World Economic Forum 2017: BlockChain, Ethics, AI, Humans & Shift Happens
Post-Davos. Reflections on World Economic Forum 2017
Blockchain, ethics and AI, robotics and ethics, a human manifesto and (Trade)Shift Happens. These are my main takeaways from WEF17 after the main press has covered China’s president Xi Jinping – backed by his 200-staff – talking against protectionism, his country-fellow Jack Ma (Alibaba) (recording) bashing the US for spending money on weapons in stead of infrastructure, Christine Lagard (IMF) warning against turning our back on globalization and a bunch of world celebrities joining the choir of the wealthy and powerful wanting to make a better world.
“The blockchain technology can solve the growing economic disparity.” Those were the word of Don Tapscott, the author of the Blockchain Revolution (a highly recommended read) and the main speaker at a session on the new technology. Another best-selling author, Matthew Bishop of The Economist joined the choir and declared: “Blockchain is the second change to get the Internet right.”
The panel, also including Elena Kvochko, CIO in Barclays, Chines blockchain investor Wei Wang, Primavera De Fillippi, professor at Harvard and Richard Caetano, founder of Stratum and more all agreed that we need a new digital infrastructure, where humans get back control over their own lives, and where the so-called sharing economy becomes a true sharing economy.
“I always laugh when people call Uber sharing economy. They are succesful because they don’t share,” said Don Tapscott and his comment on the current data companies harvesting our personal data, he said: “I call them data frakers. They have made virtual images of all of us, and we need to get our identities back.”
Bankers and investment experts had flocked to Davos and many see huge promise in the blockchain despite the fact that the blockchain eliminates the need for middlemen just like banks.
Elena Kvochko of Barclays explained why it was interesting for banks: It solves the problem of identity, it is hard to fake it. It solves the problem of documentation meaning you leave your fingerprints which cannot be changed. And it needs heavy investing (which big banks have).
In short the block chain is a new digital infrastructure, where the need for middlemen is gone. It is like a magic notebook where everything you write is copied on all pieces of papers in the notebook that we all have access to. We are, so to say, all in sync.
For example you can make a smart contract with somebody online – and trust that person – without knowing him or having a middleman like the bank or Paypal verify your identities, as you cannot fake them.
A very good perspective on the blockchain was delivered by the MIT-expert Joi Ito (recording). He also has high hope with the blockchain but warned that like with everything else there is good and bad and it will be the same with the blockchain.
“There’s a bubble right now with the blockchain. People invest in it as it was much further ahead in its development than it is. Blockchain is where the Internet was in 1987, but they invest in it as it is where the Internet was in 1997.”
AI, Robotics, Ethics & Privacy
New tech, especially AI and Robotics, was high on the WEF-agenda. Both in the Congress Center where only the invited were allowed (and most recorded) and at the hotels and other venues around Davos.
At the Sanctuary, CEO of Hanson Robotics, David Hanson, predicted that in 5-10 years, we have conscious machines:
” A conscious machine can make deeply ethical decisions, if we teach them right, that is to socialize and make human decisions. We need to build ethical algorithms. We need to train the robots to get along with us.”
At a session at the congress center called What if Privacy Becomes a Luxury Good (recording) Michael F. Neidorff, Chairman and CEO of Centene Corporation, agitated that health data belongs to the individual and should be protected. And Evelyn Rupert, Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London said that we are seeing an emergence of privacy claims and that this is only early days.
During the week ‘A human manifesto’ was circulated. The headline – human – might indicate next year’s topin on WEF 18, as many delegates mentioned the need to put humans in the center.
A last note. The Danish-led San-Francisco-based company, Tradeshift, sponsored two of the best settings in Davos. The Sanctuary, a church where US CNBC had interview-sessions, and The Chapel (last photo) where everybody could stretch out, drink coffee and network – not to mention dancing at a huge party the second last night.
Tags:ai Blockchain Davos Don Tapscott Elena Kvochko ethics joi ito privacy privacy nerds robotics Tradeshift WEF17 World Economic Forum
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