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This article was published on June 4, 2018

The biggest AI takeaways from TNW2018

The biggest AI takeaways from TNW2018 Image by: Bas Uterwijk
Ailsa Sherrington
Story by

Ailsa Sherrington

Former Social Media Manager, TNW

Ailsa Sherrington is a former content marketer at TNW. Ailsa Sherrington is a former content marketer at TNW.

Artificial intelligence is the next frontier, and whether you’re worried about your job or excited about the opportunities, there are questions that need to be answered. At the Machine:Learners track at TNW Conference last month, leading experts did just that, by sharing their thoughts on the future of AI.

In case you missed it (or if you want to relive it), we’ve recapped the highlights.

Kevin Kelly, Co-founder of WIRED

Credit: Bas Uterwijk
Kevin Kelly speaking passionately at TNW2018 about The Mesh

Kevin spoke at the very first TNW Conference 12 years ago. He was the biggest draw to the event, which clearly made it a nerve-wracking moment for TNW co-founders Patrick and Boris when they met Kevin. “We made him and the other speakers dinner at my house,” Boris told me. “Kevin started doing the dishes with Patrick, which was surreal to say the least since he was our hero, and now we’ve become best friends.”

Here’s proof that they’re still best buds, taken at this year’s conference:

He also gave a great talk this year, as he introduced the audience to the third era of the internet: ‘The Mesh.’

It’s also referred to as the AR cloud, V-cloud, or the VR cloud, but Kevin decided to come up with his own (much cooler) buzzword. “Just because I can, alright?” he joked.

There have been two eras that we’ve encountered in terms of the internet. The first, said Kelly, is the ‘network of documents.’ Information was made machine-readable — this is essentially the birth of the web.

The second era was the ‘network of people’, which was basically the birth of social media. “It made human behavior machine-readable. You can use algorithms to categorize our habits, for better and for worse,” he explained.

The people who have controlled these steps — Facebook, Google, and WeChat — have become very influential. Now we’re at the dawn of a third era, and the people who own it will be extremely powerful.

This third network, ‘The Mesh’, he describes as ‘the network of the world.’

“We’ll be able to hyperlink buildings, objects, places… This will make the entire world machine-readable. This is a big thing,” Kevin explained to the audience. The logistics are made possible through virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed realities technology. “The world will be scanned and accessible through iPads, wearable glasses, or your mobile phone,” he explained.

Kevin mentions that this wouldn’t be possible without artificial intelligence, saying “AI is the electricity that runs this whole thing.” He ended his talk by summing up the fears and expectations of such a life-altering technological world:

There are going to be a thousand scary problems emerging from this. Issues of privacy, control, bias and algorithms, and many more that we haven’t thought of. But there will also be a million new opportunities.

Interested in hearing more? You can watch his full talk right here:

Andrew Garrihy, CMO of Huawei

Credit: Bas Uterwijk
Andrew Garrihy shared Huawei’s AI vision at TNW2018

“AI will help humanity overcome some of its greatest challenges,” said Andrew, outlining the theme of his talk. “Huawei doesn’t believe it’s a threat — we believe it will advance our abilities and empower us to do things we never thought possible.”

He likened AI to nature — how it should be able to problem-solve, adapt, and change, rather than simply imitate humans. Andrew showed the audience a video of crows and their amazing ability to do this.

On highways, crows drop nuts from an exact distance, to crack but not shatter the edible insides. What’s remarkable about them is that they’ve adapted to road safety — they only drop the nut when the traffic light is red, so the crows and their food don’t get crushed from a vehicle. According to Andrew, this kind of adaptation is exactly how AI can improve our lives.

Andrew discussed how this is being accomplished through implementing AI in our devices. Rather than connecting to the cloud, having AI embedded in our smartphones achieves real-time advantages that we can all enjoy.

“We are just starting to see the potential it’s unlocking — it’s the future,” he stated. Andrew showed how the Huawei Mate 10 smartphone, which is the first with advanced AI, was famously programmed to drive a car.

