Welcome to Armenia
At the airport, a swarm of young volunteers in WCIT 2019 T-shirts were welcoming attendees, coordinating with the information desk set for the event. White WCIT2019 flags and signs were all over the road to Yerevan, but some locals had still no clue what was going on. Even more confusing was what the Kardashian Klan had to do with it.
Meanwhile, rehearsals for the pre-opening was taking place the night before the ceremony, putting the city in a festive mood. But on the day of the concert, high-level security measures were taken, with the Republic square full of military and National Security officials, asking civilians to vacate, in order to fully secure the venue for the event.
Musicians of the WCIT Orchestra from all over the world, including Armenia, under the leadership of maestro Sergey Smbatyan, flew the audience on a tour around the world. Eventually, modern Techno music followed played by International award-winning Dj Armin Van Buuren until midnight, with fireworks that lit the sky of Yerevan.
What is WCIT and why was it brought to Armenia
The World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) 2019 is an information and communications technology (ICT) event. 2000 delegates from 70 countries, with over 31 sponsoring organizations, gathered at the 23ʳᵈ World Congress on IT, to discuss the evolution of the Digital Age, like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, smart cities to cybersecurity, climate change, etc…
The Power of Decentralization: Promise and Peril
On the first day of the congress, the prime minister reminded us that for ages Armenian minds have contributed to the technology revolution worldwide, implying that we have the DNA necessary for changing the world and becoming a more powerful and successful nation. Investing our time and efforts into the use of Information Technology we would achieve more and better results, in shaping a more intelligent future generation.
First keynote speaker
Richard A. Clarke, a high ranking American National Security expert, spoke about how technology changed the lives of humans, with machines and gadgets that made life easier and more practical. Moreover, he described how during the Cyber revolution era, Information Technology linked everybody everywhere, and discreetly invaded countries, homes, businesses and institutions. Quoting William Gibson’s book “Neuromancer”, Clarke explained how governments and companies had to adapt to the imminent change in order to avoid disasters; such as cyber-attacks that caused collateral damages, coming to the conclusion that information in the wrong hands is lethal.
Furthermore, Mr. Clarke explained, that we have become “Digital Citizens”, because: “Individuals with cameras on their phones, Twitter accounts, blogs, and podcasts can be as important as reporters from major newspapers, their individual reporting can shape the world, can expose corruption expose brutality and people abusing human rights”.
Another positive aspect of the internet is that it has enabled people to start their own businesses in the comfort of their home, and helping them market their products globally.
However, the speaker warned The Armenian Government that they have to train people in coding so that they can become economic powerhouses, and not be left behind in a world so evolving; simultaneously, educating people to be aware of dangerous cyber and hacking attacks and how to respond to them.
According to the ex- white house advisor, machine learning has uncovered facts and patterns like racism and sexism, and other things that hold us back as humans. That is why Governments need to introduce ethics and moral standards so that we control cyberspace and not let it control mankind. Moreover, with the help of quantum computing solving what was thought to be impossible or took thousands of years would be easier and take a shorter time, but again we have to be careful not to totally depend on machines.
The Rise of the Machines
The 1st-panel discussion was in participation with keynote speaker Narayana Murthy, Indian IT industrialist and co-founder of Infosys, with panelists business analyst from CNN Richard Quest, Daniel Hulme, Dr. Christopher Markou, James Bridle, and Director of civil liberties at TechFreedom Ashkhen Kazaryan.
The Panelists argued if the progress in technology is a blessing or a curse. “Any progress is a blessing for the prepared minds and a curse for the unprepared minds”. Highlighting the importance of educating the public to use Artificial Intelligence to live a better life, but simultaneously avoid disasters like poverty, crime, and wars.
The world would be a dark and disconnected place without technology; therefore, technology has made life more comfortable for human beings as long as they put it to good use. The poor need it because it reduces costs and makes more gadgets.
AI provides access to information easily, giving accurate results, but it depends on theories put by humans. Humans have to realize that AI might be taking away their jobs with automated systems.
In Medicine Ai is reducing human errors, with 99% accuracy in medical predictions, helping do less biopsy, less expense, and debt, but what would happen to the medical jobs?
Data is the new oil, but we should set guidelines so that it doesn’t cause wars like the oil industry and kill people. New jobs will replace old useless jobs, like in transportation, when drivers were replaced with automated systems, but will there be enough jobs replacing old ones?
People have the right to work, to survive, therefore, the future of work and AI should be regulated. Should the solutions be found now or when its already on the way? Should we prepare now or wait 20 years? Are we prepared for these changes? So many jobs have already been replaced with automated systems. We should beware autonomous programs so that they don’t make wrong decisions or conclusions like in the case of weapons.
TechFreedom Ashkhen Kazaryan spoke about social media, that connects us, where we express and oppose. Regulations should help us but not prevent us. We should learn and be educated about how systems work.
Society should be included as one of the shareholders in all decisions.
Second Panel discussion
an opening note from Jeremy Metzl, Richard Quest, Dr. Garo Armen, Daniel Hulme, Anya Shaykhutdinova, Valeriy Ilinsky, who spoke about the evolution and Augmented Humanity and enhancements.
Jeremy Metzl explained how through the ages, humans have evolved and made enhancements to their lives and bodies just to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Eyesight greatly affected the lives of people who wouldn’t have survived, in the past, it would’ve made coping very hard, but nowadays we use eyeglasses, which means we have enhanced our vision. Using eyeglasses or pacemakers, or being vaccinated. Having implants means we have already accepted being Cyborg, and have superpowers help us survive sicknesses that our ancestors couldn’t have survived.
