What inspired you to become a member of the Virtual Advisory Board community?
I believe that becoming a board member is a natural evolution of my vocation as an attorney and counsellor. Over the years, I have accumulated plenty of legal and technical knowledge, but I have found that most people are looking for perspectives or options that they have not thought of. That is especially true when a person or organisation is going through a crisis – it is very hard to think clearly and having someone who can view things dispassionately and offer sound advice can mean the difference between success and failure.
In what area do you feel board advisors can add the most value for Boards of Directors (BoDs) and executive teams?
The 30 November 2022 release of the generative AI software ChatGPT was a world-changing event. Its adoption rate far exceeds that of any other technology in history, and it is changing how business is conducted daily. It represents a classic "Black Swan" event – a change that is profound yet predictable only in hindsight. Legislatures around the world are drafting laws such as the EU AI Act to address its impact and standards bodies such as NIST, OECD, and COSO have issued frameworks and other monographs to help govern its use. Technology practitioners of all stripes can add tremendous value to boards and executive teams by helping them navigate these waters. In particular, advisors with cybersecurity backgrounds are acutely needed. Recently, the SEC (Security & Exchange Commission) published updated regulations on the reporting of cybersecurity risks and events. At almost 190 pages, the regulations are substantial in their scope. Their demands on boards and executive teams is going to be both painful and felt everywhere. Getting this right the first time will be critical.
What would be your dream company/organization to work with as a board advisor/NED?
I have a subspecialty in multinational cybersecurity, privacy, and AI law, and so multinationals are a natural home for me, especially in the technology sector. I spent nearly two years providing legal analysis to a defence contractor with operations in 17 nations and can say working with professionals from other cultures was very enriching. I have also advised early stage companies in the technology sector and found working with startup teams to be both intellectually demanding and very rewarding. Recently, here in Seattle, we had Tech Week, which was a week of events devoted to technology startups, especially in generative AI, and seeing all of the new industry developments was inspiring, to say the least.
What book would you recommend to VAB members that might improve their skills in corporate
governance, board advisory or boosting board-to-executive team communications?
Perhaps the most important book I have read over the past decade or so is The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicolas Taleb, which is part of a series called Incerto ("uncertainty"). In the book, Taleb describes the concept of a Black Swan and why human beings are so poor at understanding risk. As I mentioned earlier, such an event represents a change that is profound yet predictable only in hindsight. The financial crisis of 2008 and the 9/11 attacks are considered "bad" Black Swans, while the invention of the Gutenberg press and the rise of the public Internet are "good" ones. The spread of generative AI throughout the world is unquestionably a Black Swan, although I suspect we will not know which kind for many years. Taleb’s strength is helping us understand that traditional Gaussian or "bell" curves lead us astray when analysing risk because the risks we should care about disappear from view in the tails of the curve. This can be a hard pill to swallow, and I can see why his critics are a so vociferous. I have re-read (actually, re-listened to) it at least a half-dozen times and I always find more to learn.
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