Fast Co. European Innovation Festival – Day 2

Here we are again at Fast Co. Innovation Festival in Milan. Day two has been pretty interesting. This is what I saw from the sessions that we can apply in our work.

Today the sessions focused on higher level consideration of AI, namely what is actually possible, how ethically it should be used, and what kind of companies people invest in. As well as that there were a few sessions on combining analogue and digital. 

The analogy of the $6 Million Man was used to kick off the first session on what is possible. For those who haven’t seen the 70’s TV show it’s about a man who has a terrible accident and has his body secretly modified with technology so that he has super human powers. The question was, Is this a good use of technology? The answer was, no. If technology isn’t used to solve real problems then it’s useless. What the presenters, Moran Cerf and Riccardo Sabatini, emphasised is that the human brain can interact seamlessly with technology, such as robotic arms and cochlear implants, but that technology cannot make us more creative or empathetic, because there isn’t one centre of the brain that does these tasks. 

A more realistic use of technology is in the use of avatars, and Kevin Abosch, Martine Jarlgaard, and Akash Nigam agreed that there is some learning application for technology here, but that it’s in areas that we as learning designers haven’t investigated yet. We generally perceive that we can use avatars in learning to represent ourselves in digital spaces, and while this is possible the speakers suggested that we should use those spaces either for introspection, or for changing identities in different situations so that we can adapt better. This throws up the ethical questions of who really owns the avatar and the avatar’s memories. Moreover, if we are resorting to using avatars instead of real spaces, what does that say for human interaction skills?

Beyond ethics, is the question of funding. There was a suggestion in the session with Ben Blume, Ari Helgason, and Kimmy Scotti that we are going through an AI bubble. This was something the panel partially agreed with. They suggested that certain industries such as oil and petrochemicals can use robots with AI to discover faults with pipelines, and while most people bet on marketing, and human data processing AI, the field is so crowded that investors and users need to be very aware of what they are ‘buying into’. 

Which brings us full turn to analogue learning vs digital. Generally, throughout this conference, most speakers have recommended that we shouldn’t lose sight of the power of traditional interactions. In particular, Blitz Bazawuke, Jessica Brillhart, and the entertaining Dustin Yellin believe that storytelling in a human way, possibly assisted by technology to deliver it, can’t disappear. We’re human and we like stories, but like with the other topics explored these past two days, they recommend authenticity and keeping the stories we want to tell current. Remember, ‘the experience’ for Gen Zers, and let’s face it all of us, is what life is really all about.

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