Steve Wozniak

Tech Titan Steve Wozniak’s Candid Take on Innovation, AI, 5G and More

At CRE.Converge 2019 this week in Los Angeles, attendees got a glimpse into the mind of the original gadget guy: Steve Wozniak, aka “The Woz,” co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc.

Wozniak shared some background on his childhood and how his passion for technology and computer engineering emerged as a young boy. He said he sketched his own design for a personal computer on paper before he could afford any of the hardware needed to build one. He also talked about the early days at Apple.

“When we started Apple, the memory required to store one song cost one million dollars,” he said. “We couldn’t see too far ahead,” in terms of where the technology would go. “You can only see the next step, and then every so often you take a big step forward.”

Following the brief look back, Dale Dekker, AIA, AICP, Principal/Architect, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini Ltd., joined Wozniak on stage to share questions submitted by attendees. What follows is an excerpt of some of the discussion, and Wozniak’s take on topics across tech and more.

On opportunities with 5G and the internet of things (IoT):

“I don’t like to look at 5G and IoT as the key to understanding things – it’s understanding what people need. And I learned that from Steve Jobs. For example, he held back from adding every possible engineering feature to the iPhone… he focused on what he would want, what he thought was important.”

“Understanding what people need is really the key. Elon Musk built an electric car that is going to change the world. Electric cars have been around for decades, but what was the difference? [Musk] designed something he wanted, he needed. If you are the market, and there are others like you, you win.”

On data collection and privacy:

“I’m proud that Apple is fighting for your privacy. If you think that you have privacy, you should have it. It feels dishonest when you ‘like’ a Facebook post and you feel like it’s a direct conversation between you and one friend – ‘I like your post’ – when it’s really being shared with marketers and advertisers around the world. You don’t know what’s going on in the background of these big companies.”

On virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR):

“I enjoy virtual reality – I’ve used it to ‘watch’ basketball games and the experience is like you’re right there, seeing the ball swoosh into the basket. Or watching a concert like you’re on the stage. But VR is taking off slowly because it requires so much bandwidth. And somehow my wife and I live in the tiny part of Silicon Valley that doesn’t have broadband internet.”

“AR is going to be helpful for people who work with devices like cars or computers, where hints or overlays can appear over the machines they are working on. The adoption rate is slow, though.”

On tech gadgets that are “over-hyped”:

“Some of the IoT devices and thermostats you can adjust remotely from anywhere seem unnecessary, or at least over-hyped for the value. Or the smart lighting systems… they always seem to fail me. Sometimes all you need is a light switch on a wall near a light! Sometimes we create things before they’re really needed.”

On tech’s negative impact on human connection:

“When we started building the PC, we thought we were giving power to people. And when the internet came, it was like a country of its own, you could connect with people around the world. But now it’s used to track you, control you, monitor you. It bothers me quite a bit.”

“As they say, ‘We studied the atom, we got the atomic bomb.’”

On AI and if we should fear it:

“By 2024 we could have computers doing as much computing as the human mind. They could eventually run entire companies… and of course the companies run by computers will make money, and those run by humans would not.”

“But we don’t need to fear AI. We still don’t know really how the human brain is structured, or if memories are even stored in the brain. Yes, we can teach a computer how to win a game faster than humans, and we’re calling that some kind of intelligence, but it’s not the intelligence of a human brain. AI never sits and imagines and wonders what it should do that day, how it could help the world.”

“Technology lets us do more of what we want to do – every step since the invention of the wheel has allowed us to do more than we could do by ourselves.”

On hacking the cloud:

“Every day you read about another company infiltrated [by hackers] and we probably only hear about one in 10. They say the next war will be fought with data, not with guns, and that reality will probably never go away as long as we are digital.”

“Sometimes I almost want to go back to analog when we could just own things, we didn’t have to ‘subscribe.’ It can be overwhelming with new technology being thrust upon us.”

On always backing up data:

“I always, always back up my personal computer. I taught for eight years, and something I always used to ask my students was, ‘If you get a call and they tell you your mom is in the hospital, what should you do?’ The correct answer: Back up your computer and then go to the hospital.”

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