Ken Sallale is a professional computer scientist with a long track record of building impactful and disruptive technology. His work has brought advancements in the understanding of the human genome, leveraged behavioral science and engineering psychology to better harmonize humans and technology, developed search engines capable of learning user proclivities, and adapted low-cost technology to advance basic health care in underserved African communities. Ken helped forge an international Unix standard three decades ago that today still profoundly benefits global commerce and is mandated by innumerable governmental agreements throughout the world. He was an early pioneer, advocate and creator of open-source software, a movement that started in the late 1990s and one that yields astonishing innovation through global collaboration. Since open source is typically free, barriers to accessing and learning about technology are greatly reduced, a critical advantage to developing nations.
As a practitioner of innovation, Ken observes firsthand how emerging technology influences social, political, and economic changes throughout the world at large. As a Harvard educated Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholar, he explores how technological advancements can, or perhaps should, shape and be shaped by public policy and international relations across a wide spectrum of the themes, including security, commerce, health and democracy. It is this actuality that first inspired Ken to study STS back in 2008. In his initial research, he employed the MIT media lab’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) as a case study to highlight microcomputer industry attempts to combat radical innovation in the market by others (disruptive innovation tends to be produced by outsiders, not existing market-leading companies). The OLPC contained numerous breakneck innovations over its competitors, perhaps most significant, its low $100.00 price tag designed to bridge the digital divide in developing countries. Ken explored market leader attempts to discredit and suppress the OLPC in order to protect their pricing anchors, and the implication of these actions on democracy.