Web Summit Day Three snapshot

It was another busy day in Lisbon yesterday as some 70,000 entrepreneurs, innovators and business and government leaders convened to confront some of the toughest questions in tech at Web Summit 2018.

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Arguments for communications: rebuilding public trust

The debate around how to combat fake news continued today with a focus on how to be defensive and proactive at the same time. On a panel with Margot James, UK Minister for Digital, and Ann Mettler, who heads up the European Commission’s European Political Strategy Centre, FleishmanHillard CEO John Saunders emphasized the role of communications. Issues raised included:

  • The need for defenders of multilateralism and international institutions to simultaneously support traditional media as a backbone of democracy and also make better use of digital and social media. We need a narrative that shows how shared values lead to shared positive outcomes for those targeted by populist movements.
  • The value of the voice of young people, who are often more supportive of multilateral approaches to problems and more likely to differentiate between facts and ‘fake news’.
  • The importance of ongoing reform of the UN, EU institutions and other global bodies in a transparent and open way. And the broadening of support for such institutions to better include people in emerging markets.

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Arguments for peace: Microsoft’s digital peace pledge

In the tragic great wars of the last century, the voices of people went underheard, says Microsoft president Brad Smith. Closing Day Two with a rousing keynote, he argued that, in this century, we need to make sure that people are heard to prevent state-sponsored cyberattacks taking a terrible toll on people’s lives. And no voice is more important in the world today for the protection of our online communities than the voice of the digital natives of the world. Growing up in a digital world, the web is their home, their community; and they understand how precious it is. Microsoft’s Digital Peace Now campaign, with its Digital Peace Pledge, aims to give people a voice to call upon governments to respect the online community.

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Arguments for responsibility: Google’s next 20 years

As Google turns 20, EMEA president Matt Brittin says that the tech giant has undergone a shift: from a focus on the user in the early days to now taking responsibility for a broader set of stakeholders – businesses that depend on the web, for example, and society as a whole. He identifies three trends as most important for the next 20 years:

  • Sometime next year, the majority of the world’s population will be online. As this percentage grows, we will have more diversity and more creativity.
  • Machine learning is changing what machines can do for people. For example, the quality of Google Translate is up, but what can be delivered from fewer data points and at less data cost is also vastly better, which opens it to more people worldwide.
  • The way people learn must also change dramatically. We have to help people gain skills for a lifetime of productive work in areas that don’t exist yet.

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Experiments in AI: a decentralized mind network

Web Summit favorite Sophia The Robot returned to center stage with new upgrades – including open-cog architecture and AI on the SingularityNET platform – that enable her to leverage knowledge in the cloud and better understand what’s happening in her own environment. She and Ben Goertzel, chief scientist at Hanson Robotics and founder of SingularityNET, have just been in Malta helping the government devise an AI citizenship test.


Ben’s vision is of a decentralized network of AIs learning from each other, to which anyone can contribute AI code, compute power or data. The blockchain-based SingularityNET is making this vision a reality. An AI in the SingularityNET can share its intelligence with a robot, software program or IoT device as needed – and communicate with other AIs on the platform, learning from everything they encounter, and effectively creating a “decentralized mind network”. The beta version of SingularityNET is due out next Feb. and a for-profit company, Singularity Studio, is launching to create enterprise software using the platform.

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Experiments in idea meritocracy: pain + reflection = progress

Speaking from hard-won experience, Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates shared five things that if you do consistently will lead to a cycle of success: set clear goals; identify when you encounter a problem; diagnose that problem’s root cause (often a weakness in you or others); design a path to get you around the problem; and follow through on that plan.


But none of us are strong in all these five areas. We have to learn to work with others who have different points of view and will challenge us. We have to let the best ideas win. To have this idea meritocracy, you have to be radically truthful and willing to expose your weaknesses. Gathering data on people’s thinking and using to algorithms weigh their “believability” makes this possible. A challenge is the emotional toll of this radical truthfulness and transparency.


Further experiments in…

  • Democracy: Former UK PM Tony Blair wants a second UK referendum to avoid a “pointless or painful” Brexit and craft a stronger Europe to counter the rise of Chinese power. He urges the US and Europe to form a transatlantic alliance to offset “an aggressive and big push” by China as a tech leader, particularly in AI.
  • Fashion: Trendsetting designer Alexander Wang shuns the old structures of fashion (seasons and shows) and embraces a digital mindset, dramatic simplification and flexible delivery to help him to get closer to customers worldwide.
  • Creativity: Tapping into the deep human need to create and to share, Minecraft has remained globally relevant for more than nine years, says the game’s studio head Helen Chiang. Minecraft offers limitless options for play and each of its 91 million monthly players enjoys a unique and personal experience.


Join us tomorrow when Web Summit wraps up with a look at more emerging ideas, traditional brands that are thriving in the digital world, and China’s world-leading start-up scene. We’ll also find out this year’s PITCH start-up competition winner.