Speaking of the feat, Andrew said:

It was a shameless marketing stunt. We wouldn’t let it loose on the road outside of a controlled environment, but actually it shows the power of what’s possible.

He went on to describe future possibilities, namely AI’s ability to let us learn at previously unprecedented rates. He shared a study he conducted, in which it revealed that we make an average of 35,000 decisions a day. Surprisingly, 99 percent of them are unconsciously made. With AI in our smartphones, it could help us make those menial decisions in our pocket; freeing up time to learn and become experts in our fields.

Take photography as an example. Already, our phones have made it easier to take expert photographs. It won’t make us seasoned professionals, but we can at least achieve similar results.

Andrew concludes by sharing how Huawei and AI are making it possible to solve humanity’s largest problems, like world hunger and a sustainable world. Watch his full talk to hear them:

Pamela Pavliscak, Founder of Change Sciences

Credit: Bas Uterwijk
Pamela Pavliscak discussing the future of emotionally intelligent robots at the Machine:Learners track

Pamela began by saying how we already have emotional connections to our technology, like the little icon that indicates that someone’s typing. It can evoke strong emotions from us, ranging from anxiety to excitement. When we look at AI, she commented on how it doesn’t take much for us to humanize it.

If it has eyes, or a voice, or movement, we’re already thinking of it as a human.

According to Pamela, by 2025 we’ll reach “the age of machine readable emotion.” While AI is already starting to read our face, voice, and gestures, it will one day be able to use our gait (the way we walk) and biometrics (our heart rate) to determine how we’re feeling. The implications are far reaching, as it can be used to identify issues like PTSD, or distracted drivers in their car, or even to further understand the needs of babies.

The example that really seemed to resonate with the audience was an app that monitors your heart rate as you interact with friends, and identifies who makes you calm, aroused, angry, or stressed.

Pamela tried it out and discovered that her husband Steve made her the most and the least angry. “If you’re married, you’ll probably understand,” she joked.

By 2030, Pamela thinks that we’ll reach “the age of emotional intelligence.”

The implications of emotions are vast, because they help us prioritize, they help us reflect, they help us deal with the complexity of life. And so maybe what we’ll see in this next era is a coming together of human and machine. Maybe we’ll achieve a coupling that brings us better emotional intelligence as humans, through the help of AI.

Pamela concluded with what she’s learned from her career in AI so far:

You’re right to be sceptical — there’s a lot of things that can go wrong. We could go all ‘surveillance system, social scoring’. But AI emotional intelligence is going to expand beyond ours, and what I want to see for the future is that hopefully our emotional intelligence will match it.

You can watch Pamela’s insightful talk here:

But wait… there’s more!

Our partner Huawei helped make Machine:Learners one of the most exciting tracks at TNW2018. We featured a heap of experts to talk about the future of AI, so if you want to see their talks, you can!

In case you’re lazy, we’ve compiled a TL;DW (too lazy, didn’t watch) for ya:

  • Alexis Ohanian (Co-founder of Reddit and Initialized Capital) taught us how startups can defeat conglomerates in this new tech frontier
  • James Whittaker (Microsoft) gave a scary and simultaneously funny talk on the dangers of AI, ultimately concluding that the world will be reduced to data — and it’s up to us whether we want to get on top while we can
  • Emily Orton (Darktrace) explained the dangers of cyber security in an intimate chat with Ciara Byrne, and how AI is helping us to solve the unsolvable crimes
  • Heike Riel (IBM Research) said that quantum computing can unleash the power of AI to a whole new level
  • Sashka Rothchild ( and Kodi Foster (Viacom) explained how companies can harness AI to foster (sorry) a kinder world
  • Carolyn Rodz (Hello Alice) described how we can build more compassionate machines to achieve that kinder world
  • Marc Teerlink (SAP Leonardo) taught us that AI can transform our skills at work

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