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View from The Summit: Last Week’s Climb up Tech’s Mount Everest

For those of you who, like me, were new to The Summit this year – I hope you made it out alive. A mashup of Techonomy, Le Web, TechCrunch Disrupt, TED, Animal House, Craft Fair, morning TV show and a Guinness Factory – I can honestly say, there is nothing out there quite like Web Summit Dublin. Whether you were the CEO of Dropbox, Tinder or Kaspersky – or the founder of a start-up like CrowdBnk, Spritz, Videogram or Quicket – Web Summit had a stage, mic, Tweet, notepad, USB stick, pen, roundtable and point of view for all. The over 20,000 attendees from all over the world presented a veritable geek paradise of all things tech. While it’s virtually impossible to capture the scope and scale of last week’s event, the below are my top 3 take-aways from Dublin.



Artificial Intelligence is not as cool as it should be

Gary Marcus, professor of cognitive science at N.Y.U. and contributor to The New Yorker, says don’t believe the hype when it comes to IOT and AI, which are still light years away from being cool. “We wanted intelligence, and we got keyword search,” says Marcus. According to the guru, AI’s obsession with big data is leading development astray since big data is concerned primarily with correlation and not causation. In order to come back to the path of the righteous, AI must embrace cognitive science and try to capture human intelligence. In short, our AI must strive to answer “why”.

We are now in the 2nd Crypto Wars – where crypto means encryption, not currency

Stewart Baker of (Steptoe & Johnson), Matthew Prince (CEO, CloudFlare), and James Ball (The Guardian) had an animated discussion about the journey from RIM’s first crypto battle, which ended with governments and companies not wanting 100% unbreakable encryption, to today, where we see a growing debate around the need for encryption- but still not a growing public demand. Said Prince, “Perhaps this is simply an extension of Silicon Valley’s techno-libertarian culture, but the market for absolute encryption remains lower than you think. Companies just don’t want to do it.”
Pressed by James Ball to define whether or not it was possible for tech companies to really expect people to trust that that they can protect peoples’ data and privacy, both panellists agreed that the Apples and Googles of the world are inherently in the trust business. “As soon as we lose that trust, people will leave,” said Prince.

Don’t change the world. Solve a problem; create value

A talk by Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media and champion of the open source movement was perhaps the only talk which took a different view on the point of the startup world. He put forth the thesis that the sole purpose of entrepreneurship should not be profit above all else. Rather, the best entrepreneurs seek to solve a real world problem and provide value for society and services beyond just profits. “If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re not just building hardware or software, you’re building new processes and workflows. Business should create more value than it captures.” Box CEO Aaron Levie echoed the same sentiment when speaking about Uber, which he called “a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world “should” work instead of optimizing for how the world “does” work”.

And, if those 3 snippetss were not enough for you to book your ticket next year, I’ll leave you with this oldie but goldie video from 2012 that will still make you smile today. “From Love to Bingo,” which was shown at Web Summit, tells the story of Getty through 5,000 photographs and 873 images in 15 images per second, and will make you smile. B2B companies, take note!