Interview | Scott Steinberg: The Pace of Technology vs. Regulation
Read Time: 6 Minutes
Scott Steinberg is hailed as a top technology futurist by leading media outlets, including NPR, Newsweek, Time, Businessweek, and The Wall Street Journal. His study of current and emerging tech trends allows him to peer more clearly into the future, anticipating what might lie ahead. As an advisor for top companies, Scott helps his clients identify emerging cultural and technological forces to create insightful business strategies that meet changing market needs.
Given his forward-looking tech expertise, it is little surprise that Scott is frequently called upon to be an expert witness in various litigation scenarios. In this article, Scott sits down (via Zoom) with GLG to discuss the kinds of cases that require his insight, how the speed of technological developments is driving litigation, and what technologies he expects to see in the next 10 years. This interview has been condensed and edited for space.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I’m a futurist and trends expert by trade. I’ve worked as a strategic consultant and thought leader for more than 1,500 brands, including companies like American Express, IBM, and Verizon. Essentially, I help companies get a better sense of what new trends are coming down the line. This helps them adapt products, services, marketing efforts, and solutions to match those trends. I also work as a professional speaker and an analyst in consumer products, technology, gaming, and other spaces. My firm is always keeping an eye on what is coming next and thinking about how we can adapt to these trends and be more successful. I’ve also written about 30 books, including Think Like a Futurist: How to Plan Around Uncertainty and Future-Proof Your Business. When people ask me what a futurist is, I like to tell them that I have been a market researcher and analyst who covers fields such as consumer products, marketing and advertising, digital distribution, social networks, technology, and video games for over 25 years. So, what is a futurist? It’s merely an analyst with better marketing.
What kind of companies are approaching you now for expert witness work? And is there a difference between now and 2020, which was about mid-pandemic?
We’re increasingly being approached by a mix of consumer products, consumer electronics, technology, telecommunications, social media, toy, and video game companies to weigh in on various matters. Post-pandemic, we’re seeing a much more diverse set of companies, and the reason for that is because technology has permeated even more deeply into so many different industries. Many of these industries have moved forward so quickly, and tech- and privacy-related elements have become such an ingrained part of them, that the traditionalists are having to sprint to keep up. Nowadays, even your car is composed as much of silicon as it is steel.
We’re seeing more and more activity around big-box retailers and their e-commerce and mobile apps as well, in addition to subjects like mobile advertising, social media, and social networking because it’s becoming such a prevalent platform for the distribution of content. We’re also seeing increasing requests around data privacy and cybersecurity. As with most things tech, risks abound when it comes to processing, storing, and analyzing data and how people use it.
We’ve heard it said that all companies are data companies now, but even that seems to be underselling it. Can you elaborate on these ideas of AI and data collection?
You have more and more organizations turning to sensors, computer vision, AI to monitor and understand what’s going on in the world around them, whether it’s employees’ actions during the workday, customer behaviors, or even the artificially intelligent streetlights that are monitoring every corner to see if people are engaging in criminal activity. That’s going to create issues around surveillance and data collection. What’s appropriate to share?
Technology is going to permeate just about every facet of our existence in the workplace and in our personal lives, and that’s going to create so many potential points of failure that even the creators don’t realize the challenges that lie ahead.
Here’s the thing. The pace of change is only going to accelerate going forward. In fact, the next 10 years will in many ways bring more change than the prior 10,000. We as individuals — and as organizations — are not readily equipped to deal with that rate of change. And it far outpaces regulators’ ability to address the challenges it presents.
I’d like to expand on that. What do you see happening in the next 10 years that will outpace what’s come before it? I’d argue that just the 20th century saw an immense amount of change.
That’s a good question. You’re going to have artificial intelligence that is powerful enough to create its own AI routines. On top of that, you’re going to have factories, buildings, and industrial centers that are going to be fully self-aware, capable of self-maintenance and self-repair. These things are going to be able to simulate, predict, and correct any issues either proactively or on the fly. You’re going to see the privatization of space flight, which means more advancements in the aerospace arena.
You’re also going to see more “no code” solutions. Many teams are facing so many technology demands that they’re incredibly overworked and will increasingly look to create plug-and-play toolkits that will let folks who don’t have any programming experience create and adapt their own solutions on the fly. That will usher in an age where unprecedented numbers of individuals will be able to become technology-based and online creators.
Considering all this, what is the future of experts in the industry? Where might they be called to serve in litigation scenarios?
They’re going to be busy little beavers. Let’s not mince words. You’re going to have AI experts. You’re going to have cryptocurrency experts. You’ll need to draw on NFT pros’ knowledge. You’ll need data scientists. More and more people will be called in for cybersecurity and data privacy.
The challenge that we have run into in the past is that the field of law advances at its own pace and the field of technology outpaces it by a great order of magnitude, which means that there’s a growing need, especially in new and emerging areas of technology, for education and assistance.
As astute as the courts may be at understanding certain issues, it’s different when the issues before you are something like an NFT or a metaverse platform that simply barely exists in your field of thought. In these cases, it’s often very hard to look to precedent for some sort of direction. So I think what you’re going to see is experts being called in in a variety of different areas to help educate courts as to how these new technologies work.