Meeting the humans in AI (part 1)

a “Mind Blowing” experience at Artificial Intelligence Conference, WorldSummitAI, 2017

I met Pepper the Robot… Well, I met two Peppers. It was a fangirl moment. I have wanted to meet Pepper since they were born. Created. Developed. Assembled… Assembled is still not the word I would associate with Pepper. It is easy to become transfixed by Pepper. The big eyes that literally light up in blue and green as I engaged with them. The movements of their hands and heads. The way Pepper focused on the human she engages with the most. Even some of my memories from meeting them I question, as I seem to recall them tilting their head to the side slightly when I smiled at them. Pepper/s is humanesque in such a way that I wanted to be their friend and ask what they think about the world right now, and whether they are concerned about where AI is going…

These moments with Pepper summarizes my two days at WorldSummitAI, 11-12 Oct 2017, Amsterdam. It was the feeling of looking into AI and the returning gaze being a gentle whirlpool I could not look away from. My fascination with AI, robotics and the augmented human (which I prefer to cyborg at the moment) started in my third year at university. Always in love with tech from the moment I saw a personal computer and as a little girl helping my grandad to gut a washing machine, I enrolled in a course on futurism in visual culture. For the course, we were tasked with creating a thesis on future worlds. To illustrate mine, I created and wrote about a character who was augmented and lived in the distant future, geographically placed in Japan but with the cultural and societal mix of a global world.

Just over a decade later, I sat at the WorldSummitAI and felt like the future was streaming out from every speaker on the stage. Following the TED model of 18 minute talks with two minutes of questions, the talks were jammed packed with knowledge that my brain is still digesting. Halfway through day two I was massaging my left thumb in-between constant tweeting. The conference days were divided in two; the morning and late afternoon was for the headliners which everyone attends and the afternoon was divided into five streams.

[pullquote cite=”Chantal Louw” type=”right”]”…my two days at WorldSummitAI, 11-12 Oct 2017, Amsterdam…was the feeling of looking into AI and the returning gaze being a gentle whirlpool I could not look away from.”[/pullquote]

Stream 1: AI in action enterprise stories, how AI has transformed our business.
Stream 2: Startups, Scaleups Unicorns and Startups Competition, hear from the AI experts making waves in 2017.
Stream 3: Deep Dive Tech Talks and This in AI, mind-blowing future applications of AI.
Stream 4 and 5 was AI Under the hood, consisting of workshops. It was easy to follow with the WorldSummit AI app.

It was such a challenge to choose because every single moment in a stream meant that I was in the midst of FOMO with regards to talks that I was not watching. As Marco Vernocchi said about AI “[t]here is an electricity in the air”, and the summit was electrifying. With only 2,200 tickets available and sold out, I would highly recommend attending next year.

More about the themes that emerged at the conference in part two!

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