Karolina is a Communications Manager at XSolve, looking after media relations as well as content marketing.
This year’s InfoShare conference was dominated by two overarching themes: machine learning and blockchain. Similar to Web Summit 2017, most talks, panels and discussions revolved around how these fields are impacting society and business.
What is InfoShare?
InfoShare is one of the biggest international tech conferences in Poland. Around 4,500 people gather in Gdansk for two days to discuss and absorb the latest thought leadership in the world of technology. Last year we visited Web Summit and wanted to check whether InfoShare would pick up on the same trends. And guess what? They did. Our team at XSolve and Chilid visited this year and attended tens of presentations. Here are the main themes and interesting ideas we picked up on.
Machine learning is eating the world
One of the most important topics discussed this year was machine learning. There is an unbelievable amount of hype around this field of science and rightly so. However, not many businesses realize the true power of machine learning nor how it can help in their specific cases. For example, convolutional neural networks (image recognition algorithms) are now more accurate than human image recognition. The question is, how you can apply neural networks in your line of business.
This has been shown by one of the companies which presented a case study of using machine learning in predicting whether an online video will be popular based on its visual features. Inventions like this one can revolutionize video marketing and help you achieve better results in your next campaign.
But before a company starts to consider such solution they need to think about the fundamentals – namely the data. The biggest challenge now for businesses is to think about collecting, storing and ordering data to make it usable for ML. It is absolutely crucial to reduce data waste and limit the effort spent on data cleansing.
Bots are smarter than you think
With third party services such as Microsoft Azure offering cheap basic solutions, bots have become easily accessible to companies of all sizes. We all know that bots can answer your customer questions and take orders but thanks to machine learning they can also judge the likelihood of a customer leaving your company and offer an appropriate discount based on solid data to increase retention. Automating decision-making is the future of your business so think how smart bots can help you retain customers.
There are still things that machine learning is not that good at – but this is changing fast!
Algorithms are still not that great at playing complex video games. Reinforcement learning is a type of machine learning concerned with issues of control, where the agent has to learn which decisions are right or wrong through experience. Despite the recent success of DeepMind, whose AlphaGo managed to beat Ke Jie, the world champion at Go, there are still plenty of challenges ahead for reinforcement learning.
The issue of reinforcement learning was discussed by Filip Wolski from OpenAI. This non-profit has built and trained an algorithm that can beat humans in a multiplayer game, Dota 2. Their success is one of a few that brings us closer to building an AI that can succeed in complicated and chaotic environments controlled by humans.
Blockchain has the power to change social constructs
We are slowly coming to a realization of how revolutionary blockchain will be for our society. Many compare this paradigm shift to the invention and widespread adoption of the Internet. Blockchain is a technology that removes intermediaries and thus allows for true democratization of processes. Fairness and sticking to predefined rules are ingrained into its core and thus blockchain is seen by many as a technology that can change society.
Smart contracts can be a true game-changer in courts systems and public administrations, both in terms of security and speeding up the processes. Blockchain also has real potential to improve our medical systems, allowing us, for example, to store complete patient records in one place and making them easily accessible to specialists whenever needed.
Undercurrent of ethical and social aspects of technology
Apart from practical advice, case studies and lectures, this year’s InfoShare held a lot of panels regarding the ethical and social aspects of technological change. Similar to last year’s Web Summit, the thought leaders are starting to realize the true impact that today’s breakthroughs may have on the way we live in the future. Interestingly, many audience members were also asked ethically-charged questions about the danger of culture homogenization brought by machine learning, the issues around authorship (human or AI-generated), the lack of human and emotional aspects both in the use of AI (e.g. interactions) and blockchain (e.g, in complex court cases). As much as we are fascinated by the recent discoveries, we are starting to ponder the real impact they may have on the world as we know it.