Reflections on first ever Revision Summit 2018
This is a guest article by Cemal Caglar Bektas, Service Design Intern at T-Labs
Last week I attended the Revision Summit in Berlin. I found this conference particularly exciting since it had a great mix of topics on the agenda. Here, I want to share my reflections and insights that I gathered during the summit.
The 19th of November was dedicated to the events mainly co-organized by members of the Revision network, which is consisting of technology leaders, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, scientists and activists who engage in an ongoing effort to establish a more human-centric and purpose-driven world. There were many talks, workshops and panel discussions throughout Berlin’s creative scene.
The first day covered the main topics like democratic values, data privacy, social security, sustainable economic growth.
On the second day, participants gathered at Kraftwerk, which is one of the event venues for conferences, concerts, installations, and fashion shows. Along with panels and keynotes at the main stage, the place was being used for various activities like roundtables, workshops, and interactive installations.
The program was very packed. All the roundtable and workshop events needed registrations. Shed was being used for seat reservations which I found pretty useful but not that essential.
Kraftwerk is a two floor ex-power-plant which has many different faces. It was built between 1961 and 1964 before being abandoned in 1997 when a new power plant nearby took over its work. The former Mitte CHP Plant, thus documents the Berlin’s early industrial history and architecture. From CHP plant to venue In 2006, Dimitri Hegemann, owner of the legendary club Tresor was looking for a new venue so he decided to open up part of the empty space in the plant for his club. After this time, further extensions and renovations were carried out and in the current exhibition space and the venue “Kraftwerk Berlin” was finally opened its doors to the public. So you get the point, it is a Berliner venue. If you are interested about the place itself.
The main summit at Kraftwerk was a mix of talks, discussion workshops and art installations so I did not know what to expect. It had a very dark atmosphere (literally there was no light at all) but it made sense due to the nature of art installations. To be honest, it was very hard to recognize peoples’ faces even if you were next to them which makes hard to meet new people. Other than that there was a constant smoke which I didn’t know if it was on purpose or by chance.
The audience was very diverse; There were business people, many startups, experts and on the other side students, musicians, artists, NGO representatives, and people that seek for alternative social sculptures were there. I think this was one of the things I like about the summit, which was that you could find many people who were hard to see in a mainstream tech conference.
There were not so many keynotes at the main stage which was good. Keynotes at such events are expected to be inspirational or eye-opening yet from my experience they generally tend to be self-promotional or superficial. However, I found a couple of good talks, which proved me wrong.
I particularly liked the keynote from Matthias Scheffelmeier and his talk titled as “Systemic Change in a Binary World”. His main argument was that system level changes require a change in mental models in our technology led world.
“Without changing our mental models and putting tech, ethics over systems over symptoms and collaboration over isolation, I cannot achieve much in social innovation and create positive impact in our lives.”
Elaborating further on this, you could bring up the following explanations:
Ethics over tech: Find a worthwhile purpose & use technology to make it real.
Systems over Symptoms: Complex systems thinkers, and a system level problem solving are very needed.
Collaboration over isolation: Forget isolation and “hero-preneurs” and start creating connections, networks, communities.
I also found a keynote from Trent McConaghy (CTO- Ocean Protocol) very interesting in which he talked about raising attention on blockchain implementations and their ethical transformative power. Built with good incentives or values, blockchain applications can shape our future understanding of ethics. From his presentation:
“Blockchains are wildly powerful incentive machines. They will shape the future of society. Conceive a positive future that you want. Then build it, infuse your values.”
Yes, I agree that blockchain implementations could shape our ethical morals and open up new possibilities for the more democratized world. However, it is not about the tool or technology itself, but the acceptance by the masses and feasibility of infusing our values into our existing legal infrastructures. Yet, I like the startup spirit.
The Revision Summit was particularly interesting for the discussions that took part. They even out-numbered the individual keynotes which I was not a big fan of as you understood. There were big topics like democracy in the digital age or future of work and AI. I appreciated a lot the topics that covered and also the people participated in the panels.
A closer look to the panels I attended;
Apart from a couple of panel discussions at the challenge stage I followed the agenda on the main stage which was already packed a lot.
“Tech is amoral. Most tech startups don’t care about the social implications, they don’t really think about it that much. Right now no one is putting pressure on regulation.”
This quote from Lilian Schulze is quite a summary of the interesting conversation at the panel on “What is democracy in the digital age?” There were policy makers, NGO Campaign managers or even a blockchain expert at the stage but the conversation was far beyond of being disruptive. I was expecting, big topics like human rights, corruptions, representation of minorities in societies, but people on the stage have decided to focus on more startups or agile companies and their natural act of built first and think later approach. The approach that in most cases have moral consequences that badly affects society.
Another interesting topic of discussion was “Who owns what and how?” I have to say that this panel was highly dominated by Christopher Wray from Mattereum, he was supposed to moderate the panel but instead he mostly talked about his own ideas. Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear how our ownership model could change in the near future. In other words, ownership models for most assets in our life could be challenged. In an optimistic way, I could argue that this will open the way of democratization of ownership, meaning, for example for a company instead of a board of members I will have all stakeholders in charge of managing the decisions on the future. However, on the other side, this could be used as a tool that lead us to more centralized monopolies. That aspect of distributing power of decision accordingly the possession level and the human nature of greed was not covered in the talk.
Lastly, I would like to talk about the panel titled as “ Identity in a Digital Age-Between Data, Distributed Consensus and Validation” which was packed with interesting names like Joachim Lohkamp, founder of Jolocom or Julian Leitloff from Fractal. This was one of the most inspirational panels that I attended. The identity and privacy of personal data are two big issues that we are facing nowadays
“We do not have one identity in our lives, the identity I have in my professional life is different than the one I have with my closest friends. I personally do not want to mix them. Just to sign up for a platform I do not have to prove my identity and hand off my credentials to anybody asks.”
The quote from Joachim stressed the fact that we have different identities in our lives and we are using various platforms in our daily lives. Self-sovereign identities hold great potential to actually own our privacy. Do we really need to hand over all our credentials to third parties just to prove our authenticity. Or better, shall we again use Facebook to sign up?
The Revision Summit was cool. For me, It was more like a relief to see people move away from the pros-cons of digital currencies or technology comparisons toward to the social impact of emerging technologies like block chain. This was my third tech conference in one month that is mostly dedicated to DLT (Distributed Ledger Technologies) and its impact on businesses and our social life. And again, I realized that, DLT technologies will be the topic of most conversations in the near future, so I should be prepared to talk the social and legal aspects of such implementations more often and more deeper than usual. At T-Labs we are aware of it and so we do not start the projects like: Oh hey! I found this cool tech, let’s do something with it; instead we listen to our customers and stakeholders and understand the essence of their issue. If a technology of our expertise will help us to solve the problem, then only we consider to execute it.
Revision was totally a Berliner manifestation of how a tech conference could be: human-centered, provocative, purposeful and social-impact oriented. I enjoyed the vibe, talks and panels that took part. It was totally fun, almost like clubbing but was eye-opening. We are already looking forward to the next one in 2020!
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