Elena Massucco Head of Consumer

Web Summit 2018: A Wrap Up

Defined as “Davos for Geeks”, the Web Summit is the biggest tech conference in the world. Over 69,000 decision makers, founders and visionaries attended this edition - the biggest to date - with more than 1,200 speakers delivering talks and debating on panels across 24 stages.

As expected, there was no shortage of onstage inspiration and for innovators it was an amazing opportunity to engage with startups in their early stages and learn from the leaders of the digital transformation. This year, we identified three learning points we should think about 2019 and beyond.

Trust and transparency

Society expectations are changing. Citizens expect businesses to have a clear and defined purpose and to back up their promise with proof – as highlighted by Afdhel Aziz in his “Good Is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn”. On top of that, citizens are challenging the idea that companies should be able to use their data as they like in exchange for providing free services. This is especially valid in the health tech industry, where the promise of curated experiences can lead to unethical approaches in the use of big data, and in the media/political worlds where the risk of interference and manipulation has never been so high.

A healthy company is an ethical company and those delivering trust to citizens start by creating organisations which have transparency at the core of their mission and values.

Ray Dalio, Founder and Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman at Bridgewater Associates presented the concept of meritocracy and how organisations can build their culture with honesty at their core. Meritocracy stands for meaningful work and deep meaningful relationships gained through radical transparency. It was one of the best talks of the summit, which can be viewed here.

Robots are going to be part of our society sooner than most expect

Sophia and Hans, two humanoid robots who look, think and talk (almost) like we do stepped in front of the Web Summit audience on day 2 to talk with Ben Goertzel, Chief Scientist at Hanson Robotics. We also got to interact with one of the Misty Robots, a $1,500 programmable robot which will allow owners to create custom programs and routines.

In both cases, the robots’ personality and emotion engines are their most fascinating features. The team at Hanson Robotics have infused the AI software with kindness and compassion so that their life-like robots can build “deep relationships” with people.

The question is, can we really teach robots empathy and ethics? And will AI ever replace the human creative process?

The answer is collaboration. Robots and humans will help each other – and with machines taking care of the more time consuming and laborious tasks there is an opportunity to finesse and craft design and creativity. According to Major Lazer’s Jillionaire, “The human dimension cannot be decoupled from the art itself. The art is a representation of the human experience and AI will not replace it”. Meet Sophia the robot here.

Climate change is no “fake news”

In a conference that aimed at rebuilding trust in the era of fake information, the president of Portugal delivered the closing remark reinforcing the point that climate change is real and we all need to work towards protecting and rebuilding the environment we have been destroying over the last centuries.

From Apple to AB InBev, sustainability officers delivered talks on how they are working towards improving their emissions and use of recycled materials. Rick Ridgeway, VP of Public Engagement at Patagonia explained how Patagonia has struggled with the paradox of sustainability when becoming so large – how will they continue to live by their values and avoid being part of the problem? They found the answer in their mission statement; they had to build the best product possible that will be durable (reducing waste) and won’t cause unnecessary harm in their supply chain. He finished on the note that “business needs to have a purpose beyond just business.” Listen to his inspirational talk here.

Trust, purpose and collaboration. May these principles be at the centre of our lives and work in 2019 and beyond.

Find out more?

Get in touch with Elena to find out more about the Web Summit