Web Summit 2017: AI and Privacy – Highlights of the event

Web Summit 2017: AI and Privacy – Highlights of the event
Again, this year, Web Summit took place in Lisbon and it was the best opportunity to listen to biggest names in tech, world-class speakers and worldwide celebrities such as Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, Joseph Lubin, Garry Kasparov.

Now so-called “the Davos of geeks”, Web Summit in Lisbon gather more than 60k participants that gathered at FIL & Altice Arena during the event, not to mention more than 1k speakers, 5k volunteers & staff and 2k journalists. As expected, the huge topics this year were Artificial Intelligence and Security & Privacy.

Web Summit Centre Stage. Photo credits: facebook.com/WebSummitHQ/
Artificial Intelligence

AI, the intelligence displayed by machines is one of the hottest topics of recent years. Stephen Hawking himself warns about the potential dangers of AI. He urged the creators of AI to employ best practice and effective management to avoid potential risks as AI techniques have become an essential part of the technology industry and computer science.

Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilisation. Or the worst. We just don’t know.

Stephen Hawking @Web Summit

There also presented some examples of companies using AI in a non-invasive way. Vasco Calais Pedro explained that Unbabel is an AI-powered service combined with human-refined translation. The service is hoping to remove language barriers by providing real-time, human-quality translations.

We see AI as an enabler, rather than a danger

Even though there is a common concern about the development of AI, there are a lot of initiatives supported by celebrities including Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. High-profile donations and investments were made in order to keep an eye on what’s going on with AI and the potential outcomes there.

Security and Privacy

Nowadays, digital technology is the foundation of our lives and it is present in almost every aspect of our lives: work, learning, communication. Therefore, the digital world is increasingly under attack, turning cybersecurity into a hot topic of our time. During his speech, Brad Smith, the President of Microsoft, discussed the role that tech sector, customers and governments must play in protecting the digital estate.

We are entering a digital future where every thermostat, every electrical heater, every air conditioner, every plant is connected to the Internet. And the same will be true for every medical device, every hospital, every traffic light, every automobile, every airport, every subway, every metro, every railway, car and station and when things start to fall apart, the dominos can fall very quickly.

He started pointing out the attack on 12th of May 2017, when some of the most sophisticated weapons were stolen from the US and unleashed by North Korea, affecting more than 150 countries at the same time. And these attacks continue with the cyberattack on Ukraine in June 2017: banks, ministers, Chernobyl Nuclear Plant and many organisations were affected by Petya malware. 90% of cyber attacks started with an email that someone opened when they weren’t supposed to.

Brad Smith, President Microsoft @ Web Summit. Photo credits: dinheirovivo.pt

He insisted that the solution for this issue is the force of law: he launched a call for everyone in the industry to keep the world safe, asking for a digital Geneva convention from governments.

To be able to make sure that all companies data is private and being used properly can be a near-impossible task that involves multiple layers of security. But what it is for sure something that we should think about is that if we want to make our societies more secure we must stand up to the challenge of protecting our data.

As a side note, an important role in this Web Summit success was played by the charming city of Lisbon which may be considered an ideal city for this kind of events: full of landscapes, culture and nightlife, you can be sure you’ll never get bored and you’ll crave for more time to visit the surroundings.

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