Will.i.am on the ‘Heartbreaking’ Cost of Tech’s Opportunity Gap as He Accepts TIME100 Impact Award
At Monday night’s TIME100 Impact Awards and Gala at the Museum of the Future in Dubai, performer, entrepreneur, and futurist will.i.am took the stage for a unique moment: he was the first-ever recipient of a TIME100 Impact Award.
will.i.am took the opportunity to reflect on his recognition for his achievements over the decades of music, technology and philanthropy before he stepped up to the microphone. While technological advancements can be amazing, he said, they also have the potential to leave behind many, particularly in the urban core. “Companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make cars smarter, machines smarter. Governments of the world are not spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make inner-city kids smarter,” he said. “And that contrast, that juxtaposition breaks my heart.”
Will.i.am is most well-known as founder and leader of the Hip-Hop group The Black Eyed Peas. He’s won more than a half dozen Grammys and has sold over 33 million albums. He is an investor and entrepreneur, particularly in technology and artificial Intelligence.
Will.i.am also is a prominent philanthropist. In order to provide opportunities for STEAM education (science technology engineering arts and mathematics) to youth in his hometown of Southern California, he founded the i.am Angel Foundation. Today, the organization has reached more than 10.000 students.
To address the opportunity gap, will.i.am explained he’s “married” his entrepreneurship and philanthropic work to ensure people of color can be part of the tech sector’s success, by bringing robotics and computer science programs to his old neighborhood. According to him, he hopes that the TIME100 Impact Award will help children see that everything is possible.
“That’s the reason why my Angel Foundation started … to prepare them, and mentor them, and encourage them to be engineers, to be computer scientists, to be data scientists … so the machine works for their needs,” he said.
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