The gift of peripheral vision: what we need to learn now about AI

Doing time at a leading global university doesn’t exactly render you powerless. Still, as I have long advised my students: it is precisely this temporary removal from the game that matters most. To tarry a while on the periphery is to see what’s really going on.

It’s also perhaps why so many in power — held to stock prices, profits and performance analytics — sought to interact with me and my graduate program over the past decade of technological disruption.

With the gift of that moment, I insisted that we “learn in public.” That even as we shared our developing best practices around storytelling and professional communication with the world — we also needed to engage with leaders live and in real-time. Change was accelerating for everyone too quickly. We had to collectively figure this out by talking it through, connecting the dots as an interpreter of the innovation that was happening all around us. Which I did: from the first TEDx Seattle to conversations around the elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the explosions of Wikileaks and Facebook, and the stories of our region’s transformation.

Evergreen Point Floating bridge bike and pedestrian path – HRH

I can’t think of a more urgent time to convene in this way now. We are generating personal data at a torrential pace — the essential raw material for artificial intelligence. AI may still be nascent. But it, and other far-reaching emergent tech are forcing us to make informed decisions TODAY about their development and deployment on behalf of other human beings — customers, clients and constituents.

So I’m treating Less Machine More Learning: What You Need to Know Now About AI on January 25th in Seattle as a one-day graduate school experience for our community. Yes, as with other conferences, it will have great insights from great presenters. And we are supported by a powerful community partner, the global agency WE Communications, which is also looking for a fresh perspective.

But perhaps somewhat differently, I’m leading a guided journey as we make sense of those ideas — synthesizing them, drawing conclusions, thinking critically. And we’ll also turn them around so we can all have a clearer idea of action and collaboration that we can undertake long after the day is over.

Similar to a dynamic classroom experience, we’ll provide comfortable, trustful opportunities to engage with each other and our speakers. Working with my colleagues, our intention is to tap the wisdom of our attendees as a reflection of what we’re hearing on the stage.

We’ve purposely given ourselves a small window of time to put this gathering together. Things are changing so quickly that it requires an ongoing conversation with purposefully chosen advisors (our “Braintrust”). They aren’t just technology experts, but credible figures who grasp the bigger picture of what people need at this crucial inflection point. Together, we will assemble a diverse group of smart minds who can work with us in a thoughtful way on that one Friday in late January on a not-so peripheral corner of campus.

Power is all about changing reality rather than seeing it for what it is….If you really want truth, you need to escape the black hole of power and allow yourself to waste a lot of time watering here and there on the periphery — Yuval Hariri 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Registration is now open for Comm Lead Connects Less Machine, More Learning: What We Need to Know Now About AI. The day will include thoughtful opportunities to network designed by the graduate program’s head of partnerships, Molly Schachter. For more information contact her at