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Oxford: Debate focuses on technology skills vacuum

By Dan Teuton
17 November 2011

The digital revolution is accelerating apace with recent advances the stuff of science fiction: computers now drive cars in traffic, and translate between human languages effectively

As digital technologies rapidly encroach on skills that used to belong to humans alone what are the consequences for the wages and jobs of the average worker?

In what is billed to be a heated debate Patrick Chung, Reid Hoffman, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee will propose the motion: "This House believes that the average worker is being left behind by advances in technology."

Brynjolfsson and McAfee, co-authors of a new book Race Against the Machine, make the case that employment prospects are grim for many today not because technology has stagnated, but instead because we humans and our organizations aren't keeping up.

Tom Hayes, Kal Patel, Kim Polese and Padmasree Warrior will oppose the motion. Patel sees technology advances as a positive for workers. "A vast majority of 'average workers' live in Asia where digital innovation has increased productivity. As a result these workers have seen their standard of living rise substantially over the last 15 years. Technology has enabled the average worker to connect with each other hence enabling an amplified voice for advancement. They have not been left behind, they continue to get connected and enabled."

The debate is part of Silicon Valley comes to Oxford at which Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will join MBA students and the local high-tech spinout community in Oxford on November 21, for the 11th anniversary of Europe’s preeminent entrepreneurship gathering.

This year’s theme ‘Unlocking Growth,’ is focused on creating and sharing actionable insight on how to start, scale, and run innovative technology companies.

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