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Is Technology Responsible for Increasing Inequality? Sentient CEO Takes on Verizon in a Debate

Sentient CEO Babak Hodjat recently participated in a debate against Verizon’s Rose Stuckey-Kirkat  about whether or not technology is responsible for widening the inequality gap. The debate took place at the Collision Conference in New Orleans and was mediated by Georgia Frances King from Quartz.

The opening summary of the debate was as follows: “With our increasing reliance on technology for even the most basic elements of life, are we in danger of seeing a wider divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’? Or is technology the great leveler, with better opportunities available even in the most remote areas?”

Rose began the debate by talking about the lack of access to technology in poorer areas of the country, referencing a little girl in rural Tennessee who knew she was in the “stone ages with technology” and therefore at a great disadvantage in the modern world both academically and professionally.

Babak countered by saying that inequality has always existed but is a result of the systemic issues of our political and economic structures. He said: “Technology here is not at fault. In fact, it can actually enable and empower us to fight inequality.” He then pointed out that voices such as that of the little girl’s in rural Tennessee can now be heard because of technology. He also pointed out that technology is the largest creator of jobs. “Since 1980, computers have added 18.5 million new jobs.”

The audience in the debate was given the option to vote from their phones in real time on whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “Technology is increasing inequality”.

The poll started from about even–57% Agree to 43% Disagree, to a majority 80% Agree to 20% Disagree, and then finally back to a 50-50 ratio towards the end of the debate, to which the moderator judged as a tie.  Needless to say, it was a heated debate with many valid points presented from both sides.

Watch the whole debate here.