So I wanted to share some thoughts from the Web Summit with you. It was my first time attending and I had so much fun, gained knowledge and tied connections, but I also got very inspired and motivated.
I had a Woman in Tech ticket, like many other women there. Which might have been a contributing factor to 42% of the attendants being women. And I really felt that! The first day I was speaking to a woman who said it felt like 50/50 and I said “I know right?! Last night at the opening ceremony, we were suppose to stand up and greet 3 people sitting close to us and for me it was 2 women and 1 man (excluding the woman I was there with)”.
So many women wanting to be there shows there’s a huge interest. I believe it helps change the perspective from other people to a certain degree. When people see the Web Summit badges out on the street it’s not just a stereotypically looking tech man. And that we’re not getting the feeling it’s “#men #menslife #menslifestyle #guys” that I saw hashtagged on the websummitlisbon Instagram account…
Surely we can’t attend a tech conference talking about how AI-robots will take humans jobs and still discuss if women belong in the tech industry… But there are several diversity issues in tech and some were discussed on stage. I also unfortunately heard stories of women not being taken seriously, inappropriate speech when being out during the night summit and 2 women told some of us that they had been denied entry to the developer lounge by someone by the entrance pointing out it’s just for developers. These women have been developers for over 15 years.
Now that I’m writing this I realise that i walked pass that lounge several times, it said “All developers welcome” but I never even tried to go in. Not a conscious decision, but still. Whether you have 15 or 5 or 1 years experience you shouldn’t feel like you don’t belong. And you certainly shouldn’t be judged by your appearance if you belong somewhere or not.
I’m sure I’ll cover this topic again as I go through what I got up to at the Web Summit. I was staying with Anna, a C# developer at H&M, we both had tickets to the opening night, so we started heading that way around 5 or so, because the doors closed at 6. Sharp. If you were late, you weren’t let in.
The opening night had a few speakers lined up, first up was the CEO and founder of Web Summit Paddy Cosgrave. Then the special guest, presented by Feedzai, was a filmed talk by Sir Stephen Hawking, talking about the dangers with AI. (Found this on YouTube if anyone wants to have a look.) He says AI can be the best or the worst that has ever happened to humanity. It can either destroy us or help us with our challenges.
Then we got to listen to Bryan Johnson from Kernel talking about advances in neuroscience that is making the brain more accessible and closer to be understood. Rebooting the brain his speech was called. He’s working on tools to change and enhance the brain. We already have knowledge to change the brain with medication and therapy and our own routines and habits of course. But what if there was a whole range of technological tools of doing this.
When talking to an engineer student from Dublin the evening after, we discussed Bryan Johnson and his statements. There wasn’t any details of what they were actually doing or how, just a bunch of buzzwords as the engineer student said. Like “hacking the brain”, “walk a mile in someone elses shoes”. The last which the engineer student pointed out has partly already been done, referring to this experiment. But being able to even more so hack the empathy system, share memories etc. And not to mention about how much more efficient therapy can be in the future, thinking of PTSD for example. It’s definitely worth following and I added Bryan Johnson to my Twitter right now. A little West World over the whole thing but still…
After this we got to hear Margrethe Vestager from the European commission being interviewed by Kara Swisher, they discussed fair play in the tech industry and it was interesting to hear about how they work to keep it as fair as it can be. After this it was government officials talking, welcoming and then the official opening.
It was a fun night and teaser for what was to come. Me and Anna headed back to the hotel for an early night so we could get to the conference on time the next day.