How do we use all the enhancements to benefit but not to harm human lives, what is considered natural nowadays? This means we need to be more educated, more developed, but should we be scared? And should we speed change? A couple that is deaf, should they enhance the hearing of their child if it is deaf? Who gets to decide? Should we use a molecular enhancement to cure cancer?
In some countries, agriculture is so ahead of other places, that there might be a 2000-year gap between agriculture in China and other places. Nature has helped us in evolving food, that have in turn enhanced our bodies.
We have accepted various enhancements in our bodies, like vaccines, operations, implants, and medicine, but would we accept chips to be inserted in our bodies? We have adapted to tools before.
Do we need chips? People in villages wouldn’t need chips and technology while people in advanced cities might need them to improve their way of life. Those who travel a lot with different passports might want to have all their info inserted in one chip that would make their movement easy.
Should body enhancement be regulated? But on what principles, ethical systems should affect in decision making, is it a crime if we let people die of genetic disease or dementia, is it a crime against potential? how best do we embrace to optimize benefits?
“Every time a little kid dies of a terrible genetic disease – that is a crime against human potential.”
Genomics and Geopolitical author and commentator Jamie Metzl
Distinguished Speakers Series
Dr. Garik Israelian, an Armenian-Spanish astrophysicist, and scientist. He led the team which found the first observational evidence that supernova explosions are responsible for the formation of stellar-mass black holes. He spoke about astronomical discoveries, machines utilized, problems, and solutions.
He presented the Starmus, a global Festival of science communication, and art that brings together the most brilliant minds of the planet. Their aim is to inspire and educate the next generation of explorers and regenerate the spirit of discovery. Combining art, music, and science to enhance science communication, and to engage humanity in the biggest questions in our time. They are financed through sponsors who buy special edition Omega watches and the Stephen Hawking Medal. Musical festivals have been in collaboration with Bryan May the famous guitarist of British Rock Band Queen, and many more Artists like Actors, movie makers etc…
Digital Transformation and Government Administration
Mikhail Mishustin, Head of the Federal Tax Service of Russia, the Keynote Speaker on the Law & Regulation of ICT.
The panel with Axel Pawlik, Francesca Lagerberg, Oxana Balayan Christopher Markou, and Olga Mack,
discussed Digital Transformation and Government Administration.
How nowadays anyone can start a billion-dollar business and even sometimes are not visible to regulators, and how the economy of countries is changing with professional jobs lost to artificial intelligence, e-payment systems are bypassing banking financial systems, cryptocurrencies are surfacing.
Are regulators prepared for these challenges, should there be taxes imposed by the government on the Digital works? Governments should transform into digital service providers, needing more tax regulators but they are suffering in setting these rules. Should we be afraid of the new system or learn how to cope? The Declaration of Independence of Cyber Space, in Silicon Valley, was based on the dream of keeping the governments out.
President of UATE, Armenia, Alexander Yesayan had said earlier that, “We are very proud to have a well-known dignitary such as Mr. Mishustin on this panel to give an important perspective on such a crucial matter in the modern world of technology”.
Where are We Going?
The first part with Katherine Sarafian and moderator James Brittle 1 on 1 chat.
How tech helps artists and creators produce arts of all kinds produce new fascinating beautiful works? What impact does tech actually have in this process? Pixar is a nice example of the interplay between art and technology. But what was the trigger behind creating such a company that replaced human drawn animation!
According to Katherine Sarafian, all the innovation and interrelation is about humans and their intelligence, who are talented in tech and still cooperate with traditional artists, and you have to tell stories, in a way that people don’t ask how it is made pixel by pixel but they remember the good story behind it. Art Transcending technology because every movie has a story that needs to be told, it doesn’t matter what medium is used to tell it. Like the movie inside out where emotions are embodied in characters, personified sadness and joy, and especially abstract thoughts.
Staff who create these animated movies include sculptors, clay sculptors, pencil and pastel artists, software developers, animators, designers’ riggers, on shades garments, moves, musicians, artists, cinema makers, and voice actors. The performance comes from the union of all of these people united. This kind of work encourages students to go to different types of art schools, and in turn colleges, schools, universities have also created courses that would help the students specialize in one of these domains.
What new things are we going to see? New looks, better, new techniques, cooler, new challenges, making art better. We should push for new distinguished works that would excite 7-year-old to watch an ask for more.
The Panel Discussion.
15 minutes later they were joined by the last panel members, Ahmed al Gamal, Eric Esraelian, Marian Mazzoni, and Sergey Smpatyan, discussing what does art teaches technology along the way. Why usually arts and tech are divided? Should the education system change to unite the two in some cases?
Sergey Smpatyan explained what it means the orchestra played AI composed concert. AI was not in the music modeling, musicians were switched onto the iPad, and started reading notes given by the AI, key task being the measure of Armenian music played by AI in real-time, translated through creating algorithms. Meaning the music notes were generated through the AI and generated a real-time visual display.
The platform that made this possible was developed by Ahmad Al Gamal, called Platform, it works in partnership between the artist and AI, still controlled by the Artist.
Eric Esraelian explained that Armenian Art is affected so much by the Armenian Genocide, so in his opinion, it is hard to be understood by AI. One word could be Inflammatory or not, but understanding cultural nuances is hard for AI because they are sensitive.
Marian Mazzoni agreed, “Like the human heart that is not computable”.
Katherine Sarafian stated that Art and Tech blended together, will give such great regards, and it has affected Pixar movies greatly. Ahmad al Gamal also reminded that Galileo and Da Vinci were artists and Scientists simultaneously.