Is digital technology changing who we are, as well as impacting what we do and how we go about it? This question is the subject of the 2018 Trends Report that will be launched by Netexplo Observatory, the independent body that studies the impact of digital technology on society and business, during this year’s Innovation Forum (13 February) and Talent Forum (14 and 15 February) at UNESCO’s Headquarters.
Guided by its mandate to nurture innovation for more inclusive, knowledge societies, as reaffirmed by the Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO has been co-hosting the Netexplo Forum annually since 2011 as part of their work to contribute to the free circulation of ideas and to the promotion of universal access to knowledge.
In its 2018 Trends Report, Zero Interface / Zero Decision Netexplo Observatory notes that as artificial intelligence makes interconnected digital applications function ever more seamlessly, requiring ever less intervention by the user, we are gradually letting algorithms take over some decision-making processes.
Every algorithm embodies an ideology, argues the report which points out that artificial intelligence, still in its early stages, is being developed by a small number of “Digital Titans” (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Tesla and Uber to name but a few) which collect a nearly infinite mass of data about their users. Step by step, we are relinquishing our power to take decisions, warns the report.
Netexplo also looks into strategies to protect the individual from the risk of disempowerment by artificial intelligence and urges ethical guidelines to protect individuals’ rights in the emerging digital environment where free will may come to be replaced by automated data processing.
The Innovation Forum, 13 February
During this year’s Innovation Forum, the 11th edition to date, Netexplo and UNESCO will present an overview based on 100 major innovations that represent the latest applications of technology. Ten of these projects, winners of Netexplo Awards, will be showcased. They are the most outstanding projects selected from 2,000 innovations identified by Netexplo Observatory’s network of 19 universities from all parts of the world.
Most of this year’s ten award-winning applications draw on artificial intelligence and cover a wide range of uses:
- 360ed uses the total immersion of virtual reality to take students from Myanmar around the world and teach them about life in different parts of the world.
- Cataki helps Brazilian garbage collectors locate recyclable refuse, helping members of this marginalized profession improve their efficiency and increase their revenue.
- Cognitive Hearing Aid focuses hearing devices to the sound their user wishes to hear, sifting out parasitic ambient noise
- Giuseppe draws on a molecular data base to recreate tastes and textures in synthetized, plant-based food
- Hand That Sees is able to read the intentions of users of a prosthetic hand to adjust grip with the help of an integrated camera
- Neurala Air Sheperd Drones operates intelligent drones to prevent poaching of endangered species
- SingularityNet provides members of the public with a free platform that allows them to create, develop and monetize artificial intelligence
- Status simplifies cryptocurrency and enables users to buy and sell Ethereum, the second most popular virtual currency after Bitcoins
- Stentrode allows users to control an exoskeleton with their mind
- Wysker allows users to sell the data they generate when using free of charge applications
Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, will open the Innovation Forum along with Catherine Morin Desailly, Chair of the French Senate Commission for Culture, Education and Communication and Thierry Happe, Chairman & Co-Founder, Netexplo Observatory.
Netexplo Observatory notes that start-ups are not the only generators of innovation. They accounted for 43% of the 2,000 innovations flagged this year, 34% were developed at universities or research institutions, 9% come from traditional business, 6% from NGOs, and only 5% came from the so-called Digital Titans (3% were the product of State-run initiatives and 2% were developed by artists).
In terms of geographic distribution, 34% of the innovations examined this year came from North America, followed by Europe (26%), the Asia Pacific Region (24%), Africa and the Middle East (10%), and Latin America (6%).
On 14 and 15 February, Netexplo and UNESCO will host the first edition of a Talent Forum, which will identify new talent and envisage innovative forms of collaboration and management destined to help corporations, institutions and organizations benefit fully from the potential of digital technologies.
The event will focus on ten areas: artificial intelligence, big data, biotechnology, blockchain, cybersecurity, gaming, the internet of things, robotics, social media and 3D printing.
UNESCO and Netexplo
UNESCO and Netexplo Observatory have formed a partnership based on their shared goals concerning harnessing digital technologies for inclusive and sustainable development. UNESCO’s mandate makes it the key intergovernmental player in addressing current and emerging global challenges relating to digital developments and seeking to harness them to build inclusive knowledge societies and support sustainable development.
UNESCO shares its expertise with Member States to ensure that the digital revolution serves human rights, empowerment, informed decision-making and human development.
Djibril Kébé, UNESCO Media Section, firstname.lastname@example.org
Journalists wishing to receive an advance copy of Zero Interface / Zero Decision, available in French and English, should contact Netexplo’s PR representative Nicolas Celic email@example.com