VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger on the Imminent (and Positive) Permeation of Technology

“Last night you had an irregularity in your heartbeat, so I’ve rescheduled your morning,” Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, imagines his smart device saying. “I got you up early because I made a doctor’s appointment for you this morning. I’ve uploaded all the information into your self-driving car. I’ve also given them complete analytics of your last year of biorhythms. I’ve analyzed those against everybody who has a similar DNA type to yours and I’m preloading that information to the cardiologist who has an appointment for you at 8:30 this morning. And I’ve, of course, rerouted the car to go past Starbucks and I’ve loaded your normal drink . . . and since you’re going to the heart doctor, I made it a decaf.”

Nothing that I have described is all that unfathomable . . . even as fanciful as it might sound,” Gelsinger explained to President Michael Lindsay during today’s “Conversation with the President” event as part of the Work Ahead: Ready for 2030 initiative.

“As you think of that in the work context, I view technology as permeating every aspect of every job,” said Gelsinger. “Every one of us needs to become technologically capable regardless of the field that you’re participating in . . . so the idea of lifelong education and re-education becomes the central thesis of what the next several decades of work will look like.”

He calls it the superpower era, “where the four biggies today—cloud, mobility, AI and the edge or [the Internet of Things]—are going to cause technology become even more integrated into every aspect of your rest, your play, your education, your work, your social, your financial, your health experiences.”

And though technology is predicted to replace 600 million jobs, according to a recent “Future of Work” report by McKinsey and Company, Gelsinger is careful not to classify it as threat. Technology doesn’t replace human intelligence—it helps humans produce better results.

“How many of you would go to a financial analyst who does your taxes and have them describe to you that they do not use computers or spreadsheets to help you do your taxes?” he asked. “Would you go to them? No. In the same way, you will not go to somebody in the future who doesn’t use AI-driven radiology or other health markers or other marketing insights.”

For Gelsinger, the power of technology lies not only in predicting and producing better results, but in doing so for the betterment of others. “Technology by itself is neutral,” he explains. “Was the printing press good or bad? The same printing press can produce Playboy or produce the Bible. Is it good or bad? It’s largely neutral. It’s how we shape the technologies.

With that, Gelsinger challenged, “Which of you is going to sign up to say, ‘I’m out to educate the 300 million underprivileged children who are going to be seeking higher education?’” Because making education accessible will only be possible by online technology—“superpower”—and by a willingness to embrace it.

“Give them an education,” he says, “and that will be the greatest thing you can do to improve the quality of every human on the planet.”

Gelsinger’s talk was preceded by yesterday’s “Conversation with the President” event featuring Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation. Both events were part of Gordon’s annual conference for Christian schools around the country called NEXT: Innovations in Christian Education as part of the College’s 130th anniversary celebrations. 

VMware is a global leader in cloud infrastructure and digital workspace technology. With almost 40 years of experience in the tech industry, Gelsinger has doubled the size of the company during his tenure. He was recently ranked best CEO in America by Glassdoor’s annual survey and has written a book on how he has managed to balance faith, family and work entitled The Juggling Act. Five years ago, Gordon College awarded him the George F. Bennett Leadership Award during an event at the Museum of Science in Boston, and Gelsinger has been a gracious sponsor of the College’s Computer Science Practicum and internship program in San Francisco Bay.