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My takeaways from Slush 2017

Slobodan Stanić • Developer

Futurice's social research robot working as a blackjack croupier at Slush Futurice's social research robot working as a blackjack croupier at Slush

This year I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the second day of Slush where Futurice had a booth. As usual, our stand offered visitors the best coffee on site, right by the Central Stage this time. In addition to coffee, other stuff on show included a social robot we are using to research human-robot interaction and a facial recognition solution we've been developing with Finnair and Finavia, as well as Lean Service Creation, Solar2Go and other interesting things.

I tried to make the most out of my time at Slush, so I came early and stayed until the end. I visited all the stages, trying to find things that interest me, but also gave the speeches with the most provocative titles a chance. Unfortunately one can still only be in one place at a time, so I missed a lot of good talks.

On the whole, I spent the most of the time at Central Stage, as the quality of the presentations was good.

Artificial intelligence, health and blockchain dominated

Artificial Intelligence seemed to be the most common subject matter and it seemed like every other speech at least touched upon the subject or dealt with a solution that had something to do with it. Even what seemed to me the second most common topic, future of healthcare, human 2.0, augmentation with robots, revolved around AI as the biggest enabler for moving forward in these areas.

The third topic that seemed to dominate at Slush, and didn’t have much to do with AI, was Blockchain and the future of finance. Many of the presentations talked about how it’s not really about finance, but trust. The financial system is just the most obvious use case for it. We are still waiting to see new use cases in action.

The rest of the talks I saw revolved around sustainable energy, climate change, mobility, virtual reality, mobile games (this is Finland, after all) and in each of these areas, AI kept coming up.

Personally, I was most excited to hear about the different uses of AI, especially in enhancing human capabilities and perspectives on AI working together with humans is some form of symbiosis. It sounds sci-fi, but if you think about it, just using our smartphones already makes us superhuman cyborgs in a way.

There's hope that AI will help find a cure for diseases like cancer, as well as prevent natural disasters. There was a lot of talk about democratizing AI, which is very important. Whoever develops the first human or superhuman level AI will have huge advantage in every aspect of life. Some believe that combining blockchain technology with AI would be the key to decentralizing and democratizing AI.

Harri Valpola of the Curious AI Company at Slush Harri Valpola of the Curious AI Company at Slush

Cyborgs!

At Slush, I heard for the first time about how technology is already being used to make superhumans of a sort in the USA - for example professional athletes use Lasik eye surgery to enhance their sight beyond normal to gain an advantage in their sport.

But the craziest thing I saw was two presenters who unveiled sensors permanently attached to their chests. What!?

Sounds weird, but founders of Cyborg Nest have actually have a sensor called North Sense attached to their bodies. Sensor vibrates whenever they are facing north and they believe it’s just a first step towards making us all complete cyborgs. Wow.

The great thing about the Slush is that they’ve already uploaded all the talks to their official Youtube channel, so anything you missed you can watch there. This is of course not the same as attending, because of the whole experience and the networking possibilities you have if you are physically present.

For me the main reason to attend was to get some inspiration and that I did. I’m already looking forward to next year.