Obama states innovation is ‘splintering’ society


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Former President Barack Obama, visualized in an October talk, spoke Thursday at the Dreamforce conference. No one was enabled to photo or tape-record the talk. 

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As a previous president of the United States, Barack Obama has actually remained in a great deal of governmental suites. Though the spaces are lovely and large, he states, they likewise exhibit a number of things: People do not require that much, and innovation can overwhelm them.

“Michelle once spent half an hour trying to figure out how to turn off an overhead light,” Obama stated Thursday, describing the previous very first woman. The remark came throughout a talk with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at the business’s yearly Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. For Obama, the story about the light wasn’t simply an amusing anecdote, however a more comprehensive image of the difficulties in our society today. 

“We’re chasing after the wrong things,” he stated. A desire for greater status is fed in part by social networks and innovation. “My life isn’t better being in a presidential suite,” Obama stated. “If I was in a Hampton Inn with a bed and a shower, that works just fine.” 

Dreamforce guests lined up hours prior to the 10: 30 a.m. PT talk with get a peek of the previous president in the stretching Moscone North conference hall. 

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Security guards and conference workers cheered people heading into the hall. The audience clapped when the big screen showed a woman wearing “I miss Obama” socks. The mayors of San Francisco and Oakland, London Breed and Libby Schaaf, respectively, were in the audience. 

For the appearance, Salesforce handed out strict guidelines. No one in the audience was allowed to take any pictures or record any audio or video. But unlike Michelle Obama’s talk at Dreamforce in 2017, attendees were allowed to tweet and write about Thursday’s conversation. 

Obama’s presence at Dreamforce comes as the technology industry faces scrutiny and possible regulation for its business practices. During Obama’s time as president, tech could almost do no wrong, but social media has been criticized over the past several years for its role in the spread of disinformation before and after the 2016 US presidential election. And the US Department of Justice has launched investigations into companies like Google and Facebook and has considered breaking them up.

Having “big disruptive” information technologies can sometimes be “dangerous,” Obama said. “People don’t know what’s true and what’s not and what to believe.” Instead of uniting people, technology like social media is “splintering” them. 

“If you watch Fox News, you live in a different reality than if you read The New York Times,” he said. “We’re siloing ourselves off from each other in a way that’s dangerous.” 

This could have big implications for the younger generations, Obama said. He’s worried about three things: climate change; the lack of a common culture and conversation; and “the rise of extreme inequality that is being turbocharged by globalization and technology.”

“It amplifies inequalities,” Obama told Benioff. “So much of the political turmoil has to do with people feeling insecure.”

Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

This article was written as part of the Goethe-Institut’s Close-Up journalists’ exchange programme and Wunderbar Together- The Year of German-American Friendship. More information can be found at www.goethe.de/nahaufnahme and at #GoetheCloseUp and #WunderbarTogether.

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