Nascent technologies and a quantum future: 3 takeaways from the 2022 Web Summit
Is AI going mainstream? Should brands adopt a 'shock absorber' before entering the metaverse with full speed? Erica Moreti and Mario Crippa (director of innovation consulting) of EPAM Continuum investigate.
Synthetic worlds can elevate how we experience the day-to-day. But at what cost? / Alfred Aloushy via Unsplash
The widely anticipated Web Summit 2022 has been and gone. Tech enthusiasts, speakers, global media, investors and business entrepreneurs alike came from all over the world to witness what happens at an event billed as "redefining the global tech industry".
This year’s event saw more than 71,000 attendees from 160 countries (including 1,050 speakers) flock to Lisbon’s Altice Arena for talks, debates, networking sessions, masterclasses, and tech demos.
As with every year, our team attended Web Summit to track the technology trends discussed at the summit, and how these trends are evolving across the world. Here are three hot topics we observed at the 2022 conference.
1. Generative AI is about to go mainstream (and is under scrutiny)
There was significant interest in generative artificial intelligence (AI) from different perspectives. As Open AI’s Dall-E is now available to be integrated into any software product, conference attendees discussed potential business models, what the ecosystems built over these foundational models could look like, and the potential risks involved.
Speakers also debated how to design digital products based on non-deterministic models that interact with users in ways that are not pre-determined and scripted, something that experts warned could make them prone to error.
While generative AI didn’t draw as much criticism as cryptocurrencies, the last panel on the central stage saw renowned philosopher Noam Chomsky and New York University AI scientist Gary Marcus express their concerns about the foundational models of AI. Both speakers shared the view that these AI models always make mistakes (due to not understanding the real meaning of words), and that these models will lead to a wave of fakes and misinformation.
2. Metaverse and industrial metaverse
Speakers shared their views on the metaverse as a nascent technology that is still struggling to reach consumers and increase adoption. RGA’s Tiffany Rolfe and Tom Morton commented on how metaverse precursors took a technology and monetization approach to the metaverse, rather than a people-centric view.
They argued that the virtual identity reflects the true consumer’s personality more accurately than the authentic self. However, in FNDR’s James Vincent’s opinion, brands need a proper ‘shock absorber’ mechanism to gently introduce people to web3 and the metaverse, similarly to how the iPod ushered in smartphones.
The metaverse was also portrayed as being about digital fashion. According to Matthew Drinkwater, head of innovation at the London College of Fashion, extended reality technologies are improving so fast that we will soon see a new fashion ecosystem where everyone can have an avatar in real-time, dressed in 3D clothes. Mr. Drinkwater believes that “the metaverse is inevitable, and in the future, we will spend most of our lives in 3D worlds”.
Siemens explained how parallel, private and synthetic worlds would help design and operate production plants and devices. Not only will it be possible to design all production environments with real physics, but it will also be possible to train AI machines and people within them in a decentralized manner.
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3. A quantum future
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): ‘quantum computers have the potential to revolutionize computation by making certain types of classically intractable problems solvable. While no quantum computer is yet sophisticated enough to carry out calculations that a conventional computer can't, great progress is underway’.
Ilana Wisby, chief executive officer (CEO) of Oxford Quantum Circuits pointed out that deep tech and quantum technologies were "new eras of advanced AI", and that quantum computing had potential uses in solving global challenges such as climate change and disease research and management.
Sabrina Maniscalco, co-founder and CEO at Algorithmiq, also discussed the use of quantum computing in preventing or curing diseases. Jan Goetz, CEO and co-founder of IQM Quantum Computers, shared how it can tackle data security by powering cryptography and privacy.
Much of the challenge now lies in understanding quantum and its potential, scaling the technology, and empowering ways of working. “It’s a paradigm shift, and it’s truly revolutionary for computing and new types of apps for every industry out there,” said Wisby. “Financial pharma and information services companies are already establishing quantum teams.
“We see this moving from proof of concepts to business value. In either 2026 or 2027, that’s when we could expect to see this model looking incredibly lucrative for investors. From a customer perspective, it could be used to tackle first move advancement, looking strategically to foresee and prevent risks in your industry".
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