Before everything started in complete darkness, everyone had to enter through the tunnel of love. So, no wonder that this year’s gathering of the House of Beautiful Business was summoned with “Concrete Love”. A festival with more than 350 business leaders, thinkers, artists, and romantics longing for physicality after 2 years of pandemic void.
Interested in our four personal highlights of the 3 days event in Lisbon? We wished you had more time, because there have been plentiful of mesmerizing, intriguingly shaking and inspiringly insightful acts, talks and collective experiences.
Starting with Karel´ s highlights:
A tangible, sustainable future
Let’s start with some facts from Mathieu Lefevre, co-founder and CEO of More in Common, who shared seven relevant findings of his current research on how sustainability and care for climate change can be nurtured amongst our planetary peers.
- We need new voices and messengers. It might have started with Greta. But since only 10% of the global population thinks Climate Change should be amongst the top 3 priorities of governments, we clearly need more and different protagonists speaking to the many of us.
- Simply put: when we rally for the change, we must make sure we make others part of the solution.
- Probably my favorite one because nothing moves us humans more than the activation of all our senses. In German, the word “Zukunftsmut” describes the concept of the “courage for the future” and many of us are lacking a truly tangible future we aspire. Too many words are being lost. I want to see and feel it to be encouraged changing my path.
- Related to number three but specific on the fact, that only if we are confronted with change on an everyday basis, it trickles down into our behavior for good.
- No need to explain, huh.
- Mathieu used the example of the movement Extinction Rebellion and how their activities go beyond what the public finds acceptable.
- We do not talk green energy here. It is the spiritual one. And I cannot agree more. We are so much stuck in thinking we humans should have a less negative footprint that we are blinded for making a positive impact.
And because it was so hard to name just one highlight, here comes another and going from the virtual to what is true, sounds like a really great ending, doesn’t it? Katherine Maher, former CEO of Wikipedia Foundation explored with the audience the distinct kinds of truth and how we collectively are forming it. Be it through religion (taught), or with her concept of MVP Truth, which describes what we can agree on. Something that relates a lot to the impact of Wikipedia because it answers the question: how we can turn truth into action? It is not about rescuing everything but incrementally. But something becomes rather true when we disagree to agree. We acknowledge our biases and weaknesses (by altering, reviewing, and altering again the stated information), thus agreeing, we are all messy humans. And so, we constantly move forward with uncertainty but the speed of intention.
In the end the metaverse, Wikipedia and love have an intriguing aspect in common. By interlacing someone else’s truth, we make one another whole.
We continue with Anni´ s highlight
One of my highlights has been Jessica de Jesús de Pinho Pinhal with her talk on Intersectional AI on Day 2 of Concrete Love. She reminded us that artificial intelligence is nowadays a major source for reproducing discrimination and uncovered machine learning as „biased by design“: The datasets that are built for it, are a product of – mostly unconscious – choices and therefore reflect various biases. In order to fight that discrimination, she called for reflecting on two questions before applying AI:
- Do I really need it?
- Can I effort it?
With these questions Jessica clearly made an argument for including experts from humanities, ethics, etc. into building algorithms. Finally, she brought the topic to a higher level when she stated that concepts like algorithmic fairness are in the end no more than „technical fixes of societal problems.“ Therefore, she invited everyone to ask themselves which kind of norms we are creating by using AI – which ultimately applies to everything we do and express. A very valuable and much-needed input that set the tone for a deep dive into tech-focused Act II.
Last but not least Eunji´ s highlight:
The future of technology is the future of society
Among the plethora of stimulating talks, one of the most mind-bending concepts for me was the “Panopticon.” On the premise that all of us might be prisoners of technology, speakers including Jessica de Jesus de Pinho Pinhal, Chris Stokel-Walker, Cathy Hackl, and Katherine Maher explored a critical question: Can we build a better internet?
It’s hard to deny that tech is pervasive in our lives. Most of us have a love-hate relationship with tech – a very entangled one. With Web 3.0 and emerging tech platforms such as Metaverse, everyday interactions between humans, machines, and data is going far beyond the physical world into alternative ones. Should Facebook’s rebranding Meta (announced just a couple of days ago) be any successful, we could be all on “meta.” But do we have a shared understanding of it? If the last decades of living with tech taught us anything, we are at a critical point in reassessing and reinventing the internet. Or as tech futurist Cathy Hackl sees it, rebuilding the world.
The word metaverse is not in the dictionary because it is yet not defined. But we can define it all together. We are all world builders.
During her engaging talk, Cathy provided a direction for understanding the emerging world of Metaverse and embracing its potential values through the lens of “collaboration and co-creation.” Meta is not VR or Second Life or a single gaming platform. And it is certainly not Facebook. The concept of Meta is not something a single company can or should own. Because in Metaverse, “we are all world builders.” Since we are at the start of the new meta world, we have an opportunity to co-create the tech that expands individuals’ limitations, augments creativity, and enables social good. Cathy emphasized that through our collective action, we can create a better relationship with technology and, therefore, a better world.
Something was alarming about her proposition. In the age where tech goes “Meta,” which attempts to transcend the human experience, what does it mean to live in the world? Can we redefine the human and the world itself? As other speakers took a deep dive into the future of social media, the ethical problems in algorithms, misconceptions of AI, and machine learning biases, I began to wonder. Are we ready for decentralized internet? How can we achieve algorithmic fairness? Is Meta(verse) bullshit? And what about the energy use and carbon emissions of AI or deep learning?
To reinvent the internet is to recreate the world and our collective framing of technology. Perhaps through these types of questions, we can build a better relationship with tech and evolve together.
Otherwise, we will find “meta” versions of ourselves caught in the vortex of the internet. Again.
And those were just the highlights! Thanks to Anni, Eunji and Karel for taking on this really difficult task and giving us a little insight into the Concrete Love event. We look forward to reading more detailed posts from you in the future on individual exciting topics you soaked up at Concrete Love.
By the way: Concrete Love is not over yet: After concluding part one, ACTS, in Lisbon and online, there is now part two, ACTIONS, a four-week-long online-only program to deepen the conversation and make it all real. If you want to buy a Virtual Pass and get access to all past and future #ConcreteLove programming, visit concretelove.house. From us a warm recommendation!