Alec Ross Morning Future
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Trend 19 December Dec 2019 0740 19 December 2019

Alec Ross: “Italy's winning card in the digital revolution”

Barack Obama's former innovation adviser and author of the bestseller 'The Industries of the Future' plots the road to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution

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“The Earth was the raw material of the agricultural era, iron of the industrial era, data of the computer age. So far you have not been a leader in this area. But in the next 10 years we will have to bring together technology and ethics and this will see Italy become a key player”. Alec Ross, former adviser to Barack Obama for innovation and author of the bestseller The industries of the future, in Italy to take part in “Human Innovation - Ideas for newleadership. Leaders for new ideas” the event organized by Kpmg and Corriere Economics, imagines the role of our country to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution.

Alec Ross, Barack Obama's former innovation adviser

One opportunity, digital innovation, which requires preconditions: “The more open a society is, the more it is suitable for innovation. Forty percent of America's 500 largest companies were created by migrants or children of migrants. Google was founded by the son of a Russian migrant. YouTube by a Korean American. Intel by a Hungarian-American. The key to success is to create the conditions for migrants and their children to access their studies. If migrants are isolated from the rest of society, integration will not be possible because of social tensions.”

The topic of migrants is always very delicate in Europe, and in particular in Italy. On this Ross is very blunt: “People seek a scapegoat for their immobility and lack of progress. It is easier to accuse migrants than their political class or community. The fear of migrants is as old as the world and has never led to anything good.”

“Innovation is the creation of products or processes that allow the future to be realized continuously,” Ross says, “this is the definition I would give. And you don't have to be afraid. The future is not a utopia. We're not talking about Star Trek. But it's not even a dystopia, it's not Mad Max. The key to success is maximizing the positive and minimizing the negative that technology and innovation bring with them. It is not possible to stop this process, but we can regulate it intelligently. I don't think artificial intelligence or robotics will inevitably impoverish the middle class as they say, but I think many people will lose their jobs if we don't implement the necessary reforms in education, which is very complex to reform. Education reform is possible. It's happening in countries like Sweden, Norway or Singapore. Apprenticeship programmes have been developed in Switzerland and Germany focusing on the areas affecting the middle class. Adaptation is possible. To paraphrase Charles Darwin, the strongest or the most intelligent do not survive, but the ones who can adapt to change will.”

But what is the best way to adapt to these changes? "There are three tips I would like to give to Italian companies,” Ross concludes: “First of all, you have to be on the side of young people, give young people the opportunity to take part in the decision making process. The second is about women. We need more participation from women because they are 50% of our talents. Finally, failure. For you in Italy it is a disgrace. You have to take risks, without the risk of failure you cannot innovate. We need a system that doesn't punish failure too much.”

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