Posted by Cognito on Tue, Jun 23 2015

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London Vanity Fair Digital Summit 2015 – Thinking, innovating, disrupting

Photo for London Vanity Fair Digital Summit 2015 – Thinking, innovating, disrupting

What were Jamal Edwards, the young founder of SBTV, Nick Bostrom, one of the most authoritative experts on artificial intelligence, and Adam Cohen, Head of Economic Policy in Europe at Google, doing in the same room on a hot London afternoon? Sean Rad - the guy who co-founded Tinder (the dating app which is haunting the dreams of singles and couples) and Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of were there too.

Alongside nearly 30 other speakers, they were discussing the disruptive power of innovation, technology and creative thinking from their different point of views. This, and much more, was part of the recent Vanity Fair Intelligence Squared Digital Summit, which gathered several of the world’s most prominent innovators who are transforming our lives at an ever increasing speed, and the influential thinkers who are interpreting the opportunities and threats we face.

Provocative, intense and passionate speakers debated current themes, taking the audience through the massive changes and contradictions technology is bringing to the world and to mankind. The sessions started with an initial, open discussion on how things have changed since the initial launch of the first prototype of the World Wide Web, and how its democratic and optimistic spirit have evolved over the decades. Is it still possible to recapture the wonder and discovery the digital pioneers felt when they first surfed the “information superhighway”?

This theoretical question also deeply affects the entrepreneurship digital scene, globally and in particular in the UK. Whether or not London will be ready to compete with the sanctuary of innovation, the Silicon Valley, will depend on a blend of factors such as networking capacity, financial skills and economy of scale, beside of course an innovative, revolutionary mindset. Will the UK be the right ecosystem platform to welcome and nurture start-ups and innovators from all over the globe?

The Shoreditch Town Hall also witnessed a lively discussion about Artificial Intelligence between the smartest scientists and scholars, expressing their concerns or fascination for this controversial, still uncharted territory. Will Stephen Hawking’s prophecy of AI spelling the end of the human race become true? Or will superintelligence enhance human capabilities, ultimately merging human with artificial creations and defying ageing and even death?

There was also time for a glowing confrontation when some of the so-called “tech giants” and their detractors engaged in a discussion on the menace brought by a tiny cohort of companies dominating the digital space. Are there more challenges (for regulators and new entrants) or benefits for consumers and the market?

The event finally explored how people’s identity has changed in a digital environment, looking at issues such as cyber-bullying, privacy, narcissism and anonymity. Ultimately, can we say that the Internet is a failed utopia? On one side, the recent scandals of government surveillance of our personal data – with the cooperation of the tech giants who record our every move online, has turned the “Internet dream” into a very sour one. On the other hand, Internet aficionados claim that the past 20 years have opened up an unprecedented world of abundance and possibilities – not just in terms of physical goods, but in the powerful flow of information, expertise and knowledge across the globe.

It’s not easy to find a definite answer to such questions, but it is pretty likely that they’ll dominate the debate over the next few years and it is going to be interesting, seeing who will triumph between Internet sceptics and Internet worshippers.

Innovation, London, Technology Solutions,
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