Thursday, May 23, 2013 | 5:06 PM
We spend a lot of time at Big Tent events discussing the opportunities and challenges of today’s Internet. At our third UK Big Tent this week we took a broader view, exploring how the innovation of today is poised to reshape the world in 10 years time.
The astonishing advances in robotics were one recurring theme. Bertolt Meyer, fitted with a bionic hand, introduced us to his even more cutting edge counterpart. But after the wow of the gadgets came a serious discussion of the practical challenges in embracing AI. For instance, when does assistance become augmentation, and how far is it ethical to go? If implants are connected and controllable remotely—like Bertolt’s hand—what are the security risks?
A similarly cautious note was struck in discussions around data. We heard stories of the great good that can arise from the clever application of data, from advances in cancer research to making local government services more effective; but there were also those who warned of potential dangers.
There were perspectives from Google too. Astro Teller shared his thoughts on moonshots—what they are, why they matter, and why companies and governments shouldn’t shy away from them. Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen spoke about how the next 5 billion people to come online will usher in a ‘new digital age’.
Of course, given recent controversy, the issue of corporate taxation also drew much comment throughout the day. Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Opposition voiced strong opinions about the importance of ‘responsible capitalism’, rhetorically asking: “Do the responsibilities of a company simply lie in obeying the letter of the law? My answer to that is no”. In a later session, Eric Schmidt faced with robust questioning on the same topic, emphasised “I don’t think companies should decide what tax policy should be, I think governments should”.
A day of lively debate and diverse points of view—exactly what the Big Tent is for.