Shaping a New Constitution for the Digital Age

05/06/2015 05:59 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2016
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The next 10 years promises to be the most exciting in the history of technology. Moore's Law, which just turned 50, has not lost its momentum. Processing power continues to grow exponentially, bandwidth speeds are accelerating and storage costs are plummeting. Everyone and every 'thing' is being connected to the global Internet. At the same time, cloud, social and mobile technologies are converging, disrupting the old order. These are ideal conditions to inspire a new wave of innovation that touches everyone on the planet and improves the state of the world.

As a consequence of this great migration to the cloud, social and mobile, we are in the midst of a data revolution. An estimated 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the past two years. By 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, creating data at massive scale. The quantified self, with sensors monitoring bodily functions and advances in DNA mapping and bioinformatics, will make it possible to turn every human into a repository of "big data." So it's no surprise that the amount of data created is expected to double in size every two years, and will grow 10-fold between 2013 and 2020, to 44 trillion gigabytes.

The challenge is making sense of this vast pool of data. Ninety-nine percent of the world's data today is dark matter -- it hasn't been processed or analyzed in a way that allows the knowledge and insights residing in the data to surface. However, with advances in data science, intelligence will emerge over the next decade, creating new opportunities for companies, industries and scientific fields to reinvent themselves for the 21st century.

Data science uses machine learning, predictive analytics, deep learning and other techniques to identify patterns in data that would be impossible for humans to do on a large scale. Machine learning algorithms can analyze billions of transactions and variables to determine which customers are mostly likely to purchase a particular product. Self-driving cars, guided by an array of sophisticated computing systems, will result in fewer accidents and optimized routing to reduce traffic congestion. Algorithms sorting through petabytes of data generated by airplane engines can detect a pattern indicating a faulty component and issue an early warning. Applying data science to analyze millions of X-rays, MRIs or cancer cells, will give every doctor access to the most accurate and encyclopedic diagnostic tool, from anywhere in the world in real time.

But technology alone isn't enough to improve the state of the world.

We need public policy that supports basic research, laying the groundwork for entrepreneurs to create the next generation of products and services. Public funding for basic research in the U.S. planted the seeds for the Internet, GPS, barcodes and even Google. Today, however, research and development accounts for less than 4 percent of the federal budget, down from 10 percent in 1968. As result, research areas such as cybersecurity, clean energy and infectious disease aren't receiving sufficient funding from Congress, creating an "innovation deficit."

Together, government, business, academia and advocacy groups need to work through complex technical, political, ethical and privacy issues to shape a new constitution for the digital age.

"Technology alone isn't enough to improve the state of the world."

CEOs and other business leaders have to stand up for all of their stakeholders -- employees, customers, partners, shareholders and local communities -- and recognize that they are part of a larger ecosystem. Issues ranging from climate change and global health to food production and education impact every business.

An environment in peril -- oceans rising an average of 3.2 millimeters per year-- is not good for business. Millions of people lacking in educational opportunity is not good for business. More than 200 million unemployed people worldwide is not good for business.

Technology innovation, married with a more compassionate capitalism and civic engagement, has the potential to address these problems in the next decade and make the world a better place for all.

This post is part of a series commemorating The Huffington Post's 10-year anniversary through expert opinions looking forward to the next decade in their respective fields. To see all of the posts in the series, read here.


Marc Benioff is chairman and CEO of Salesforce. A pioneer of cloud computing, Benioff founded Salesforce in 1999 and revolutionized the enterprise software world with new models for technology, business, corporate philanthropy and management. Under his visionary leadership, Salesforce has grown from a groundbreaking idea into the fastest growing top ten software company in the world and the #1 CRM platform.