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Websummit 2023 - A Recap of the Event’s Top Three Highlights

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  • Web Summit 2023 was conducted in Lisbon from November 14-16.

    Four keynote speakers took the stage on the first two days, all of whom shared their views on the rising prevalence and role of artificial intelligence (AI) in businesses and people’s lives.

Web Summit Highlights
1. Keynote by Meredith Whittaker
2. Keynote by Jimmy Wales
3. Startup competition

One of Europe’s most prominent technology conferences, Web Summit 2023, was mired in unnecessary political controversy in the weeks leading to the event. Nevertheless, organizers could deliver what is promised every year — a spectacle.
By Web Summit’s estimate, 70,236 attendees from 153 countries thronged to the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal, to catch experts in action across 27 tracks.
Artificial intelligence (AI) took center stage at Web Summit 2023, including at the event’s startup competition, PITCH. About 906 investors participated in the proceedings, which included the presence of 2,608 startups from 93 countries.
Check out the key takeaways from Web Summit 2023.
Signal Foundation president Meredith Whittaker, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, former U.S. military analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and Alibaba president Kuo Zhang took the stage to deliver keynotes.
Whittaker, who resigned from Google in 2019 after her role in organizing Google Walkouts a year earlier, harshly criticized Big Tech’s engagement in the development of emerging technology.
“I think my fears are less about the technology itself and more about the fact that it is developed and controlled by a handful of large corporations whose interests are, of course, the interests of the corporation and profit and growth and the pleasing of shareholders; not necessarily the social good,” Whittaker, who also co-founded AI Now Institute, said.
“And that the AI that they are selling, that they are licensing, that they are creating, that they are deploying requires huge amounts of data, requires huge amounts of computational power, and effectively reinforces and expands the surveillance business model, which is at the heart of so many of the harms that most of the world are concerned about when it comes to unaccountable technology.”
Whittaker went on to reprimand Meta’s “surveillance business model” and called for creating privacy regulations that traverse jurisdictions.

On the other hand, Wales criticized Elon Musk’s handling of a premier social media platform since he took over a year ago. Under Musk, who promised to fork out $1 billion if Wikipedia changed its name to Dickipedia, Wales said that X (formerly Twitter) is “not really a great source of truth” while expressing his happiness that large language models (LLMs) are sourcing training data from Wikipedia.
Wales not having any problem is a refreshing take on training data scraped from platforms such as Twitter that are now seeking financial compensation. That’s probably because of Wikipedia’s business model.
Wales also advised the tech community to stay wary of the “lazy alarmism” that has plagued the rise of AI, just like it did in the early days of eBay. “I remember in the early days of eBay, it was like, ‘Oh no, somebody’s selling a gun on eBay! Oh no, somebody’s selling their baby on eBay!’ Then, after a while, we figured out you can list whatever you want on eBay, but people will report it, and it gets taken down. It’s actually not that exciting,” Wales said.
“Now, when we look at the emergence of ChatGPT, clearly, it’s not good enough for a great many purposes. It’s an amazing thing to play with, but when you really start to use it, what initially seems fantastic, you realize is pretty bad. I think it will continue to get better, but, you know, I think we’re still a long way from it being able to be a reliable source.”
Meanwhile, Manning questioned the commoditization of data for AI development, while Zhang provided AI-related updates in ecommerce.
Brazilian AI company Inspira bagged the ‘Final PITCH’ at Web Summit 2023. Co-founded by Henrique Ferreira in March 2021, Inspira could’ve been the runner-up had the audience votes counted (Inspira bagged 27% of the votes, topped by Kinderpedia at 54% and Cognimate at 19%).
However, Inspira emerged as the jury’s winner among 100 competing startups at Web Summit 2023. Inspira has developed an AI-powered legal assistant for day-to-day operations in the legal sector.
“We’ve been seeing huge growth of the legal ecosystem in terms of investment. And, for us, just being here is a dream come true. Lisbon is important. If you think about the business side, it’s a way of entry to another market. If we expand, Lisbon is the shortest flight,” Ferreira said.
Last modified on Wednesday, 29 November 2023 22:52

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