Earlier this month I landed at Stanstead Airport, exhausted, but with freshly sunkissed skin and my mind absolutely blown. I had just spent five immersive days in the World’s most cutting edge technology, had beers with some of the most influential people in tech on the planet, and I even made Lisbon Newspapers!
Can you guess where I was?
I was at the WebSummit in Lisbon, which is the largest technology conference in the world. Standing alongside 60,000 people bring together a diverse mixture of start-ups, politicians, big companies, small companies, celebrities, average Joe’s and even a Robot who has recently become a citizen of Saudi Arabia! I’d like to share my highlights and experience and for those who weren’t able to make it, I wanted to wet your appetite for 2018 (quite literally because there was enough beer at the evening events to sink a battleship).
My favourite talk, by far (and boy don’t my family, friends and colleagues know it) was “We must ban sex robots” on my favourite stage (The AutoTech/Talk Robot) which was an intriguing, engaging and controversial debate between Kathleen Robertson (Professor of culture and ethics at De Montfort University) and Ben Goertzel (Chief Scientist at Hanson Robotics).
It was an incredibly eye-opening and unconceivable debate revealing the advances of humanoid robots for a different nature and perhaps taboo subject. The sex robotics and the boundaries of our very human nature and innate behaviours, and the way technology is testing the waters of its audience on whether technology and humanoid robotics have simply gone too far or whether it should be left for the user; the human race to decide their fate.
The discussion opened with a simple question - “who thinks sex robots should be banned?” myself and only a handful others raised their hands – not to my surprise also mainly women. You’ll (hopefully) be pleased to know that a much larger proportion of the room raised their hands at the end of the debate.
The topic divided the audience, half of the room debated for the use of technology to separate nature emotion and the other half debated that sex robots would objectify the women’s body for the pleasure of men and the disseminating misogyny. The talk also acknowledged that technology in this area isn’t a brand new discovery and for year’s technology has been developed for pleasure.
Kathleen spoke with such passion and anguish about the ethics of such a robot and the diminishing effects it would have (based on evidence of the technology we have access to) on our physical and mental health surrounding sex but therefore approaching and stipulating subjects such as rape, sex trafficking and the violation of such objects.
From sex robots to sex changes – Caitlyn Jenner (Formally Bruce Jenner who became transgender in 2015) taught a full arena to gamble, cheat, lie and steal as the recipe for success. Having Co-Founded the Meetup group Women in DevOps, a group which promotes diversity and equality in technology I was very eager to hear what she had to say on the topic of diversity in technology. In a talk which conquered how we define gender and identify ourselves. The former gold medal-winning Olympian and equality leader asked the ladies in the room, “when did you know you were a girl”? it left an eerie silence of thought behind it and set the scene for her story which was truly captivating. Caitlyn revealed that in many of her Olympic speeches she had hidden ladies underwear beneath her suit but now can wear it with pride – you go, girl!
Lastly, having not had much to do with Al Gore (Former US Vice-president) since watching the inconvenient truth in Year 9 Science and shamefully not paying that much attention, my second run-in with Al Gore had every single last gulp of my attention. “Everything is at stake,” he told the audience, once past the Donald Trump humour he spoke about his mission to protect the environment and our planet as we know it. His closing speech summarised the WebSummit and brought together a multitude of both start-up’s and blue-chip’s who had been showcasing their new products which are making a real social impact on the environmental moment – anything from AI, Machine learning and IOT for sourcing or converting an array of energy sources.
Although continually joking, that he would stay away from politics and Donald Trump, he managed to focus on the Paris agreement and how America will back it even if Trump did not – which grew huge comradery. "Our world is now in the early stages of a sustainability revolution... that has the speed of the digital revolution" he stated – and noted how thankful he was for the investment and talent in the room before him.
It is hard to anticipate what the highlight of the week was. I could write a whole book of the antics and activities of ‘night summit’ with Lisbon’s top venues lined up with the coolest DJ’s, Sponsor’s and cocktail’s where friendships were made, business relationships formed and memories created (but also lost – with thanks to a mystery flow of jager bombs for which I blame the Swedish for) on the whole it was an absolute blast, I truly cannot wait for next year and highly recommend!
Thank you to SODA for an all expenses paid trip to the WebSummit. If you are interested in being empowered and supported by a fast growing digital recruitment business then we are in fact hiring, so get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 3762 2010 to find out more!