The View From Web Summit 2019
Attendees, including a team from Innovation Visual, of the annual tech-fest that is Web Summit in Lisbon have been treated this week to a feast of talks, workshops and demonstrations from the tech world. And as the current decade draws to a close a number of presentations have taken the opportunity to look ahead at the trends and challenges that we can expect to see over the forthcoming decade.
Further Advances in AI
In his talk, “The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age”, President of Microsoft Brad Smith highlighted how classical computing will combine with quantum computing to unlock some of the world's most formidable computational and scientific challenges, and how further advances in artificial intelligence will fuel many of the transformative changes we are likely to see. Likening it to the invention of the combustion engine in the early 20th century, Smith says AI has the potential to change every part of the global economy. Just as the combustion engine led to the development of the car, aeroplane, truck and tractor, Smith predicts that AI will play a similar role, helping all aspects of modern life and business.
However whilst AI has the potential to enrich and enhance our lives, Smith also gave a word of caution, noting that every tool also has the potential to be used as a weapon. As AI empowers machines to make decisions that previously were made only by people, he stressed the importance for Microsoft and IT companies around the globe to focus on issues of ethics and defining and implementing ethical principles. He also suggested that key to this was the need for governments to move faster and work with the big tech companies to ensure that the public interest is always put first and society is protected against the abuse or misuse of technology.
On a more positive note, Smith also used the opportunity to highlight some of the incredible opportunities the AI has to enhance lives, one the most notable being the Seeing AI app. A development project that is part of Microsoft’s “AI for Good” initiative, this smartphone app narrates the world to blind and visually impaired people, describing objects, text and people to the user:
Faster, better, cheaper
If you think the world is already moving at a rapid pace (perhaps even fast enough?), you’re in for a shock – according to the tech world it’s going to get faster over the next decade. The proliferation of 5G, followed inevitably by 6G will ensure the world becomes ever more connected and this will inevitably fuel further technological developments as computing will increasingly become “ambient”. Essentially it will be like electricity, all around us and taken for granted. It will be involved in every device, every home, every aspect of our lives even more than it is today. This will also mean we're going to have ever more data and, as a result we’ll not only see more data centres but also innovations in the storage and processing of data. It’s estimated that by 2020 there will be a staggering 25 times as much digital data on the planet as we had in the year 2010, and with this growth only set to continue, it’s inevitable that we will see new advances in the way we store and access data.
Tech Everywhere and for Everyone
With this ever burgeoning world of technology also comes a greater need for responsibility and control, and a recurring theme in several talks at Web Summit was the need to work as a global community to ensure that society as a whole is brought along on the journey, not leaving behind anybody - especially those in the developing world. Whilst huge swathes of the developed world enjoy unprecedented levels of connectivity and technology, there are still billions of people who don’t even have access to the internet let alone the technological advances that are continuing apace. In a discussion on this very subject, Tony Blair stressed the importance of central governments across the world putting technology at the heart of policy making and working with the big tech companies to ensure that the incredible advances, many of which were being discussed and demonstrated at Web Summit 2019, benefit the masses rather than the few, as we move into an exciting new decade in tech.