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Modi eyes Silicon Valley for Digital India

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Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has already roped in Indian Americans on the East Coast and US big business to ‘Make in India’ last year, is now set to win over the Silicon Valley for his Digital India initiative.

Photo credit: mygov.in
Photo credit: mygov.in

The first Indian leader to visit California in more than 30 years later this month, Modi will go to Facebook headquarters for a town hall style question answer session and visit other top tech companies like Google and Adobe Systems and electric carmaker Tesla.

As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced on Sunday about the September 27 town hall visit of PM Modi at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters will “discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges.”

credit: www.s3.india.com
Photo credit: www.s3.india.com

Modi, who has more Facebook fans than any politician except for Barack Obama, is the first Indian prime minister to visit the Bay Area since Morarji Desai picked up an award at University of California, Berkeley in 1978 and Indira Gandhi visited Los Angeles in 1982.

Besides meetings with Sundar Pichai and Shantanu Narayen, India born chief executives of Google and Adobe respectively, he is also expected to attend events with Indian American entrepreneurs and social investors.

At Tesla, more than the zero emission cars that it makes, Modi may be interested in its “Powerwall”, a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, for India’s clean energy initiative.

Modi’s visit to the Bay Area, home to a large number of Indian techies, is arranged to win support for his “Digital India,” initiative that aims to expand Internet access, boost electronics manufacturing and develop apps to improve the delivery of government services.

“The visit allows Modi to build relationships with tech firms that want to invest in India, while also fostering support from the Bay Area’s influential Indian-American community,” Venktesh Shukla, president of the Silicon Valley branch of non-profit organization TiE, also known as The Indus Entrepreneurs, told the San Jose Mercury News.

For Modi, “it’s a very well thought effort to capitalise on the connection he has with the diaspora and involve them at a point in time when India is perceived to be on a positive track in terms of governance,” Subimal Bhattacharjee, a cyberspace policy analyst and former India head of General Dynamics, the US defence contractor, told the Los Angeles Times.

Modi, who last year got a rock star like reception when he gave a speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden, is expected to do it again on Sep 27 in San Jose.

An Indian-American group organizing a community reception for Modi at the 19,000-seat SAP Centre says that more than 45,000 people have registered for free passes.

After the San Jose event, Modi flies back to New York for a summit meeting with US President Barack Obama on Sep 28.

The Modi-Obama meeting in New York would cap a week long high level India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in Washington DC.

(IANS)

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Technology Campaigners Want Firms to Connect People in Positive Ways, Fight ‘Human Downgrading’

YouTube and other companies have said they are cracking down on extremist speech and have removed advertising revenue-sharing from some categories of content

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FILE - Signage is seen inside the YouTube Space LA offices in Los Angeles, California, Oct. 21, 2015. VOA

Technology firms should do more to connect people in positive ways and steer away from trends that have tended to exploit human weaknesses, ethicists told a meeting of Silicon Valley leaders on Tuesday.

Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin are the co-founders of the nonprofit Center for Humane Technology and the ones who prompted Apple and Google to nudge phone users toward reducing their screen time.

Now they want companies and regulators to focus on reversing what they called “human downgrading,” which they see as at the root of a dozen worsening problems, by reconsidering the design and financial incentives of their systems.

apple, technology, youtube
Technology firms should do more to connect people in positive ways and steer away from trends that have tended to exploit human weaknesses. VOA

Before a hand-picked crowd of about 300 technologists, philanthropists and others concerned with issues such as internet addiction, political polarization, and the spread of misinformation on the web, Harris said Silicon Valley was too focused on making computers surpass human strengths, rather than worrying about how they already exploit human weaknesses.

If that is not reversed, he said, “that could be the end of human agency,” or free will. Problems include the spread of hate speech and conspiracy theories, propelled by financial incentives to keep users engaged alongside the use of powerful artificial intelligence on platforms like Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Harris said.

YouTube and other companies have said they are cracking down on extremist speech and have removed advertising revenue-sharing from some categories of content.

Active Facebook communities can be a force for good but they also aid the dissemination of false information, the campaigners said. For example, a vocal fringe that oppose vaccines, believing contrary to scientific evidence that they cause autism, has led to an uptick in diseases that were nearly eradicated.

facebook, technology, human downgrading
Facebook said in March it would reduce the distribution of content from groups promoting vaccine hoaxes. Pixabay

Facebook said in March it would reduce the distribution of content from groups promoting vaccine hoaxes. In an interview after his speech, Harris said that what he has called a race to the bottom of the brainstem – manipulation of human instincts and emotions – could be reversed.

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For example, he said that Apple and Google could reward app developers who help users, or Facebook could suggest that someone showing signs of depression call a friend who had previously been supportive.

Tech personalities attending included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, early Facebook funder turned critic Roger McNamee and MoveOn founders Joan Blades and Wes Boyd. Tech money is also backing the Center, including charitable funds started by founders of Hewlett Packard, EBay, and Craigslist. The big companies, Harris said, “can change the incentives.” (VOA)