Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman: Affectiva’s Rana el Kaliouby
Great entrepreneurs aren’t just product-obsessed; they’re impact-obsessed. Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of Affectiva, has spent most of her career thinking about how to project and steward the possible uses of artificial intelligence. Affectiva uses AI to read people’s emotional states, but Rana won’t put her software to work for just anyone.
She’s walking a fine line between thoughtfully nurturing her idea and being a cranky custodian, potentially throttling the scale of her business. It’s a risk she’s willing to take. She understands that entrepreneurship isn’t just about providing a product or service that people love or creating jobs; it’s about asking, “Am I making a net contribution to society—not just right now but for future generations?”
Emotional intelligence in technology is crucial in respecting human emotions and creating technology that honors who we are as human beings. It’s just as important as cognitive intelligence, and it’s important to remember how it plays out in society.
Nurturing ideas requires careful consideration of their potential uses and impacts. Emotional intelligence can be developed through childhood experiences, and using technology to positively impact people’s lives requires responsible development and stewardship.
With success comes responsibility
Despite facing challenges, naiveté and a willingness to dream big can help entrepreneurs successfully raise financing for groundbreaking projects. With success comes the responsibility to use technology for good.
To ensure responsible product use, establish core values early on and instill them in the company culture. Use these values to guide decisions and protect your product vision as your company grows.
Accountability and transparency
Accountability and transparency in data usage and access are crucial for the ethical deployment of surveillance technology. It is essential to assess accuracy and the potential for bias to avoid negative impacts on society and future generations. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to prioritize societal impact over success in creating products.
The importance of stewardship criteria in product development
To ensure your product is used for its intended purpose and not misused, it is important to set stewardship criteria early on and instill it across your company culture. This means not just focusing on competition but being responsible for how people might abuse the technology.
It is important to have a set of core values that serve as a North Star for your company culture and guide every decision. This will help you make difficult decisions and send a strong message to your customers and partners. As you scale and grow, intentionally staying true to your values and taking tough decisions to protect your product vision is necessary.
The importance of responsible deployment of surveillance technology
An ongoing conversation with users, industry, and society is essential for ensuring product guidelines are effective. Additionally, policy and transparency around data usage and access are necessary for deploying technology responsibly.
Despite potential benefits, such as detecting suspicious behavior, the decision to utilize surveillance technology should involve assessing its accuracy and potential for bias against certain populations. Great entrepreneurs prioritize impact over simply creating successful products, considering the long-term effects on society and future generations.
For me, the tipping point was realizing that something I’m so passionate about, I could bring out to the world at scale, right? Because in academia, you’re usually doing this at small scale, and now we could bring that to the whole world globally. That was very exciting to me.