Ben Verwaayen

It is always very, very, very risky to give someone applause before they are going to speak. I am delighted to be here and especially following what the staat secretaris has just said. It is a challenge that we should rally to discuss. In my life I have been blessed to work in the US,

the UK, France and in the Netherlands of course. And the word challenge has very different meanings for very different people. There is a very interesting small book written by a guy called Winston Lord who was an associate of Kissinger and the book is called “Kissinger on Kissinger”. You can read it in an hour because it is very thin. Although you may think about every line in that book. And one of the things Kissinger says is: you know the best decision you can take is when you have all the facts. The problem is that you then rehearse history, because you never know all the facts. By the time you know all the facts it is history. So we have a challenge in front of us in a great proportion. When I worked at Lucent, we had really the benefits of bell aps (...) amongst our assets. And you have Nobel prize winners at bell aps (...), so you think it is a great idea to talk to a couple of Noble prize winners because it will give you perspective. Actually, it confuses you. And what they say to you is: it is not the question you ask that we want to answer, it is the question that you don’t ask that we are interested in. Very fascinating. The question that you don’t ask. And for a long time, in tech, we have not asked a few of the fundamental questions. The questions that are all about trust and purpose. Technology for a long time was a kind of industry. When you asked, where do you work? I work in tech. You can’t say that anymore. Because even if you work in a very old-fashioned industry, you probably work with tech. Tech is no longer a sector, it is an ingredient. And if tech is an ingredient for everything we do, we need to take an extremely amount of focus (...) and understand what it really does. Now, as in every debate you have people that are very radical. Now, I am going to read you something, I have written it down and you have feel for where they are coming from. Here is what they said: Information technology is having an unimaginable, uneven economic impact in the world. It displaces jobs, it polarizes domestic communities, it erodes privacy and it gives authoritarian regime unprecedented power in surveillance to a level we have never seen before. It impacts the way we make war and it impacts the way we defend ourselves. Now before you think this is a very, very left-wing person, this is from a letter published two weeks ago by Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft. The president of Microsoft says what we do, when we started it was kind of fun, nice to have. It was in addition to all the guarantees you have in a society. But technology became the replacement of a lot of analog certainties. And we have forgotten, simply forgotten, to put boundaries around it that will not just restore the confidence in technology. But will also guide the technology sector, and everybody else, how to deal with technology. And if you think that Brad Smith had a bad day in the office for whatever reason and just was alone, listen to what Andy Jessie is saying. Andy Jessie is the president of Amazon Clout Services. They deal with facial recognition. If you go to a football stadium in the US, on a regular basis, it is very likely that the guy behind the counter will say I know you like hamburgers. And what did you think about the hotdog that you had last week? How does that person know? Well, facial recognition. Without you knowing it, before you reach the counter, your face has already given your history in buying food. And maybe you say who cares? Well, maybe you care a little bit more if you go to China next time. Or maybe you care a little bit more if you are one of the protesters here in the Hague. Because in facial recognition, like with many, many other technologies, there are no rules, we have forgotten about them. We haven’t used technology in a way we have used, for example, medicine or food. But if someone would say to you, if you go to the supermarket, it is up to you to make sure that the security of the stuff that you buy there is up to the standard so that you don’t get poisoned. You would say that is totally unacceptable, but that is what we say about technology. It is up to you personally to go and buy whatever cybersecurity you have. On a standard basis it is not there, it is up to you. So next time you go to the pharmacy

and someone gives your medicines. What will you say? Can I have a test lab report? No, you trust the industry and you trust the regulation to deliver what they promised. And that is exactly what tech is asking. Tech is asking to society to be vocal. What do we want to deliver? And if you want us to deliver us to deliver that, don’t give us a detailed description to get there, because you will be thirty years late to technology, but give us the boundaries. Give us output that you need to have. I worked forty years in technology, and I worked with young kids that want to change the world. And what do they ask? Not too much, they ask purpose. What do you want us to do? How do you want us to be valued? What do you think is really, really important? And the second thing they ask is give use a fair chance. Now those are the rules that, when I worked on the side of the big multinationals around the world, I could live with. No, even better, I would have welcomed. If you want to say big needs to work with small and when I was with big I thought I was obvious. Now I work with small and it is impossible because language is not aligned, purpose is not aligned. So if you want to change something fundamentally, and ten years ago I would never have thought I would say this, but I say it now with conviction: set the rules right. Don’t make regulation a rulebook on technology, make it the rulebook of society. By enabling that you will see that a lot of stuff that is down the pipeline, waiting for take-off will be better served. I am sure you will say a little bit about cars and the future of cars. It is not the technology that is lacking, it is the environment that is lacking. If you look what we are going to do in the whole domain of care, care tech, it is not the technology that is lacking. It is the environment that is lacking. And I know that it sounds for people who have been in business for a long time like you are asking for rules while we just got free from the rules. It is not. We are asking for better understanding. The enormous importance and opportunity that we have. So going back to what Kissinger said: you will never find a solution when you have all the facts. But you need to trust your gut. Thank you very much.