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President Obama, speaking at an Obama Foundation event last month. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

"We need to stop believing that more and bigger is better. We are chasing the wrong things," former president Barack Obama told a Silicon Valley audience Thursday.

Why it matters: Obama's warning has an added layer of meaning here, where the tech industry has grown powerful and rich by mastering the art of "scaling up."

The big picture: Speaking at Salesforce's Dreamforce conference, Obama traced many of the problems in today's society to uncertainty fueled by globalization and automation, along with an underlying misconception of what it takes to be satisfied.

  • "What I also see is just this sense of anxiety and rootlessness and uncertainty in so many people some of which is fed by globalization and technology," he said. "So much of the political turmoil we are seeing right now has to do with people feeling materially insecure."

The bigger picture: Technology and globalization have "turbocharged" the anxiety, and we need to deal with the social issues that has created, he said.

  • "Part of the goal of solving big problems is not just a matter of finding the right technical solution," he said. "Part of it is also finding out how do we restore some sense of our common values."
  • "We're chasing after the wrong things," he said, adding that climate change tops his list of concerns. "There's such a thing as being too late."

Yes, but: Obama argued that we're hampered by lack of a common experience, which he said was easier when there were only three channels on TV. At that time, he said, everyone was watching Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley whether they were conservative or liberal.

  • "If you watch Fox News you live in a different reality than if you read the New York Times," Obama said. The internet had the potential to help people better understand one another, he said — and perhaps still does — but right now it is splintering us.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat.
  2. World: Greece tightens coronavirus restrictions as Europe cases spike.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: Fully at-home rapid COVID test to move forward.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."

Trump's legacy is shaped by his narrow interests

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Trump's policy legacy is as much defined by what he's ignored as by what he's involved himself in.

The big picture: Over the past four years, Trump has interested himself in only a slim slice of the government he leads. Outside of trade, immigration, a personal war against the "Deep State" and the hot foreign policy issue of the moment, Trump has left many of his Cabinet secretaries to work without interruption, let alone direction.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Technology

AI and automation are creating a hybrid workforce

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AI and automation are receiving a boost during the coronavirus pandemic that in the short term is creating a new hybrid workforce rather than destroying jobs outright.

The big picture: While the forces of automation and AI will eliminate some jobs and create some new ones, the vast majority will remain but be dramatically changed. The challenge for employers will be ensuring workforces are ready for the effects of technology.