Daily highlights and impressions of Web Summit 2022: day three
November 4th was the closing day of Web Summit 2022. As I mentioned in my previous articles (read exclusively on Invezz my day one review here and day two review here), there was an incredibly large number of attendees.
Organizers calculated that 71,033 people attended the summit, 42% of whom were women. This truly international event saw 1,050 speakers from 160 countries, including philosophers, journalists, politicians, and artists.
There were many notable speakers, including Olena Zelenska, Noam Chomsky, and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan. It was amazing to see a representation of the world’s most powerful people in one place.
Technology faces the greatest existential threat from surveillance
Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal, the popular encrypted messaging app, opened the main stage. She addressed topics of privacy and the surveillance economy. Signal competes with WhatsApp, Telegram, and other mainstream apps. It is owned by a non-profit organization that has no shareholders and can therefore focus on a social mission and technological challenges in lieu of profit-making.
Companies usually have access to metadata which can be collected and added to data pools. The Signal model ensures that data remains private and invisible to third parties, in contrast to this model. It has the unique advantage of encrypting not only messages but also metadata, unlike other messengers.
“I do not think that we have much of a chance for a livable future if we don’t have truly private means to communicate with each other. A world without privacy is a world where power structures that exist now are cemented in concrete,” Meredith Whittaker said.
To the controversy linking recent technology news as primarily a surveillance industry, she said:
“That’s how most tech is funded, how tech is overwritten. And to exist outside of that is both strange and, well, pretty difficult. The dominant paradigm is that we have an interface on the front end, the happy little app that puts cat ears on your face and everyone loves it; but in the meanwhile, the backend is collecting your face data to build facial recognition technologies that are later being sent to the military”.
This is not something most people are comfortable with. A pending question arises: what alternative models can we create to overcome this paradigm?
Besides discussing tough topics, Signal’s president announced that the app would be updated in the near future with a Stories-like functionality and new fun features. “We need to ensure that it is also just a pleasant and useful experience for folks”, Meredith explained.
The golden age of AI: is it really there yet?
“It is not strong enough, fails to do certain things. At the same time it is too strong, and does the things it shouldn’t do. The first problem, in principle, can be fixed. You just need to add another trillion parameters. But when the system is too strong, it is unfixable.”
The main concern of scientists is that existing systems overinterpret the world too much: they are incapable of distinguishing between the real world and the imaginary worlds created by neural networks. The problem is that AI structures the data while ignoring the fundamental rules of language and meaning-making. Gary Marcus, cognitive scientist, author and entrepreneur said:
“The systems that exist at the moment don’t understand the order of words and the underlying meanings.”
Both scientists agreed that systems touted as AI are not really close to natural languages and communication yet.
COO of Near UA Yuliia Skofenko shared her impressions:
“Overall, I had a positive experience at Web Summit. We partnered with the Ukrainian booth, organized a side event, and displayed some of our products. Aside from that, we hosted a series of masterclasses and pitches. In the end, we met our objectives – finding investors, and putting contracts in place with them. We also tried to raise community awareness about blockchain, cryptocurrency, and Web3. The open-mindedness and interest in this field have definitely increased.”
Speaking about the other interesting events, I can only highlight the speech of Anton Bukov, co-founder of 1inch Network, who hosted an exclusive master class ‘The Art of Aggregation’. He spoke about the early days of DeFi and the most common problems faced by early adopters. At that time finding good swap deals took users much time and effort, as rates could vary significantly between various DEXes.
During ETHGlobal 2019 hackathon in New York, together with another 1inch Network (read here if you need a refresher on what is 1inch Network) co-founder Sergej Kunz they decided to build from scratch an algorithm which could find the best rate and also split a swap as efficiently as possible, based on mathematics, among multiple liquidity sources. Their idea has initiated the development of a whole new crypto segment: the DEX (decentralised exchange) aggregation market.
Anton explained the specifics of different aggregation protocols and outlined potential future directions for the evolution of the DeFi space. You can click here to learn more about some of the other top decentralised exchanges available to consumers.
A short summary
This year’s Web Summit was as hot as Woodstock ‘99, with networking as great as fun at the side events. I will be waiting for the next one to share it with Invezz readers.
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