The Abundance Era: The Impact of Technology
Abundance is often associated with money. It actually manifests itself in many other ways: revolutionary products, services and projects are being constantly invented. Technology and digitalization will continue to change the world we live in and innovations are constantly reshaping several industries. Is the future promising with this abundance of technologies? International experts discussed this topic on the first day of ICT Spring Europe 2016 and examined the stunning impact this abundance may have on our world.
The conference began with opening words by Kamel Amroune, Partner, Farvest, and ICT Spring co-founder, and continued with an introduction by Keith Hopper, CFO, Docler Holding, and moderator of this conference.
Our digital world is based on constant improvement, yet, in an Era of Abundance, Vaclav Smildoesn’t necessarily agree: “the last generations have not been very innovative”. During his inspiring presentation, the Distinguished Professor Emeritus – and one of Bill Gates’ favorite authors – put emphasis on the foundations of our modern civilization. He therefore listed some of the world’s greatest inventions: the generation and transformation of energy, internal combustion engines, airplanes, steelmaking and aluminum melting. All these innovations took place between 1860 and 1914. More than a century later, the process of making steel and aluminum hasn’t changed. Sure, the techniques used “are more efficient and more reliable, capacities have been improved, but those haven’t fundamentally changed since the 1930s” added Vaclav Smil. In this era of abundance, “our world is nowhere near exponential” concluded the Professor.
Our world and our lives are impacted by the exponential growth of technology. In her presentation entitled “Harnessing Exponential Technologies to Solve Humanities Grand Challenges”, Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, Chief Impact Officer, Singular University, pointed out that abundance of technology allows progress. Human-life expectancy more than doubled, Infant Mortality decreased by 90% and the cost of electricity reduced by 20-fold. “As technology is digitized, it accelerates exponentially computing, networks, sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotech, digital manufacturing and digital biology. Everything is faster and cheaper”. She concluded saying that “exponential technologies empower individuals to affect billions of lives” and offer hope to the needy and the sick.
In his speech (“From the abundance of data and bandwidth to the abundance of innovation and knowledge: insights from a tech optimistic nation”), the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, underlined that having visions is important, for people in general, but also for the government, in order to know “how we can move towards the future we want to build”. The Prime Minister also emphasized on the importance of innovation and technology which play a key role in Luxembourg, announcing that the country recently initiated a European High Performance Computing Project that will make cutting-edge computing accessible to both public and private players. Finally, he expressed that the abundance of ambition is required for a country of the size of Luxembourg: “I can say that we don’t shy away from moonshots: we even think about Near-Earth-Asteroids and what their resources could bring to us on Earth. It reminds us of the time where Luxembourg discovered steel mining which turned out to contribute to the wealth of our country”.
There was the Silicon Valley in California and now, there is Zhongguancun Haidian Science Park in China. Gao Niandong, Deputy Mayor of people’s Government of Haidan District, Beijing Municipality, China, and Acting Director of Zhongguancun Haidian Science Park, introduced the high-tech spot during his presentation, “The China Silicon Valley and its international journey”. He explained that it is the first high-tech park in China and that it has about 860.000 employees : “at the end of 2015, more than 6.000 national high-tech enterprises and over 40 headquarters or R&D centers of multinational corporations such as IBM and Oracle were present there” explained Gao Niandong. Known for its agglomeration of science, technology and innovation elements, the Park may constitute a bridge between China and Luxembourg as Gao Niandong highlighted it: “we encourage enterprises of the Park to make scientific and technological investment in Europe by taking Luxembourg as the portal, but also to take Luxembourg’s position as the world’s second largest fund center”.
“Let’s talk about my baby!” This is how Chanda Gonzales, Senior Director, Prize Operations & Strategy, Google Lunar XPRIZE, named the $30M competition that started in 2007 and gathered 16 teams of engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators from 13 different countries. All of them are pursuing the same goal, developing low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. “2015 has been a pretty significant year because two teams announced they produced a verified launch contract” exposed Chanda Gonzales, adding that the competition will end in December 2017. Before this deadline, and in order to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, one of the teams must successfully send an unmanned spacecraft on the moon’s surface to explore at least 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.
“Be the change you want to see – Do sports benefit from disruption innovations?” was the last presentation of the morning. Viktor Huzsar, CEO, Teqball, invited the German Football Manager and Former Player Lothar Matthäus to share the stage with him. After a video introducing Teqball, Viktor Huzsar focused on one question: “Is technology good for the sport?”. According to Lothar Matthaüs, football has evolved since the 90’s : “In 1966, Germany didn’t win the World Cup because of the referee. England scored a goal but the ball was not completely behind the line. This type of mistake doesn’t happen anymore. This is the good side. Because on the other side, technologies kill the spirit of sport, emotions decreas”” as everything is monitored by cameras.