here are some of my cliff notes: “just because they make it in your size, that doesn’t mean it fits.” Basically, it means with D&I there is no one size fits all solution. Also she explained how everyone plays a role, and if you aren’t doing something then you are still doing something. She talked about inclusion vs. mutuality. She said when she spends her money, she wants to know what/who she’s spending it on.

And I was dazzled when she called out the corporate approach of trying one thing, and then stopping because it didn’t work. She said that nothing works on only one try, and since when do people or corporations give up after only one try at anything? She said “Fail until you don’t” which was instantly my new life mantra. She just saved me hundreds on lifelong therapy sessions and didn’t even know it.

“Fail until you don’t.” -Caroline Wanga

Now onto the breakout room sessions. I’ve been vehemently interested in tech and privacy for years. So when there were 4 breakout rooms to choose from, I of course chose the one having to do with tech and security. In it was someone from Knightscope, a security robotics company. In my very first days of attempting media, I actually interviewed Knightscope, and saw their robot roving about at a tech conference. I was smitten! But that was years ago, before I had ever thought about privacy issues, let alone AI facial recognition bias and discrimination issues. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it, or Netflix and chill with “Coded Bias”, which is being released on April 5th.

So, being the day of the Derek Chauvin trial too, and the fact that there is a lot of info out there already, I asked something along the lines of “how do you respond to any consumer fear of AI facial recognition discrimination?” He was not excited about that question. He said that there isn’t an issue. They don’t even scan faces, they only scan license plates. So I went to their website wondering what had changed. On the website homepage, it says that they do automatic licenses plate recognition, people detection, and facial recognition. I’m not (entirely) crazy. If this were a physical event, I would’ve tried to nudge him and Caroline Wanga together at the bar to have a conversation. The network room sessions were over, and it was back to speakers.

So right before speakers, I stopped by the online swag booth and got a copy of Matthew Mcconaughey’s new book “Greenlights”. Sweet! He talked about it, and creating a culture of understanding. He’s entertaining and I’m not, so here’s a link to hear him.

Before Matthew McConaughey wrapped it up, Reid Hoffman and Sarah Guo from Greylock Venture Capital talked about workplaces and workflow after the pandemic. They invest in “networkification” type of companies from Coda (workflow process), to Figma (creative work/design process), to Utmost (for flexible workforce) and others. What they see ahead is “networkification as a platform”, and companies that allow us to become a more networked society.

All in all, within a few hours, a bunch of execs walked away with ideas on how to navigate their companies ahead. The pandemic will end, but it’s effects on the workplace are here to stay.

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