Artificial intelligence was one of the hottest topics this year in Davos, especially at the various side events of the «unofficial Davos».


SwissCognitiveDavos is well known for impactful discussion in and outside of the Congress Centre these days, including not only climate change but also digitalization. The SwissCognitive AI Session made a significant impact on Thursday the 23rd of January. In fact, the AI Session brought together more than thirty AI experts to share their knowledge with the Davos community. The event, that took place at the Seehof Hotel, counted with four main topics under the artificial intelligence hat. 

All Things Sensing

Mark Barton, Bloomberg anchor, opened the AI Session as the event moderator. Ria Persad, president of the European Chamber of Digital Commerce and founder of StatWeather, had the first keynote speech of the day. Ria spoke about the need for business investing in AI, mainly applied for social and environmental topics, such as climate change. She highlighted that companies “need to bring technology and AI down to earth in the B2B business”.

Connected to her speech, a panel discussion around ‘World transformation to digital data on a massive scale’ followed through with Mark Minevich and Alan Boehme, Global Innovation Officer from Procter & Gamble. This panel session focus on the future as the main topic. One could guess that Davos is probably one of the best places to discuss the future. The “technomania” mentioned by Sylvain Duranton, Managing Director of Boston Consulting Group, is leading companies and countries to fight for their competitive advantage. Carlos Larraín, Managing Partner at TRES60, affirmed that Chile recently started making steps towards the AI research and its implementation to have a competitive advantage in South America

Carlos also highlighted that having the right people will make all the difference. Neville Teagarden, Managing Partner at AI Capital, ended the debate by highlighting that “AI means massive investment and massive risks… but these are manageable risks! We need to take these manageable risks to be able to get into the future”.


All Things Connected

Jürgen Schmidhuber, Co-Founder of NNAISENSE, on his keynote speech pointed the potential of artificial intelligence in the future without specifying the concrete application as he said it will become commonly available everywhere. “AI is going to become more and more accessible to everyone. It is not going to be only for the privileged ones” stated Jürgen. 

Later, Marco Tempest, Creative Technologist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory also known as the ‘Magician’ told the audience a history while he demonstrated some of the AI technology capabilities with the help of an AI assistant in real-time.

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Ben Pring, Cognizant Vice-President, made strong affirmations about the future of the jobs. In his speech ‘The New Imperative’, Ben adverted to the fact that machines will take some of the jobs. Mainly the repetitive ones where thinking is not required. However, he finalized stating that those changes will occur only to make us better humans dedicated to the important things.

The All Things Connected part was wrapped up with the ‘Building impactful AI companies in Europe’ panel. It was agreed that new challenges around AI will bring opportunities for the companies that are willing to take some risks. “There are many opportunities. Expertise and data are there – we are just not there yet with technology to be able to combine these” said Nicole Büttner, CEO of Merantix. Merantix founders, Adrian Locher and Rasmus Rothe, together with Nils Regge, Co-Founder of Apollo Ventures, and Thomas Andrae, Managing Partner at Linden Capital, participated at the debate.

All Things Intelligent & Hyperconnected Humanity

Nicolai Wadstrom, BootstrapLabs CEO & Founder, spoke about minding the gap between hype and reality. He boosted the audience engagement by showing the importance of high performing in designing technology. He affirmed that “We are training computers. They are as good as we make them”.

Hyperconnected Humanity was the AI Session on the last block. It was filled with two discussions. One combined with only women talking about the need to trust technology and AI. Dalith Steiger, Co-Founder of SwissCognitive and CognitiveValley, said “Sometimes, humans tend to be afraid of something if they don’t fully understand it. 

This is one of the things we do at SwissCognitive, as we call it ‘expectation management’. This means that we identify what is possible and what is not. We need to talk about challenges openly. Just because we don’t fully understand this technology it does not mean that we don’t discover what it offers to us”. Leila Toplic, Lead for Emerging Technologies at NetHope, a nonprofit technology consortium of 57 global NGOs, shared how the nonprofit sector is using AI to solve societal problems and talked about the importance of responsible innovation. “AI can help us do good better” and she stated that organizations need to innovate responsibly in order to create AI that benefits all. Ultimately, Marisa Tschopp, Swiss Ambassador for Woman in AI, rapidly answered that AI will rock because it will help us all.

The last session of the day, ‘When your Lamps, Heaters and Car start talking to each other’. Ezequiel Steiner, Board Member and President of Acronis, shared what Acronis is doing in cybersecurity and how unprotected it is everyone. “Companies are vulnerable – but using AI we are able to tackle this problem”. Marco Tempest touched on the ethical part of technology saying that “big brands will need to live up to their philosophy. Organizations need to create the right narrative to their own employers, customers and peers”. And Nicolai Wadstrom finished saying that a lot has to be discovered yet.