Artificial intelligence, fed by pervasive data collection and analysis, will undoubtedly change human society over the coming decades. Panoptic technologies might be used primarily to exploit populations and increase social inequality, but these powers can also be employed to better understand our world and empower communities to strengthen their social and economic well-being.
There is a real need for moral, intellectual, and economic leadership in this area, and the Data Guild is devoted to providing that leadership.
The venture ecosystem - Silicon Valley, in its global extent - has many blind spots: there are many kinds of projects that it routinely overlooks in its quest for black swans and unicorns. Rather than deep engagement with the messiness and complexity of domains such as climate change and clinical research, many startups are pressured to fail fast and pivot. And ventures that are explicitly conceptualized as "moonshots" often do their best to operate in a bubble, rarely engaging with the earthly concerns of regulation, social equitability, and sustainability.
The Guild seeks out the many opportunities that lie in these gaps. We know that solving some of the world's thorniest challenges will require a holistic, systems approach that embraces the nature of local communities, the current regulatory environment (if only to push for its evolution), existing business processes, and all of the other facts on the ground that allow a project to move beyond technology and into socioeconomic transformation.
Just as many problem domains are not well served by the mainstream tech economy, neither are many of its most talented and principled individuals. In particular, it is nearly impossible for a technologist to balance the need for a stable livelihood with the ability to work in areas of positive social impact and share in the upside and growth that these efforts might produce. In practice, each individual must optimize for one or two of these concerns, leading to an industry split between the secure-but-unfulfilled, and those following their ideals but struggling to provide for their families in spite of immense skill and motivation.
The Data Guild is providing a new option for technologists, under a model that explicitly balances compensation with moral agency, and the potential for significant equity gains with basic stability. While each of these dimensions can be maximized via other paths, the Guild is unusual in its ability to balance all four.