Editor’s note: Jared Cohen, CEO of Jigsaw (the successor of Google Ideas), will deliver the opening keynote address at CSX North America 2017, which will take place 2-4 October in Washington D.C. Cohen, co-author of the New York Times best-selling book “The New Digital Age,” recently visited with ISACA Now about the cyber security skills gap, advancements in machine learning and his extensive world travels. The following is an edited transcript:
ISACA Now: How did Jigsaw come to be?
I was hired to Google in 2010 to build out a new division of the company called Google Ideas. I had gotten to know the CEO while I was still advising Hillary Clinton and we took a trip to Iraq together. It was a transformative trip because we both realized that the vast majority of future Internet users still had not yet come online, and companies like Google needed to be better prepared for that ubiquitous moment. I ran it as a think tank for many years and then a product organization. When the company restructured to become Alphabet, Jigsaw became the letter "J" in the Alphabet suite of companies. We are an engineering organization working on the cutting edge of AI, cyber security, and tackling some of the toughest global challenges with technology.
ISACA Now: What type of reaction have you received to The New Digital Age?
The New Digital Age captures the last mile of an access revolution that has been playing out for the past decade and a half. It is a book about the advent of technology and how it will impact war, terrorism, interactions between states, and so many other geopolitical trends. So much of what we wrote about and predicted in that book has happened faster than expected. So, I suppose the most common reaction I get from people is whether or not I'm surprised that the predictions came true as quickly as they did. I am.
ISACA Now: Which emerging technologies do you foresee being most impactful in the next 3-5 years?
This is a clear answer. The advancements in machine learning are going to be the most important innovation that defines the next decade. We are entering a ubiquitous moment where technology is everywhere and we are all mass producing data at record speed and volume. The combination of data and even bigger data, coupled with the ability to process that data through multiple machines and build deep neural nets, means that we will be able to build machine learning models to tackle challenges never before possible. Eventually we will reach something called inventive AI, where we train a machine on a particular type of data that enables it to tackle a broader set of challenges. This will have a profound impact on everything from security to health.
ISACA Now: The cyber security skills gap is well-documented. What are your thoughts on the best ways to influence more young people to pursue careers in cyber security?
Young people are ambitious and often want to work on the next zeitgeist. It doesn't get more of the next zeitgeist than cyber security. It is a barren field that is ripe for innovation. It is also a field that bridges the technical and non-technical disciplines. It's a skill set that will be desired by every sector, discipline and company. If every country in the future is also a technology company, then it is only as good as its security.
ISACA Now: You’ve traveled to more than 110 countries in your role advising two US Secretaries of State. How has all that travel influenced your view of the transformative potential of technology, from a global perspective?
I've seen first-hand how technology is transforming every society around the world, from the most connected to literally the least connected. What I've also learned is that the physical world shapes the digital world and vice versa. Every technology we build today has global implications. It expands the digital topography that complements the physical world we know. If all people are splitting their time between both worlds, it also means that the challenges of the physical world are spilling over online. In order to build technology responsibly and in a way that will have impact, we need to make sure we don't lose the human intelligence side of things. For me, this means showing up places and asking questions, meeting people, and going to countries and places I haven't visited.