Microsoft's Future Decoded event this week was the place to hear about what technology may hold for the future of business and society, with speeches delivered from "some of the brightest minds" around, sharing their views on what we can expect to see in the coming years.
If anyone was hoping to learn anything new and unexpected or unusual, then perhaps this wasn't the best place to come, because the future is going to be pretty much more of the same, if you can believe the speakers, with computers getting ever faster, more things getting automated and technology intruding into ever more areas of our lives.
As you could probably have predicted, there was plenty of the usual clichés about "empowering employees" and "driving greater productivity" through technology, but what about some advice and hot tips on best practice?
Well, according to the founder of Innocent Drinks, it seems the way to get the best out of your employees is simply to sack anyone who doesn't appear to be "entrepreneurial" or enthusiastic enough about the company and its objectives. To my mind, this doesn't seem particularly helpful, except for companies that enjoy being embroiled in employment tribunals.
There also appears to be something of a dichotomy over the increasing sophistication and power of technology and what benefits it will bring in future. On the one hand, there was much talk of empowering employees with the latest technology and tools, in order to enable them to do their jobs more effectively, and especially the need for companies to invest in mobile so that workers can get their job done from wherever they may be at any particular time.
On the other hand, there was also much discussion of digital transformation, about how the continued growth in the processing power of computers was making analytics and machine learning algorithms much more effective at handling large volumes of data, and automating processes and tasks that would have been considered unsuitable for computers to handle just a few years ago.
Companies should be using such technology to collect and analyse data from devices and sensors, such as the Microsoft Band wearable or Google's Nest products, in order to uncover precious nuggets of hidden information to inform decision making or gain a competitive advantage.
But this advice was given out seemingly with little thought or regard to implications of privacy about such large-scale collection of what could be very sensitive data, and also who has the rights of ownership over that data, and by extension, will benefit from the insights derived from it.
Machine learning and machine intelligence is also being used to enable computers to carry out tasks that are currently done by human workers. It isn't just those doing menial jobs who have something to fear here - some analysts have predicted that a third of all jobs might be replaced by smart machines or algorithms within the next 10 years, and that includes professions such as estate agents and accountants.
This fear isn't just limited to workers, of course. As Michael Dell outlined recently, the biggest concern for many company executives right now is that someone might come and "do an Uber" to their business model, using technology to undercut them or completely re-invent the way a particular product or service is delivered.
So while the thought leaders talk about empowering workers through the use of new technology, they are also simultaneously encouraging the development and use of technology that will put many of those same workers out of a job.
Many people reading this will say that this is nothing new, that advances in technology have always been putting people out of a job, and those people have always found an alternative occupation. But the wide range of occupations now threatened with being automated out of existence in the near future means that alternatives may not be easily found this time around.
And this brings me to an observation made by Martha Lane Fox, founder of Lastminute.com and now serving in the House of Lords as Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho.
She said that "too many of the voices in the discussion about our digital future are just US voices, and they come from a very small bit of the US, and actually they're not that diverse".
Lane Fox went on to talk at length regarding the widely reported issue of the poor representation of women in technology industries, but I think she hit the nail on the head with that comment. The people driving the digital revolution largely live and work in and around Silicon Valley and typically represent a small and fairly privileged stratum of society.
For them, the digital revolution is exciting because they are the ones creating and controlling it, and stand to gain the most from it, and they often seem to be dismissive or simply unaware of any of the downsides to the technologies they are pushing on the rest of us.
As Lane Fox said, the future needs to be "not just one for a handful of people, but for everyone, because that was the great promise of this amazing technology". She added that "it hasn't quite happened, but I think the UK could be a world leader in making it happen".
I'm not sure that I share her optimism, but let's hope that she's right.
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