Steve Wozniak at Money 20/20: 5 key takeaways

“How do you introduce the man who’s referred to as the father of the personal computer?”, Chair Louisa Bojesen remarked when introducing Apple co-founder and tech legend Steve Wozniak onstage at Money 20/20 EU, Amsterdam.

Wozniak sat down for a discussion with Feedzai CEO Nuno Sebastio, which covered topics as varied as blockchain, AI, the early days of Apple and Star Wars.

Here are the 5 key takeaways from Steve Wozniak’s keynote chat:


1. He’s a big fan of blockchain.

Wozniak was quick to lavish praise on the emerging tech trend, even comparing it to the internet in its potential to change the world.

“Blockchain got recognized because it was a fundamental tech for Bitcoin. It’s still working after all this time and isn’t controlled by any one person or company.

“It’s like the internet – look at all these things the internet can do to change your life – everything we do is powered and improved by the internet. I see blockchain as being in the same sort of place right now – it might be a bubble, but it’s on the right track. Blockchain is limited, unlike real currency, which can just keep being made. I think we’re getting to something more realistic.”



2. He’s not scared of AI… yet.

“It’s getting closer and closer to acting like humans in some ways. It’s been a gradual growth through my lifetime,” Wozniak said when asked about his views on the current state and future of AI.

“Nowadays there’s so much processing ability. We can use neural networks to extract data you can’t even see. Machine learning pulls out factors you wouldn’t even be aware of.”

However, Wozniak isn’t convinced that the Turing Test is going to be realized any time soon.

“It involves input and output. If you want to make a joke, you need humans who’ve experienced the right things to understand it. Robots haven’t experienced things like a warm summer breeze. How can those things be replicated? But, it can take the data from your life to figure out the jokes you like. They need to figure out the right steps.

“Just look at your personal assistant – if you ask simple questions, you’ll get an answer. When they become slightly more complicated, it won’t know what you mean. We still have a lot of growth to go.”

Rather than fearing that machines might become our enemies, Wozniak warned that we should not become the enemies of machines.

“We evolved our own systems of integrity and ethics. After a certain point, these machines will develop it among themselves. It will be hundreds of years before they’re not just doing tasks humans want them to do.

“Can we program in ethics? We don’t want to set ourselves up to be the enemy of the machines.”


3. He’s pro-regulation.

“Apple were the company that said they’re doing all they can not to attach personal info to payments. I’m totally against those things being attached. You should have privacy. Everything you think you should have privacy for, you should have it,” Wozniak said when asked about his feelings towards GDPR and other recent regulation.

“Regulation is not holding development back,” he continued. “Regulation is saying you must have good behaviour in what you do, and it’s integral to what’s going on in Fintech.

“I’m very thankful for Europe’s role in this area – it’s hard to find any protections for civil liberties.”

“It’s about fairness, equality and truth – truth sometimes means transparency, and sometimes means you’re providing what you say your providing.”


4. He’s pretty sure of himself, and Apple too.

“We did all the right things”, Wozniak responded, to the laughter of the crowd, when asked whether he’d have done anything differently, had he the opportunity to relive those early days of Apple.

“I made all the right decisions – every decision I made, I knew exactly why it was right.”

“The Apple 2 wasn’t just a great PC,” Wozniak continued, “It was the first time video games would be colour and arcade games would be software. All profits for the first ten years of Apple would come from the Apple 2. It’s very important to start with a good product.”

When asked for his advice to to budding entrepreneurs in the audience, Wozniak warned of long hours and gave some sage advice on recruitment.

“You’re gonna have to work hard and a lot of long hours. Maybe you’ve got the skills, that’s even better. You must want the product yourself, want it to be good, and want it to be simple. And get good engineers in your startup team, not just a business team.”



5. He finds your lack of faith disturbing… and likes a laugh.

“You’ve been described as the Yoda of Apple. But if you’re the Yoda, who’s the Darth Vader?”, Sebastio asked Wozniak.

Wozniak declined to answer.

When asked for his thoughts on the future of AI, Wozniak reflected upon his time with Fusion IO.

“At Fusion IO we discovered how to make a brain”, Wozniak remarked.

“It takes 9 months.”

And, in closing the conversation, Wozniak described Apple’s goal of inclusion in designing their tech.

“We had an idea. We wanted blind people to be equal to sighted people, and we succeeded. Now, everywhere you go, everybody is looking down at their phones.”

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