Former President Barack Obama and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
  • Former President Barack Obama said Thursday at Dreamforce, Salesforce's annual mega-conference, that climate change is the issue he's most worried about.
  • The second issue he's worried about is the rise of inequality within and between nations, and he says new technologies have "amplified inequalities."
  • The third issue is the rise of the information age, as he sees that political differences are becoming greater because of social media and the Internet.
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Former US President Barack Obama says that right now, there are three issues that he's the most worried about - and the top one is climate change.

On Thursday at Dreamforce, Salesforce's annual mega-conference, Obama spoke with Salesforce CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff on the most important issues of the day that need to be fixed.

"Climate change would be right at the top," Obama said on stage. "There's such a thing as being too late."

Obama said that modern culture today contributes to climate change by encouraging people to consume more. By way of example, he said that houses today consume more electricity than before.

"We were just talking about the fact that it's great we're creating all sorts of energy efficiencies, but it's also true that part of our challenge about climate change is a culture that says more is always better and bigger is always better," Obama said.

New technology has 'amplified inequalities'

The other two most important issues are the rise of inequality within and between nations, as well as the rise of the information age, Obama says. These issues, he says, are being "turbocharged by globalisation and technology."

Obama says that although new technology has given a larger reach to successful figures like himself and Benioff, helping them become more successful and influential, he also sees that technology has "amplified inequalities." He says he thinks about what can be done so that "every kid has a good school and nobody is homeless on the streets."

"So much of the political turmoil we're seeing right now has to do with people feeling legitimately and materially insecure because of those disruptions, and we have not adjusted our social institutions to make sure that we benefit from this huge rise in productivity that comes from technology," Obama said.

'We are siloing ourselves off from each other'

Similarly, Obama says, with the rise of social media and the Internet, political differences become more stark, and the Internet can look completely different to different groups of people.

"Part of what happens is that people don't know what's true and what's not, what to believe and what not to believe," Obama said. "They're suddenly confronted with things that they didn't have to deal with...I think that right now one of the biggest challenges we face is how do we get a common conversation and a common culture."

He said that when he was growing up, there were only three TV stations, and everyone watched the same TV shows.

"Even if I had a more conservative bent and you had a more liberal bent, we shared something that allowed us to then have a disagreement but not feel completely separate," Obama said. "Now, if you watch Fox News, you live in a different reality than if you read the New York Times."

Obama says this is why as a society, people are having trouble in political culture. However, he says, although it comes with challenges, technology still has positive impacts.

"It's not just affecting politics," Obama said. "We are siloing ourselves off from each other in ways that are dangerous. The irony is, we thought and I still believe the internet can be a powerful tool for us to finally see each other through the bias."

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