As part of the Grand Opening of the Tepper Quad, the Tepper School of Business hosted the inaugural INTERSECT@CMU conference on Sept. 14, 2018. During his opening remarks, Dean Robert Dammon announced that the conference would repeat annually. “Each year the conference will focus on a different theme — one that reflects the intersection or convergence of important trends. The theme of this year’s conference is the future of business, technology, and society.” Dammon continued, “Some of the most challenging problems facing business and society today are those arising from the disruptive effects of technological innovation — many of those being developed here by the engineers and computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.”
The conference included several panel discussions featuring Carnegie Mellon University researchers and industry leaders. These panels focused on emerging technologies impacting business and society: the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. Jérôme Pesenti, Vice President of Artificial Intelligence for Facebook, gave the keynote address, titled “AI Today and Tomorrow.”
The title INTERSECT@CMU was chosen to signify the interconnected nature of the Carnegie Mellon campus and the multi-disciplinary approach necessary to address modern business challenges. During an interview with John Byrne, Editor-in-Chief of Poets & Quants, a publication devoted to business education, Sevin Yeltekin, Professor of Economics, Senior Associate Dean of Education, said, “If you are thinking about choosing a school to help you become a business leader, you need to choose a school that knows how to approach these important business problems in an interdisciplinary way.” Poets & Quants livestreamed the entire conference on its homepage, and Byrne interviewed about two dozen panelists and attendees during conference breaks.
The event was organized by a program committee of students, staff, and faculty from across the Carnegie Mellon campus. It was chaired by Yeltekin and Alan Scheller-Wolf, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, Richard M. Cyert Professor of Operations Management. Over several months, the committee planned programming to highlight major contributions of Tepper School and Carnegie Mellon alumni and faculty to transformative innovations such as digital assistants, predictive modeling, human-computer interaction, and blockchain cryptography.
Many of the panelists were enthusiastic about how these technological advances are shaping the ways humans interact with each other and their environment. “If you think about it, the digital assistants are breaking your relationship with keyboards and computers and TV remote controls,” said Brian Olsavsky (MSIA 1989), CFO of Amazon, who spoke on a panel titled “At the Intersection of Technology and Business: Smart Home, Smart Car, Smart City.” “It will increase the productivity of mankind. I think technology always has.”
Conversely, panelists also referenced some of the challenges these disruptive technologies may introduce. “These kinds of things — well-intended AI — could lead to a lot of societal inequality,” said Param Vir Singh, Carnegie Bosch Associate Professor of Business Technologies, during the panel titled “Designing Intelligence: Shaping AI and Society.” “The big question for our time is whether AI will lead to more inequality, and how can we design AI so that it makes the society better rather than dividing it?”
As future conferences are planned, they will continue to highlight contemporary trends shaping business practice. The Tepper School is committed to staying at the forefront of these trends — the school recently announced the launch of the Tepper Blockchain Initiative, a collaboration among researchers and educators from within the Tepper School and across CMU whose work involves blockchain. Similar initiatives will be developed surrounding prominent topics where CMU and the Tepper School are thought leaders.
University President Farnam Jahanian remarked upon the connection between the Grand Opening of the new building and the INTERSECT@CMU conference. “As this very first conference to be held at the Tepper Quad, this is the perfect showcase for the thought leadership of our Tepper business school,” he said. “It is also a brilliant representation of the cross-cutting mark that is made possible by this new building.”