A Good Collision

Collision from Home is a virtual version of a whole lot more than a tech conference. Having spent 24 hours over three days listening to talks, and virtual speed networking, I need to write about what I heard1 at Collision from Home to understand what the experience meant to me.2

The program was truly awesome; speakers included world leaders, executives from large tech companies, professional athletes, entrepreneurs at all stages of company development, participants from across the globe. Production was very professional and considering the time in which it must have been put together, the program was delivered with few glitches. 

I couldn’t help but notice how impeccably presented the speakers were and wonder if makeup artists were deployed. This may seem shallow but it’s an observation on professionalism and how it is changing during the pandemic. I find myself watching the videos not only for their content but also for delivery, to learn best practices in presentation for our new world.

The talks I enjoyed the most were ones that gave me insight into the business of big tech:

  • Netflix’s vision for growth
  • Uber’s drive to become profitable
  • Twitter’s chat on curating tweets, both for ethical and business reasons
  • proprietary podcasts giving Spotify its competitive voice.

I was impressed with the inclusion of many talks about the ethics of technology use, such as the recognition of the privacy aspects with tracking apps for COVID transmission and sharing of information across medical and public health agencies. There were also discussions about how to deal with racism and bias. We have a long way to go but the degree of awareness is encouraging.

There was talk of new products and businesses, but the uses of tech are the news rather than the tech itself. The World Health Organization has a COVID chatbot. The American Medical Association recently released updated guidelines on privacy of medical information in response to distrust of big tech and how personal data is used. Hanson Robotics’ Sophia (version 24), a humanized robot, appeared and talked about the difference between humans and AI. I found much of what she said cliched but many humans are also good at speaking in trite truisms.

Of course, there was much, much, much discussion on how the pandemic has and will change industries, demand and employment. Most of this is logical. The supply chain challenges are less intuitive, perhaps because they aren’t visible in everyday life and are intertwined with global trade and shifts in demand caused by the pandemic.

In a discussion about the connected world, I found a recurring theme: privacy. Interestingly, adoption of smart devices for the home has been slower than some anticipated. It was speculated that this is the result of concerns about privacy and where data collected from in-home devices ends up.

This is how it all comes together: I didn’t learn about tech at the Collision from Home tech conference. I learned about society and humanity. Now that’s innovative.

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1These are my observations and intepretations from the conference. With several parallel sessions at all times, someone else could gather a completely different perspective on Collision from Home.

2Something I’ve noticed about myself in the Zoom environment: I take notes. Handwritten notes. I spontaneously started doing this. Perhaps it’s symbolic of learning how to live again in a new place.

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