SF – Could Tech Rethink the Value of Data and Who Profits from It?

Date: September 13, 2018

Time: 6.30 PM PT

Speaker: Mariana Mazzucato, Author and Professor of Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London

One way to understand the plight of the tech world right now is to pull back and understand the field of economics in the last 400 years. For much of that time the field has debated where value in the economy actually comes from – such as land, labor, capital. And crucially, what the difference is between value creation and value extraction. According to economist Mariana Mazzucato, our featured guest at September’s What’s Now: San Francisco, it is necessary first to publicly debate what types of activities really add value to our economy—and how to limit rent-seeking that passes for wealth creation– so that we can create a new form of capitalism that works for us all, including in the tech industry.

In just the last 15 years the tech world has emerged as the most valuable industry in the world with tech companies dominating the commanding heights of the global economy – led by Apple, the world’s first trillion dollar public company. The founders, venture capitalists, and shareholders of these companies are financially engorged – but facing huge public backlash as the latest examples of an economic system way out of balance. Tech defenders say the companies are just working within the existing economic system – but what if they now helped change the system for good?

Mazzucato – winner of the 2018 Leontief Prize for Advancing Economic Thought, and author of the new book The Value of Everything: Makers and Takers in the Global Economy, which has been longlisted for the esteemed Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award – says one way the tech world can usher in an economic transition is by rethinking who should own and manage data. The privatization of data to serve corporate profits rather than the common good increases economic inequality by skewing access to the profits generated from big data. Mazzucato traces the problem back to how value is understood in the economy, with anything that has a price deemed as valuable, rather than the characteristics of the process by which it is created and distributed. The American people, in the form of taxpayers, funded the foundational research that led to the development of key technology breakthroughs – like the internet, computer chips, and GPS – that the tech companies used to create their platforms. Why are the founders, VCs and shareholders the only ones to reap the financial benefits? She argues that the people, the consumers of services provided by Google and Facebook, are the ones who collectively helped produce it and should benefit from its successes. Mazzucato argues that we should rework the economic system to spread the value being generated around differently – to make private data into a public good. And the tech world can help lead the way into this next economic era.

Join us for this provocative and timely conversation led by Mazzucato, who will be visiting the Bay Area from London, where she is Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London, and Founder and Director of the university’s new Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She’s a frequent commentator in the media and advisor to companies and looks forward to engaging the tech and innovation world in California.

Register now for an invite, or tune in at 6.30 PM PT to watch the live stream.